kat swift on the Texas Green Party

This interview was posted at the San Antonio Current – and is a great read. kat swift is the heart and soul of the Texas Green Party and a 2008 candidate for President.

Kat Swift on the evolution of the Texas Green Party
By Greg Harman
PUBLISHED: JUNE 13, 2012

A debilitating car accident has relegated one of the Green Party’s key organizers (some would, and have, called her the party’s conscience) to the sidelines this election cycle after several years of full-throttle ballot efforts. Fittingly, Kat Swift had been registering voters at Bexar County jail when another driver ran a red light and struck her vehicle last April. Several months passed before she discovered the full impact the accident had taken on her spine, a message arriving with crippling back pain. Swift first ran for San Antonio’s City Council in 2007. In 2010, she mounted a campaign against Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo and locked up 20 percent of the vote as a Green Party candidate. And while today she spends most of her hours perched on an adjustable hospital bed at her West Side home, Swift has continued to be a force for developing and propelling new candidates as an at-large member of the party’s state executive committee. This week, she spoke to the Current about the state of the party, wayward Libertarians, and the surge of energy the Occupy movement has meant for Greens in Texas.

For more information about her injury or how you can help, see savekat.chipin.com. — Greg Harman

So give me the talk. I’m that independent voter at the bar, or I think I am, and my reaction is, ‘What? The Green Party? Isn’t that bunch that killed Al Gore?’

I get so sick of that propaganda and lies. The people who’ve done their research have said that more Democrats in Florida voted for Bush than people voted for Nader, for one. Two: Al Gore won the popular vote and he did nothing to stand up for himself. Three: He couldn’t hold his own against Bush in a debate, he lost his home state, and the people who went and voted for Nader most likely would not have voted for Gore at all. So you can’t take those votes and say, ‘These people would have voted for Gore.’ I wouldn’t have voted for Gore. There’s no fucking way you could have gotten me to vote for Gore. And the Supreme Court decided the election; it wasn’t the vote.

Most people who vote Green are either former apathetic voters or they’re third party all the way and they vote strategically.

Bring me forward then. 2010: that was the year there was Republican money helping the Greens get on the ballot. What got lost in the reporting on that effort?

That’s what they said. The fact is, we got no money from anybody. The petition company got money to run a petition drive, and I oversaw that. We needed 47,000 signatures from people who didn’t vote in the primaries and were already registered to vote — and 92,000 people signed that damn petition in two weeks.

The Republicans paid the petition company and I worked with the petition companies and they gave us the petition. They gave us correctly collected signatures from people who wanted to see the Green Party on the ballot. Then it turned out the nonprofit they were using was actually incorporated, even though they told us they weren’t. But by that time the signatures were property of the state. … But, at this point, the whole issue is moot, because that only put us on the ballot in 2010. That’s it. In order to be on the ballot this year, we had to get 5 percent in a statewide race. In 2010, we got 6.34 percent in the Comptroller’s race and those 252,000 people who voted for the Green Party candidate. So we’re on the ballot because of 252,000 voters. That’s it

No confusion this year. No machinations.

Right. That lawsuit [the Texas Democratic Party sued to keep Greens off the ballot in 2010] and all that stuff is irrelevant. After 2010, it’s completely irrelevant. And we will actually have ballot access in 2014, I almost guarantee you, because the Democrats did not run in two races where we have candidates.

Have you seen more Libertarian-leaning votes getting involved with the Greens?

It’s weird because we get a lot of people who are like, “I’m going to stick with Ron Paul until he wins the nomination.” And it’s like, “What planet are you smoking?” OK fine, he wants to legalize marijuana and end wars, but we actually get more people who are anti-capitalist and anti-Wall Street but are also socially conscious. I know some people who are more Libertarian leaning but I’m not seeing an influx. That may change after the Republican primary is finally over and all the Ron Paul people realize he’s not going to be on the ballot.

This is the year of the Occupy movement. How has that affected the Green Party in Texas?

The Green Party has always been against corporate personhood. The Move to Amend movement was started by a co-founder and former presidential candidate of the Green Party. We’ve been on the Occupy train for longer than Occupy. We’ve been talking about this stuff forever. I put together an Occupy the Ballot proposal telling people, “Look. The corporate parties are not going to do anything you want them to. You’re already out there and you know that, so why not run for office as a Green or Libertarian or some other party and get on the ballot and occupy it in the election cycle instead of just on the street in protest.” From my experience, you have to hit it from both angles. You can’t just go street protest, you can’t just go elections, you gotta do both, and more. I sent that out and we made a concerted effort here and in Houston where we have the most developed county parties. Our people went out said if you agree with the 10 key values and you’re interested in electoral politics, come talk to us. A lot of Greens are still real hardcore street protestors. In San Antonio, we got a significant number of Occupiers who hadn’t been involved in party politics at all to sign up and run for candidacies.

What is the role for the Green Party in a state that hasn’t seen a Democrat in office since…

Since Ann Richards. I think it was Ann Richards.

What’s the message of that? Does that mean that the Greens are even farther afield and more out of luck or that since the Democrats can’t get traction it falls to a third party?

People who I know who are progressive Democrats have been trying for 30 years to reform the party and they have failed time and time again. If you look at who they elect in their primaries, they’re not the progressives, they’re the other ones. In other states progressive Democrats work with the Greens on common issues, but in Texas they don’t get involved with the Greens unless it’s something they want. We’ll work with anybody. I mean we worked with the Constitution Party, the Reform Party, the Libertarians, on issues that are common: like ballot access and corporate personhood and what have you. The Green Party has been that way as long as its been around in Texas. The Democrats here are, because they’ve lost so many times and been so beaten down by their leadership, they’re like battered-wife syndrome. It’s very clear if you talk with them about it. I posted a cartoon on my Facebook page where it was like going through all the things that Obama’s done that are atrociously worse than Bush and at the bottom it says the words “gay marriage” with a highlight on it and off to the side it says, “See. I told you he was a good guy.” It’s like, “Oh, yeah. My husband beats me, but he’s a really sweet guy.” It’s the same sort of mentality.

Can you identify a key plank of the Green Party that if it were understood statewide would get your candidate into office? That people would say, “Yeah, I agree with that. I’m going to vote Green.”

Everything the Occupy movement is talking about? It’s in there. If you want the Federal Reserve gone, if you want legalization of marijuana, single-payer health care, guaranteed income … The platform is about ending classes and corporate control of society.

2 Comments

  1. holly hart said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Thanks GPW for publishing this excellent interview. This will be a nice article to have on hand for newcomers, people interested in the Green party. Kat is a great example of what it means to be a green activist.

  2. Jack said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    One of the best Green Party interviews I’ve read.

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