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Readers Respond: An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy

Friday Portside posted An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy, by Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters, and Michael Albert.

Below are some of the responses that Portside received to An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy, from Michael Eisenscher; Susan Collier Lamont; Steve Schnapp; Gene Glickman; Daniel Millstone; Jay Jurie; Michael Kinnucan; Steven Sherman; Jeff Jones; Ethan Young; Bert Schultz; Lew Ward; Glenn Kirk; Steve Krug; Tom Caves; Cliff Gulliver; David Schwartzman; Tom Shcherbenko; Kevin Zeese; Howie Hawkins; Jonathan Nack; Ellen Schwartz; and Ray Markey.


I appreciate the effort that went into this open letter,… and agree with its central argument. But I found it a bit hard to follow and think it would have been better to have a bullet pointed list of the arguments rather than a dialog.

But I also have a simpler way to make the point:

If a raging forest fire threatens your home, and professional firefighters are no where to be found, you fight the fire with whatever is at hand - a fire extinguisher, a garden hose, a water bucket - 
and save your argument about the best way to fight fires for after the one in front of you is out.  Once the fire is out, you can go back to developing new firefighting techniques.

In solidarity,

Michael Eisenscher

Here are some new memes I just posted to

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What a bunch of crock. I am thoroughly disgusted with the circular logic of these folks - particularly Noam Chomsky. We do not have Trump because of the Green Party. We have Trump because the Democratic Party is neoliberal. The racists have always been racist, so that hasn't changed.

You might have had Bernie in 2016, but you accepted that the DNC didn't want him. If they know you'll vote for their choice no matter what they do, why would they give you your choice when it isn't theirs?

I voted for the most radical Democrat in the primaries and whatever garbage was thrown at me in the general for 30 years. Watched the party keep moving to right, steadily, all that time and finally said (too late), "Fuck this shit!" It's not that the Green Party has all its shit together, but people talk as though the Democratic Party does!

Anyway, it is beyond insulting for these assholes to say that voting for one's values is "feel good" voting. The logic in this letter is so twisted that I'll have to question everything I hear from them in the future. That they would repeat the falsehood that Greens want Trump is disgusting.

I don't think "Clinton is the same as Trump," but she is horrendous just the same and I haven't been able to hold my nose that hard for a long time.

And I'm really not interested in hearing Facebookers repeat what I've been hearing for so long. You all know that I think deeply about issues. You all know that I think they are complex. Do me the favor of not insulting my intelligence.

And if I can be accused of wanting Trump more than Hillary, can't the Democrats be accused of wanting Trump more than Bernie?

Susan Collier Lamont
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Just saw this and couldn't agree more.

Steve Schnapp


I appreciate that Portside opened its space to publish this open letter. The issue is an important one and should be the subject of critical thinking by Portside's readers.

The letter deals with relatively recent history, going back as far as the 2000 election, but also focusing much attention on the 2016 election. In both elections, there are some who want to make the Green Party's campaign a scapegoat for Democratic Party failures. I think the open letter does a good job of tackling these issues. But the thrust of the letter has to do, of course, with the upcoming election. 

In my opinion, the letter's strongest argument has to do with the battleground states, where, the letter asserts, if Stein had not been on the ballot in 2016 and her votes  had gone to Clinton, Trump would not be president now. it is correct to assume that this is a possible danger in 2020 as well. The letter's weakest aspects are all conjectural. 1) It asserts that Clinton would have been better than, or at least not as bad as, Trump. Of course we cannot know how Clinton would have been as president and whether the supposed difference between her and Trump would have made it important enough to be decisive. 2) It does not dwell on how a Trump re-election poses a danger, although it  says it would be a "catastrophe." 3) While it spends much of its efforts talking as if the Democratic candidate will be "Sanders, Warren or whoever," (this expression is used five times in the letter), it doesn't say how good or bad "whoever" would turn out to be, assuming that Sanders or Warren were not the candidate.

Sanders and Biden truly have consistent track records — Sanders' record is pretty positive, Biden's pretty negative. Warren's is less clearcut, Klobuchar's even less so and Buttigieg's almost non-existent. If we're considering ordinary policy issues, where time is not a crucial factor, we can merely plead ignorance: we do not know how serious an outcome might be with one of the three of them. But if we're thinking about the climate crisis, it's quite clear that if radical changes in policy are not made very rapidly in the direction of a Green New Deal, all will be for naught; incremental changes will not be sufficient.

