How Do Greens Run For President In An “Anybody But Trump” Election Year?

By Kevin Zeese

Above: Screenshot from On Contact with Chris Hedges with Howie Hawkins.

The 2020 election cycle is going to be a very challenging one for the Green Party especially when it comes to running for president. President Trump is an unpopular president who is very divisive. Indeed, he seems to govern by dividing the nation over issues like immigration, racism and women’s rights. As a result, he is hated by many who are already beginning to treat the 2020 election as an Anybody But Trump election.

The result is Democrats are seriously considering Joe Biden, who is leading in polls, despite his history of Wall Street corporatism, support for never-ending wars, helping to put in place policies that have led to mass incarceration and racist law enforcement as well as policies that make student debt impossible to escape even in bankruptcy. He has a history of being wrong on integration, racial justice, women’s rights, and abortion. Then there are fraudulent candidates like Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, who have similarly bad policies but are taken seriously because many Democrats will take “anybody” who isn’t Trump. The Democratic Party and media are doing their best to stop candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tulsi Gabbard, who, while flawed, would break from some Democrat Wall Street and war positions.

So, how does a Green run for office in an Anybody But Trump election year? This was a central question in a newly-released episode of On Contact with Chris Hedges. Chris is a long-time supporter of third party and independent candidates because he understands the futility and corruption of the Democratic Party. Chris was a supporter of Ralph Nader in his presidential campaigns and is a supporter of the Green Party. He interviewed Howie Hawkins, who has just announced he is running for the Green Party nomination. A central focus of the interview was how a Green Party candidate runs for president in a year when many are going to be solely focused on defeating Trump.

Howie Hawkins answered that question first by describing the important history of third parties and how they have moved the political narrative throughout history. He described how anti-slavery parties ran when the two dominant parties, Democrats and Whigs, refused to consider abolition as well as how the New Deal was invented by leaders of the Progressive and Socialist Parties. These are just two examples of many of the third parties who did not win the presidency but changed the direction of the country. Actually, in the case of slavery, the debate on abolition by third parties over two decades led to the election of the most successful third-party candidate in history, Abraham Lincoln, who won a four-way race that ended the Whig Party.

Nader was the first candidate in this century to run on full single payer for all and Jill Stein was the first presidential candidate to run on the Green New Deal. These are now two litmus test issues for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

What issues will a Green Party candidate put on the agenda in 2020? The Hawkins campaign is centered around the discussion of the ecosocialist Green New Deal and the climate crisis. The chaos caused by climate change is the issue that led to the Green Surge in the recent European elections propelling Greens into a much stronger position in many European countries.

As the destruction of the climate crisis continues to hit, e.g. unusually strong storms, flooding, drought and fires, more people will see that the two parties have failed. They are in bed with the fossil fuel industry and have not only failed to act but have actually put in place policies that worsened the situation. Subsidies to the oil and gas industry, wars for oil and rapid expansion of oil and gas infrastructure will be seen as criminal acts of the government because it is evident that climate change is human-made and should have been responded to.

Hawkins was the first Green New Deal candidate in 2010, and when he announced his presidential run, he began to lay out the detailed transformation we need to put in place clean, sustainable energy by 2030, transform multiple sectors of the economy including agriculture, transit, manufacturing, construction, energy, and banking, as well as to create a just transformation that leads to an economic revitalization and entire new industries consistent with a Green economy. Hawkins’ Green New Deal includes an economic Bill of Rights and a green economy reconstruction program. He makes the case that acting now to put in place a Green New Deal will be less costly than failing to act and allowing climate chaos to undermine the economy. He is the only candidate running from any party who is responding seriously to the climate crisis.

On the Clearing The FOG podcast, Hawkins told Margaret Flowers and me that the Democrats really do not have a Green New Deal. A handful of Democrats have put forward a vague resolution but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has blocked them from forming a committee or pursuing legislation. Pelosi and her top four lieutenants collectively took over $790,000 from oil, gas and electric utility interests during the past two years. Money is how she remains Speaker so despite droughts, forest fires and storms in her home state, money comes before dealing with the climate crisis.

With Hedges, Hawkins also discussed the military budget, which needs to be transformed as part of the new economy the US needs to create, including ending the nuclear arms race and getting nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert. The United States needs to stop being the world dominator, stop spending two-thirds of its discretionary spending on weapons and war as well as stop fighting wars for oil. He points out how both the Democrats and Republicans are complicit in Trump’s threats against Venezuela because it is the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.

