This isn't the first time the warning bells have been sounded about this matter. Democrats in Congress have filed this resolution, nicknamed the For the People Act, at the beginnings of several previous sessions. They claim that it's supposed to make the five improvements in the graphic above:
Sounds great, right?—at least for left-of-center voters who want to see democracy enhanced in a political system in desperate need of reform (or, as some of us believe, replacement). The Progressive Reform Network, one of many nonprofits that send me far too much email, seems to think it's all cool.
However, there's an ugly snake in all that beautiful grass. That bullet point in the graphic about matching grassroots donations? That already happens, but this resolution aims to make qualifying for the matching more difficult.
For a while now, the criteria for federal matching funds for presidential candidates have included collecting at least $5,000 in donations, in amounts of less than $200 per donor, from 20 different states. The FtP Act proposes amending a certain section of the Internal Revenue Code to increase that amount by 400%, to $25,000.
Raising $500,000 is feasible for a Green campaign, but the per-state requirement remains in effect and makes it considerably more onerous. You might argue that this is just adjusting for inflation, but it's a bloody hefty adjustment: It resembles the growth in spending on federal political campaigns, which has far outstripped inflation in the broader economy since 2000.
I haven't yet read the entire text of the resolution, lengthy as it is, but I intend to soon. If I'm reading the relevant portions correctly, it looks as if the limit on individual donations will also be quintupled, to $1,000. I don't know many Green-minded folk who can easily part with that much money, especially for a foreordained also-ran in a presidential race. We Greens are generally good at refusing corporate money, but (at least in Texas) not so good at collection contributions from our own members.
The tricky part of the matching funds language is that it applies specifically to primary elections, broadly defined and presumably including parties that both do and don't hold primary elections. Some state Green Parties conduct primary elections; in other states, such as Texas, the cost of statewide primaries is prohibitive. Primaries, caucuses, conventions—however the nominations happen, it's still technically a primary process. If two or more strong Green candidates emerge to compete for the nomination in the 2024 cycle, and both or all pursue federal matching funds, that means more people shaking essentially the same limited number of trees.
Cri$i$, Meet Opportunity
It would be easy to see the hypothetical passage of this resolution as a death knell for the Greens and other small parties. In my more optimistic moments, I see it as a challenge, a scarier flaming hoop through which the Greens will have to jump, but a surmountable obstacle nonetheless.
There's no question that the tiny portion of H.R. 1 regarding federal matching funds represents an existential threat to the Green Party as we know it. This is not like Pacifica Radio telling its listeners give us money or we will cease to exist!!! and then continuing to exist slightly shittier than before. Considering the number of states that require a ticket-topper for a party to have ballot access, this really could mean the end of the party in those states or even nationwide.
Fundraising operatives within the Green Party can point to this existential threat in their fundraising solicitations; they will need to put on their collective thinking cap to devise the right words to convey the proper urgency. We have always favored getting big money out of politics; now is the time to borrow a page from two-time loser Bernie Sanders and show the world the power of small money.
As I told my comrades recently in the GPTX Slack workspace, I personally have no acumen for fundraising. I find it hard enough getting people to show up for meetings, even via Zoom. The good news, however, is that we seem to be attracting the interest of some folks who do possess such an acumen and really hate the two big-name parties. I can't divulge any more than that at this time.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.