One of the most popular archetypes depicted in The Iliad is that of Cassandra, daughter of Priam, the King of Troy, who was gifted by Apollo with the ability to see the future clearly. She accepted his gift but rejected his advances, and so he added a little something to that gift: she could forecast the future accurately, but nobody would believe her. And that, my friends, seems to be the fate of the Green Party.
I said two weeks ago that I would be here tonight, “either crowing or eating crow,” and I’m sad to report that I have a well-baked crow on my plate tonight–and I’m a vegetarian! Yeow! Despite the best-financed and organized national Green Party campaign since Ralph Nader ran in 2000, Dr. Stein received only about 400,000 votes nationwide–by far the best Green Party showing since Nader’s 2.8 million total, but far short of our hopes and expectations. Her showing in Tennessee–6500 votes, about 0.26% of the total–was typical of her nationwide showing, which was about 0.3% of the national total. Well, at least we weren’t way behind the curve here. But there are other peculiarities about that total, which I’ll explain a little later.
Martin Pleasant’s Senate campaign was our other statewide race. We had hoped that the fact that the Democrat Party had renounced their elected candidate would result in a big bounce for Marty, but it was not to be. Either there are a lot of Tennesseans who think Bob Corker is way too tame, or there are a lot of people who just aren’t paying enough attention to know anything more about who they’re voting for than whether there’s a “D” or an “R” after the person’s name. “G”? Does not compute! Putative Democrat Mark Clayton pulled in 700,000 votes, a hundred thousand of them right here in Davidson County, where he nearly beat Bob Corker, while our man Martin Pleasant only got the attention of about 8,000 voters. Clayton actually won Shelby County. Maybe his strong anti-gay stance resonates with socially conservative African-Americans? According to the Washington Post, Clayton raised less than $300 for his campaign. A twentieth of a penny per vote. I’m jealous. Bob Tuke, the last “real” Democrat to run a serious Senate campaign in Tennessee, raised around a hundred thousand dollars and only got a few more votes than Clayton.
But hey, the Green Party seems to be everybody’s unwanted stepchild. The Tennessean left Martin Pleasant out of their voters’ guide. The Nashville Scene left him out, too, just as, nationally, Dr. Stein got nowhere near the level of attention the mainstream media paid to Ralph Nader. Can’t let that happen again!
Here in Tennessee, we did a little better on our local races. Bob Smith attracted nearly 3,000 votes in the First Congressional District, not enough to be the difference in our lawyer, Alan Woodruff’s, run against incumbent Phil Roe. Woodruff lost, 76-20. In District 2, Norris Dryer received about 6,000 votes as incumbent Republican John Duncan was re-elected with 74% of the votes. Here in Nashville, John Miglietta was the choice of about 5,000 voters, as Jim “Corporate” Cooper swept to another easy win. In District 6, Pat Riley received nearly 22,000 votes, about 9% of the total, as Republican Diane Black coasted to re-election. Howard Switzer, in District 7, came in third with 4600 votes.
The good news is, 40,000 people voted for Green Party candidates for U.S. House, and those forty thousand votes came from only five of the state’s nine Congressional districts. And yet, statewide, only 38,000 voted for Martin Pleasant, and only 6,000 voted for Jill Stein. Was there a disconnect in the minds of the voters? Did they somehow think that voting for Barack Obama in this red, red state, would make a difference? Or were the voting machines programmed to discount Martin and Jill’s votes? If everybody who voted for a Green Congressional candidate had voted for Martin Pleasant and Jill Stein, along with even a few voters in the four districts where we had no candidate, we would have gotten the 2.5% of the vote we needed to retain our ballot line in 2014. Unless the Tennessee legislature relaxes the rules, we’re SOL at this point. Did somebody monkey with the voting machines? Since there are no recountable ballots, we may never know, short of finding those 40,000 people and confirming that they did, in fact, vote for local Green candidates but not Jill Stein. That project is simply beyond our reach at this point. However, the statistical evidence is enough to raise eyebrows.
There were six states in which Greens ran U.S. House and Senate candidates. In about half, the Senate candidate received slightly fewer votes than the total number of House candidate votes, so there’s nothing statistically odd about Martin Pleasant’s vote total, just his falling slightly short of the number of votes necessary for the Greens to keep our ballot line. But in all, those other states, Jill Stein got more or less the same number of votes as the House and Senate candidates. Why was the recorded vote for her in Tennessee so very, very low? Were our state’s voting machines programmed to switch Stein votes, and possibly Martin Pleasant votes, to the Democrat column? There is simply no way to tell, unless somebody gets a guilty conscience.
But assuaging a guilty conscience by speaking the truth can have dangerous, even fatal, consequences. In the course of an investigation into vote rigging in Ohio in 2004, in which two minor functionaries probably took a fall–and a prison sentence–to protect their bosses, one of the key witnesses in the case died in the crash of his small airplane, after seeking federal protection because of threats on his life. Don’t mess with Karl Rove. Could messing with Tre Hargett and Marc Goins prove to be just as dangerous?
OK, back to the election. Further down the ticket, in races for the Tennessee House of Representatives, we did even better, percentagewise. Suzanne “Flower” Parker received nearly 4% of the vote in her district, 800 votes out of 20,000. Calvin Cassady got about 3500 votes for an 18% showing, while Bryan Moneyhun, who eschewed the internet for “campaigning in leather bars” and who promised to push off-track betting if elected, received 3500 votes, about 15% of the total. And Sue Shann, who did not campaign at all and even went so far as to tell an interviewer that her opponent was “one of the best Democrats in the state” and that she might very well vote for him, did the best of our whole field, getting 22% of the vote in her district, a total of over 4,000 voters. Gee…Bryan and Sue, the candidates whose campaign, or lack thereof, we were most concerned about, were the ones who did the best! Hey, we’re a bunch of amateurs!
But again, it’s worth noting that our Tennessee House candidates, in just 4 locales, received nearly twice the votes Jill Stein got from the whole state. What’s going on here? Is this baked crow on my plate really what I have coming, or was it foisted on me by computerized chicanery? We have no way of knowing.
But, whether our vote totals were “adjusted” or not, they were certainly low. I, and the rest of us in the Green Party, have been sounding a warning for years now, a warning which it seems very few people are willing to heed. A few years ago, I had a conversation with long-time national Green Party activist, who opined that we had until 2012 to make a significant difference in the American electorate, because after that, things would be too far down the tubes for conventional politics to matter. The 2012 elections have come and gone, and, from my “Deep Green Perspective,” most Americans are still living on automatic pilot and voting in their sleep. Maybe it’s time for me to quit exerting so much energy trying to rouse the unwilling millions, and put more attention into getting my own act together. Maybe I need to be more of an example and less of an exhorter. I’m definitely considering my options. I’ll look at the bright side of this election–and also the expensive side of it–after this musical break.
music break–Rolling Stones, “This Could Be The Last Time”