As I reported last month, the 6th Circuit Appeals Court heard the state of Tennessee’s appeal of our case at the end of July, and apparently largely agreed with us, telling the state to go ahead and put our candidates on the ballot while they wrote their final decision. They didn’t order the state to conduct a lottery to determine ballot placement, but shortly after the court hearing, the state primary gave, uh, “primary facie” evidence of why that might be a good idea, when the first candidate listed (alphabetically) on the Democrat primary ballot beat out the DP’s anointed candidate by a 2-1 margin and became their official candidate for U.S. Senate, in spite of being a gun-toting racist tea partier who thinks corporate Republican Bob Corker is way too tame.
Well, at least he’s got it right about Corker being a corporate whore–although, as a multi-millionaire, maybe Corker is more of a corporate whore-monger than an actual whore.
And it’s surprising that the Democrats were distracted enough not to notice that they had been infiltrated by a right-winger looking for a window from which to snipe at Corker. I guess the party is falling apart. When Green Party activist Chris Lugo started investigating the possibility of running as Democrat in the 2008 election, he was quickly sniffed out as Green and told to “go to hell.” Not that it made a lot of difference–the Dems’ sacrificial lamb that year lost to incumbent Republican Lamar Alexander by a 2-1 margin. This year, the winner of the Dems’ primary got 48,000 votes, compared to 390,000 for incumbent Bob Corker, and that tells you what you need to know right there–except that it opened up a hole big enough to drive a Green juggernaut through, with Green Party candidate, Martin Pleasant, suddenly and unexpectedly emerging as the only “progressive” candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate in Tennessee this fall. And who knows what surprises the campaign may yet hold? If Bob Corker is caught in bed with “a live boy or a dead girl,” or if Martin Pleasant actually gets sufficient media attention to make the Green message clear to enough people, he could actually win this election. Anything can happen–witness what just took place.
A more likely scenario for a Green victory in this Fall’s Senate election actually hinges on the absence of an election reform that Greens commonly advocate–instant runoff voting. Under current election laws, whoever gets the most votes wins, whether they have a majority or just a plurality. If the Tea Party guy siphons off enough of Corker’s far-right support, Martin Pleasant could, by his appeal to both progressives and genuine conservatives, i.e., people who understand that we only have one planet to live on and we’d better conserve it, end up with at least a plurality–say, 35% for Martin Pleasant, 34% for Corker, and 31% for tea party guy. It’s not our ideal scenario, but it’s possible–and this election season is certainly proving that the unexpected is within the range of the possible.
Similarly, the widely held perception that Tennessee will be won by the Republicans opens a great opportunity for progressive Democrats in the state who might vote for Obama, even though they find him wanting in many respects, to signal their discontent. Because the state’s electoral votes will be going to the Repubs, progressive Democrats can send a message by voting for Jill Stein, and it won’t cost Obama a a thing. And with Libertarian Gary Johnson playing on many young Republicans’ disenchantment with the GOP’s purchase by Romney, anything could happen. Anything.
OK, enough speculation. Back to the story of our August angst.
In spite of our apparent victory in the courts, the state elections office was petulant, and dragged its feet. Instead of putting our candidates on the same page with the rest of the candidates for office in the state, they put us on a “minor party candidates” page. Separate but equal is not, as the Supreme Court famously ruled, equal. They did not put Jill Stein, the Green Party’s Presidential candidate, on that page, and cited an opinion from by the Tennessee Attorney General, who, by the way, is a Democrat, claiming that the court’s ruling only applied to our in-state candidates, and saying that we would need to collect 43,000 signatures in two weeks to get Jill on the ballot as a Green, or 275 signaures as an independent. We huddled, discussed, consulted, and strategized, and ultimately decided to call their bluff and simply submit our list of electors, just like the Dems and Repubs, as if none of the smoke the state was blowing mattered. Nonetheless, we prepared for the distinct and well-precedented possibility that the Republicratic establishment would throw yet another roadblock in our way. We loaded our trusty lawyer up with a “Writ of Mandamus,” aimed at the Secretary of State’s office, slipped the safety catch off, and waited to see what would transpire on August 31, the date on which the state’s “official candidate list” would be announced.
To our great relief, we did not have to fire. Attorney General Cooper and Election Co-ordinator Goins had been bluffing, and they blinked. Presidential candidate Jill. Stein’s name was on the list, as a Green, and will be on the November ballot, as a Green, just like it was supposed to be. Sweet. Much thanks to our brilliant lawyer, Alan Woodruff, who is big-hearted enough to have done an able job defending our right to be on the ballot even though he’s running for office as a Democrat and we have a candidate in the same race he’s in, and to the Constitution Party‘s legal hotshot, Darrell Castle, who also reached beyond the bounds of partisanship to give us assistance, and thanks also to several legal minds in the Green Party who advised us through the anxious month of August.
This is not, however, a time to rest on our laurels. Tennessee is a mess, the Democrats are in disarray, and we are, after years stuck in a swamp of litigation, poised to become a serious voice, and force, in Tennessee politics. The state Republican Party is playing out its neuroses, with legislators jockeying for power, passing showy firearms legislation, and doing their best to shut off any conduits that direct what little tax money does get collected to those who actually need assistance. They not only “don’t give a rat’s ass” for the legislature’s Black Caucus, they don’t give a rat’s ass for the state’s African-American population, and everybody knows it. It doesn’t matter if they bounced the guy who said it off the committee he was on–anybody with half a brain knows he was just saying what all his partymates think. To give just one example, “not giving a rat’s ass” is why the state’s Republicans have shifted responsibility for many aspects of low-income citizens’ health care from Planned Parenthood to a Christian organization in Memphis, even though the new designated health provider is apparently ill-equipped to do the job and, apparently, many Memphians have gone without health care rather than receive it from the new provider–clinic visits fell from 7-800 per month under Planned Parenthood to about 50 for the new, “Christian” provider. Somehow, I don’t think Jesus would be favorably impressed.
That’s just one example. Another issue that Republicans are all too willing to endorse, and Democrats ill-equipped to oppose, is fracking, which may become widespread in the state, causing irreparable harm to the full spectrum of our environment–our air quality, the beauty of our rural areas, and the potability of our ground water. Because the Democrats subscribe to the same corporate, top-down model of society that the Republicans so ruthlessly embody and exploit, they do not have an alternative vision to offer, just a milder version of the same ecocidal, suicidal path the Republicans have embarked on.
The Green Party, by contrast, offers an empowering alternate vision of society–grassroots democracy, decentralization, community-based economies, social justice, and mindfulness of the effects of our actions on future generations, all rooted in ecological wisdom, respect for women and for minority opinions and cultures, and non-violence, as well as emphasis on both personal and global responsibility. This isn’t just “pie in the sky”–the Green vision has been wildly popular and successful everywhere it’s actually been given a chance. We can’t say “we have a detailed program for Tennessee,” because our program for Tennessee is to empower the people of this state to make the decisions that are best for them. It’s not a moment too soon, but this year, 2012, we find ourselves finally in a position to get our message out and heard. And if the Good Lord is willing and the voting machines don’t lie–and that’s a question in itself–we will see in November how many people are listening–and 2012 is only the beginning. The sky’s the limit.
music: The Pointer Sisters, “Yes We Can“