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Steve Welzer responds

In an earlier post I reported that New Jersey Congressional candidate Steve Welzer would prefer that the Democrat win the race, and asked that the Democrat endorse Instant Runoff Voting, which the Democrat refused to do. I did not provide a link to the news article I based that report on. That article can be found here.

In a reply posted at the earlier report Welzer responded. Because his reply explains in detail what is a complex position, it is copied and re-posted in it’s entirety here.

The context of my remarks needs to be understood.

The person who’s running as a Democrat, Joshua Zeitz, is unusually progressive and, through, our contact during the campaign, we’ve become pretty friendly. I intend to stay in touch with him because I believe I’ll have a chance of recruiting him to the Green Party (as Hugh Esco of Georgia did with Cynthia McKinney). Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent in this race happens to be radically bad on issues like militarism, abortion rights, women’s rights, and gay rights.

The three of us participated in an editorial board meeting at the offices of the Asbury Park Press. At one point in the discussion each candidate was given the opportunity to pose a specific challenge question to another candidate. I had been hammering on the theme: “open up the electoral system to more voices and more choices” – so I posed the following question to Josh Zeitz, the Democratic: “I’ve heard you say that you’re concerned about having the Green Party candidate drain away votes from you, votes that might make the difference in a close race. In that context, I challenge you to go on record as supporting electoral system reforms like proportional representation or Instant Runoff Voting.”

I said I was running for office for the first time, have much to learn, and it’s not likely that I’ll win in this particular race. I said that, unless there is a last-minute groundswell of support for my candidacy, I’d rather see Zeitz go to Washington than to have Smith re-elected. This was in the context of leading up to: “Mr. Zeitz, if you find it problematic that the Green vote might, from your perspective, be a ‘spoiling’ vote in this race, then you ought to be able to see the logic of implementing Instant Runoff Voting.”

The press reported the responses from Zeitz and Smith as follows:

“Zeitz would not endorse that plan [IRV] because he said he did not have all the details, but he would consider options that would open up American politics to third parties. ‘Third parties reinvigorate debate,’ Zeitz said.

“Smith said third parties should be included in discussions, but he would not endorse a plan to open the American political arena to third parties.”

There was then quite a bit of discussion about IRV, proportional representation, how elections are run in other countries, and why the only-two-choices American system is deficient. So the bottom line is that I managed to get a considerable amount of time of the editorial board meeting devoted to the role of third parties and ways to open up our electoral system. My remarks about probably not winning the race and preferring to see Zeitz go to Washington were brief and peripheral relative to all the points I made in favor of true and full multi-party democracy in general and Green politics in particular.

It may be that the reporter at the meeting was not sympathetic to third parties. In another article he wrote that appeared in the newspaper the next day he said very little about my participation … and the little he did say was flat-out incorrect. I’ll file a protest with the newspaper about this flawed coverage.

Steve Welzer
Green Party candidate for US Congress in NJ’s 4th CD

Green Party Watch News Network

Green activists reporting on Green Party candidates, chapters, committees and issues.

2 Comments

  1. I’m not certain I agree with Steve Welzer’s actions in this particular case…but neither do I know of a better solution. One thing I am certain of – if we are to be serious about the Key Values of grassroots democracy, respect for diversity, and personal responsibility, choices like this should be made by those most local to the situation, and should be respected, as much as possible, by those in the higher leadership. (And I’m speaking as one who has been in that leadership myself.)

    In the coming years, as we grow in our ability to affect real governance and policy-making, we will find ourselves making decisions with a multiplicity of players involved…and yes, that includes the Republican and Democratic Parties.

    In the past, there’ve been a number of folks within a faction of our Party who have defined “independence” as a blind, knee-jerk rejecting of anything in the “mainstream” sphere, particularly the Democratic Party. That’s not real independence, but simple contrariness and immaturity. It’s a tacit statement that one will never do any actual policy-making in the U.S….just simply stand on the sidelines and criticize loudly. For real statesmen, sooner or later you must begin to put the crowbar down and begin building something. And we should begin cultivating real statesmen in this Party.

    When Greens get to positions of government, we may find ourselves agreeing with Democrats; we may agree with Republicans; we may agree with both or portions of either; and sometimes we may agree with neither and instead push our own, separate agenda. That’s true independence – the greatest range of possible responses – and it’s the reality of Green actions in multi-party government.

    I would hope that Mr. Zeitz, win or lose, is a man of honor, vision, and courage, and realizes that, if he embodies these values, he represents a minority within his own party. I would also hope that Steve Welzer is always there to remind him of his options in a party which has those things in abundance.

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