Green Party is an amazing political organization, but has a hard time getting the support it deserves from the American public. While the system is clearly controlled by corporations and the two-party system seemingly designed to prevent any real change from taking root, there are things the Green Party and its presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein can do right now to increase their visibility in spite of the barriers in place. I propose the following three, humble suggestions: 1) focus on the production of videos and other visuals over long written statements; 2) jump into material culture by working with artists to produce eye-catching works of art for fundraising; 3) highlight and strengthen relations with Green parties outside of the US.
A Unique Political Moment
Many Americans have been feeling the Bern over the past months, and why not? Finally, a candidate seeking massive radical change to the foundations of the American political-economic system. Finally, a politician with a clear leftist ideology, not weakened by concerns for SUPERPAC funding. Finally, a candidate for social justice and equality. Certainly, Bernie’s amazing improvement in the polls from 2% to over 40% support from Democratic voters is the result of Americans never having a choice like this before, right?
NO! In actuality, American voters in many states (although not all) have had the choice to support Green Party Presidential Candidates like Ralph Nader and Jill Stein for decades. The American voting public has had the opportunity to rally around a demand for progressive change that not only far outshines the credentials of most Democratic Party members, but also has not required the kind of time that politicians such as President Obama and Hillary Clinton have required to get on board with even the most basic of progressive demands. (Who doesn’t remember how nice it was when Obama came around on marriage equality? And hasn’t it been refreshing to hear Hillary move beyond the new deal democratic mantra of neoliberal economics with a small safety net to something broadly resembling an incremental approach to Sanders-style reforms?) Turns out, Green Party candidates like Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Flowers have been there a lot longer and more consistently. And while the party is happy with its huge increase to 2% national support, they seem unable to make the jump to the kind of support Bernie enjoys. While I love the Sanders image, and who couldn’t get on board the whole “Birdie Sanders” moment, I’m sure that the old man shtick is not the only thing propelling Bernie 2016.
Now is the time for Greens to not only show their stuff, but to campaign on the momentum and growing production of a new American Left. This is a unique moment in history. It is unclear whether the momentum Sanders enjoys will continue much past the Democratic convention, but if Green Party was able to get its message out there loud and clear, it could certainly capitalize on Bernie 2016, and make Jill Stein 2016 the most successful Green Party campaign to date.
Where We Stand
So, what is holding Green Party back? The Sanders campaign is proving that the old adage of “they’ll never win, so I won’t vote for them” is a farce. We can be sure that Bernie, barring unforeseen circumstances, will not become the Democratic presidential candidate. In fact, we knew that as early as the loss of New York. But (and it is an impressive ‘but’), his supporters have still turned out in force to vote for their preferred candidate. Always eager to tear down my own discipline, I think it is safe to say that political science-especially Americanist-predictions about heuristics and party affiliation are being proven largely incorrect. Indeed, issues do matter, and people vote in line with those values, when they see a choice. The fact is that Green Party of the US (GPUS) and its presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, have been supporting these values for a long time, and yet I am still running into potential-GPUS voters that have never heard of Green Party, assume that it is part of Green Peace, or that think it is just about environmental issues.
“Lesser evilism” style voting, complete lack of media attention, and election rules that aim to keep out third-party contenders are obviously a huge part of GPUS marginality in American politics. One need only turn to the barriers put up against Bernie Sanders running WITHIN the Democratic Party to understand how election rules are biased against the status quo. However, despite months of mainstream media claiming that the Sanders campaign was dead before it started, Bernie managed to get his message heard and an amazing support base established. Now, these barriers are even higher for Jill Stein and Green Party more generally, and Dr. Stein’s dedication to fostering connections with other organizations through direct action and protest are exactly what I want to see. The party and its talented array of candidates, volunteers, and staff have done amazing and admirable work for little reward.
I propose that GPUS could take some additional steps to increasing the visibility of their message. My gut feeling is that Green Party is crippled primarily from a lack of publicity, “lesser evil” voting practices, and the political disenfranchisement of millions of Americans. The latter two issues reach far too deeply to be effectively taken on during this election cycle. However, the PR factor can be remedied easily and, I suspect, quickly and inexpensively. Yes, Jill Stein is often barred from taking place in national debates, but there is little stopping her from having a huge online presence, a visually-rich campaign, and an international support base. To that end, I propose that GPUS and Jill Stein 2016 tackle the following three actions: a coordinated digital campaign making use of videos, recordings, and info-graphics; a push for tangible campaign materials modeled after the “artists for Bernie” phenomenon; and a re-emphasis of international connections.
The interviews with Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers on The Young Turks, The Real News Network, etc. are hugely important. But, talking about the issues is a lot different that showing people in rich, visually-engaging ways what the GPUS intends to do. The Green Party does have a well-thought out plan, but you have to read the entirety of the platform for a rather large document on the Green New Deal to understand what they are all about. The sad truth is that people are simply not interested in reading even a page of information, let alone 10, 20, 30 pages of a well-crafted political platform. And listening to an interview is really not all that more engaging. We have to start with short shareable videos that people are willing to watch on their Facebook feed. The Green Party of England and Wales has come up with a good example. Outside of the political realm Pimsleur (highly recommended) released a similar video about their language programs. Now, GPUS and Jill Stein has come up with some examples, like this, but I still suspect more can be done. Combine this with eye-catching online fliers and promotional materials would get younger people well acquainted with Green Party in a short amount of time and on their own terms. These things kind be accomplished through volunteers or at a relatively low cost for professional services, like PiktoChart.
I am also very excited by the potential revolutionary and PR power of the Artists of Bernie type material culture and artistic promotional materials. I know that I would proudly hang up a punk rock Stein poster and rock a GPUS series of tees with some artistic image. In fact, I have this “Rise, Resist, Rebel” shirt on right now. More please! Now I don’t have any real data on this, but I suspect that artists, being the bohemian bunch they are, would be quite happy to support GPUS and create new promotional materials. Selling them could not only improve publicity but also create some additional funds for campaigners and GPUS more generally.
Finally, let’s restress the international linkages between Green Parties abroad. GPUS could benefit immensely from partnerships with Green Parties around the globe. Indeed, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with the Green Party of Mongolia, and can already imagine fruitful conversations between Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren. Green parties in Europe would also provide key international linkages and increase the profile of GPUS.
Wrapping it Up
I think that the GPUS, Dr. Jill Stein, and other candidates have done an excellent job of speaking truth to power, challenging the two-party domination of our political system, the corporate corruption of our politicians, and the distasteful results of neoliberal grow-and-destroy economics that define mainstream international and domestic politics. I do think though that re-emphasizing my three suggestions above would help immensely with the campaign and capitalize on this unique moment in American politics. Naturally, I suspect that Green candidates are hard at work on these issues already, and have nothing but respect for the work they have done; however, it never hurts to offer a friendly nudge and maybe even a helping hand. Jill Stein 2016!
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.