The Self-Made Invisibility of the Greens

by Mark Lause on November 11, 2017

Over a thousand Cincinnatians have voted for an actual independent Green candidate, when they’re offered one.  This is reflects the impact of the dire situation into which the corporate two-party system has led this community, the state, the country and the planet.  It’s a tribute to those voters that they cast those ballots for a party that locally does nothing to provide citizens such an option.

Over the years, I have periodically turned up in hopes of helping to build a party, but have consistently found absolutely no interest in doing so.  Things like starting meetings on time and not making them last as long as possible just elude them.  Some years back, I was suckered into showing up for a meeting with the soloemn promise that there would be an actual chair and an agenda.  There was neither and I wound up wasting three hours of my life watching the group dither its way to a decision that they would participate in an annual Fourth of July parade in which they’ve participated every year since there has been a Green party.

Last year–in the wake of the thwarted presidential bid of Bernie Sanders. One of local Greens boasted to me that they and were about to transform the Green Party with a list of 2400 former Sanders supporters.  It took one meeting to realize that nothing was going to change because none of Greens actually wanted it a change.

This isn’t a question of being organizationally idiots.  It actually reflects political choices–to not produce a party, candidates, or campaigns.  When pressed some of them will even explain patiently how independent candidates can’t win elections anyway, etc.

In the last municipal election, this tiny group of people calling themselves a “party” offered a slate of candidates that included a grab bag of Democrats and Republicans.  These included John Cranley, the Democratic candidate for mayor.  Since 2013, then, Cincinnati has been the only major city in the U.S. where the Greens elected a mayor.

Problem was that nobody ever noticed.  And most of the few who noticed really didn’t care.

Mayor Cranley is regularly described as a Democrat and always has been.  The Greens themselves actually did see his election as a victory for the party.

 

But let’s talk about the recent municipal election . . . . .

The Green entered the campaign boasting that it would run a strong slate of candidates–the strongest they ever did, one of them assured me .

So let’s consider it.

For the Board of Education, they ran one candidate.   If you google David Brenner, his name comes up as a volunteer on the county Democratic Party site. Still, people should be free to change their minds, right?

The party is also boasting four candidates for the City Council.

One of the party’s officers boasted that this is a larger number than they have ever actually run, so I should be happy about it.  I didn’t even bother getting into the question of quantity and quality because four candidates after some twenty years of a pretended existence in this community is a downright microscopic achievement.

One of them, Kit Earls announced gathering 700 signatures but withdrew as the deadline for filing approached.

Another, Chris Smitherman is a former president of the local NAACP has been in and out of the city government for years  Although hardly an outsider, he remains a genuine maverick.  He usually runs as an independent, and has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the Greens.  And he doesn’t particularly hide his endorsement by them.

On the other hand, he doesn’t need them either.

The main affinity seems to have been their shared opposition to the street car project a few years ago.

The most active campaigner, Bryan Jones is a self-described “progressive” who addresses issues of real importance to working people in the city.  He has been a Democrat for years.  Within the party, he is regularly marginalized, and for all the right reasons.

However, he has no evident ties with or interest in the Green Party.

Quite to the contrary.

The campaign has put up many signs like this one all over this overwhelmingly African American neighborhood.  Not a single public sign that identifies him as a Green.  In fact, as this sign I demonstrates, where party enters into it at all, Garry’s campaign publicly identified him as a “Democrat.”

I did not see a single sign anywhere in the city (or on the campaign website) that described him as a Green candidate.

In fairness, though, the signs themselves were obviously Green.

Finally, there was Tamie Sullivan from Hyde Park, which is the kind of neighborhood it sounds like.

Last October she described herself: as ” “I am a member of the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, because I am a fiscal conservative. I believe in smaller government, which equates to less government waste and lower taxes; balanced budgets; job growth; and less regulation.”  She acknowledged at the time that she was  “seriously considering running for elected office in the future.” (See “I’m a Republican, and I was never voting for Trump” at Cincinnati.com, October 12, 2016.)

She is not a youngster fumbling about to formulate her ideas, but the president of Sullivan Communications and a founder of Girls with Pearls.  She has a well formed idea of what she wants out of politics . . .

A recent article on her campaign described her as “a longtime registered Republican.”  Her campaign website cites her “proven track record for entrepreneurial thinking and a reputation for getting things done.”  it does not mention her running as a Green.

At no point did I see any public identification of her campaign with the Green Party.

As opposed to Brian Garry, she doesn’t even have green yard signs.

Nobody I’ve asked can tell me anything about how or why the Green Party put her on the ticket.

After a pretended existence in this city for over twenty years, this kind of piddling about is the best it can do.

