Citing the danger of Trump’s re-election, the Green Party of Rhode Island says it won’t put a Green candidate on the presidential ballot
In a state committee vote taken over the Memorial Day weekend, the Green Party of Rhode Island, one of the nation’s oldest Green parties, has broken ranks with the national party and decided not to nominate a candidate in this year’s presidential election. Instead, the local party will focus on local and state races, and a campaign to adopt ranked choice voting for state elections.
This will be the first time since 1996 that Rhode Island’s presidential ballot won’t include a Green Party candidate.
“Running a presidential campaign in Rhode Island, as we’ve learned in the past 24 years, takes a great deal of work that gains short-term visibility, but very little long-term progress,” declared Greg Gerritt, the party’s most visible spokesperson.
“This year the stakes—and risks—are greater than they’ve ever been for us. Beyond the health risks of gathering thousands of face-to-face signatures this summer, there are major political risks as well.”
The local party says a top priority for the Greens this year has to be defeating Donald Trump in his re-election bid
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“Trump threatens everything Greens stand for,” declared a party statement.
The statement pointed to immigrant children in cages, countless victims of escalating racist, anti-Muslim, anti-semitic, and anti-Asian attacks, tens of thousands who have needlessly died or lost their financial lives in the coronavirus pandemic, and millions who suffer in the ongoing turmoil of a world unmoored from international norms and human rights protection, as the kind of future the world can expect should Trump win re-election.
In addition, Greens said, Trump promises to continue the lawless rollback of 50 years’ environmental protections, and a catastrophic disdain for climate science which condemns countless species, including perhaps our own, to extinction.
Other likely outcomes of a Trump victory include unprecedented, shameless misogyny and homophobia from the Oval Office; unrestrained corruption in Washington; and the further capture of federal courts by nakedly reactionary forces, even as neo-confederates, white supremacists, and outright Nazis, are set loose on the people.
Party leaders say this was a difficult but necessary decision, intended to support allies in the frontline immigrant, people of color, Indigenous, environmental, feminist, and LGBTQI communities, who’ve said that anger towards Trump would overwhelm the Green candidate’s message
State committee members supporting the vote argued there is unlikely to be a ‘green wave’ this year, and a presidential campaign offers little benefit with much to lose. Others advocated a focus on local issues where the Green message is clearer and the likelihood of winning is greater.
On the other hand, committee members who voted against the suspension argued for again offering voters an alternative to the corporate parties, to speak out against the Democratic Party’s militarism, and stand up to Trump’s bullying tactics.
In the end, the vote to suspend presidential campaigning was approved nearly by a nearly 3 to 1 margin.
New direction, focus on state races and ranked choice voting
After suspending any role in the presidential race, the Greens voted to step up recruitment efforts for municipal, legislative, statewide, and congressional candidates, and to campaign for state adoption of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). The state of Maine has adopted RCV, allowing voters to rank-order candidates—this year including for United States Senate—to avoid the “spoiler” effect, where voting for the candidate you most prefer, can help elect the one you like the least.
When the Rhode Island party was more active in the past, running legislative, statewide, and municipal candidates, public support was significant. From the early 1990s until 2006, the party’s candidates for lieutenant governor won as many as 24,000 votes, while a Green candidate for state senate in 2006 earned 30% of the vote in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood.
In presidential elections, Green candidates have earned single-digit support.
In the 2016 election the Greens’ Jill Stein earned 6,220 votes, or 1.3% of the Rhode Island vote.
The state party’s best showing was in 2000, when Ralph Nader was the Green candidate and won 25,052 votes (6.12%). In the next two elections, Green candidates attracted somewhat less support: David Cobb in 2004 won 1,333 votes and Cynthia McKinney in 2008 picked up 797 votes. The party’s support rose in recent elections, when Jill Stein won 2,421 votes in 2012, and 6,220 in 2016.