In an impressive segment of the show, Hedges laid out how the Green Party stands for issues supported by a majority of people in the United States. This agenda is consistent with Hawkins’ campaign positions. Hedges went through a series of slides describing the Green Party platform.

Above: Screenshots from On Contact with Chris Hedges with Howie Hawkins.

Regarding the question of how to defeat Trump in 2020?  The answer: put forward an agenda supported by the majority of voters in the United States. Democrats do not put forward most of these issues because they are not consistent with the views of the millionaires and billionaires who fund the party. The Greens will put forward these issues but because of the manipulated nature of the US electoral system, the mass media, and National Commission on Presidential Debates, the private corporation owned by the Democrats and Republicans that keeps them out of the debates, they will have a hard time competing.  Too many voters are stuck in political ping-pong between two parties that do not represent them and are too afraid to vote for what they believe in because they know the system does not allow real voter choice.

In 2004, I served as Ralph Nader’s press secretary and spokesperson. At the beginning of the campaign, Nader, our campaign manager and I had a meeting with the John Kerry Campaign. Kerry, his campaign manager and his press secretary were also there. Nader laid out his ten-point agenda, which began with ending the Iraq War and included issues like improved Medicare for All, raising the Minimum Wage, stopping corporate crime and taxing the wealthy. Nader told Kerry to watch his campaign and if he saw any of these issues take-off, to steal them from us and run on them.

As the campaign developed, we pushed that agenda further. Nearing the end of the campaign, Nader had ten staff members dress as waiters, each carrying a “Gift on a Silver Platter” to the Kerry campaign. Each platter was a winning political issue that had majority support.

Kerry would have none of it. He continued a campaign that favored the Iraq war and represented corporate interests. That year, Florida had on its ballot a proposal to raise the minimum wage.  The measure passed with 71.25% of the vote. Kerry refused to take a position in favor of the minimum wage, no doubt because his big corporate donors opposed the measure. If Kerry had won Florida, he would have defeated Bush. Instead, Kerry lost Florida resulting in him losing to one of the worst Republicans in history.

Democratic Party leadership seems once again to be pushing for a centrist, corporate candidate who can raise money from Wall Street, the insurance industry and other big business interests. This is exactly the way to lose to Trump in 2020. Republican-lite candidates consistently lose to even terrible Republican candidates. The approach will be a repeat of the Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton campaigns — elitists losing to fake populists. In the end, rather than winning the presidency, Democrats will once again be looking for a scapegoat to explain their loss to Trump as they did in 2000 with Ralph Nader, 2016 with Jill Stein and Russiagate. In reality, it will once again be the failure of the Democratic Party to stand for the people’s necessities and the protection of the planet.

Hawkins explains in the Hedges interview why it is so important to have a strong Green presidential candidate in 2020. Not only will a candidate like Hawkins put critical issues on the agenda, but he also plans to build local Green Parties, cement ballot access and make the Green Party into one that wins thousands of local and state-level races. Hawkins believes we need to build an independent left party from the grassroots up. The history of elections between two parties that represent the millionaires and billionaires shows that the people need a party that puts them first.

This entry was posted in Green Party and tagged , , on by .

About Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese is a public interest attorney who has worked for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace since graduating from George Washington Law School in 1980. He co-directs which works to build the independent movement for transformational change. Zeese co-hosts, Clearing the FOG a radio podcast which airs on We Act Radio, Progressive Radio Network, and other outlets.  He is recognized as a leading activist in the United States in the series Americans Who Tell the Truth. Zeese was an organizer of the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC in 2011.  He serves as president of Common Sense for Drug Policy and is a co-founder of the Drug Policy Foundation, now known as Drug Policy Alliance as well as a former director of NORML. He is a co-founder of Health Over Profit for Everyone which seeks to put in place National Improved Medicare for All. Zeese is an advocate of Internet Freedom and is a leader of the campaign for Title II Net Neutrality to ensure equal access and treatment for everyone on the Internet.  Zeese served on the steering committees of the Chelsea Manning Support Network which advocated for the Wikileaks whistleblower and is on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation which supports Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and other whistleblowers. Zeese is an election integrity advocate who a co-founded TrueVote Maryland which led a successful campaign to end the use of paperless voting machines in the state.  He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including Peter Camejo for governor of California served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004 and as a senior advisor to Jill Stein in 2016.  He ran for the US Senate in 2006; the only person ever nominated by the Green, Libertarian and Populist Parties of Maryland and the only person ever nominated by the Green and Libertarian Parties for a statewide office. Zeese served as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

22 thoughts on “How Do Greens Run For President In An “Anybody But Trump” Election Year?

