NATIONAL -- Despite its name, the concerns of the Green Party reach far beyond ecology and environmental issues. The party believes citizens, not corporations, are the true stakeholders in democracy.
“Greens seek to bring vibrant grassroots democracy to every part of the United States,” its platform says.
The Green Party defines itself with 10 key values, including grassroots democracy, social justice, ecology, non-violence, sustainability, feminism, diversity, and responsibility.
For the purpose of this article, the Green Party (or simply, “the Greens”) refers to the Green Party of the United States, a federation of multiple state Green Parties. While the official national party was not recognized by the FEC until 2001, the Green Party dates back to the 1980s. It gradually developed into a loose association of Green chapters and state organizations.
The party's growth has been rapid, now reaching nearly all 50 U.S. states. It also has affiliates in 5 continents.
According to the Greens' media coordinator, Scott McLarty, “the Green Party represents an alternative to the two war-and-Wall-Street parties and, unlike the Democratic and Republican politicians, we don't accept campaign checks from corporate PACs.”
“But Greens call the Green Party more than an alternative. We call it an imperative in this century of global climate change, the advance of a new Robber Baron economy in which the One Percent are amassing unprecedented wealth and power and working Americans are losing their financial security (and homes and jobs in many cases), and the growing national security state. Despite their obvious differences, Democrats and Republicans are both on the wrong side of the major problems of the 21st century.” - Scott McLarty, Green Party
The Green Party ran its first presidential ticket in 2000, featuring Ralph Nader, who placed third in that historically-disputed contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Nader and the Greens achieved notoriety for the controversial view that the over 2.8 million popular votes cast for Nader swung the election for Bush.Yet the Greens continued to field presidential candidates: David Cobb in 2004, Cynthia McKinney in 2008, and
Jill Stein in 2012. None of these have come close to garnering the popularity of Ralph Nader; Jill Stein led the pack with a fourth-place finish, securing about 470,000 votes in the 2012 presidential election.
McLarty explained that the Greens field presidential candidates for several reasons.
“Our national nominees are able to reach the public and carry the banner for the party and express our principles, ideas, and positions on big issues far better than state and local candidates can,” he said in an interview for IVN.
“In the U.S., a party doesn't really feel legitimate – it doesn't put itself on the map – unless it runs national candidates,” he added.
Looking ahead to 2016, there are three candidates seeking the Green nomination for president, according to Starlene Rankin, also a media coordinator for the Green Party.
- Kent Mesplay, of San Diego, was a candidate for the 2008 Green Party nomination, but lost that bid to Jill Stein. “Quietly trying to make a difference. No flash, no pizazz. Just a lot of love and devotion for the world,” Mesplay wrote on his Facebook page. He is the only candidate to have formally announced his candidacy.
- Jill Stein, the 2012 Green Party presidential nominee, is a physician, activist, and environmental health advocate. Stein has also been a candidate for governor and other state offices in her home state of Massachusetts.
- Darryl Cherney, a musician and environmental activist from California, ran an unsuccessful 1988 campaign for Congress in the Democratic primary.
In addition, a few hundred candidates are expected to run for state and local offices under the Green Party banner.
McLarty also stressed how presidential campaigns help promote awareness for state and local candidates and party chapters. Running presidential candidates also helps the Greens break down barriers to ballot access and major-party status in some states.
The Greens have also pushed legal efforts to open up presidential debates to third-party candidates.
The importance of the Greens and other third parties in America includes a legacy of political and social reforms, including the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the eight-hour workday and other workers' rights, public education, the direct election of senators, and economic programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“All of these ideas were introduced by third parties and adopted later by one or both of the major parties,” McLarty claims.
But he laments the near disappearance of third parties in the second half of the 20th century. This, McLarty says, “is one of the great unmentioned reasons for the triumph of the right-wing in U.S. politics.”
Can the Greens bring progressive ideals back to the forefront of American politics? As the 2016 election cycle begins, it will be interesting to see how the playbook unfolds for the party -- along with other third parties and grassroots efforts -- when the media's attention remains almost exclusively focused on the Democratic and Republican parties.