Talk about 2012 and who might be a good Green Party standard bearer as the Presidential Nominee really began in earnest about one month before the 2008 election concluded. So talking about it now, in the summer of 2010, isn’t really out of line or out of place, and perhaps is overdue.
The conversation has already begun on the GPUS National Committee delegate email list, with names tossed around such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Margaret Flowers, Van Jones, and of course Cynthia McKinney. What I find interesting is the variety in “goals” that Greens expect from a Presidential candidate, and the variety of “types” of candidates that people think might accomplish those goals,
So what are the goals of running a national Green Party candidate for President? Winning the White House seems to rank low thanks to the reality of the duopoly in US Politics. So what, then? Five Percent might be brought up, because if a presidential candidate gets five percent of the national vote that political party is eligible for millions of dollars in support of the next presidential nominating convention, but more than that, the percent received by the candidate can impact ballot access in a number of states, Texas, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin just to name a few.
Another major goal often brought up is “party building”. A national candidate for President can travel the land raising money and recruiting volunteers for local chapters everywhere. Nader did it. Cobb did it. And McKinney did it as well, bringing new people into the Green Party fold, some of whom are now candidates for federal office or have taken leadership positions within the party.
So who might be a good Green Party candidate for President? Lets explore the topic by “type” of candidate.
The “Name” candidate
This group of candidates would include those who have a well known name for themselves in the public eye – the bigger the better. It is all about name recognition, but perhaps at a smaller scale. Lets face it, Nader was a “name candidate”, Cobb was not. McKinney was. Van Jones is close, but I would class him more as an “issue candidate”. Celebrities fall in this category, such as: Michael Moore, Amy Goodman, Susan Sarandon perhaps, Ben Affleck (or is it Matt Damon?), and any other famous person who wants to risk their career by taking the “Green Cause” to the political scene. My first choice for a “celebrity candidate” at this point would be Woody Harrelson, tied into the “Issue Candidate” category below for his Cannabis Activism.
The Issue Candidate
This category would include those candidates who are big activists on a narrower issue. Margaret Flowers is a universal heath care advocate. Woody Harrelson is a “legalize marijuana” advocate. Cindy Sheehan is an anti-war activist. Jesse Johnson is an anti-coal mining activist. Cynthia McKinney in a way is a social justice candidate, with emphasis on Palestinian Liberation. Would an “issue candidate” help the party meet its goals? My personal favorite potential “issue candidate” is Kathy Kelly, an anti-war / peace advocate who is a wonderful speaker, I would love to see her at the top of our ballot.
There is a case made for a Presidential candidate who is a political insider, an organizer within the party or a candidate for federal or state office who has done well. Kent Mesplay falls in this category, as does kat swift, and certainly David Cobb. What about Rich Whitney in Illinois? Jill Stein? Laura Wells? What about a party organizer like Mike Feinstein, Farheen Hakim, or Claudia Ellquist? Would a Green without national name recognition have any impact? Would a Green who had a broader package than a single issue candidate improve our returns? I think if the Green Party is going to consider an insider candidate, they would do well to tag someone who has run in high profile races and done well, who can speak well, raise money, and campaign. Rich Whitney, who got 360,000 votes for 10% in 2006 would be a leading candidate, and I would also bring attention to Jill Stein, who got over 3% of the vote running for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Medea Benjamin, who brought in over 300,000 votes running for US Senate in California in 2000, and Rebekah Kennedy, whose 200,000 votes in Arkansas in 2008 for US Senate brought her 20% of the vote.
Who will the Green Party recruit? Who will the Green Party attract? Will McKinney run again? Will there be another Draft Nader campaign? And if a Green is elected President in 2012, will the world still end as per the Mayan Calendar?