10.27.2010

Maine Green Independent Party

I was recently interviewed by Jeff Peterson on the local Fox News station about the status of the Green Party in Maine. Despite a bad case of "ums" it went pretty well considering it was my first time on TV. After my interview, Fox aired a segment called "Reality Check" in which Peterson interviewed WGAN personalities, "Ken and Mike" about their perspective on my interview. Ironically their report represented very little of reality.



via: http://www.myfoxmaine.com/good-day-maine/Reality-Check--Maines-Green-Party-105167124.html

I could understand if they based their conjecture on my interview. I neglected a few important talking points and was certainly nervous about being on TV. But you'd have to be living in a cave to realize that the current partisan climate couldn't be more favorable for independent or third party candidates. From truthout last week:
"Much of America is in a nasty mood, and the language of compassion has more or less been abandoned. Both political parties serve their rich campaign contributors, while proclaiming that they defend the middle class," wrote Sachs. "Neither party even mentions the poor, who now officially make up 15% of the population but in fact are even more numerous, when we count all those households struggling with health care, housing, jobs, and other needs."
In a recent New York Times editorial, the columnist Thomas Friedman predicted the rise of a third party to represent the views of this so-called radical center.
"There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center. I know of at least two serious groups, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, developing 'third parties' to challenge our stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation's steady incremental decline," Friedman wrote. "Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her - one definitely big enough to impact the election's outcome."
(I wonder what radical center groups he's referring too.)

The Maine Green Independent Party is growing - not diminishing. A quick search through Maine.gov would reveal party enrollment is higher than it has ever been at over 32,000 (PDF warning). MGIP voter turnout is significantly high and so it represents an influential bloc of voters.

A focal point of Ken and Mike's argument is that lack of a gubernatorial candidate equates a lack of partisan leadership - as if the candidate runs the party. This couldn't be further from the truth. First, a tenet of the Green Party is grassroots democracy and while the party may rally behind a Presidential or Gubernatorial candidate, it would never rely heavily upon the management/leadership of a figurehead. The gubernatorial candidates for the Republicans and Democrats also do not represent their state leadership. 

Similar to the other state parties, MGIP is headed by a Steering (or Executive) Committee which is elected at an annual state convention from its membership. MGIP's present steering committee is made up of professionals with an impressive collective resume, including experience in media, and organizing at the local level and even the federal level. One of the SC members worked for a mainstream DNC presidential candidate during the last primaries. Another even has experience in an elected county office.

The lack of a gubernatorial candidate has also allowed the party to focus resources towards competitive local campaigns and field a significant slate of candidates - many of which stand a real chance to win their election, including Anna Trevorrow of Portland and Fred Horch of Brunswick.

Ken and Mike are also quick to point out that there are no Greens in the State Senate or Legislature. First, we've never had more than one elected at a given time - having none in office isn't an indication of demise. More importantly, the Green Party (or any party) doesn't need to win elections to be influential. By offering a significant threat from the left side of the political spectrum, we force Democrats to advocate liberal policy if they wish to win our votes. I don't care if progressive policy is passed by a Democrat or a Green (or even a Republican) - as long as it's passed.

Finally, the lack of a gubernatorial candidate is highly circumstantial. It's more indicative of recent obstacles implemented by Augusta than it is the party's inability to field a 'viable' candidate. Last year, the State Legislature passed last minute clean elections reforms, catching the party off guard. Clean Election Funds were established to allow candidates to run a successful campaign based less on their ability to raise funds and more on their merits and values as a politician. The new changes require candidates to raise $40,000 in donations that don't exceed $100. This proved to be a significant hurdle for a party without a nationally sponsored infrastructure. 


For full disclosure. I am an elected member and Secretary of the State Steering Committee for the Green Independent Party of Maine. I also realize I walk a thin line when I criticize partisan politics as a partisan leader. I don't believe the two actions are mutually exclusive. While there will always be a left-leaning slant to my blog, I will still attempt to be as fair and objective as possible. I invite those who disagree with me to respectfully share their point of view in the comments.

2 Intelligent Comment(s):

Michael said...

I agree that you don't have to have your party in power to influence politics - I keep hearing about the GOP having to satisfy tea party concerns about smaller government. Why wouldn't the same rule apply to the left?

I disagree that the GOP and Dems don't have a party leader - the current president is always the party leader. It's clear that President Obama has lost his grip on his party, but he certainly had it last year.

I reminded of something I read about America really having a no-party system, as the big two are so loose they can't control their members
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/11/why-a-twoparty-system-can-be-ok.html

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

Regarding party leadership - it may come down to your definition of leader. I can tell just by looking at the homepage of mainedems.org that they regard the President and other elected officials in high offices as partisan leaders.

But how much of a role does Obama play in managing the day to day affairs of the DNC? If it's significant and he spends much of his time delegating intra-party tasks or working on electoral campaigns - I think we really need to reevaluate the party system in general.

Regardless - I can say with affection that MGIP does not run this way. The fact that we don't have a Green governor or Green gubernatorial candidate is no indication that party leadership is nonexistent.

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