Getting Ready For 2008 Campaigns
Political Director’s Address To The Annual National Meeting
By Brent McMillan
Challenge 2008: What would it look like if Greens ran 1,000 candidates in 2008? One of the lessons learned by Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union was in order to have political autonomy; there must be economic autonomy and energy autonomy. These issues need to be major focuses for the 2008 Green Party campaign.
On energy policy, the connections between wars of imperialism, global warming and peak oil should be the number one focus of our federal level candidates. We have an opportunity to have a dialogue with Greens in Europe throughout this cycle. They are very concerned about an immense, worldwide corporate green washing campaign and feel a strong Green voice in the U.S. is needed.
The other issue is economic. We need to focus on building a black/brown coalition, increasing our efforts in reaching out to and becoming relevant to disenfranchised communities. We should focus on the reconstruction of New Orleans and be more supportive of the work of, among others, Malik Rahim and the Common Ground Collective. Strong op portunities are also present in Detroit, Oakland, Washing ton, D.C. and Baltimore. Many people in these cities are being dropped from basic services. This is an opportunity to address economic justice.
In addition to these two issues Greens need to advocate election reform whenever we are accused of being spoilers. We will once again be under a lot of pressure to not run a presidential candidate.
In many ways 2004 was GPUS’ (Green Party of the United States) first really competitive convention, but the 2004 campaign cycle was problematic for Greens. Before the convention approximately 70% of the national party’s donor base either went ABB (Anybody But Bush), or didn’t want to run a candidate for other reasons. We didn’t do our work going into the convention and we left it with unfinished business.
Next year will present another chance to the American public. There is an immense political vacuum with a level of opportunity that we haven’t had since 2000 and a level of acceptance in the general public that Greens haven’t felt since then. It’s hard to forget the excitement that super rallies created in 2000. We went from being a little fringe party to where we are now on the national political map.
So what would it look like if the Green Party were to get serious about 2008? I make the following suggestions:
1: We need more time for the process of approving the platform and for the presidential nominating process in 2008 than in 2004 by scaling back competing programs, such as the ambitious campaign school we had during the 2004 convention.
2: Allow nominees to fundraise at the convention. In 2004 they were prohibited from fundraising at the convention. With the national party in dire financial straits, it was seen as competition. This fact was not made public, but we asked our potential candidates in essence to spend every last dollar they had to get the nomination and sent them away broke. Regardless of the financial state of the national party, the nominees should walk away with a chunk of cash. What if 100 people donated $100 to a fund so the candidates would have $10,000 to re-seed their campaign? This is not a lot of money, but it would be progress.
Money should not be raised through the National Committee. There is competition among so many programs for the general funds, that fundraising for the presidential campaign needs to be an independent effort, perhaps a 527 group set up for this purpose.
3: Impeccability is needed in the rules process so that people trust it. In 2004 representatives of the candidates had too much influence in the rules process, but not enough trust in each other. With not enough active greens on the national level, people who work on the rules are also likely to be working on some campaign. Do we keep the two separate or do we work to keep a balance of representation of various interests. I hope we can develop a trans-partisan model, as was evident in the former Delegate Apportionment Committee, where people are willing to transcend ideologies in order to find successful solutions.
4: We need to have better informed delegates. In 2004 many states did not have a plan in place on what to do after the first round of voting. State delegations need to have a template, before they come to the convention. Nationally we are working on guidelines suggesting how state parties can proceed. We need people willing to work on this. We also need to answer the question, “how does the nomination process work?”
5: Questions state parties must answer: How can a better job of communicating with potential candidates take place? Who is the initial point of contact for potential candidates? To whom do they talk about the ballot access process? Who can they contact to help them with fundraisers or hosting an event? Each state party needs to have clearly defined initial points of contact.
6: Security: If we become serious enough in 2008 to threaten modus operandi of the existing political structure, we will need to address the issue of security. Some in leadership positions from 2000 can personally attest to this need. In Seattle, both Joe Szwaja, who was running for Congress, and myself had our homes broken into and political materials and money stolen. I received threatening phone calls late at night and twice I had to get postal inspectors to stop the dead lettering and returning of campaign contributions.
7: In 2004 Democrats raised $10,000,000 to keep third party candidates off the ballot. The independent Nader campaign faced much opposition in 2004. In 2006 we began to see this directed at Green Parties. A ballot access legal defense fund is needed. I advocate that at least $10,000 be earmarked for engaging in up to three lawsuits in 2008. This would be not unlike COFOE, The Coalition for Free and Open Elections, for which I was a former director. It regularly engages in three to five lawsuits at any given time and wins about half. The money would be for filing fees and printing costs. We also need to identify attorneys willing to work pro bono.
8: In 2006 we created the Green Senatorial Campaign Committee (GSCC). It became the first congressional committee to be recognized by the FEC since it was formed in 1975. We held off forming the Green House Campaign Committee so that we could incorporate the lessons learned from the GSCC in its formation.
9: Have the 2008 convention as early as possible and settle on the convention site sooner rather than later. [Chicago, July 10-13, 2008 has been picked.]
10: Challenge 2008: What would it look like if Greens ran 1,000 candidates in 2008? I did an exercise based on each state party’s record for the actual number of candidates run and developed a formula for this. For example California fields about 16% of our candidates. Therefore, GPCA would be expected to have 160 candidates. If anyone would like a copy of the schedule please email me at email@example.com.
Our tickets were top heavy in 2006 with too many candidates running for congress and state wide-races relative to the number of candidates running for state legislature on down. We need more local candidates. Although there were less candidates running for congress in 2006 than in 2004, we got more votes. The quality of our campaigns and candidates improved in 2006, partly due to the number of campaign schools we ran in 2005. Unfortunately in 2007 there has not been that level of commitment. There is time to correct that by acting to restoring the Coordinated Campaign Committee.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Power is the ability to achieve a purpose.” We need to walk into our power. We need to emerge out of our fragmented impotence and get serious about being agents of change in the world.
Brent McMillan is the Political Director for the Green Party of the United States. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org