  1. fred stein

    My prediction for the Green Party is the lowest vote total for president in long time due to ANY ONE BUT TRUMP
    SYNDROME. In 1964 Gus Hall Chairman of the American Communist Party did not run for President but endorsed Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater………………………………. Those were the days the Russians tried to interfere in our politics and culture, now they are a third rate country just about surviving. After Putin the country will fall apart………………………….. China will take Siberia,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  2. Jim Polichak from Long Island

    Trump ~ The Only President Who Belongs on a Three Dollar Bill…
    Google>>> Etsy Trump Three Dollar Bills

  3. Jake Leonard

    Considering they have lost considerable voter support since the Green Party was the top alternative party in the country and the Democrats hijacked your Green New Deal, there is no point in having a Green Party anymore. Just lie down and die, because another Jill Stein presidential nomination will ensure the death of your party.

  4. Jake Leonard

    @fred stein so…..the Green Party has lost support for quite some time. Some other political parties faded into mediocrity.

    2000 Green: Ralph Nader – 2,882,955 (2.74%)
    2000 Libertarian: Harry Browne – 384,431 (0.36%)


    2004 Green: David Cobb – 119,859 (0.10%, because Nader refused to run on ticket again)
    2004 Libertarian: Michael Badnarik – 397,265 (0.32%)

    2008 Green: Cynthia McKinney – 161,797 (0.12%)
    2008 Libertarian: Bob Barr – 523,715 (0.40%)

    2012 Green: Jill Stein – 469,627 (0.36%)
    2012 Libertarian: Gary Johnson – 1,275,971 (0.99%)

    2016 Green: Jill Stein – 1,457,218 (1.07%)
    2016 Libertarian: Gary Johnson – 4,489,341 (3.28%)

    Seeing the candidate roster for the Green Party for the 2020 nomination, they won’t increase voter support.

  5. Alan Augustson

    We have to double down. The progressives know they’re getting sold down the river. They know that the eventual DNC nominee isn’t going to do jack for human survival on this planet.

    When people hear from the Green Party, they don’t need a history lesson or a Poly Sci lecture. They need to hear force. Passion. Personality. Will. They need to hear from a Green who’s going for the W, not for five percent.

    That’s why I’m still in this race. Can I win? That’s not the question. The question is, do I have a choice but to try?

    When I speak, you won’t hear “eco-socialism”. You’ll hear “Wake the [bleep] up; the world’s on [bleeping] fire.”

  6. paulie

    My prediction for the Green Party is the lowest vote total for president in long time

    I think they will do pretty well in comparison to most of their past results, especially if the Democrats pick a moderate. Howie Hawkins is a very competent campaigner.

    Those were the days the Russians tried to interfere in our politics

    They still do.

    now they are a third rate country just about surviving

    LOL, no. Putin alone is worth at least $200 billion himself. And that was a few years ago so it’s likely a lot more than that now. Russian government and crime connected individuals control several trillion dollars worth of assets while working class Russians have less than working class subcontinent Indians. It’s the most lopsided income distribution of any major countries. There’s more wealth controlled by Russian billionaires invested overseas than the entire GDP of Russia itself. There are more Russian citizens working abroad, in every country in the world and in just about any profession and capacity you can think of, than from any or almost any other country.

    Russia still has a large nuclear stockpile, sophisticated intelligence services, one of the world’s largest militaries, and an education system which still produces some of the world’s top scientists. They are working hard on restoring themselves to superpower status, and to this end not only do they interfere in US politics but also in European politics, Brazilian politics, Venezuelan politics, Syria and the rest of the middle east – you name it.

    Russian nationalist propaganda not only envisions a new Eurasian empire led by Russia, but also a new Crusade led by Russia to take Jerusalem for Christendom, of which they see themselves as the new Rome.

    What will happen after Putin? I don’t know, but I would not assume to guess, and he may still be in office for quite a long time.

  7. paulie

    Trump ~ The Only President Who Belongs on a Three Dollar Bill…

    He may also end up being the only president on the 100 Trillion Dollar Bill.

  8. paulie

    Considering they have lost considerable voter support since the Green Party was the top alternative party in the country and the Democrats hijacked your Green New Deal, there is no point in having a Green Party anymore. Just lie down and die, because another Jill Stein presidential nomination will ensure the death of your party.

    Jill isn’t running again. I’m not sure why you think they have lost voter support, since she got more votes for the Greens than anyone since decades-long celebrity Nader in 2000. While a few Democrats support a Green New Deal, the bulk of the Democratic Party does not, and the Democratic version is a lot less radical than the Green Party’s.

