South Carolina: What will it take for the Green Party to be taken seriously?

ImageEugene Platt, who ran with the Green Party US for South Carolina’s 1st congressional district special election, has many of the traits of a comforting conservative: a man of faith and family emblazoned with the colours of his party, with not as much political experience as his opponents but enough to sound reliable. In terms of a typical conservative image, an extramarital affair is the only thing that the victor, Mark Sandford, has over him. Platt even, in a TV interview, claimed that he and many other greens are fiscal conservatives, explaining, “I don’t believe we should spend more money than we have.” This is more of a rhetorical statement: his long-held support for free healthcare for all, state-funded education, clamping down on tax evasion, and a green economy suggests he can’t really be a conservative.

Sandford (R) was always more likely to win, and the safe percentage of 54.04% is unsurprising. Business expert and sister to the noisy, predictable satirist Stephen Colbert, Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D), gained 45.21% of the vote. This left Platt with a tiny 690 votes, just 0.48% of the very poor 31.55% voter turnout.

A result of under 1% is very disappointing, especially when considering polling at 3% and 4% in April and May respectively, and considering his media attention from ABC, Charleston City Paper, and elsewhere. The fact that there are local chapters in Aiken County, York County, Charleston, Midlands, and Greenville suggests there are many members of the party who voted otherwise. There are a couple of pretty simple explanations, though.

The Green Party, like other “third parties,” rejects corporate funding, meaning it won’t the same exposure as the ‘Pubs or Dems. In fact, Platt’s raised only $5,000 for his campaign, all from individual donors. This will continue to deny the greens a level playing field but as Americans become more aware of the unjust two-party system, it will serve to make them more trustworthy. So they should stick to this principle and continue to try to get involved in debates.

The other reason is that there is always a nagging Democrat reminding 3rd party voters that the Democrats “might not be perfect” but to vote Green would mean stealing votes from the supposedly more progressive party. In a red state of 79% whites there clearly isn’t much to steal, but in typically blue states or presidential elections it could be costly. The reality is that neither of the two “corporate parties” serve anyone but the ruling class. This should continue to be Jill Stein’s (and others’) emphasis, since it is so plain to see.

The Green Party achieved its peak popularity in 2000 with Ralph Nader. In the 2012 presidential election it slumped to 0.36% of the vote, with the Libertarians becoming the third biggest party at 0.9%. The direction for them to take should be a more radical stance than a social democratic one, not allowing for crossover with the Democrats. Totally anti-imperialist rather than less military spending; ecosocialism rather than environmentalism; abolishment of private property rather than consumer protection. Of course, this will require tireless agitation and a reeducation about what it means to be a socialist in order to reverse decades of McCarthyist conditioning. In their current state, the Green Party can only present itself as revolutionary because it is competing with a conservative party and a very conservative party. Trotsky pointed out that social democracy is more beneficial to the petty bourgeoisie than the proletariat and therefore leaves us ill-equipped to deal with the fascism that will emerge from an unsustainable parliamentary duopoly and rising police state. If they are anything like the Green Party of England and Wales, there are already a ton of socialists in the party. The task of combatting climate change should remain, but needs to be understood as an element of class struggle. Now they should become an overtly working class party, uniting excellent American Marxian economists like Andrew Kliman, but more importantly, trade unionists.

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