Cynthia McKinney speaks to supporters during an election night party in Decatur, Ga., after the polls closed in her run off with former Dekalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson for Georgia's Fourth Congressional Seat Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
by Rick Pearson
As Green Party members gather in Chicago to select a presidential nominee and try to turn their progressive activism into an established spot on the nation's ballots, they'll also be trying to raise some green to defray the costs of their political convention.
Party officials were forced to turn to some of their members last month for a no-interest loan of up to $15,000 to help pay expenses for the convention, which began Thursday and runs through Saturday, including an estimated $36,000 for food and $10,300 to hold the roll call to select a nominee at Chicago Symphony Center.
Profits from fundraising pitches, a passing of the hat, the sale of merchandise and a silent auction at the "Live Green, Vote Green" convention will be used to repay the loan, organizers said.
Scott McLarty, a Green Party spokesman, said the need to borrow money was a reflection "that we tend to exist on the state and local basis" and that the Greens are more decentralized than Democrats and Republicans.
"Because we are so locally grass-roots oriented, the emphasis in terms of money and structure tend to be at the lower levels. We're doing financially OK, but it's difficult," McLarty said, adding that the Greens refuse to accept corporate sponsorship money which will help fund the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Heading into the voting by Green Party delegates, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) is far and away the leader among four contenders for the party's presidential nomination, holding 304.5 delegates with 419 needed to win.
Top of the Ticket has more on Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party.
McKinney and other Green leaders have acknowledged that winning isn't necessarily about gaining the presidency this fall, but more a matter of getting enough popular votes for the party to achieve automatic ballot access in the states.
The Greens expect to appear on the ballot in 40 states, though they have have easier ballot access in at least 22 states, including Illinois, where voter disgruntlement over the state's 2006 choices for governor between Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka helped earn Green Party governor candidate Rich Whitney more than 360,000 votes, or 10.4 percent of the vote. The vote for Whitney made the Greens an established political party in the state.
Earlier this year in Washington, McKinney chided a reporter who called her bid for the White House a "long shot," saying, "We define for ourselves what winning is." She said achieving 5 percent of the vote, a threshold in many states for gaining status as an established political party, was a "very concrete goal" of her candidacy.
As a congresswoman, McKinney has had her share of controversies including a scuffle with Capitol Police. McKinney, who was first elected to Congress in 1992, lost a bid for re-election in 2002, won her seat back in 2004 and lost in the 2006 primary.
In her presidential campaign, she has pushed for a quick end to the Iraq War and has promoted impeachment proceedings against the Bush administration. She also has advocated a 10-point human rights plan that includes integrity in the nation's voting system, full employment and reparations to African Americans over slavery--which has been a plank in the Green Party platform.
But prospects for Green success on the left may be hampered by the candidacy of presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama and the Illinois Democrat's pledges for a new kind of government and politics that has injected energy into the presidential contest.
Dennis Goldford, a professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines, said third-party candidacies for president largely exert pressure on the Democratic and Republican parties rather than provide a realistic shot at winning the White House.
"Minor parties exist to some extent to make a point and where they succeed is when the major parties feel so threatened by the third parties that the major party takes over their issues," Goldford said. "Mostly they exist to make a point--to hold the two major parties' feet to the fire." While the term "green" may be in, as the nation looks at combating carbon emissions and rising energy prices, the Green Party has had its share of problems.
After Ralph Nader's 2000 run on the Green Party ballot gained nearly 2.9 million votes nationally, the party's fortunes fell dramatically four years later. In 2004, Nader ran as an independent and got more than 460,000 votes while the Green Party's presidential candidate, David Cobb, got about 120,000 votes.
While the convention site of Chicago was chosen, in part, to promote the Green Party becoming an established political party in Illinois, the Greens also have had problems in their attempts to field candidates this fall. Though they expect to field about 50 candidates to various offices across the state's ballot, the State Board of Elections last month sided with objections raised by the Democratic Party and kicked four Green congressional candidates off the November ballot. The four were chosen to fill vacancies following the state's Feb. 5 primary, but the board ruled the Greens failed to follow proper procedures to slate candidates.
Another Illinois Green congressional contender, 75-year-old Vic Roberts, a retired Downstate coal miner who had previously made repeated bids for office as a Democrat, died last weekend after marching in Taylorville's July 4th parade.