[Marxism] Battered Greens
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 15 12:35:05 MST 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 2004
Battered Greens beginning to rebuild
After tough year, party seeks small wins at local level
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Lynda Deschambault used a simple strategy to win a Town Council seat in
Republican-leaning Moraga as a member of the Green Party.
"I hid it," Deschambault said of her party affiliation.
The 43-year-old chemist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
said she thought identifying herself as a Green "would hurt me in the
town. They're very conservative. Either they're Republicans or they're
wealthy Democrats. I was fighting that 'Greens are all a bunch of
So instead of waving the party flag in the nonpartisan race,
Deschambault talked up Greenish issues, like slow growth instead of
moving ahead on two major housing developments proposed for the Contra
Costa suburb. Not until the last weekend of the campaign did she send
the local Green Party endorsement letter to party members in Moraga.
All 85 of them.
In a year during which the Greens virtually went into hiding on a
national level, the party had to take what it could get even in
California, which with 160,579 registered Greens and 75 Green
officeholders is the party's stronghold.
The Bay Area is home to the party's rising stars, such as San Francisco
Supervisor-elect Ross Mirkarimi; its electoral system of choice, San
Francisco's instant runoffs; and its great hope for the future, outgoing
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez.
Nationally, however, the 2004 election was a dud for the Greens. The
only time Greens got headlines in the past few months was when they
fought with their 2000 presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.
Now, with Democrats navel-gazing about their future after their
election- day meltdown, Greens are hoping to lure back progressives who
reluctantly voted for John Kerry and to work their way into the
political system, one low-level election at a time. [Low-level? This
obviously has more than one meaning.]
"We survived the perfect storm and we managed to grow," said Brent
McMillan, national political director for the Green Party. "But it was a
tough year. Our visibility at the national level suffered."
Dogged by Democrats calling them spoilers for running Nader in 2000,
Greens were marginalized in the 2004 presidential election. Their
supporters split between those who voted for Kerry in hopes of ousting
President Bush, those who stayed loyal to Nader as he ran as an
independent, and those who stuck by Green nominee David Cobb.
"About 70 percent of the people who donated money to us in 2000 went to
'Anybody But Bush,' and we fought over the rest with Nader," McMillan said.
The result: Everyone suffered.
On election day, Nader won less than 0.5 percent of the vote nationally
and that was five times more than Cobb got. Legal battles to get on
state ballots drained both the Greens and Nader of any ability to mount
a formidable campaign, and the mainstream media largely ignored both.
Because the Greens use their federal-level candidates as
hey-check-us-out billboards for the party, they squandered a
presidential election year opportunity to capture more voters in a
highly charged race.
Some say the 2000 election left a lingering resentment against the
Greens on the left. While 849,966 more Californians have registered to
vote over the past four years, only 21,845 registered Green.
"There's been a lot of fear generated out there, fear of a possible Bush
presidency, plus Democrats did a much better job of getting people
registered, " said Beth More Haines of the Green Party of California.
"People were hunkering down, and it takes a lot more involvement to be a
"It's been a difficult year for Greens," said Haines, a middle school
special education teacher who lives in Nevada City.
But with the national election behind them, Haines said Greens are ready
"to be more activist" and get involved at a local level. Their strategy
is to build a party by slowly winning low-level, "soil and water
district commissioner"-type seats. [I guess they are ideal platforms for
challenging US imperialism in Iraq.] In 2004, 430 Green candidates ran
for office in 41 states; 63 won. There are 212 elected Greens in 27 states.
They're already a force north of the Bay Area and hold majorities on the
Sebastopol and Arcata city councils. In San Francisco, Mirkarimi took
over Gonzalez's old supervisor's seat, and Mark Sanchez was the first
Green to be re-elected to the Board of Education.
In the East Bay, John Selawsky was elected to the Berkeley Unified
School District Board and Gayle McLaughlin will serve on the Richmond
Next up for Greens: waiting for Gonzalez's next move.
"We've been in discussions with him about running for another office,"
said McMillan, the Green's national political director. He declined to
elaborate, other than to say, "It was at the statewide level."
Gonzalez and his aides declined to respond to questions about his plans.
In a May address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gonzalez
said, "I think I will stand for office in the future," but offered no
Yet he made it clear in that speech that he was not a career politician.
"My life is more authentic than politics sometimes demands," he said. "I
spend a lot of time in cafes and art studios and try to live."
With or without Gonzalez, the Greens positioned themselves well in this
election, even without a strong top of the ticket, said Corey Cook, an
assistant professor of political science at San Francisco State University.
"The Greens didn't cause the result of the (presidential) election and
they could position themselves as an alternative for people who think
the Democratic Party is headed too far to the right," Cook said, noting
that anti-abortion Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada is the front-runner to be
the Democrats' new Senate minority leader.
The Greens "are setting themselves up like Republicans did after (Barry)
Goldwater in 1964," said Cook, referring to the Arizona senator trounced
at the polls by President Lyndon Johnson. "They're saying, 'We might not
win a national election for a while, but we're going to win a lot of
local seats and build a national party.'" [The only question is which
national party they intend to build, the Greens or the Democrats.]
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