This leads me to what turns out to be a compromise between the two positions — that of the open letter and that of the Green Party's Howie Hawkins: Here is my suggestion: the Green Party holds its nominating convention after the Democratic Convention. If the Democrats nominate Sanders, the Green Party either also nominates him, or does not put up a competing candidate. If the Democrats nominate someone other than Sanders, the Greens nominate a Green Party candidate and go all out for their own candidate.

Gene Glickman


This is not for everyone because it’s far inside the Interior beltway of left wing politics. But if it’s for you, do not miss it. Here many friends sign an open letter to address a problem posed by the Green Party. In an article in December, Howie Hawkins argued that Greens should contest everywhere (I have put a link to that article in the comments). Hawkins rejects a “safe state” strategy for the Greens (in which Greens would not contest swing state elections). I agree with the signers of the open letter. But. I don’t know that this is a useful conversation. If green voters could have been persuaded to vote for HRC in swing states, she would have won and we would have been spared some of the nightmare excesses of trumpery. Could they have been persuaded? Can they be persuaded this time? Only by a political program that appeals to them. Thanks to Portside for publishing the letter and helping to continue the discussion.

Daniel Millstone
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Thanks for posting both sides of this debate. While it can certainly be agreed the absolute imperative at the moment is the defeat of Trump and right-wing coup for which he is the leading edge, the Neidig statement goes too far in asserting a "vote for the Greens is a vote for Trump." There can be no doubt that a vote for whomever the Green presidential candidate might be doesn't help the situation any, but playing the blame game isn't all that helpful either.

What'd be a better approach would be simply old fashioned politics, making the case to the Greens and other left third party candidates, as to why voting for them is simply a luxury we cannot afford at this moment, when all hands are needed on deck to push back the rising tide of neo-fascism that threatens to engulf us all.

Footnote: why is the Neidig article dated 07/27/16? Was it first published then, and then updated with Trump's name?

Jay Jurie
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


most interesting thing here is the paragraph that’s like “look, we don’t even WANT to run for president, but we’re forced to do so by ballot access laws to guarantee a line for our down ballot candidates.” Like, at the point when your most important strategic decision as a party is being basically determined by ballot-access law, you should really ask yourself whether having your own “party” (ballot line) is really granting you the independence you thought it would.

Michael Kinnucan
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


If virtually all Green voters in swing states had voted for HRC... quite a stretch. I agree the focus of campaigns should be on winning voters not issuing these warnings.

Steven Sherman
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Thanks for posting this. I always find it interesting how roughly half the country doesn’t vote, following their own rational decision making (laid out by Chomsky years ago), and no one frets about why? No one really seeks to mobilize that block of potential voters who never vote. Instead, Nader gets racked over the coals to explain away Gore’s complete failure. And now we get Clinton lost because of Russia! She lost because her program sucks.

Jeff Jones
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Wrong Jeff. I don't care about Gore's or Clinton's careers but the facts show they won the popular vote, and lost the election due to GOP maneuvering. -In 2000, a combination of SCOTUS and far right cadres in the Florida count; Gore was ahead nationally. In 2016, the GOP saw gaping holes in the Dems' strategy and took advantage, enabling them to again bypass the popular vote, which went substantially to Hill. Let's get serious about the state of democracy in the USA - to paraphrase Gandhi, it's a good idea.That's the significance of Bernie's groundswell. He actually IS mobilizing MIA voters.

Ethan Young
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


In 2016, my state of PA was supposed to be a safe state for Clinton. She lost by less than the Green vote. Including mine.

Bert Schultz
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Surprised that you, believe the spin blaming the Greens on Clinton's losing the election. A convenient scapegoat. There were far more non-voters than Greens. Be realistic, Clinton was a bad candidate and didn't appeal to the voters. Let's hope after 4 years of Trump the non voters wake up.

Lew Ward
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


When have I heard this desperate Democratic party shill appeal before? Oh right, each and every election for last 30 years at least.

