Mahajan also expressed his lack of confidence that the Green movement could lead such an opposition: We Greens suffered from disorganization back in 2002, and we're just as bad today, if not worse. In addition, he noted, we have been finger-pointing at the Democrats for nominating a crappy candidate and hindering the progress of a candidate who had a better chance of beating Trump, but we haven't been willing to take an accounting of our own failures.
I do not arrive at these conclusions easily. Last Wednesday, I was ready to blame everyone but Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for the results, both in Texas and nationwide. However, just as progressives have been trying to get liberals to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton was the wrong nominee, we in the Green movement must ask ourselves if we could have chosen someone better, or worked even harder to make Stein a better candidate.
Honestly, among those who applied to run for president as Greens, I don't know that we had a better choice that Dr. Stein. I never got to see Bill Kreml, who finished a distant second at the Green Convention, give a proper speech. But those who know Dr. Kreml love him. Now that the Party's national profile has been elevated a bit, perhaps a better Green candidate, one who can win the hearts of Millennials and hold them, will emerge for 2020.
Apologies for all the self-referential links in this entry to previous entries on the DBC blog.
This Green, among others had predicted consistently for months that Trump would win Texas, by a smaller margin than his recent Republican predecessors but still comfortably, and that Clinton would win the White House handily. One outta two ain't bad, right? I hope Tofurky makes a soy-based crow that I can eat this Thanksgiving.
Also, BTW, as a third-party voter, I should take full responsibility for throwing the election to Trump, right? Er...not just no, but hell no. Rachel Maddow and Steve Benen, I still love y'all, but...bite me, you're wrong. Even if the Greens had achieved the minimal goal of 5% nationwide, that doesn't mean more millions of votes "stolen" from Clinton. It means that the Green Party becomes an actual, nationally recognized political party, and thus can no longer be considered a spoiler. It means that if the Dems want our votes, they will need to make major concessions on policy positions.
Jill Not Thrill
Stein acquitted herself remarkably on many fronts. When she led the walkout of Sanders delegates in Philadelphia, she truly led the march. I have never been so excited to support a presidential candidate as during those moments.
In various forums, including this one, I have criticized Stein's performance in interviews:
- Her habit of lapsing into stump-speech clichés.
- The frightening consistency of the wording in her responses, as if she cannot phrase them any other way.
- Her apparent inability to provide answers sufficiently concise for five-minute TV appearances.
The first two bullet points above are of concern only to those of us who watched nearly all of Stein's media appearances online and grew weary of hearing the same phrases repeated so frequently. Most voters got to see her on TV maybe once. While the phrase "media blackout" is a bit overstated, she certainly did not receive the (literally) hours of breathless coverage of vacant lecterns waiting to be occupied by Donald Trump.
We know that the knocks against Stein's positions on vaccines, wi-fi, and GMO crops were mountains made from molehills by Democratic hacks. The same is true with the story on her mutual funds. I lost count of how many Facebook posts I saw declaring one of those issues a deal-breaker. But of course, it's perfectly OK that Clinton wanted to risk war with Russia with a no-fly zone in Syria, as long as Democrats can vote-shame progressives out of voting for their first choice, right?
Still, ignoring for a moment the possibility that the election was rigged, Jill's vote totals reveal another side to the story.
In 2012, I was shocked to discover that I had received almost triple the votes that Stein/Honkala had in Texas. While I know a lot of people in this state, I'd bet that a lot more knew who Jill Stein was even then. Chris Kennedy, our candidate for Railroad Commissioner, received six times as many votes in his four-way race as the presidential ticket.
As mentioned here in a previous entry, that phenomenon continued in 2016, even while Stein/Baraka nearly tripled Stein/Honkala's 2012 total in Texas. Martina Salinas quadrupled the Green presidential vote, and two of our Supreme Court candidates did almost as well, all in four-way races.
Several of my friends, for a variety of reasons, have said that they voted for Clinton and then cast Green votes down the ballot where they could. Mostly, their reasons had to do with the possibility of Texas becoming a swing state, as some bogus polls suggested.
All of Stein's rhetoric about voting one's hopes rather than one's fears was inspiring, but the inspiration didn't last. long enough. For what it's worth, her poll numbers declined steadily between August and November, as apparently millions of progressive voters thought their hopes were overrated. A better candidate might have held on to those votes.
The Party Has Issues of Its Own
The Green Parties of the various states and the United States were not ready for 2016. If there was any presidential year for the Greens to break out of the shadows nationally, this was it, with the major parties nominating historically unpopular candidates, millions of progressives potentially switching from Sanders to Stein, and an unprecedented amount of individual campaign contributions arriving after the Democratic Convention. But GPUS fumbled.
It is certainly no secret that GPUS and GPTX are fraught with internal squabbles and a distinct lack of administrative expertise. Other parties certainly have their domestic disputes, but the major parties at least can hire people with organizational skills. Our volunteer leadership did many things well this year, including putting together some excellent publications, but mostly these happened in spite of lacking resources and know-how.
Without going into excruciating detail, I can tell you that I have seen some of the Party's distressingly shaky or absent infrastructure from the inside. Others of my acquaintance will tell you that I don't know the half of it. Here are two small but illustrative examples:
- On the first morning of the Presidential Nominating Convention, I had to spend a few hours fixing problems with mail merging the delegates' credentials and other badges (media, dignitaries, etc.) from Excel into Word, and then printing them. Excel kept freezing up, and the laptop crashed a couple of times. When we finally got the document properly formatted, we didn't have a printer in the room, so somebody who lived hear the University of Houston had to go home and bring his.
- My partner Kayleen was supposed to receive reimbursement for miles racked up driving convention delegates to and from the airports in August. She submitted the miles in September, when we received confirmation that the Party would reimburse us. But somehow our request got lost in the transition between the old and new national treasurers. Friends of ours received their check in early October. Last Saturday, the new treasurer informed us that he had sent Kayleen's check by Priority Mail, verifying the correct address. As of today, 15 November, that check still has not arrived.
It's past time for the Green Party to become a grown-up political organization, which includes learning how to handle money and logistics better.
It's high time to commit to building permanent, sustainable infrastructure instead of having to reinvent it every election cycle.
We must also improve our messaging, as someone said last night at the Harris County Greens' Steering Committee meeting, and let more voters know that Green politics is about much more than "recycling and bicycling," as Mahajan put it.
The mistakes and missed opportunities of this year, and previous years, must serve as lessons of 2018 and beyond. But it will not be enough if we simply keep re-fighting the last battle: We need to look into our recycled crystal balls, construct possible scenarios, and design swiftly implementable responses to all of them.