In this recent interview, journalist Chris Hedges (the interviewer) says that:

The Green party is largely dysfunctional. I've spent a lot of time with the Green Party and I won't support the Democrats, so I'd tend to vote for them, but it has internal dynamics which have really not allowed it to grow very much. They're kind of clubs of who-knows-who.

What are the problematic dynamics Hedges is refering to? Is it merely a tendency not to actively recruit, or something more concrete? Does it involve official policy? Allocation of funds/resources?

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    Well the context is not easy. The winner takes all is somewhat limiting for the growth of smaller parties in the US. The chance of those parties winning is so small that their ability to raise funding for campaigning is close to none. However notice that I'm not familiarized with the intricacies of the US political system and do not know what other aspects might be limiting specifically the Green Party. – armatita Aug 13 '18 at 11:45
  • @armatita: This is a question about internal dynamics of the party, not the US political system. – einpoklum Aug 13 '18 at 14:34
  • Hedges likely has insider knowledge of the workings of the Green Party which most people here lack. – user5904 Aug 14 '18 at 2:22
  • @MathematicsStudent1122: I assume he was refering to something that would be apparent to members. After all, if they don't know about it, they could grow the party further... – einpoklum Aug 14 '18 at 7:39

The underlying problem of the Green party is the same of all third parties in the US.

The 'first past the post' or winner-takes-all system means that voting for a candidate who you like, but is less likely to win, improves the chances of the candidate you like the least. Even if you are able to defeat the candidate who most closely agrees with you, you are now both losing to a consolidated opponent with diametrically opposed political views.

This makes it very difficult to grow at all. Even people who agree with the principles of your party wont support it because the system is not designed in a way that allows for them to vote for it without surrendering important political offices to a hostile party.

Instead, membership ends up being made up of those who are unwilling to compromise and hopefully influence the majority party closest to them ideologically. This also draws in people from the far extremes. Both the Greens and the Libertarians include disproportionate numbers of conspiracy theorists and wingnuts who their more serious members are likely ashamed of.

This inflexibility of ideology and unwillingness to compromise tends to become a problem within the party itself as well. Eventually leading to fractures and splits over minor ideological differences. For example, the "Green Party" under which Jill Stein ran in 2016 was G/GPUS. This is a different party from the one that Ralph Nader ran under in 1996 and 2000. That older party is G/GPUSA, and they are still around. They just dont run electoral candidates anymore because they think it risks compromising them ideologically.

This is G/GPUSA's explanation of the split:

At that time two strong orientations among US Greens had taken form:

One tendency was much like the fundis (fundamentalists) in the German Greens. They believed that elections were one of many forms of political activity, which included educational programs, demonstrations, street theater, civil disobedience and direct action campaigns around environmental, social, and economic justice issues. This tendency advocated a dues-based membership to fund grassroots organizing around issues. Having an independent dues-paying membership base was deemed essential to preventing Greens from compromising themselves to corporate funding.

The other tendency was much like the realos (pragmatists) in the German Greens. Its supporters believed that elections should be the single defining characteristic of a political party. This tendency opposed individual memberships and dues. It wanted a United States Green Party structured much the same as the two dominant US corporate parties.

Someone else may have more knowledge of the detailed disagreements between and within various Green Party organizations specifically. But I would argue that the core issue is that the current US electoral system ensures that third parties will act as self-selecting polls of people unwilling to compromise the purity of their individual ideals. And no two people have identical views on everything.


@armatita described the best reason in that most of the United States is a plurality First Past the Post voting system, meaning that the first person to receive a bulk of the vote is declared a winner (even if it's not 50%. It can be 40% assuming that the other candidates received 30% and 30%). Maine recently adopted an Instant Runoff Voting schedule that could be corrective of this problem.

Winner Takes all only applies in the Presidential races as all but two states (Maine and Nebraska) allocate all Electoral College votes to the winner of the race of that state (In Nebraska and Maine, each congressional district assigns its single vote to the winner of that district (3 votes out of 5 and 2 votes out of 4 respectively) with the remaining two votes in each state going to the person who takes the overall popular vote of the state.). While this is somewhat of a barrier, the real problem is first past the post.

The Instant Run Off election operates in that rather than choosing a single candidate to support, voters are asked to rate their candidate in order of preference to winning (assuming Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green, a 1 would be your preferred candidate, 4 would be least preferred. It could also be that if you are Never-X, than you need not assign a vote.). At ballot counting time, the candidates go through a series of elimination rounds. The person who was selected for the least amount of 1 votes is dropped and all of that candidates votes are reassigned to the second pick. In the next round, the weakest vote count of the remaining three candidates is dropped and their votes are reassigned to the next still remaining candidates.

There is one caveat to this in that, this happens until we eliminate down to two candidates OR a candidate who receives 51% or more of the total vote occurs prior to all elimination. This will benefit the smaller parties by allowing voters to feel safer voting for them rather than picking a terrible, but more viable candidate to block an even worse candidate.

Ideologically speaking, the Green party is somewhat of a single issue party, in that they really only are united in politics related to enviromentalism, and generally have similar views on it as the Democrats... as such, their stance on a variety of issues is not well know, or not unique when compared to the Democrats, or downright too extreme even for some likely mainstream support (I am aware of some socialism support within the party, which has historically been an election killer in the U.S.)

The same is somewhat true with the Libertarian party, which tends to pull a coalition of fiscal conservatives and social liberals into it's base, but again, these are issues that both the Republican party and Democrat Party do well in respectively as well, so hard core fiscal conservatives and hard core social liberals tend to break for the two mainstream party. The modern Libertarian Party mostly tends to be a "Diet Republican" party, which mostly means they don't campaign for Christian Right votes.

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    With due respect to your carefully written text - it is not an answer to my question, which regards dynamics within the green party. – einpoklum Aug 13 '18 at 14:32
  • @einpoklum: I appreciate that. I did make some mention of it being focused on green politics too much, as well as alluding to some issues with socialism, which until this year, was so relieved an ideology in the United States, it had little if any support by mainstream commentators. Recent presidential candidate Jill Stein had some comments that made her seem like she supported anti-vaxxers, which is even more concerning as she is a medical doctor. – hszmv Aug 13 '18 at 16:41

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