Glenn Kirk
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Third parties in U.S. Elections As a person who has voted for the SWP, the SPUSA and the Greens I wish to take issue with the somewhat tired notion that all people who vote for third parties are responsible the more "evil" of the two mainstream candidates to win. I voted for Jill Stein in Wisconsin. If my only choices had been Trump/Clinton I wouldn't have voted at all. I am not one of those folks who say there is no difference between the repubs/demos, but recognizing that fact it is very important to remember there is also a sizable difference between the dems and, in the case of this article, the Greens. 

The article says that even though I agree with Green policies and not the neo-liberal policies of the dems I still ought to vote for them because otherwise I'm supporting the greater "evil" that the repubs embody. I am well aware of the pitfalls of the "glorious defeats" all third parties, who never stand a chance of winning, have swam in. So, why bother voting for what you want, when your vote might help someone "evil" to be elected (was it Nader who quipped about the "evil of two lessors"?). 

Third parties in the U.S., in my mind, are responsible for the big shifts in both policy and elect-ability of both mainstream parties. The repubs "southern Strategy" was made possible when George Wallace got several million votes , the repubs happily changed their pitch to the right to woo those voters and dems stopped winning southern states. When Debs, sitting in a jail cell, was still able to get votes, the dems ,through FDR ,modified their platforms to avail themselves of those votes from the left. Elections have long been decided by voters who are not card carrying repubs/dems. Having a bloc of those voters gives you some power to force the issues. 

Recent history has shown us that the working class has continued to loose ground under both repub/dem administrations, both parties embrace militarism and capitalism. How does one nudge a mainstream party one way or another when the party elites don't want change? Can the dems be transformed into a progressive party? We all witnessed what the old establishment dems did to Bernie last election cycle and what they did to Henry Wallace in the 40's. I applaud those who organize, be it thru unions or progressive wings, to give some clout, and decent candidates, to working people. Democrats who expect someone like me to vote for them are going to have to put forward policies that serve the class I belong to, not just provide me with a clothespin for my nose so I'll vote for 'em. 

Steve Krug


I refuse to vote for Trump or a corporate Democrat. So as a progressive I'm stuck with an independent or Green party candidate.

Tom Caves
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


Tom Caves then you’re voting for trump.

Cliff Gulliver
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


This Open Letter is in response to Howie Hawkins’ CounterPunch article. Portside should have run both side by side so readers could make their own judgement without having to retrieve the Hawkins article.

According to the Open Letter, “If Clinton got Jill Stein's Green votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Clinton would have won the election. Thus, the Green Party's decision to run in those states, saying even that there was little or no difference between Trump and Clinton, seems to us to be a factor worthy of being removed from contested state dynamics, just like the Electoral College is a factor worthy of being removed across all states.”

This analysis is not supported by pre-election polls and the national exit poll suggesting that a lot of Stein’s supporters wouldn’t have voted at all, if they’d been forced to pick between the two major candidates, plus there were many factors involved in Trump’s win in these swing states.

The Open Letter should have acknowledged what Cornel West said at the Green Party (GP) Convention in 2016, making a distinction between a catastrophe (Trump) and a disaster (Clinton), rather than equating the two. On domestic issues and the climate challenge Clinton would have likely been far better than Trump, but don’t rule out the potential for a catastrophic outcome on foreign policy if Trump had been defeated in 2016. Clinton’s foreign policy guru is Henry Kissinger. Her role in regime change in Libya is a red flag regarding the possibility of full-scale war with Iran, North Korea and even Russia in a Clinton administration for the last four years.  And now the Democrats are attacking Trump from the right in the Impeachment process, casting the nuclear power Russia, encircled by U.S./NATO bases, as our prime enemy. We should recognize one positive from the Trump catastrophe: the exponential rise of the U.S. socialist left, especially the Democratic Socialists of America  (DSA).  I doubt this would have happened if Clinton were President.