The problem isn’t that the Green Party is a brand new organization struggling to get its bearings.  The party here has consistently and repeatedly chosen to do this sort of stuff.  And when called to account for what it does, they never explain it or take any responsibility for poor decisions. 

It’s always somebody else’s fault.  

What must be done to build a party in this circumstance isn’t a state secret or some arcane kind of alchemy.  The party early made the political decision not to be one.  And it has never varied from that decision.

Frankly, I don’t blame people with crappy politics for acting on them.

Any state party worth being called a “party” would have intervened long ago to some these pathetic and self-destructive misrepresentations.  However, the party in Ohio regularly does this sort of thing.  At one point the organization passed a resolution against supporting Democrats or Republicans.  In the next wave of elections, both Columbus and Cincinnati did just that anyway.  And Cleveland didn’t even bother pretending to be Green when it sought to elect “Progressive Democrats.”  Statewide, the party never ever offers more candidates than for a tiny fraction of the offices

The problem isn’t actually that the state party doesn’t provide leadership.  It’s the quality of the leadership it provides that prevents a part formation comparable to its voting strength.

Finally, we can’t really blame this lack of seriousness at the state level on the state “parties.”   The really sad, pathetic fact is that–after all this time–the Green Party in most states looks a lot more like it does in Ohio and it does the party in New York or California.

The Greens aren’t really a party because the national leadership seems to be quite happy with this arrangement . . . happy enough, at least, to do absolutely nothing to change it.   Their motives matter little.  In practice, the result is that they claim to be a political alternative and willfully choose not to be one

By the same token–setting aside the question of motives and just looking at the practical result–offering a few independent candidates simply draws people to the polls who would otherwise stay at home . . . .most of them will vote for candidates of the corporate cliques for those positions for which the Greens aren’t offering anyone.

In the face of persistent threats of a nuclear exchange and the ongoing reality of global warming, the Green Party has wound up offering absolutely nothing . . . not even an appropriate sense of urgency.

Those who are serious about change need to stop being content with merely going through the motions and turn to the kind of serious political organizing that must be done.

 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

MJ Page-Lieberman November 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

This article echoes my assessments of the Greens after attending one meeting of the Greater Boston chapter. To their credit though, the Green Party may be playing a valuable role of keeping dysfunctional people occupied there instead of meandering around causing confusion in other organizations that show more promise.

Note though that this article itself should have likely been better edited before being posted. It reads as if the author confused Bryan Jones with Brian Garry.

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Romi Elnagar November 11, 2017 at 6:49 pm

This is one person’s perspective and is a poor reflection of what is actually happening in the Green Party.
Perhaps Prof. Lause should find another political party to join and then complain about. Nowhere does he talk about getting out and canvassing for votes, running for office himself or doing anything else that is POSITIVE to build the Party. These are the kinds of behaviors of people who are a drain on the energies of people who are trying to make constructive change in this society.

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Lonnie Lopez November 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Barf. You ignore everything he actually write. You, Romi, are a perfect example of the Green Party’s tone-deafness. How in the hell can we “make constructive change” when idiots like you ignore what’s keeping your party weak? T

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Romi Elnagar November 11, 2017 at 7:02 pm

P.S. When I wrote about “these are the kinds of behaviors of people who are a drain on the energies…” I was referring to Prof. Lause’s complaints about the Green Party in the absence of any other kinds of actions to promote it.
Prof. Cause ends by saying, “Those who are serious about change need to stop being content with merely going through the motions and turn to the kind of serious political organizing that must be done.”

This comment shows how out-of-touch Prof.Lause is with the Green Party. In fact, many of us have indeed been doing “serious political organizing” for more than a decade before he arrived. The fact that he failed to notice doesn’t negate that fact. Prof. Lause is an armchair revolutionary, someone who talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

As my mother used to say, “Be careful when you point a finger. Remember that you are pointing three back at yourself.” Prof. Lause could use that advice, as I have found no indication whatsoever that he has ever DONE anything to organize for the Green Party.

Other people have been doing a great deal, Prof. Lause!

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John Reimann November 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I can’t speak to Mark Lause’s experiences in cleveland, but they certainly sound like my experiences in Alameda County (San Francisco East Bay), CA. It can’t be just a coincidence.

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Don Macleay November 16, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Well John,

I ran for Oakland School Board last year, openly Green, and a member of the Oakland Justice coalition slate.

Were you aware of it?
I don’t remember seeing you around walking ant talking with voters.
Do you get the Alameda County Green Voter Guide?

After Trump’s win, for a short while, there was an upswing in attendance.
At those meetings I found that many Greens were getting their information from seriously anti Green sources, notably the Sierra Club, Wellstone Democratic Party Club, KPFA, and local liberal democrats. NOT directly from the Greens ourselves.

