The Green Party Makes Its Case As A Left-Leaning Alternative To Obama

Last week's Political Junkie column ("Still Waiting For That Declaration of Independents") talked about the lack of ballot alternatives to President Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). If there is such dissatisfaction with the two major parties, I wondered, shouldn't there be greater support for a third party or independent presidential candidate? The column also included a history of the Libertarian Party, which will appear on all 50 states' ballots and which has been running presidential candidates since 1972.

The focus on the Libertarians prompted a bunch of complaints that appeared in my in-box, mostly from those wondering why there was no mention of the Green Party.

Green Party presidential candidates never attracted much support, but in 2000 they certainly attracted attention.

hide captionGreen Party presidential candidates never attracted much support, but in 2000 they certainly attracted attention.

Ken Rudin collection

Here are three such comments:

Q: I'm wondering why in your column today you chose to analyze the Libertarians but made no mention of other third parties such as the Green Party? I've heard many a Democrat blame the Greens for 2000 when Nader pulled 90,000 votes in Florida and Gore lost by less than 5,000. Not that I think Jill Stein will make the kind of splash that Nader did in 2000, but I think it's important for a truly informed public that the media play fair in the sandbox and at least mention everyone scrambling for ballot access this November. — Meghan Keegan, Albany, N.Y.

Q: I hope you'll find time to cover the left side of the political spectrum, such as Independent Rocky Anderson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. No, Obama doesn't count. — Bob Brister, Salt Lake City, Utah

Q: Regarding the so-called lack of strong ballot choices, the Green Party's Jill Stein has qualified for matching funds in 22 states. Wouldn't this be a "strong candidate?" — Daniel Casey, Rogers, Minn.

Let's take some of these points one at a time.

The Green Party. The party's platform is well to the left of the Ds and the Rs. At the risk of oversimplification — but borrowing from the party's 2010 platform — the Greens support/want to:

  • free the political system from big money interests, saying serious campaign finance reform to be "essential";
  • abolishing the electoral college and having direct election for president;
  • citizen control of congressional redistricting/reapportionment;
  • universal voter registration;
  • statehood for the District of Columbia;
  • guaranteed right to vote for felons and prisoners;
  • universal, federally funded childcare program for pre-school and young schoolchildren;
  • free and equal airtime for all ballot-qualified candidates and parties, on TV and radio;
  • "our government does not have the right to justify pre-emptive invasion of another country on the grounds that the other country harbors, trains, equips and funds a terrorist cell";
  • abolishment of nuclear weapons;
  • "self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis" and an end to U.S. support for Israel;
  • full investigation into "war crimes" committed in Palestine and Israel;
  • restructure all U.S. trade treaties;
  • call for a "Women's Bill of Rights";
  • independence for Puerto Rico;
  • a "complete, thorough, impartial and independent investigation" of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 "including the role of the administration of George W. Bush, various U.S. based corporations and interests, and other nations and third parties";
  • repeal of the USA Patriot Act;
  • "end illegal government spying, including the use of warrantless wiretaps";
  • abolishment of the death penalty.

The full text of the party's 2010 platform can be found here.

History of Green Party presidential candidates. The party was formed in 1991. Its first presidential ticket was composed of Ralph Nader, the consumer activist, for president, and Winona LaDuke, a Native American and environmental activist, for vice president. The ticket got 684,902 votes, or just 0.7 percent of the total vote. Its strongest showing was in Oregon, where it won 3.6 percent of the vote.

The Greens stayed with Nader and LaDuke for 2000, where their support swelled to 2,882,738 — some 2.7 percent of the total vote. Their best state, by far, was Alaska: more than 10 percent of the vote. One of their weakest states, by far, was Florida: 97,488 votes, or just 1.6 percent of the total. But the results in Florida are what got everyone's attention; many Democrats insist that Nader's total was responsible for Al Gore losing the presidency, since George W. Bush won Florida (and its 25 electoral votes) by just 537 votes, and that had Nader not been on the Sunshine State ballot, an overwhelming amount of his 97,000 votes would have gone to Gore.

Nader decided in 2004 to run again as an independent and welcomed Green Party support. He even named Peter Camejo, a California Green Party member, as his running mate. But the Greens decided to go their own way and nominated David Cobb, a Texas activist, for president. The ticket of Cobb and Pat LaMarche got fewer than 120,000 votes nationwide. In 2008, the Green Party ticket of Cynthia McKinney, an outspoken former congresswoman from Georgia, and Rosa Clemente, a community organizer from the Bronx, won about 162,000 votes.

Ralph Nader as a presidential candidate dates back to 1972.  After 2000 he left the Green Party and ran as an independent in '04 and '08.

hide captionRalph Nader as a presidential candidate dates back to 1972. After 2000 he left the Green Party and ran as an independent in '04 and '08.

Ken Rudin collection

Nader, running as an independent in 2004, got 463,655 votes (0.38 percent). In 2008, he tried the indie route once again, teaming up with Matt Gonzalez, a notable Green Party figure from San Francisco who came close against Gavin Newsom in the 2003 mayoral race. The Nader-Gonzalez ticket finished with 738,475 votes (0.56 percent).

2012 Greens. The party is holding its nominating convention Saturday, July 14 in Baltimore. The favorite for the nomination is Dr. Jill Stein, an environmental-health advocate who sought the Massachusetts governorship in both 2002 and 2010. She has already qualified for federal matching funds in 22 states. According to the Green Party website, Stein has 205 delegates (as of July 3) and has a huge lead over actress Rosanne Barr, with 84 delegates. Three other candidates are well behind.