The Open Letter concludes by asking “…is a Green candidate running for President after the summer really going to argue we shouldn't vote for Sanders in contested states not just to end Trumpism but also to enact all kinds of important changes including urging and facilitating grass roots activism and thereby advancing Green program?” But what Howie Hawkins  said was “Greens want to get Trump out as much as anybody. Our advice to Democrats is to stop worrying about the Green Party and focus on getting your own base out. Our position is that we are running our own candidates because neither corporate- indentured party will support real solutions to the life-or-death issues of climate change, growing inequality, and nuclear weapons.”

I am a leader of the DC Statehood Green Party (DCSGP) and former candidate. DCSGP is an affiliate of the GP. I am strongly supporting Howie Hawkins for the GP Presidential nomination and will vote for him in DC, where any Democrat on the ballot will certainly win the 3 electoral votes. While the open letter says “we admire the Greens' Green New Deal and economic justice commitments”, it fails to recognize the GP’s historic role in its launch into the public discourse.  Howie Hawkins was the first to champion a Green New Deal (GND) in his campaign for New York State Governor in 2010, an ecosocialist GND was the focus of both of Jill Stein’s Presidential campaigns. An ecosocialist GND goes beyond the historic Congressional Resolution introduced by AOC and there is good evidence that the latter came about because of the GP’s introduction of a GND dating back to 2010. I am also a proud member of DSA, enthusiastically supporting their effort to get Bernie Sanders elected. Trump, the white supremacist climate denier must be defeated in 2020 and Bernie Sanders with his GND proposal is the best candidate to make this possible and thereby open up unprecedented possibilities for a much stronger ecosocialist movement.

So we should certainly emphasize the consequences of a Trump re-election, emphasizing the still decisive role of the white supremacist Electoral College with the voters and respect their choice for President in each state, and of course maximize the turnout of women, people of color and young voters as Michael Moore has wisely advised, as well as fight against the voter suppression which played a big role in the 2016 election.  If Bernie wins the Democratic Party nomination there can be a positive relationship with Howie Hawkins’ campaign. Don’t tell voters how to vote, rather share the consequences as we see them. Show respect to voters, even potential Trump voters, and Trump will be defeated.  So lets think through our electoral approach strategically, to both defeat Trump and maximize the synergy between the democratic socialist movement behind Bernie and the GP.   I know there is a lot of bitterness on both sides, but can’t we work for ‘the greater good, rather than the lesser evil”, Jill Stein’s slogan for the 2016 election? Now the greater good is defeating Trump, electing Bernie Sanders and promoting an ecosocialist GND.

David Schwartzman,
Washington DC


My idea: Green Party gives up Presidential and Congressional candidates, and focuses exclusively on legislatures safely under Democratic Party leadership. I think a Green Party member of the New York City Council or State Assembly would be a good thing. Of course, I'd want to see a few WFP members of both bodies first.

Tom Shcherbenko
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


You published an open letter urging Greens not to run against Democrats in battleground states. Howie Hawkins, a candidate for the Green Party nomination was specifically mentioned. Howie has been responding to these kinds of positions for years. They recur every presidential election campaign. Below is his response to the open letter. I hope you will consider publishing it.


Kevin Zeese


Every State Is a Battleground

By Howie Hawkins

A Response to "An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy"

The Open Letter is a response to my article (The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem, December 25, 2019). The signers want the Green Party presidential campaign to adopt the “safe states strategy” of campaigning only in safe states where the outcome is a forgone conclusion. They want the Green Party to support the Democratic presidential ticket in the battleground states where the race is close.

For the Greens, every state is a battleground. No state is safe. Greens in every state want a presidential candidate who campaigns in their states in support of their local candidates and causes. Greens in every state are fighting Democrats every day on fracking, oil and gas pipelines, single-payer, school privatization, living wages, police brutality, bloated military budgets and forever wars, and the Greens’ very right to appear on ballots. In fighting escalating rents, gentrification, displacement, and homelessness, Greens find local Democrats are thick as thieves with their banker and real estate developer campaign donors, as Trump himself was with the Democratic machine New York City before he ran for president. Of course, the Greens are fighting the Republicans on these issues, too.

Is anything different this time around? The two-capitalist-party system’s stranglehold on US politics has not changed. The safe states strategy does nothing to challenge that. The signers argue that Trump is what is different this time around.

The Left Can’t Outsource Fighting the Right to the Democrats

The signers say Greens “refuse to recognize the special danger of Trump” and that Greens say there is “no difference between Democrats and Republicans.”

