The 1st Green Party Presidential Debate has come and gone. It did not get much media attention. The only major print media coverage was in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In some ways, this was a refreshing example of what Grassroots activism is all about. The committee that put this together was just a group of Greens who thought this needed to be done and so they did it. Some, but not all, had positions in the party. All were dedicated to making this as good as they could make it. Score on for the Grassroots.
Still, in my opinion, the debate brought to the forefront some of the real problems that we have as a party.
Candidate Status: All political parties have a problem when candidates pull out of the race late in the game. One might ask what will happen to the voters in Iowa who cast a ballot for Richardson, Dodd or Biden are going to do and how any delegates they might have acquired will be voting at the Democratic Nominating Convention.
The Green Party has the same situation with Elaine Brown who pulled out too late to have her name removed from the ballot. But, we confounded that problem by including the name of Ralph Nader on the ballot. There is no indication that Nader is going to run. While I understand his hesitancy to participate in the debate as if he were running, it does the party no good if this continues right down to our own convention. I can see nothing good coming out of a situation where, going into the convention, Nader has not yet declared. That will be a repeat of 2004 and a disaster for the party.
The Green Party has very few primaries. Only a few states (California, Arkansas, Illinois, DC and ???) We depend on the State Parties to deliver delegate votes that represent the real preferences of their members. I hope this happens. Because if it does not, then it leave the door open for a continuation of the intercine warfare that has gone on since Milwaukee.
Only Ralph Nader can control this. It is up to him what happens. But, I personally will not be voting for a candidate on the hope that they run.
Narrow Focus: While we are scrambling for candidates, the question on farm policy opened up a failure for all of them. I don't think that any Green Candidate has a grasp of the range of policy issues that they need in order to win votes all across this land. The solutions are clear. Most are in our platform and those that are not will be in the national platform by the time the convention comes around. It is just not very high on the priority list for anyone, but it had better be if we want to continue growing the party in Illinois, in Iowa, in Minnesota.
I would include in this list the fact that environmental questions: those dealing with global warming and energy, were not very prominent in the debate. The Peak Oil question was not well thought out and combining it with the one of "what would be your first act" allowed McKinney to dodge it entirely.
The only response to the Peak Oil question video at YouTube was decidedly negative. "Looks like nobody here is really prepared...".
If we are to make headway as a party, we need to allow for no excuses in terms of being prepared. We have to be ready every time we open the door, or open our mouths.
At least, you could tell that Jesse Johnson and Kent Mesplay had thought through the issues and had something worth saying.
Celebrity Factor: Greens continually criticize the Republicrats and Democans for choosing candidates who do not represent the people, who do not have the right position on issues. Yet, when we come down to choosing our candidates, we do the same thing. So far, I have seen no sign that Cynthia McKinney has any better grasp on the issues than most of the other candidates do. So, we have to ask on what basis do those who support her candidacy make that decision. The rationale that I hear generally comes down to her national name recognition and her ability to articulate a contrarian message, to "speak the truth to power" as it were. It sounds much like that rational given by Democrats for choosing Obama over Clinton. I guess that we are not so different.
Conclusion: Given the seriousness with which I take the issues around Climate Change and energy, given the fact that Nader has not yet announced if he is running and still does not mention ecology issues in his latest "critique" of the duopoly and their platforms, given that Cynthia McKinney seems to think that buying pollution credits is a Green thing to do, I found not reason to discontinue my support for Kent Mesplay. He is the only candidate who is clearly articulate on the one issue that means the most to me.