The ‘Green’ new deal that Tom Perez needs to make
The Green Party has played the role of spoiler in two presidential elections. To avoid a trifecta in 2020, Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, needs to make a Green new deal.
In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who campaigned aggressively in Florida, attacking Al Gore for a string of broken promises to the environmental movement, received 97,421 votes in the Sunshine State. George W. Bush carried the state by 537 votes. In New Hampshire, Bush garnered 273,559 votes, Gore 266, 348, and Nader 22,198. Had Gore carried either of these states, he would have become president of the United States.
In 2016, Jill Stein, the Green Party standard bearer, received 51,463 votes in Michigan, where Donald Trump’s margin of victory was 10,704 votes; Stein got 49,678 votes in Pennsylvania, which Trump won by 46,765 votes; and she garnered 31,006 votes in Wisconsin, which Trump carried by 22,177 votes. These three states, of course, put Trump over the top in the Electoral College.
To be sure, as political scientists Kyle Kopko and Christopher Devine have pointed out, exit polls suggest that some Stein voters would have voted for Trump, written in a candidate, or decided to stay home if forced to choose between the two major party candidates. In a “Five Thirty Eight Chat” in December 2016, Nate Silver estimated that the breakdown may have been 35 percent Clinton, 10 percent Trump, and 55 percent no vote.
Nonetheless, in a close election — and 2020 may well be a close election — every vote in a battleground state matters. This time, Green Party leaders and potential voters should have no difficulty discerning whether President Trump or the Democratic candidate, whoever he or she may be, aligns more closely with their four policy pillars: an energy policy committed to addressing the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change by replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of power; federal government guarantees of a living wage and an expanded safety net; dramatic reductions in the military budget; public financing of elections, more representative voting systems, and an end to corporate-dominated politics.
That said, Perez will almost certainly be unable to persuade Jill Stein (who Hillary Clinton called a “Russian asset”) or Howie Hawkins (a founder of the Green Party, the leading candidate for its presidential nomination, and an advocate of an independent socialist movement) to endorse the 2020 Democratic nominee. But he might be able to lay the groundwork for the Green Party candidate (who will be selected in state-by-state primaries and caucuses held in the spring and is certain to be a “Never Trumper”) to do throughout the campaign season what William Weld, the vice-presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, did, belatedly, in 2016. In a speech in Boston a few days before the election, Weld expressed his hope that the Libertarians would win. “But in a very close swing state,” Weld added, “there may be different dynamics at play.” The former governor of Massachusetts urged supporters to pull the lever for Libertarian Gary Johnson in solidly blue states, a vote of conscience which would also help the Party reach 5 percent of the vote nationwide and qualify for federal election funds. In battleground states, Weld advised them to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.
Equally important, given the appeal of environmental issues and third parties to millennials, Perez should see to it that the Democratic platform — and the nominee — appropriate the mantra of Tony Affigne, a young American featured prominently on the Green Party web site: “I’m Green because from what I can see, the world’s only real chance to survive is through politics grounded in Ecology, Equality, Democracy, and Peace.”
While they’re at it, Perez and his fellow Democrats should keep their fingers crossed that Justin Amash, the congressman from Michigan who left the Republican Party and supports the impeachment of President Trump, becomes the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, which received about 3 percent of the national vote in 2016 and could attract conservatives who are unhappy with Trump but allergic to the Democratic Party in 2020.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.
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