I did not say any of that in my article, or in 2016, or ever. In my view, Trump’s racism, corruption, and narcissistic sociopathy make him not just a man with bad policies, but a bad man as well. He was the greater evil compared to Clinton. He’s a greater evil than previous Republican presidents. He is an ever present danger right now in office. 

What is different about Trump from previous Republicans is his vicious public scapegoating, which has given permission to institutional gatekeepers to increase covert discrimination and to white nationalists to inflict slurs, vandalism, and violence against immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people, and women.

Recognizing the danger of Trump does not mean that electing any damned Democrat should trump all other considerations. The Democrats might beat Trump, but they won’t beat Trumpism because they have enabled it. In office the Democrats join the Republicans to support the basic policies that the capitalist class cares about: neoliberal economic austerity at home and neoconservative imperialism abroad. The Democrats should have crushed Trump in a landslide in 2016 because the hard right Republicans he reflects are a shrinking political minority in the US. But they lost to Trump because most working people didn’t vote at all since Clinton personified their corporate bosses who disrespect and mistreat them.

One difference among the Democrats is that the corporate wing will not return the favor of support that Sanders has given to them by pledging to support to any Democratic nominee. Obama has made it known that he opposes a Sanders nomination. Clinton recently refused very publicly to say she would support Sanders if he is the nominee. The signers of this Open Letter have bigger problems inside the Democratic Party than they do with the Greens.

Independent Left Politics Is More Powerful

The signers note that I say in my article that “Greens want to get Trump out as much as anybody.” Then they ask “how can that be if Greens would vote for a Green candidate, and not for Sanders, Warren, or any Democrat in a contested state knowing that doing so could mean Trump’s victory.”

That can be because there are stronger ways to fight Trump than depending on the Democrats. Trump is dangerous now. The Democrats should have impeached him long ago. Trump was committing crimes in plain sight from the moment he took office. He also should have been impeached for corrupt self-enriching emoluments, nepotism, campaign finance felonies, racist policies and provocations that incited violence, atrocities against migrants at the borders, war crimes, gutting federal regulations and agencies, and constant obstructions of justice. 

Instead, the Democrats have belatedly chosen to go small instead of big by impeaching him just on the Ukraine extortion scheme and cover-up, as if all his other crimes are acceptable. Instead of beating Trump up politically on multiple grounds for a protracted period of time, the Democrats have given Trump a short Senate trial peppered with militaristic messaging in support of the US proxy war with Russia in Ukraine. The Democrats short, narrow, and often jingoistic impeachment trial fails to show the people how Trump’s crimes hurt them as workers, consumers, minorities, and women, undermined peace, and harmed the environment.

That is typical for how the Democrats enable Trumpism. Democratic support for bipartisan militarism abroad enabled Trump to successfully appeal to voters who want to end the endless wars, although that was a big lie by Trump. Decades-long Democratic support for pro-corporate economic policies has created the growing economic inequality and insecurity that are the social conditions in which Trump and the Republicans have been able to expand their base among downwardly-mobile whites with racist, xenophobic, and mysogynist scapegoating. The previous Democratic administration refused to prosecute the corporate criminals who stole 14 million homes or the war criminals who tortured people. The Democrats left them walking free and they walked right into the Trump administration. For details on that, see my article, “The Rich White Man’s Justice System Protects Trump and His Cronies.”

The Democrats have helped to normalize Trump by joining with him to overwhelming support military budget increases, the US Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (NAFTA 2.0), and the prosecution of Julian Assange and persecution of Chelsea Manning.

The left is more powerful when it makes its demands independently of either pro-corporate, pro-war party. Instead of depending on the soft-right Democrats to fight the hard-right Republicans, the most effective way to fight the right is to build an independent left movement and party with its own program, actions, and candidates. Instead of futilely begging the politicians of the lesser evil between the two capitalist parties to say and do the right things, the left should speak to the public for itself and build its own independent power.

Real Solutions

The signers claim “Voting Green in the swing states is a feel-good activity (‘vote your hopes, not your fears’) as if fear of climate disaster, for example, shouldn’t be a motivator for political action.”

