Where is Our Green Party?

There isn't an American alive who is not aware that this year's presidential election is historic. Not since 1928 has the United States faced the prospect of a presidential candidate field that hasn't included either an incumbent President or Vice-President. At age 72, John McCain is facing the prospect of being the oldest President ever elected. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could make history as either the first African-American or female President of the United States.

As I said, you are probably well aware of these facts. What hasn't been covered as extensively is the possibility of several third party candidates in this year's election. This year, third parties are looking to make a historical impact on the Presidential campaign. Once again, Ralph Nader is running for President. The media has long speculated that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may also be considering an independent run for President. Once John McCain secured the Republican nomination, there was talk that socially conservative Republicans may prepare a run to rally their Christian supporters. Now Bob Barr, the Georgia Congressman has announced he will run on the Libertarian ticket after years of criticizing the Bush Administration.

Of course, these third party campaigns exist on the fringes of the American political system. The appeal of a third party candidate has less to do with electability and more to do with moving marginal policy issues into the mainstream. Undoubtedly, if the Christian-Right chose to run a candidate in this election, John McCain would be forced to address socially conservative issues to avoid losing an important Republican block of voters. Nader's participation in this election is designed to encourage Democrats to embrace pro-consumer and anti-corporate platforms. A Bloomberg ticket would put pressure on candidates from both major political parties to move to the center and away from their more extremist bases.

In all of these conversations about the 2008 Presidential Election, and how history making it will be, isn't there a crucial voice that has been missing? What happened to our Green Party?

There is an unprecedented opportunity in this Presidential campaign to put the environment center stage. Our national security and foreign policy is tied intimately to our reliance on foreign oil. The powerful influence of the oil & gas industry has prevented us from moving toward clean, renewable energy sources that could provide a wealth of new jobs and lower energy costs. Dwindling supplies of water in the Southeastern and Western states are leading to civil war between these regions and their water-wealthy neighbors to the North. The spread of coal and "clean coal" power plants is having the dual effect of increasing global climate change and destroying mountain eco-systems. We are seeing global temperature increases that will undoubtedly lead to increased climate-related health problems. Climate change has affected wind and ocean currents so weather systems dump snow or rain on one region, while other regions face drought. The challenges faced by the U.S. due to our unhealthy environment are intertwined with almost every important policy issue in our country.

Knowing all this, shouldn't there be a candidate for President who can unveil a series of policy reforms that address our nation's environmental challenges in a thoughtful and innovative way?

Some may argue that a serious third party candidate from the Green Party is unnecessary because all of the Presidential candidates, even the third party ones, have embraced an environmentally friendly platform. However, a Green Party candidate can offer a highly customized approach focused exclusively on environmental policy that incorporates cutting-edge technological advances, experimental approaches and politically controversial ideas. This is the same type of benefit, in terms of policy, that a social conservative, pro-consumer, or small government candidate can offer. By bringing these new, innovative ideas into the public debate over environmental policy, it helps move them more rapidly from the fringes to the political mainstream.

Also, while it is true that the candidates for the Republican and Democratic party have addressed environmental concerns in their platforms, their talk doesn't match their past action.

John McCain is known as a maverick. At one point in time, he lived up to this reputation on environmental issues. He was the first among his peers to call committee hearings on global warming. He was the first to propose renewable energy mandates and cap-and-trade markets. But that McCain has been silenced in exchange for a business friendly presidential candidate who appeals to his party's base. Just last year, McCain's rating with the League of Conservation Voters was zero. He failed to vote on any of the legislation that organization considered important to the environment.

Barack Obama has been a friend of the nuclear, coal and ethanol industry throughout his political career. He has taken campaign donations from the same Illinois nuclear company his current Campaign Manager once advised. Obama also voted for Dick Cheney's 2005 Energy Bill that was written behind closed doors by oil and gas lobbyists. Neither Hillary Clinton nor John McCain voted for the law. Obama has also sponsored and co-sponsored legislation in the Senate that would expand coal mining and provide federal loans to construct more coal burning power plants.

Hillary Clinton's energy and environmental platform is detailed and well thought out. She has been a very active and vocal proponent for environmental protection in the Senate. But she isn't currently winning the Democratic primary and there are votes that undermine her credibility on the issue of energy reform, like her support for expanded oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Green Party is presented with a great opportunity to nominate a candidate who addresses our nation's problems from an environmental perspective and by a person who has a consistent record of supporting environmental reforms.

In the United States there is a national Green Party. Their candidates hold close to 300 offices across the nation. They also have several candidates running for office in the 2008 election. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that they are taking advantage of this rare opportunity to influence the national debate and improve their brand through the Presidential election.

The leading contender for the Green Party presidential nomination is former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. McKinney has a storied political career. She was elected in 1992 as a Congresswoman, only to be unseated in a 2002 Democratic primary by an inexperienced new-comer. On that election night, McKinney's father blamed Jewish people for her loss, while she suggested it was a GOP conspiracy that influenced the open primary. She has made claims that Judge Joe Brown told the Congressional Black Caucus that it wasn't the well known "murder rifle" that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2004, McKinney stated in an interview with Jet Magazine that while in the Congress a, "White, rich Democratic boys club wanted [her] to stay in the back of the bus." While participating in the "Citizens' Commission on 9-11" she made suggestions that the government was somehow involved or covering up aspects of the September 11th attack. Most recently, McKinney has been in the news for a physical confrontation with a Capital security guard after he asked her to show her name tag. She lost the 2006 Democratic primary for her Congressional seat and shortly after decided to run for the Green Party's Presidential primary.

Is this the best the Green Party can do?

The Green Party internationally has earned itself a strong reputation. There are members of the Green Party holding high offices in legislatures all over the world. Now is a great time for the United States Green Party to grab the mantle of environmental leadership and present a candidate who is relatable and shows a grasp on the issues that will capture the attention of the political main stream.

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