Paintin’ the White House Green

One of the pleasant things about being a Green is not having to feel too sorry about supporting a candidate.  All four of the candidates left for the Presidential nomination are good, at least in that they offer the chance to vote for someone rather than against McCain as the Dems do, but I do believe I’m clearly behind the best one.  Jesse Johnson has that ability to take the Greens to the next level because he works so well against the “type” that we’re put into.  The MSM loves to write the book on Green candidates: far-leftist extremists from the Democratic Auxiliary Club or whatever, who wear tie-dye and hug trees.  Cynthia McKinney clearly plays into that, at least the first part.  I’ve seen Jesse with reporters who clearly are rewriting their stories in their head as soon as they see him: a slow-talkin’ country boy with a grey suit and cowboy boots, and an aw-shucks demeanor from West Virginia.  Combine that with the fact that he comes at many of his stances from the right (he’s a former Republican, never was a Democrat) and suddenly the whole thing shifts.  The Green message becomes something that anyone can get behind.

McKinney’s main selling point is bringing the Green message to “different communities”.  Sure, McKinney can bring in the black vote, at least some of the more radicalized portions – and yes, they have reason to be – but how much from the most solid bloc the Democrats have, in a race where Barack Obama is running?  Jesse Johnson can campaign among truck drivers, Union workers…the small-towns of flyover America that McKinney can’t touch.  Frankly, that’s a much larger bloc of voters – one that the Democrats have ceded completely to the Republicans (though Howard Dean has made some strides in reversing that trend).  What should we go after: a Democrat in the midst of a “historic moment”, or a weak Republican consensus candidate with little grasp of the issues, whose base we could easily erode with the proper image?  Johnson would do well against Obama, but he’d skewer McCain.  And in the process, we’d rewrite the book on the Greens – from a niche, far-leftist group into a values-based party that unapologetically stands for the majority of America.

Is there a name recognition factor?  Certainly among Greens, but not in the general populace.  McKinney’s best known overall for a scuffle with a police officer – a screw job by the MSM, to be sure, but it’s an uphill climb to reverse that – a climb that Johnson wouldn’t have to make.

As for Kat Swift and Kent Mesplay, the other candidates, they’re friends, and they’re very smart folks…but they aren’t really Presidential material, I’m afraid.  I can’t imagine either of them actually running the country.  Jesse Johnson could.  He’d be able to not only exercise the intelligence and wisdom necessary for the job, but he’d be able to reach out to Republicans, Democrats, and others to build the coalitions necessary to do so – another thing that McKinney simply couldn’t do well.

It seems to me at this point what we need is a party that says the things the Democrats say (end the war, universal health care, etc.), but backs it with a strong commitment to core values, as Republicans do (which, frankly, gets them elected).  The Greens are about a hairsbreadth away from that now, and Jesse Johnson could get us the rest of the way.


6 Responses

  1. The sidenote first — I don’t feel apologetic about my choices this year either. In November, no matter who wins the Democratic nomination (even though it hardly seems in question now), I’ll also be able to cast my vote for someone.

    But like I said, that’s a sidenote.

    Overall, I agree with you on the image side of this – the aw shucks factor you describe – and I agree with you that Jesse is something different than expected, and I mean that in a good way. As for that approaching things from the Right, I’m not as sold on that. Not only do I have a problem with the principle of it, but I don’t even think it’ll sell – even against a weak Republican nominee. Why would a Republican who is unhappy with McCain vote Green instead of Libertarian? Unless they’re moderate to liberal Republicans, and in that case, why wouldn’t they either suck it up and vote McCain, or vote for Obama? Why does it help to approach Green Party issues from the Right? I really am there on playing against type, I just don’t know that a former Republican who approaches Green issues from the Right is the way to go.

    Nice McKinney analysis. Still don’t think her little episode with the cop was wholly the result of the “MSM.” She did play some role in it, you know…

  2. I’m a little confused (and still always will be about your political system), with the near constant watching of CNN my wife has been doing lately (I don’t think either of us knows why), I got the impression that usually candidate races don’t last *this* long into the campaign. The Republicans have been decided for a month or so now, and I thought that was more normal, I figured because the Dems have two candidates that are both stronger than your average Dem (“do we go with the first female candidate or the first black candidate in history?”) it was odd that it’s taking so long to pick a Dem candidate. That’s why I was somewhat shocked to learn that the Greens not only still haven’t picked one (I thought that Jesse was the decided-upon candidate), but that there’s *four*??? still?