Greens are not political dilettantes who cast votes just to feel good. We vote to make politicians meet our demands if they want our votes. We vote to show people who agree with our demands that they are not alone. We don’t waste our votes affirming Democrats like Clinton who exemplified the elite consensus for the neoliberal economics and neoconservative imperialism that has given us unabated global warming, growing economic insecurity, and endless wars. We used our vote for Jill Stein to demand a Green New Deal, improved Medicare for All, a job guarantee, student debt relief, ending US military aggression, and fair elections.

The climate crisis is a prime reason why Greens don’t support Democrats. The last Democratic administration’s “all of the above” energy policy was a euphemism for fracking the hell out of the country. Obama still brags about how the US became the world’s largest oil and gas producer under his administration. Clinton had her delegates to the Democratic Platform Committee vote against all the climate policies proposed by the Sanders campaign. The one Sanders plank that was adopted was later reversed by the Democratic National Committee in August 2018 when it re-committed the party to taking fossil fuel industry money and went back on the record for the “all of the above” energy policy, the language that Sanders got removed from the 2016 Democratic platform. Trump calls climate change a hoax, but the Democrats act as if it is a hoax.

The signers continue, saying “Real solutions require Trump out of office. Real solutions will become far more probable with Sanders or Warren in office. And real solutions will become somewhat more probable even with the likes of Biden in office.” 

Yes, let’s be realistic. The Democrats are not going to bring us Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, or deep cuts in the war budget. Progressive Democrats are allowed to make speeches. But the corporate Democrats make the decisions.

One would think that after the last two Republican presidents first assumed office after losing the popular vote that the Democrats would move to abolish the Electoral College. But no, it is only the Green Party that is campaigning for a national popular vote for president using ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting would eliminate the spoiler problem that the safe states strategists are so worried about.

The Democrats have had 20 years since Bush took the presidency after losing the popular vote to make these rigged elections an issue. Since Trump, the loser by 3 million votes, took the presidency for the Republicans, all the Democrats have been able to do is blame Russians and Greens. We are not waiting for the Democrats.

The Real Green Party

The Open Letter makes a couple of other assertions about the Green Party that are simply wrong.

It asks rhetorically, “Weren’t more potential Green Party members and voters driven off by the party’s dismissal of the dangers of Trump than were inspired by it?”

To the contrary, Stein’s vote tripled from 469,627 votes (0.36%) in 2012 to 1,457,218 (1.07%) in 2016. Clinton, on the other hand, only got 81% of 2012 Obama voters in 2016, while 9% voted for Trump, 7% stayed home, and 3% voted for a third party candidate. Stein and the Green Party grew. It was Clinton who drove voters away from her party. As I titled my article, “The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem.”

The Open Letter also asks rhetorically, “Weren’t the Greens in the late ’80s and early ’90s winning elections to city councils and other local offices across the country, consistent with a grass roots strategy, though for much of the past 20 years, they’ve largely abandoned local and state contests, devoting nearly all their attention to increasingly harmful races for president?”

Not true again. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the number of Green candidates each year grew from handfuls in the late ‘80s to around 100 in even years in the ’90s. Since Ralph Nader’s campaign in 2000, the Greens have run hundreds of candidates every year and won 30%-40% of their local races each year. 130 Greens currently hold elected office.

The presidential campaigns have been helpful to state and local parties in securing the 21 state  ballot lines the Green Party currently has. These campaigns also helped locals to recruit people to the party for local and state politics. But by far the most Green time and money has gone into local politics. 

My purpose in seeking the Green Party nomination for president is to urge and assist the Green Party to qualify for more state ballots and to use those ballot lines to elect thousands of local candidates as we move into the 2020s to municipal and county and soon state and congressional offices. The strategy is to build an independent movement and party for ecosocialism from the bottom up into a major party in American politics. 

We are running out of time to address the life-or-death issues of the climate crisis, the nuclear arms race, and the growing economic inequality that has become a survival issue for working people whose life expectancies are now declining in this country. We don’t have time to march in place with a safe states strategy to elect a lesser evil Democrat. If the Democrats again give us a dismal choice between a corporate Democrat and Trump, and lose again because they cannot get their natural base out to vote for them, it will be their fault, not the Greens’.

