Joe Tests the Green Party Waters
In the spring of 2007, quite out of the blue, I got a call from Carey Campbell. He said he was the State Chair of the Independent Greens of Virginia.
I surmised at the time, based on the conversation, that this group was affiliated with the Green Party USA. Mr. Campbell said he’d been reading about our campaign, and he suggested that I vie for the Green Party nomination for president this campaign.
Now, I didn’t know a whole lot about the Green Party. But I had been to a local Green party meeting once in Bluffton, and I’ve got to say that I was tremendously impressed with a good number of their, what they call: “Key Values.”
Some of these include a heightened focus on grassroots democracy in our system; social justice and equal opportunity; ecological wisdom; community based economics and economic justice for all; respect for diversity; personal and global responsibility…
A number of these, in fact, were way more in line with what we stood for than the often much more moderate stances on these issues, as they relate to, say, the Republican and Democrat stances.
However, the stumbling block for me with the Green Party, and it was a big one, is that the party is predominately pro-choice.
And I told Mr. Campbell that.
He responded that it was about time the Green party started considering a platform that was more in line, across the board, with Jesus’s Gospel message.
I told him I’d think about it.
Liz and I talked about it, prayed about it – and decided to give it a shot. I mean, what was one more seemingly insurmountable challenge, huh.
The Green Party was having its annual convention in Reading, Pennsylvania in July of that year. So in July, we headed east.
Just prior to the convention, Mr. Campbell had set up a Third Party Presidential Candidate Debate at the National Press Club in D.C. The mix for the debate was candidates who were independents, Libertarians and Green Party members.
Former CBS news correspondent Marvin Kalb was the debate moderator.
I decided to participate. And was the only one there wearing a casual shirt and khakis. (My wife Liz was going to kill me.)
Luckily, for me, I ended up doing quite well. That is, Liz would have really killed me if I didn’t.
Topics ranged from Hispanic immigration, to global warming, to gun control, to, well… there were a lot of topics that day.
Afterward, Pat LaMarch approached me. She’d run as the Green Party’s vice-presidential candidate the election prior.
She, quite enthusiastically, said she had been quite impressed with what I said, and continued that if there was anything she could do to help us in the party – to let her know.
I countered: “You heard me say during the debated that I was pro-life, right?”
While she said she was pro-choice, she also said it was time for the Green party to be more inclusive. And our family’s presence in the Party would be a step toward that.
Buoyed by this, we headed toward the convention in Reading.
When we got there, our family buzzed about the hotel, introducing ourselves, passing out literature, and such.
A reporter from the Reading Eagle newspaper noticed us, and decided to do an interview. We were one of only a few families there, and she decided to primarily interview the kids and Liz. The family angle had, indeed, appealed to her, because the next day a story about our family appeared as a prominent side-bar story to the bigger convention story.
Ms. LaMarche’s words about our family’s presence being a help to the Party seemed to be playing itself out a bit already.
This next day, I also participated in a Presidential Candidate Press conference Debate with five others vying for the Party’s nomination. During my segments, I talked about immigration in regard to a visit to the border that we’d made; about our nation’s urban problems as seen through the eyes of us moving to urban Cleveland to make a difference, and I talked about… the earth’s Pangaea period.
Well, none of the other candidates were talking about it.
Actually, I said that this was a period some 300 million years ago where the earth had just one “supercontinent.” (I’d read that in one our Jonathan’s Children’s books about 10 minutes before the debate.) Then the supercontinent broke apart.
I said it was breaking apart again. Only this time it is breaking apart in such a way, with global warming, that Jonathan might not have much of a world to grow up in. And, well, with Liz and I being concerned parents from the Midwest, we couldn’t let that happen.
And as president, that’s right, I’d do everything possible to stop global warming – including a lot of stuff the Green Party stood for.
This impressed some of the Green Party members, including their National Media Coordinator Scott McClarty.
He walked up to me afterward and said he’d been to a number of these convention press conference debates and never had he heard a candidate hit more, quote, unquote: “home runs” as I had.
That night before the whole general assembly, each candidate had about five minutes to talk. I talked, again, about being a concerned parent, about some of the pressing domestic and global challenges we were facing, I said we were qualified to meet those challenges because we’d spent years exhaustively traveling the country looking for common sense answers to those challenges. And, playing to this particular green audience, if you will, I closed by saying that we planned on turning the White House lawn into a permaculture -- and we were going to sell organic tomatoes through the front fence in order to spend down the National Debt.
This drew the most laughter of the night, and the most applause.
And our family was absolutely jazzed by the weekend.
But shortly after, the Green Party wheels, for us, started coming off a bit.
We planned some other tours, with the intent of also stopping to meet with various Green Party state officials, and other members. But our initial calls were, well, rebuffed. Word was starting to get around the Party at large that we were pro-life.
I tried to argue that ours was a different kind of pro-life than a lot of others. That is, we carried a “Consistent Life Ethic” that set us, not only against abortion, but against the death penalty, poverty, pollution, nuclear proliferation… and anything else that can end life prematurely. And that many of these things the Green Party was against as well. I even argued that the Republican Party, which was primarily pro-life, was letting Rudy Giuliani, who was pro-choice, run for their party’s presidential nomination.
But the argument came to little avail. And quite antithetical to one their key values about promoting grassroots democracy, I was being summarily shut off without much of a chance to participate.
With this being short-lived, I decided to continue on as an independent candidate in Campaign 2008. And, as you probably know, I lost.
However, still hopeful maybe something would gel with the Green Party, we went to their annual convention in Durham, North Carolina in 2009. And we passed out a flyer we’d developed that included the Party consider us a “Different Shade of Green,” when it came to our Consistent Life Ethic. While we still weren’t met with much acceptance, a Green Party member who was also a college professor, approached me just as we were leaving. He said he’d read the flyer and he, too, believed in a Consistent Life Ethic – and it was good to see someone else here with that paradigm.
Holding on to a thread of hope, we attended the Green Party Annual Convention two years later at Alfred College in New York. As with the other conferences, there were some excellent seminars on such topics as: Building a Green Economy; No Hydro-Fracking; Green Energy; Sustainable Farming; Slow Food; Social Justice…
Besides attending some of the seminars to help enhance our position papers in some of these areas, we manned a booth we’d set up where we had the flyers, articles, buttons, bumper stickers…. But as the convention was winding down, we weren’t seeing, oh, too many people wearing the buttons or driving off with Vote Average Joe bumper stickers.
So, well, I decided to finish out Campaign 2012 still running as an independent. And for more on that, please listen to the next audio.