It is not enough to just register Green as a consumer choice. One also has to go out and get information in an environment hostile to third parties.

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John Reimann November 17, 2017 at 8:44 am

No, I was not aware of it. What district did you run in? What was your program?

I didn’t get my information on the Greens from KPFA, the Sierra Club or any of those pro-Democratic Party sources. I got it from attendance at a few Green Party meetings.

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Andrew J Franke November 12, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Seriously?
What? The GP has not elected a candidate to statewide office EVER! If you were serious you would stop trying to fill swimming pools with raindrops and fill a shot glass first so you could prove you were actually asking people to collect water.
In the meantime you have people collecting sand, dirt and air.

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SocraticGadfly November 11, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Damn skippy, Mark.

This is right in line with your piece after last November’s elections, where you basically said, if the Green Party is no longer the best “vehicle” for the left, it’s time to look for a better one.

Personally, at the presidential level, here in Texas, I almost pulled the trigger for Mimi Soltysik (SPUSA), available by write-in, rather than Stein. It’s an option that will be nearer the front of my mind in 2020.

(The Sullivan deal, there in Cincinnati, was especially laughable. I remember seeing that in my Twitter feed and saying “Wat D. Fuq.”)

PS: That article a year ago is why I added North Star to my blog roll and friended you on FB.

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SocraticGadfly November 11, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Oh, may I add that this forthcoming book of yours sounds interesting? https://www.amazon.com/Great-Cowboy-Strike-Conflicts-American/dp/1786631962/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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David Baker November 11, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Ok what is your point?

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Mark Lause November 11, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Romi’s comments were such Trumpthink that I was waiting for him to assert what I was writing was “fake news.” This isn’t made-up. What would be the point of that? So you can deal with it or deny it. Your choice.

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Brandy Baker November 12, 2017 at 9:55 am

Those of us, like Mark and myself, who have written critically about the Greens can do so precisely BECAUSE we have worked and been on the inside of the GP organizing…..yet we have to endure attacks from others who say “You aren’t doing anything, you are trolling”

Please stop changing the subject.

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Scott McLarty November 14, 2017 at 3:26 pm

The author didn’t do his homework. He assumes that his local experience of the Green Party reflects what’s going on nationally. Maybe it happened in Cincinnati, but a quick glance at other GPs’ web pages and the national site (gp.org) proves that very few state & local GPs “offered a slate of candidates that included a grab bag of Democrats and Republicans” in the 2017 or any other election. There are a few dysfunctional examples, but most state and local GPs adhere to the party’s basic message: we’re here to replace Ds and Rs in public office, not endorse them.

It is true, however, that the GP doesn’t run enough candidates for local office. If we want to establish a base of support that will give us permanence, political clout, and the ability to win congressional seats, we need to run thousands of candidates in each election cycle, not just a few hundred.

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MJ Page-Lieberman November 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm

At the Greater Boston Chapter meeting of the Green-Rainbow Party of MA I attended earlier this year, people weren’t sure if they should endorse a candidate from their own party who was running for elected public office and was one of their state party heads. It went on for a while, and even though I was just a visitor, I offered my 2 cents in hopes of getting the meeting to move on. You know whose voice of sanity I was concurring with though? The guy with two printed-out pieces of paper safety-pinned to his shirt where one paper had an image of the flag of Syria, and the other paper has a photo of a smiling Bashar al-Assad.

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Brandy Baker November 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm

In too many states, Greens are too conciliatory and accommodating to Dems, not just OH.

Kshama Sawant, for all of hers and Salt’s flaws has it right when she says every time she is in he city council, she knows that she is in enemy territory.

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David Baker November 14, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Yes, It is always easy to criticize.

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David Baker November 14, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Difficult to get off your ass and do something.

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SocraticGadfly November 15, 2017 at 10:38 am

Wow … David Baker all full of assumptions about what Mark has and hasn’t done in the past. In return, all I see you doing on this page yourself is criticize.

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SocraticGadfly November 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

Texas is not as bad as Ohio sounds like, but, it’s not fantastic here.

Due to a late Democrat entry in a court of criminal appeals race, the party didn’t get 5 percent in any statewide race in 2016 and lost ballot access for 2018.

At the 2017 state convention, the party took no official stance on whether to do a petition drive for 2018 or wait until 2020.

That convention was also riven by issues of racism, as has been Houston’s Pacifica radio station, KPFT.

Candidates for statewide office in 2014 and 2016 generally thought that a Facebook page about their candidacy was all they needed, not a website. The 2014 gubernatorial candidate was nominated despite not being at the 2014 convention. And, he never even created a campaign Facebook page.

A few people, like David Bruce Collins, are working on professionalizing the party and its candidates more in Texas. It will be a slog.

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