[Howie Hawkins is a retired Teamster in Syracuse, New York. A co-founder of the US Green Party, he was the first US candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal in a run for governor of New York in 2010. He is currently seeking the Green nomination for president.]


I believe there is a serious need for discussion about the strategy we Greens should take in this Presidential election, if we want to contribute to the defeat of Trump.

I don't know how helpful the "open letter" will be in stimulating such discussion, since it's not written from a perspective of building the Green Party, and few of its authors have done much to build the Green Party.  Most Greens I'm hearing from are pretty pissed off by it and dismissing it as a smear against the Green Presidential campaign.  The letter may have even harmed chances for there to be a discussion within the Green Party on our Presidential strategy.  We'll have to see.

I come from a place of having supported the Green Party since its founding in California in the early 1990s.  My argument centers on how a strategic approach to this election can help to build the Green Party and greatly enhance its reputation. In the interests of full disclosure, I am also one of many Greens supporting Bernie's campaign for the Democrat's nomination.

There is a strong consensus among constituencies the Green Party seeks to represent that Trump must be defeated - that a second Trump term must be prevented. Included in this consensus are the great majority of environmentalists, leftists, progressives, anti-racist activists, immigrant rights and LGBT rights activists, feminists, labor organizers, and activists spanning the social movements. Probably the majority of registered Greens also agree that it is important that Trump be defeated.  Given all this, a serious discussion about how the Green Party can accomplish our goals in this Presidential election, get out our party's platform out to the public, along with our critique of the two party system, as well as how we can contribute to the defeat of Trump, is warranted.

I'm not sure of the best strategic approach for the Greens, if we acknowledge that contributing to the defeat of Trump is one our strategic goals in this election.  That's why I favor a public discourse on the matter among party registrants.  A collective process in which a collective strategy could emerge.

While my mind is open regarding strategy, and it could be influenced and changed through discussion, the approach I currently favor is actually mentioned in a back-handed way in the "open letter."  "[I]f a Green candidate weren’t telling everyone who was a potential Green voter to vote for Trump’s opponent in contested states, how could that evidence that Greens want Trump to lose as much as anyone?"  To put this in a positive way, why shouldn't our Green candidate for President publicly call on Green voters in certain swing states, and only those states, to cast their votes for the Democrat in order to ensure Trump's defeat?

There are many arguments for and against such a strategy.  Would its overall impact be beneficial in building the Green Party and enhancing its mass reputation or detrimental?  I currently think the benefits would far outweigh negatives, but am eager to know what other Greens think.

I see many potential benefits to this strategy. The first is that the announcement by the Green candidate that Greens in certain swing states (it might end up being very few states) should vote for the Democrat, the Green candidate would immediately receive more corporate media coverage than the rest of their previous coverage of the Green campaign combined.

The corporate media (and all other media) will all ask why such an announcement is being made. This will give our Green candidate the opportunity to explain that this is not an endorsement of the Democrat, but rather a call for strategic voting to ensure Trump's defeat. They could explain that it is made necessary by our undemocratic Presidential elections, and specifically the Electoral College, which need to be abolished. Our nominee could also take the opportunity to deliver the Green Party's platform to a much wider audience.

Overnight the corporate media's characterization of the Green Party could change – from a party that is portrayed as at best irrelevant and at worst a spoiler, to questioning whether the party could be a potential kingmaker that could actually tip the balance in a close election. It could also go a considerable distance in changing the views progressives, leftists, and activists of all types that want to see Trump defeated. It might even change the outcome of the election.

(Although as many Greens have pointed out, the Green Party isn't nearly the spoiler many critics think it is, and it's potential to swing the election results even in one state is actually quite small. Perceptions are very important in politics, however.)

Taking more of a realpolitik strategy in the Presidential election might also attract more interest in the Green Party from more pragmatic voters. This could be quite significant if there are a significant number of Bernie backers ready to take another look at the Green Party, if the Democrats again rig the primary selection process, and perhaps the Democratic Convention.

There are also arguments that such a strategy, or perhaps any Green Party strategy developed to help insure Trump's defeat, could lose support from Greens who may see it as a betrayal of the party's principles. It could also impact the party's ballot status in the swing states involved. (I don't know the details about all that and it would depend on which of swing states are involved.)

