Let’s Go Green Party??

Interesting debate shaping up on DailyKos right now.

When faced with the dilemma of a Democratic Party imperfect from a progressive perspective, the reaction of most progressives seems to be to work within the Party to bring about needed change rather than to reach out to a third party. In recent years, improved organization among progressives has made this strategy effective in some cases. Strong primary campaigns have resulted in the nomination of outsider candidates superior to their institutional counterparts (Ned Lamont in ’06, Steve Beshear in ’07, Donna Edwards in ’08), and as a result, the Party is beginning to refocus itself on its progressive roots rather than the centrist “New Democrat” philosophy which led to Congressional losses throughout the ’90s and set the framework for the conservative domination of all three branches of government from 2000 to 2006.In addition, the 2000 presidential election showed very clearly the dangers of abandoning the Democrats in favor of idealogical purity. Would Ralph Nader have made a more progressive president than Al Gore? Hard to say. The point is that many people thought he would, and because of those people, we will never know about either of them (and yes, I do recognize that there were other factors in Gore’s defeat).

However, the ineffectiveness of the current Democratic-controlled Congress to put adequate pressure on George Bush to alter his neocon agenda shows that we still have a long way to go. And there are still those who claim that the incredible gains in progressive organization would be better put to use building a credible third party.

In almost every case, I tend to side with the Democratic side of the debate. There is such a strong electoral infrastructure and so many good people within the Democratic Party that it seems like an awful waste to concentrate our efforts on third-party candidates whose successes will be very few and far between. However, there is an interesting dynamic shaping up this year in the Arkansas Senate race, one that alters the given political conditions so greatly that I may find myself actively endorsing the Green Party candidate.

Mark Pryor is horrible by the standards of Democratic Senators. He has failed to side with progressives on FISA, on the Military Commissions Act, on Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, etc., and he is a proud self-described Blue Dog. However, he is also incredibly popular. His father was a Governor and US Senator, and his favorability ratings are consistently high. He is so popular, in fact, that he has not drawn any Republican to challenge him this year; he is basically being handed his reelection unopposed.

Well, not quite unopposed. Rebekah Kennedy is the Green Party nominee for the Senate seat, and she appears to be the only semi-serious challenging candidate in the race. I know basically nothing about Kennedy’s background or policy stances, but as a member of the Green Party, she likely has a significantly liberal platform. So what is a progressive Democrat to do? If there were a Republican in the race, there would obviously be no question, but because this is a two-way race with Pryor as the obviously more conservative candidate, the situation is more interesting. The natural argument would be that Pryor still represents a vote for Democratic control of the Senate; Kennedy, however, has already pledged to caucus with the Democrats.

I am genuinely torn in this situation. Pryor is definitely better than any Republican (he voted against the flag burning amendment and against the repeal of the estate tax), and Kennedy’s campaign seems to be rather clueless (check the initial post that sparked the debate) and has no real change of actually defeating Pryor. However, I still view Mark Pryor as a roadblock to the sort of progressive change this country needs.

So I’ll open up the floor to other opinions. What do you think? Is there a net gain or loss for the progressive movement by running against the Democratic Party in a situation like this? I’d still need to seriously research Kennedy before I would consider supporting her, but I’m beginning to think that I could be convinced.






One response to “Let’s Go Green Party??”

  1. I agree with this comment .

    Mark Pryor is a pretty bad Senator who votes the wrong way on really important issues.

    There is a better candidate challenging him from the left. There is no Republican challenger at all.

    Therefore, what we have is functionally similar to a primary in a deep blue state. In that case, of course I’d be open to voting for the Green party candidate. There’s no downside (unless that candidate would be worse than Pryor on some issues).

    Would I be willing to put my money where my mouth is? Not really. I’d rather donate to Mark Udall or Tom Allen or Al Franken, who are good Democrats trying to unseat Republicans.