    I’m not a Green, but I don’t see how you think they fit so perfectly in a party that is fairly likely to nominate Joe Biden.

  9. paulie

    fred stein so…..the Green Party has lost support for quite some time.

    Your numbers don’t support this thesis. Their presidential raw vote and percentage have both gone up each time since 2004 and have increased more than tenfold in that time. You haven’t provided any other indicators of rising and falling support and the ones I have seen elsewhere don’t indicate a party in decline.

    Seeing the candidate roster for the Green Party for the 2020 nomination, they won’t increase voter support.

    Howie Hawkins has done well as a candidate in NY. I think he can put together a competent national campaign. As a general rule, you shouldn’t expect to know who all will be seeking the GP or LP presidential nomination a year before it happens. Sure, some candidates are already running, but many others may join them later.

  10. Jim

    Green voter registration has been flat at 251,0000 (+/- 5,000) since 2008, down 20% from its peak of 313,000 in 2004.

    Fundraising for the Green national committee has been… well, they raised $247,000 in 2018. That’s down 50% from its peak of $497,000 in 2002 and 2003.

    It’s presidential vote totals are increasing, but it just doesn’t look like people want to be involved with the Green Party beyond casting an occasional vote. And if people aren’t involved in the party, that’s going to catch up to them at some point. There are some states that are doing OK, but nationally the GP just looks like a hollow shell to me.

    For whatever reason, the GP Presidential votes are significantly more concentrated than the LP. If you sum the total votes for President by state from 2000 – 2016, the Green’s top 5 states are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts. An average of 42% of the party’s Presidential votes come from those 5 states. The LP, for comparison, has 32% of its votes coming from its top 5 states (California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Florida.)

    So if the Greens lack the manpower or fundraising to get back on the ballot in Illinois and Texas, that could really put a dent in their Presidential vote totals in 2020. If on top of that the Dems put up someone like Sanders or Warren who could appeal to a large chunk of Green voters… what do they have left at that point? Morale could be crushed if they drop back down to 200,000 votes in the Presidential election. How do they come back for 2022 or 2024?

  11. paulie

    Their voter registration is flat, not rapidly falling. They still run about the same order of magnitude of candidates for about the same variety of offices in about the same number of states and get about the same number of votes very roughly speaking. I’m not aware of huge order of magnitude level changes in any of that. They’ve never been very centralized as far as their money, most of it is in individual states and campaigns rather than the national office and always has been, so that’s not a very important statistic for them. Ballot access is also usually done through states and campaigns so again the national office is not all that relevant there. I am trying to get a hold of Howie Hawkins in part to find out how they plan to handle ballot access. I see no indications that they are in any kind of decline, much less collapse.

  12. Joshua K.

    “… the most successful third-party candidate in history, Abraham Lincoln, who won a four-way race that ended the Whig Party.”

    Lincoln was not a third-party candidate at the time of the 1860 election. The Republican Party had already established itself as one of the two major parties by that time. The Republican candidate had finished 2nd in the 1856 presidential election and Republicans were one of the two main parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives going into the 1860 election.

    From and after 1857, there were no longer any members of the Senate or House of Representatives who identified as Whigs; those who had previously been Whigs had joined other parties. The Whig Party did not hold a national convention in 1860 or run a presidential candidate.

  13. C. Al Currier

    RE: “Considering they have lost considerable voter support” .. Jake Leonard
    There are multiple reasons for the loss of support. Some of the loss comes from disillusionment from the participants in the Green Party. I joined up in 2008 when Cynthia McKinney ran for POTUS. Coming from the Libertarian Party I assumed that my time would be short with the Green Party. What I found was an abundance of very intelligent folks with incredible science (life-science) backgrounds who should be in the forefront of the Green Party but routinely are ignored and reduced to the sidelines. Actual discussions (and solutions) are beyond the scope of the current ‘leaders’ of the Green Party. The people I think should be leading are usually too busy in work to venture into politics, particularly where salesmanship involves ‘selling-snake-oil’ to the public using quick-and-easy soundbites.
    The folks in the Green Party that like (who are qualified but not available to lead) routinely fit into the category of ‘socially-tolerant’ and ‘economically-conservative’ with strong backgrounds in the life-sciences. ….all wishful-thinking on my part that they would get the role. The Green Party routinely choose candidates not acceptable to their best participants (the troops). (The pink-wing of the green party are some of the most socially intolerant people I’ve ever met. Most of the current Green candidates now are economically-reckless) The Green Party needs to find candidates that are acceptable to their own GREEN followers. Many of their own followers are too smart to buy ‘snake-oil’, even when sold by a GREEN POTUS candidate.
    When the Green Party can’t sell their candidates to their own folks, they are at great disadvantage.

