From the Outer Margins of Relevance: Jill Stein Becomes Green Party Nominee

AP covered the Green Party convention where two candidates with a record of landslide electoral defeats accepted the Green Party nomination for President and Vice-President.

“We need real public servants who listen to the people — not to the corporate lobbyists that funnel campaign checks into the big war chests,” Stein told applauding supporters at a Holiday Inn in Baltimore. “That’s what brought me to the Green Party, the only national party that is not bought and paid for by corporate money.”

Stein acknowledges that her candidacy is a super long shot. Still, she notes that a growing number of people are expressing frustration with the two major political parties and she cites the Occupy Wall Street movement as an example of that.

“We are in it to win it, but we’re also in it to build it, and those are both wins in my book,” Stein, 62, said in an interview before her acceptance speech at the convention.

Yes, Obama is guilty of raising campaign donations. That’s what candidates do when they’re serious about winning an election. I realize that doing what it takes to win is a foreign concept to the Green Party.

It’s nice that she’s “in it to build it” but the Green Party has been building it for over 20 years and has never had a significant victory beyond local (usually non-partisan) races. Twenty years is an awful long time for a temporary building phase.

In contrast, the Tea Party focused on running Congressional candidates in one of the major parties. They succeeded in winning elections and changing national policy. And they did it in ONE election cycle. After more than 20 years of running zero-chance, symbolic third-party Presidential campaigns, the Greens have accomplished nothing.

It couldn’t be more obvious that a third-party movement is a losing strategy for progressives. If the left wants to gain more political power and influence then it’s going to take the hard work of recruiting candidates and raising money in Democratic primaries for Congressional and state offices. If you can’t even build up enough support to win a Democratic primary then you have no chance of magically gaining enough votes to win the general election as a third party candidate.

The Green Party is full of many smart people with graduate degrees but they can’t seem to learn the political power lesson taught to them by the Christian Right and the Tea Party. It’s much easier to take over an existing party than it is to start a new one. Or, I should say, it’s more effective. It’s easier to make a half-assed effort at running a third-party campaign and then blaming your loss on “the system.” That takes less work and there’s always an easy excuse to blame someone else when you lose.

I know the usual retort is that the Tea Party had corporate backing while Greens don’t. But, that’s a poor excuse. Progressive candidates and causes can raise money if they work hard enough.

Unfortunately, it’s not harmless to let Greens have their little diversion. They’re expending time and money that could support equally progressive candidates who might actually win. The millions spent on Nader’s campaigns would have gone a long way toward electing a few more strong progressive voices in Congress. The knee-jerk cynicism spread by the third party left results in Democratic Congressional candidates with Green values not getting the help they need from left activists.

Anyone can spout the name of some disappointing Democrats in Congress who make both parties look the same. However, I can also name progressive champions in Congress elected as Democrats, like John Lewis, Dennis Kucinich and Dick Durbin. I can’t name any Greens who champion progressive causes in Congress because they’ve never elected one.

The building stage is over, Greens. Time to call it quits on a failed strategy.

© 2012 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.