Regarding the earlier mention of Rocky Anderson: He's a former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City who won praise from progressives for his positions on gay rights, the environment, immigration and the war in Iraq. He also called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. He left the Democratic Party in 2011 and is running for president this year as a candidate of the Justice Party, which is not expected to appear on many state ballots.

The presidential race, so far. Here's my early look at the battle for 270 electoral votes. With less than four months to go, I have President Obama ahead with 247 electoral votes, to Mitt Romney's 206, with 85 electoral votes listed as tossup. Number in parenthesis is state's e.v.'s.

OBAMA (247): California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), D.C. (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (12), Wisconsin (10).

ROMNEY (206): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3).

TOSSUP (85): Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18), Virginia (13).

Thad ending. The bizarre tale of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter has apparently reached its conclusion four months earlier than anticipated. The five-term Michigan Republican, who inexplicably launched a bid for the presidential nomination last year only to watch it end in unsurprising failure, and who then inexplicably failed to get enough valid signatures to appear on the Aug. 7 primary ballot, and then declared but quickly rescinded his intention to run as a write-in, announced on Friday he was resigning, effective immediately. He said that the "nightmarish month and a half" had taken its toll on him and his family and that he had enough.

It's taken a toll on political observers as well. Bill Ballenger, the eminent Michigan analyst, is quoted in the Detroit Free Press as calling l'affaire McCotter the "ultimate disaster":

"The guy has just made one terrible blunder after another. ... In my view, this is the supreme self-centered act. He's just caused more problems for everybody. At least the guy could have quietly kept his mouth shut and tried to pull everything together and serve out the rest of his term."

The only Republican on the Aug. 7 primary ballot is Kerry Bentivolio, a teacher and Tea Party activist. Former state Sen. Nancy Cassis (R) is running as a write-in candidate, and has received some high profile endorsements, including that of Oakland Co. Executive and former gov. candidate Brooks Patterson. The likely Democratic nominee is Dr. Syed Taj, but he faces a primary challenge from Bill Roberts, a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche. The 11th CD is still thought to be leaning Republican.

Andy Griffin Senate button i i
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Andy Griffin Senate button
Ken Rudin collection

Andy Griffith. Most people remember Andy Griffith as that likable character he played for years on TV, first as Sheriff Andy Taylor of the fictitious town of Mayberry, N.C., and then as defense attorney Ben Matlock. But Democrats in in his home state of North Carolina remember him as a great party stalwart, always available for a rally or a speech. He never ran for office, but Democrats sure tried to get him to take on Sen. Jesse Helms (R) in 1990. Here's a little of what Rob Christensen of the Raleigh News & Observer had to say:

"Griffith, who died last week, was Tar Heel Democrats' political ace in the hole, helping them remain competitive in the state while most of the South went Republican.

Time and time again, Griffith, one of the most beloved figures in the state, would take to TV to endorse Democrats – appearing in political ads for Jim Hunt in his 1984 Senate race, for [Mike] Easley in the 2000 and 2004 governor races, for Bev Perdue in the 2008 governor's race, and for state Senate candidates in various years.

Normally an endorsement by a Hollywood star wouldn't mean much in a state political race. But Griffith was different. He lived in Manteo, not Los Angeles. And his role as the wise small-town Southern sheriff was an image that many people in the state identified with."

Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin.

Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, the Political Junkie segment appears on Talk of the Nation (NPR's call-in program), hosted by Neal Conan with me adding color commentary, where you can, sometimes, hear interesting conversation, useless trivia questions and sparkling jokes. Last week's show wasn't on a Wednesday — we did it a day early because of the holiday — and it didn't include Neal; he was on vacation. But we did have guest host John Donvan and we did have special guest Robert Merry in to discuss his new book, "Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians," in which Bob does the ultimate political junkie exercise: rating the presidents.

July 3 Junkie segment on TOTN

Podcast. There's also a new episode of our weekly podcast, "It's All Politics," up every Thursday. It's hosted by my partner in crime, Ron Elving, and me.

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And Don't Forget ScuttleButton. ScuttleButton, America's favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can usually be found in this spot every Monday or Tuesday. A randomly selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation. You still have time to submit your answer to last week's contest, which you can see here. Not only is there incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets a TOTN T-shirt!

Last week's winner: Matthew Cain of Brooklyn, N.Y.

ON THE CALENDAR:

July 14 — Green Party national convention, Baltimore.

July 31 — Georgia primary. Texas runoff primary.

Aug. 2 — Tennessee primary.

Aug. 7 — Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Aug. 11 — Hawaii primary.

Aug. 14 — Primaries in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Aug. 21 — Wyoming primary.

Aug. 27-30 — Republican National Convention, Tampa, Fla.

Aug. 28 — Primaries in Alaska, Arizona and Vermont.

Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********

McCloskey Vietnam button i i
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McCloskey Vietnam button
Ken Rudin collection

This day in campaign history: Rep. Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican from California who opposes the war in Vietnam, announces he will challenge incumbent Richard Nixon for the 1972 Republican presidential nomination. McCloskey pledges to run in the March 7 New Hampshire and June 6 California primaries, and says he expects the newly enfranchised 18-to-21 year old voters will play a big difference in his effort (July 9, 1971).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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