In an hour long conversation with Mark Swaney, press secretary for the Green Party of Arkansas, I discussed the state party’s perceptions of Richard Carroll’s decision to leave the Green Party, the history of the state party, and their plans for the future. I did not take notes during the conversation, so what you will read here are my recollections, not quotes. I hope that members of the Arkansas GP will correct any errors they may find.
Swaney said that the Arkansas Greens were hurt by Carroll’s decision to leave the Green Party. In what I believe was the most revealing comment, Swaney said that the state party would not have been so hurt if Carroll had done a poor job in the legislature. Because he did what the Arkansas Greens believed was an outstanding job in the legislature, his leaving was especially difficult. Had he been a failure or done nothing but draw a paycheck, losing him would have been unimportant. Having a member of the legislature was not the point. Having an effective legislator was the point.
Swaney also said that the state party was somewhat surprised at his decision, but that they had known that a change in party membership was a possibility. The Arkansas Greens had believed that Carroll was so offended by the behavior of the Democratic Party in leading him to believe that they supported his proposals to expand ballot access, while they worked to kill the proposals behind his back, that he would remain in the party and help build it.
The possibility that Carroll will find the Democratic Party a yolk around his neck gives Swaney and the Arkansas Greens hope that he may, some day, return to the Green Party. They are not pinning anything on that possibility, and are moving forward with their existing plans to gather the needed signatures to again secure ballot status. Because Cynthia McKinney did not reach 3% in her race for President, they must gather tens of thousands of signatures to again have the opportunity to run for office.
Swaney said that Arkansas has the highest percentage of unchallenged elections in the nation, with 70% of candidates appearing on the ballot alone. Even though the Democratic and Republican parties are unwilling to run against one another, the legislature has established laws that make it extremely costly to remain on the ballot for a party that is willing to run candidates.
The Green Party of Arkansas state membership meets quarterly, and has not missed a meeting for more than a dozen years. There are close to 10 local chapters, and the party has run close to 20 different candidates for a wide range of offices. They have won two lawsuits, and as Swaney described it, are tough and resilient. They have no plans to curl up and die because Carroll has left.
The one area where Carroll differed with the Green Party platform was on abortion, where Carroll’s Roman Catholic faith carried the day. As was noted in an earlier comment by Eric Prindle, Carroll’s responses to a questionnaire by Project Vote Smart can be found here. Even with this difference, Swaney believes that Carroll’s politics are closer to the Green Party’s than the Democrat’s, especially in Arkansas, where they are described as Dixiecrats, with positions closer to the national Republican Party than even the Democrats. As an example, Swaney pointed out that the legislature is 70% Democratic, all the state-wide offices are filled by Democrats, all but one member of the federal House of Representatives is a Democrat, and yet the state went to McCain.
The bottom line of the conversation is, – We’re hurt that he did not stay with us and build the party. We are organizing to retain ballot access. The future demands a party like the Green Party. Arkansans are a tough bunch. We stick together, and we will find nooks and crannies where we can get a fingerhold, and grow by our own efforts. We wish Richard Carroll the best, and will be here if he gets tired of being told what to do by people who don’t share his values.