Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The 2014 US midterms: How did our Green counterparts do across the pond?

Readers, speaking on the 409th anniversary of Bonfire Night aka Guy Fawkes Night, I have been keeping an eye (somewhat) on the results of US midterm state and congressional elections.

There may not have been gunpowder, but there was certainly treason and plot-especially regarding the dirty campaigns (very common in US politics) many candidates pitched against each other.

Our Green US counterparts were sadly not able to field candidates in every senate, congressional and gubernatorial election this time, due to a very unfair feature of US politics known as the 'ballot access law'. Various types of this law exist in all 50 states of the USA, and these laws require potential candidates to acquire a substantial amount of signatures from electors within the remit of the election in question, which can be as high as 5% of the electorate in that context. This can be tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of signatures in each election, very difficult if you do not have the vast resources of Democratic or Republican candidates and are in a large, populous state (e.g. Texas). The other major issue is of course the lack of spending limits in any electoral campaign in the United States, because of a Supreme Court decision on the matter-these campaigns regularly cost upwards of tens of millions of US dollars.

The US Green Party did not win any of the elections they contested this year, unfortunately, or even beat any Republican or Democrat candidates, because of this grievous unfairness in US politics that makes British politics, with its antiquated FPTP system and right-wing dominated media, look fair.

Our transatlantic counterparts had some moments to shine, though, in a way, with Howie Hawkins receiving 5% of the votes for Governor of New York state-the best result they have ever polled in New York gubernatorial electoral history. Anita Rios over in Ohio's gubernatorial election also did well for the US Greens, with nearly 100,000 votes and 3.3% of the votes cast. Notable defeats in this year's gubernatorial elections include then-incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois, instrumental in helping rid Illinois of capital punishment, Wendy Davis in Texas, famous for her successful filibustering of an anti-abortion law the Texas legislature tried to push through last year, and Sam Parnell in Alaska, the only Republican incumbent governor to be defeated this year, if narrowly and by an independent.

In the congressional elections, Matt Funicello managed the best US Green Party performance by far, polling 11.3% of the votes in New York's 21st congressional district-the cosmopolitan nature of New York probably has a part to play in that result. Outside New York, the best Green results in the USA's midterm congressional elections were in Illinois' 12th district and Minnesota's 8th district, where Paula Bradshaw and Robert 'Skip' Sandman polled 5.7% and 4.3% of the votes in their respective district. As for the senate election, where the Republicans won 7 seats from the Democrats and crucially gained control of the US senate (they also gained control of the US congress, with a majority of 51 House of Representatives seats), the best the US Greens could manage in a senatorial election amidst all the enormous spending the Republicans and Democrats mustered was nearly 2%. Ironically, this was in Delaware's senatorial election-Delaware is politically the most conservative of the north-eastern US states, an area which is traditionally notable for its liberalism and progressivism (by US standards, anyway).

With both TTIP and TPP coming up, the outcome of last night's US elections is very worrying. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are committed to neoliberalism and continuing US imperialism in some form or another, as President Obama has proven in his tenure, but it is widely acknowledged that the Republicans are worse than the Democrats-many Republican candidates at present are so right-wing, so misogynistic, so nasty etc. even UKIP would be reluctant to accept British equivalents of them as candidates!

Even when the odds seem so heavily stacked against us, we Greens need to keep trying nonetheless to get our message across-wherever we are in the world.


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