  14. Pingback: The Russiagate Obsession Is Mass Distraction - Howie Hawkins for President

  15. C. Al Currier

    “They’ve never been very centralized as far as their money, most of it is in individual states and campaigns rather than the national office and always has been, so that’s not a very important statistic for them.”
    paulie 6.05.2019
    The Green Party is extremely successful at having “green events”, but most of the participants are generous with ‘volunteerism’ but frugal (and cautious) with cash. Many of us will ‘bless’ them with our presence but not with our money. Few will vote for their political candidates.
    I am familiar with Libertarian events. They are often lucky to get three or four people to show up.
    By the metric of ENTHUSIASM of party events, the Green Party is growing by ‘leaps-and-bounds’ and the Libertarian Party is ‘dead-as-a door-nail’. By that metric, the Green Party should be seeing POTUS voting numbers in double digits. The Libertarian Party is the one that should be struggling to stay alive.
    As a side note, there are many folks in the Green Party who believe that the purpose of the party is to have fun at Green Party events and ‘to-hell’ with the government and the political establishment. The Green Party candidates suck but who cares?
    (I don’t visit the comment section on IPR very often. Sorry about the delay in responding.)

  16. paulie

    No worries, take as long as you want. I want to more about these events. When and where are they? How can we find out how many people show and what happens there?

  17. C. Al Currier

    When and where? .. How many?
    I recently signed up for a Green newsletter for Washington State, thanks to a recent link at an internet site called “Independent Political Report”. You may have heard of them. I used to just rely on ‘word-of-mouth’ or catch warnings in free weekly newspapers (called ‘rags’) or look for warnings posted on telephone poles and such. Here in Seattle, Green events don’t need announcements, they need warnings.
    How many? ‘Everybody-and-their-brother’ is a term that does not apply. They bring their friends and families and co-workers and their dogs and cats. Some bring pet rabbits, ermines or parrots. Some show up with pet snakes. They really like blocking traffic and making lots of noise. Sometimes the police and media try to estimate the number of people, but at outdoor events it is basically impossible to tell who is green and who is a friend of a co-worker who is green or who is a tourist. Once in a while, things go along peacefully.

  18. paulie

    That really tells me nothing at all. Allegedly we have a link somewhere on IPR, maybe in some old article – one of over 18 thousand, not linked in your reply – to a Washington State newsletter which allegedly directed you to one event Greens were promoting, but which does not sound like it was exclusively a Green Party run event by any means based on your description. And from this we should infer something about their national party strength? I don’t understand how you get there but it sounds like trying to understand would be pissing up a rope.

  19. C. Al Currier

    I ‘ll try to do some research on the IPR link (several months back). Might be a while. Green-events and Green-Party events usually involve many of the same core-group of people, promoting and organizing (here locally). The Green-Party avoid staging events that are exclusivley Green-Party. They try to be inclusive. They attract the loud and angry masses (intentionally).
    I do not believe that they currently have any National-Party-Strength.
    1) The voting results are dismal
    2) The financial strength is minimal

    The Green-Party is srtuggling with ‘growing-pains’. They plan to eventually be a major party. They can operate with little or no money. They continue to grow (with ethusiasm) dispite the dismal voting numbers. They are not afraid of the public (the angry mob). None of the other ‘Third-Parties’ are suffering from ‘growing-pains’.
    (As a side note, the major parties are not suffering from ‘growing-pains’ either. They are welcome to take notes and learn.)

  20. C. Al Currier

    After a time consuming manual search of IPR, the link is ‘Green Party of Washington launches bi-monthly newsletter’ dated Oct, 9th 2018 by David Doonan.

  21. paulie

    No need for the link. You already confirmed what I suspected: Seattle Greens joined the crowd at some progressive event or events organized primarily by some other groups with Greens being a small percentage of the people there. It isn’t news that Seattle is a strongly left leaning town with many such events. I am not sure what that has to do with your initial claims about how well their presidential ticket may be expected to do or their overall strength as a party all around the country.

  22. paulie

    None of the other ‘Third-Parties’ are suffering from ‘growing-pains’.

    Most indicators show the Libertarian Party is the fastest growing “major minor” party. Jim has a collection of charts which taken together prove this. Since you are looking through old IPR articles you’ll see that.

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