Saturday, January 14, 2006

Greens Cross-Endorsing Former Greens?

I had an interesting conversation with someone today. It’s actually a topic that has been discussed within GPoMC’s steering committee before. This time it dealt with a situation that – as of right now – is hypothetical, but probably will come to fruition down the road. Just a warning: this is going to be long, so give yourself some time to read the whole thing.

The topic was that of cross-endorsing candidates. I blog on this to get reaction, not from just steering committee members but from other people as well. Folks in the "inner sanctum" guess as to what the voting population will think about decisions we make, but it’s best to actually hear for ourselves.

So let’s start with a bit of background. Many people in Monroe County think that the Greens do not cross-endorse candidates from other parties. There’s nothing in our bylaws that says we can’t. And we actually have in the past; unofficially with Bill Benet’s run for County Executive 6 years ago, and this past year with Samantha Golden’s run for Town Justice in Clarkson. We considered a number of people to cross-endorse in 2005.

We have turned down candidates for a few reasons. One is when candidates didn’t agree with our Ten Key Values. That’s pretty much a no-brainer. Personally, that’s one of the main reasons I am a Green, because we keep to our ideals. Another reason is the logistics of a specific campaign. Do we have the resources to affect this campaign? Is our cross-endorsing of a progressive candidate really necessary? Does it mesh with our electoral strategy? Last year’s mayoral race is a good example. So was Paul Haney’s run for County Legislature. He didn’t need us to win and we didn’t have the resources to get all the signatures needed to get him on the Green line. (Remember, without ballot status it is considerably more difficult to get on the ballot)

But now comes an interesting scenario. Again, as of this moment, it’s hypothetical, but it is bound to become a reality at some point. A former Green who still believes in Green ideals, but changes his/her party to run as a Democrat may want to be cross-endorsed by us.

Generally there are three schools of thought here. One is that GPoMC should put any candidate who is progressive on our line. We understand the situation in the City of Rochester; only Democrats win and what’s important is that the people we want in office get in office. The opposite school of thought says that, going to one of the corporate-sponsored parties will corrupt whatever a candidate is trying to achieve; he/she will have to make so many compromises that the progressiveness of his/her make-up will be wasted away. The candidate would be more useful to progressive ideals by running solely as a Green, helping the party grow and furthering ideas.

Then you have the middle school of thought, where you go back up to our current rationale about cross-endorsing. Does the candidate need our help? If he/she is the anointed Democrat in the city, then probably not. So why should we use our resources to get involved? The argument is to be on a winning campaign. But by doing so doesn’t that give legitimacy to the thought that being Green is nice, but you have to be a Democrat to win in the city? That is the undisputed reality right now. Republicans who want to serve in the City go Dem just to win. But will it ever change if we give in to this reality? How long should we wait for success? What is our purpose for remaining a political party in Monroe County? There are more questions than answers right now.

There are a number of smart, committed progressives in Rochester who have been Green and gone to the Democrats. Their reasoning has been pretty similar – they feel they can have more of an effect on what happens in government (as candidates or activists) by being on the inside. Personally, I respect their decision, but I definitely don’t agree with it.

So what do you think? Should the Greens cross-endorse former Greens? What message does that send to current and prospective Greens? Should we all just forget about it and go out for a beer?


Anonymous said...

In my view, cross-endorsements should be used strategically to accomplish goals that otherwise could not be accomplished. Although winning MIGHT be a goal it wouldn't be my top goal. My top goal woould be coalition building. By working with others in common cause we lay the founation for future relationship. Since 2000 we have been fighting a losing battle. When a Green leaves the party it's not because they stop caring about our issues. We may not agree on a lable but we do agree on the goals. There will come a time when the door will open for Greens again. It's at that point we will need open, friendly lines of communication. More later...

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

Just one slight correction to your comment on cross-endorsements. The Green Party actually officially endorsed me in my 1999 campaing for County Executive. I had the distinction of having offical endorsements from the Democratic Party, the Greens, the Independents, the Liberals, and the Working Families.

Warm Regards,

Bill Benet