A rich strategic discussion and debate could and should be had. I believe such an open discussion within the Green Party could be very helpful, especially if it seeks to involve a maximum number of party registrants.

Unfortunately, many Green Party leaders and hardliners seem to want no such discussion.  They seem to view even the suggestion of opening up for such a discussion to be tantamount to treason to the party.  Howie Hawkins' article, which also basically dismisses all concerns raised in the "open letter," is not helpful in terms of organizing a collective discussion on Green Party strategy.

What I'm proposing is frankly a tough sell.  Most Green Party activists I've talked to about the idea are against it.  Decades of being attacked as spoilers by liberal, progressive, and left wing Democrats have hardened the attitudes of most of the party's activists.  There also really is a big difference between what remains (unless and until Bernie. AOC and insurgent progressives and democratic socialists take it over) a pro-corporate capitalist and imperialist Democratic Party, compared to the Green Party's radical eco-socialist anti-war platform, and perhaps its too big a gulf for such a strategy to be considered.

The party's very weak infrastructure also makes having a collective discussion on strategy, especially one which includes all registered Greens and not just the very small number of Greens who participate in organizational activities, to be extremely difficult.

Nevertheless, I think the Green Party should attempt to engage its registrants in a discussion regarding our party's strategy for this coming election.  The party's weak primary and convention system can be used as vehicles for such a discussion, but I think a more direct vehicle which is all about engaging as many members as possible in a discussion of strategy is also needed.

The above is written under the assumption that Bernie is prevented by establishment opposition from winning the Democrat's nomination.  If Bernie wins their nomination, it will be a game changer and a different ballgame.  That's because of the large number of Greens, including myself, who support Bernie and would gladly vote for him in the General Election.  There are even some Greens calling on the Green Party to nominate Bernie as our candidate (although that is quite unlikely).

In solidarity,

Jonathan Nack


Seems to me there’s another path, and one that is needed no matter who gets the Democratic nomination, and no matter who is elected.  It’s not enough for the Greens, maybe even P&F, Bernie-ites, whoever, to tell their members “to vote” for the Bernie or even some neocon Democrat in the general election.  We need a mass movement, or how about a bunch of small mass movements, to oppose whoever gets elected if it isn’t Bernie, and to protect Bernie if somehow the election doesn’t get stolen from him.

DSA is working for Bernie but not getting lost inside the Bernie campaign.  Chapters are running their own pro-Bernie independent campaigns.  That can continue and be even more important if some schnook like Biden is nominated. We have to work for him, but  not like in the past, inside campaigns controlled by our enemies.  And still more important to have that structure in place if, oh, let’s say Elizabeth Warren is elected – we can’t let it happen like we did with Obama, not daring to criticize the first black President. If the Green Party lacks the infrastructure to carry out a campaign, phonebanking, door knocking, tabling, whatever, now is the time to build it.  Along with other organizations, working independently, but toward compatible goals.  For the working class and oppressed minorities, to save the planet, end imperialist wars, the whole shebang.

The aforementioned Barack Obama built a mass of volunteers who worked to get him elected, but he was careful not to let them have any contact with each other after the election, and because they wouldn’t be fooled a second time, didn’t even unleash them to save Democratic congressional and senatorial and gubernatorial candidates in subsequent elections. Or maybe he couldn’t have if he wanted to, because he had turned all the contact info over to the Democratic central committee, and THEY certainly don’t want the masses in motion.  So even if we work for a Democrat, we must not ever again work *as* Democrats.  If we work as progressives, as Socialists, as whatever we may happen to be, even if we’re working to get a non-Trump stinker elected, we’ll be building a movement that can turn the tide.

Ellen Schwartz


Thank you Portside for posting the Open Letter. What amazes me about those critical of the letter is that they don’t seemed worried about Impeached Trump and his alt-right allies. My question is just what country are they living in? I’ll keep this brief. I believe Impeached Trump is a menace to our Republic and none of those running in the Democratic Party Primary are so I will vote for whomever is the nominee of the Democratic Party.

I thank the authors for writing their letter.

Ray Markey