The Green party’s 2016 presidential ticket, headed by Jill Stein, captured just about 1 percent of the national popular vote, a far cry from the 2.74 percent infamously won by Green nominee Ralph Nader in 2000. Now with its presidential primaries underway, party leaders are betting that voters will look to the left of the Democratic party.
‘The Green party’s just taking all the people who are too crazy for the Democratic Socialists of America,’ an insider in the Democratic party’s left wing told me.
But the Greens have reasons to be optimistic about their future in American politics.
‘For decades, our candidates have been talking about single-payer healthcare, the Green New Deal, ending the war on drugs, and now these are really coming into the mainstream,’ said Gloria Mattera, one of the Green party’s co-chairs and a member of its steering committee.
The headline policy objective of the Green party’s 2020 platform is an ‘eco-socialist’ Green New Deal. Mattera’s not sure if the ‘Green New Deal’ branding, supposedly coined by the Greens, was ‘co-opted’ by the Democrats or had just entered into the mainstream.
The rest of the platform includes ‘an economic Bill of Rights’ and an end to the war economy.
‘The money going to the war machine is what’s going to fund the kinds of programs that are needed to interrupt the climate crisis and uplift people who have been oppressed by capitalism,’ Mattera said.
‘I’m confident that if the voters heard the platforms and the articulate way how our candidates discuss Green party policies, that it would really resonate.’
According to Mattera, the Green party’s ongoing presidential primaries are supposed to have the same ethos as their platform. ‘We’re an activist-based party of radical democracy,’ she said, ‘so we really want to bring our members an exciting and a radically-democratic primary process.’
The Greens’ primary process, however, is not quite as transparent and democratic as Mattera suggested. Right now, only two, Howie Hawkins and Dario Hunter, of the eight declared Green candidates have been ‘officially recognized’ by the party’s Presidential Campaign Support Committee.
Recognition, part of a ‘special process’ to designate those running ‘a serious campaign’, requires candidates to meet at least seven criteria, including fundraising goals, a dedicated website, and signatures of support. A candidate questionnaire is also a prerequisite for official recognition.
A firm supporter of eco-socialism and the Green New Deal, Hawkins is one of the founders of the Green party and a perennial candidate for state and federal offices in New York. When he ran for governor in 2010, Mattera was his running mate. He’s the highest fundraiser now, with $29,660 and 221 signatures of support.
His recognized runner-up, Hunter, a member of the Youngstown Board of Education, has raised $11,420. Openly gay, Hunter is a convert to Judaism from Shi’a Islam and currently serves as the rabbi of the College of Wooster. His father was an Iranian immigrant, his mother African American. Some might say he ticks all the boxes.
‘Howie and Dario Hunter are building an infrastructure and a financial base,’ she told me. ‘But it is early, and the other candidates are kind of in the mix, so I can’t really predict it at the moment.’
As Democratic candidates move even farther to the left on environmental and economic issues, the Green party’s top priority is to differentiate itself.