According to the San Jose Mercury News, the California Green Party is suffering from a shrinking membership. Currently, it’s downsizing from an enrollment of 158,000 registered Greens (0.95 percent of California voters) to 111,000 (0.66 percent).
In one assignment of blame, Greens look to the “Obama effect.” While the already minute Green Party membership continues shrinking further, Democratic membership has inversely swelled upwards by approximately 390,000 members, the Mercury reported. Presumably, this is due to President Obama’s charm over independent voters in the last election, handily winning them over by a wide margin. But this is only one side of the coin.
According to the Mercury’s article, the California Green Party thinks their existence will be further threatened by the new top two open primary ballot measure due out in June. Their problem with the new open primary initiative is that they believe it will phase them out of state and congressional elections, being a minority party of minority parties. In the challenges they already face as a third party, Green representatives said that the mainstream media won’t give them significant attention, shoving their agenda even further under the carpet.
While passage of a top two primary initiative could challenge the Green Party’s viability, this isn’t due, however, merely to the virtue of being a third party. In reality, the new open primary initiative could force it to appeal to a broader range of voters instead of its more narrow base of support.
Among the issues the Greens embrace are environmentalism, universal healthcare, liberal economic policies, left of center immigration reform, and the like. While these ideas might be popular among the far left in California (i.e. Berkeley, San Francisco, etc), they fail to resonate with the state’s larger voter demographic seeking practical solutions to the state’s budget crisis (among other issues).
From the Green Party’s perspective, its gradual extinction in California is disheartening. Let’s face it, no one likes to die in a political sense. At the same time, it’s a normal part of the political process for particular political parties to transform or pass on as the voter demographic changes over time.
In actuality, the top two open primary initiative could force incumbents and candidates from all parties to actually discuss matters that are most relevant to the state’s struggles. It might compel them to reach broader audiences by going beyond the regional confines of strictly Northern, Southern, or Central California.
Viewed in a more optimistic light, perhaps the initiative, if passed, could serve as the catalyst that sparks the reemergence of a Green Party that is more relevant to the growing bloc of independent voters seeking more mainstream solutions to California's problems. Otherwise, if the Green Party fails to adapt, it may find itself extinct before too much longer.