    Please humour this ignorant Canuck.

  3. @David: Damn Canucks. 🙂 Yeah, it’s pretty complicated, and rather stupid. The Republicans and Democrats are privileged in that they get primary elections before the General Election. The primaries, which is what we are holding now, are done on a state-by-state basis, and the purpose is to choose a single candidate for President (or Senator, or whatever) for each party. The privilege is that the states actually sponsor and pay for the primaries – and they take advantage of the time to plan their own local elections as well (school boards, mayors, etc.) It’s entirely up to the state which parties they wish to hold primaries for – the only ones they all agree on are the Rs and Ds. Greens get state sponsored primaries (sometimes called “major party status”) in something like six states.

    That leaves the Greens on the hook for trying to determine how to represent their party members in all the other states. The most common way for us is by state convention: the Greens in the state hold a statewide meeting and select delegates. (Some mail out ballots to their members or otherwise poll them.)

    The Republicans, as an example, do it the same way, except they have primaries in every single state – no state meetings. And the media is all over it, so it’s very obvious how people voted and how the delegates are allocated, and John McCain already has enough delegates to win. The Republicans are in fact still holding state primaries – but the results are entirely a moot point. (This is, by the way, why states are constantly jockeying for position with primaries – so they don’t end up in the situation of having their elections count for nothing. Florida and Michigan jumped the gun on the Democratic side, and there are some questions as to whether their delegates will count, since they broke party rules to do so.)

    Now, for all parties, the final say on who the nominee is is the national convention. All the delegates selected meet in a single place and vote, according to the party’s rules. Again, with the Republicans, it’s already decided – McCain could lose everything else and still win the election. With the Dems, it’s still an open question, technically; there are some “free” delegates, called “superdelegates”, who, according to Dem Party rules, can vote how they wish at the convention.

    Now the Green Party has a few things going on…first of all, they tend to schedule things later, because they don’t have state sponsorship to help them set things up…so they’re not beholden to any other schedules, and the state parties can do it pretty much any time they wish (before the national convention, that is). Second, the Greens have voting rules that are more open than the majors just because we’re that way…and you need 50% of the vote at the convention to win. Right now, Cynthia McKinney has more than 50% of the pledged delegates, but there are still a number of states left, including a big one, Maine (disproportionately big because it has a large percentage of Greens). And because of the open voting rules, a number of delegates have scattered to other candidates (notably Ralph Nader, who isn’t running as a Green) or been left unpledged. It’s entirely possible that she won’t have enough delegates on the first ballot to win. Then they’ll have to take a second ballot – and at that point, for the most part, anything goes. Candidates can make last-minute pitches at the convention to sway delegates to their side.

    Technically, that can happen in the R and D conventions, too – and still possibly might on the Dem side – but because of the publicity, the party pressure, and such, they tend to landslide at a certain point – one candidate will get momentum, everybody goes along to get along, and that’s it.

  4. @Mary: Yeah, you might not mind voting for a Dem, but then, you’re an apparatchik. Plenty of others do.

    Would a dissatisfied Republican vote Green? Depends on the Republican. I’ve spoken to many who simply hate the Dems with a blind passion and would never vote for them; they tend to respect the Greens because they stand on principle, the way they see themselves. It wouldn’t be a tremendous amount, but it could be sizable in some cases; the Green running against Steny Hoyer (no Rep in the race) gained over 20% of the vote. That’s an obvious protest vote, but I would be surprised if it wasn’t majority Republican, or very close.

  5. Helps me understand a bit, but it also makes me more convinced that you guys have a screwed up system (probably in place since the 19th century)

    The thing that makes me the most puzzled still is the timing of state primaries, you mentioned the “constant jockeying”, but every state knows that *someone*’s gotta be 50th (I know DC and the other areas have primaries too, but you get my point) and, as you point out, they play musical chairs to make sure they’re not it. But many states do occupy the “moot” position (although with the Dem race, looks like every vote will count). Why don’t they all have their primaries on the same day? Half the country holds a primary on Super Tuesday after all …

  6. National primary days strongly favor candidates with early money, and hurt the chances for an insurgent candidate to get a foothold in a small early state. The system ain’t perfect, but I’m not so sure the alternative would make it better.

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