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California's Green Party should buckle its Birkenstocks and move on

June 06, 2012|By Dan Turner
  • Jill Stein of Massachusetts was declared the Green Party nominee Wednesday after winning the California primary.
Jill Stein of Massachusetts was declared the Green Party nominee Wednesday… (Elise Amendola / Associated…)

California's Green Party was born in 1991, during a flurry of liberal outrage against Bush's war -- the first Bush, that is, and his shortlived liberation action for Kuwait. California activists, with memories of Vietnam still floating among their THC-dulled synapses, saw the Persian Gulf War as a conflict led by a hated Republican president who was sacrificing American blood for oil -- and a Green movement that had been sputtering before war was declared suddenly took root. More antiwar and pro-environment than the Democratic Party at the time, it was, for a while, a fashionable protest party for the crunchy-granola set.

But the sprout never really blossomed. On Tuesday, the California Green Party's top vote-getter -- notably, it wasn't comedian Roseanne Barr, whose candidacy seems to have been seen even by Greens as a joke, but Massachusetts physician Jill Stein -- received less votes than an American Independent Party candidate named Mad Max Riekse. It's safe to say the Green dream has died.

The national Green Party, which declared Stein its nominee Wednesday, will sputter on. Yet its handful of remaining voters in California might want to seriously think about voting Democrat if they want to have any impact on future elections. The problem is that, in California at least, there is very little separation between Democrats and Greens, which gives people little reason to join the tiny party.

A look at the party platform on its website turns up an oddly vague document calling for environmentally sustainable policies and an economic program that sounds a bit socialistic (California should "encourage ecologically sound and employee-owned or profit-sharing businesses of appropriate scale," the party says, meaning, I guess, that it's all in favor of Berkeley-style co-ops). No doubt some of this stuff is to the left of most California Democrats, but with its bedrock support of labor unions and nation-leading commitment to environmentalism, California's Democratic Party is already very, well, green.

With the Persian Gulf War long over, a Democrat in the Oval Office who's committed to withdrawing from Afghanistan and California taking the lead on fighting carbon pollution and switching to renewable energy, the Greens just don't have any hot-button issues they can use to attract or motivate voters. That might change under a Mitt Romney administration -- and in the unlikely event the Greens could siphon off Democratic votes in large numbers in November, they could inadvertently bring such a disaster about.

But the reality is that there are too few of them to matter, and their protest votes against a Democratic Party they see as insufficiently egalitarian is simply a wasted vote. If the Greens haven't established a foothold in one of the nation's most liberal states after 20 years of trying, it's never going to happen.

It's not easy being Green. And it's also not especially smart.

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