Let’s all hope for Green Party Irrelevance

Posted on November 6, 2012

Today is election day in the US (in case you missed it). And once again we have a Green Party candidate running for election – Dr Jill Stein.

In 2000, Ralph Nader was the Green Party Candidate. Democrats pleaded with him to withdraw his candidacy in what was a close race. In the event, he decided to press ahead and took votes from Al Gore thereby handing Florida to the Bush-Cheney team by a margin of 536 votes. Ralph Nader’s candidacy handed the US (and the world) over to George W Bush for the next 8 years thereby ensuring that everything that the Green Party and Mr Nader believed in would be put back by at least a decade or more.

Some have argued that it is unfair to single out Nader as the cause for the Gore defeat as there were many other causes. It is true that there were many other causes. But none were so proximal, so easily avoidable and so utterly pointless as the Nader candidacy.

So here we go again.

This time we have a close election and Dr Stein may well get a few votes. Those who believe that an Obama presidency would be better than a Romney presidency for the causes that the Green Party, environmentalists and others who have an interest in the ‘green’ cause can only hope for one thing – that Dr Stein’s candidacy is so irrelevant that she will not take any significant number of votes in the crucial swing states.

There are those who argue that such candidacies are necessary because it is important to work to break down the hegemony of the two-party system in the US. The latter part of this statement is true – the current two party system is unhealthy. But the question is – how best to break it down? The success of the Tea Party has shown that successful politics is a bottom up process. Success depends on starting at the grass roots, building support on the doorstep and moving on from there. Contesting the presidential election is the lazy way out. It doesn’t cut it as a political strategy with any ounce of pragmatism. It might be good at winning headlines but does damage to the overall cause of environmentalism. It is shrill activism not effective politics.

“But we have to keep trying” some argue. Imagine I wanted to improve the health of the population and decided to add something to the drinking water to do so. The net effect was that the health of the population did not improve but a couple of dozen people died instead. What would you say to the idea that I have to keep trying the same thing over again because my intentions are good – and it’s got to work dammit!

Ralph Nader and the Green Party caused untold damage to the environment by contesting the 2000 presidential election. We can only hope that today’s Green Party of the United States has reached such a level of irrelevance in swing states that it won’t happen again. As an environmentalist it’s kind of ironic to be put into a position of having to hope for your own irrelevance as the way in which, pragmatically, anything might possibly be achieved over the next 4 years.

Jill Stein’s candidacy is a triumph of self-centered ideology over pragmatic politics. Let’s hope our environment does not end up paying the price.


Post Election Update

Well, it’s worked out. Dr Stein’s candidacy has been a “pathetic failure” as described in this article which also suggests that, in America, “left-wing third-party energy is limited to¬†dilettante white leftists with no real interest in or ability to organize beyond their affinity group.”

The other good news. In his acceptance speech, newly re-elected President Obama mentions protecting America from a warming planet as one of his priorities.