The four-percent party?

posted by Kaihsu Tai on January 17th, 2008

Green Party flag The Green Party of England and Wales gets about 4.0 % of the vote on Facebook’s ‘standing poll’. Adding the sister parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland does not improve the situation too much.

In the last general election (2005), the Greens got 1.0 % of the vote. One could argue that this should land it 6 members in a 646-seat House of Commons were proportional representation in place, until one notices the usual 5 % threshold as applies in Germany, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Taiwan.

One could further argue that proportional representation will change voter behaviour by defeating the ‘wasted vote’ argument, but I am not sure how far that would carry. By the way, Green Party Taiwan got 0.6 % for party-list ballots in last weekend’s legislative election. And I am glad Clara Rojas is now free; I hope Íngrid Betancourt will soon follow.

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  1. On April 1, 2008 at 18:46 Kaihsu Tai said:

    Alas, the New Zealand Herald reported last weekend that the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand received 3.9 % in a recent survey.

  2. On April 25, 2008 at 06:35 Kaihsu Tai said:

    Cynthia McKinney, in an interview with Wikinews, mentioned that she would like to get 5 % of the presidential vote, to build the United States Green Party as a viable third-party force. McKinney’s candidacy is underwritten by Derek Wall, one of the two Principal Speakers of the Green Party of England and Wales.

  3. On April 28, 2008 at 20:06 Adam Villani said:

    So, she’d like to ensure the election of John McCain, then? Did we learn nothing from the election of 2000 and the 8 years of George W. Bush since then? I’d respect the Green Party a lot more if they abandoned their Quixotic and destructive attempts at big-league politics and stuck to races where they had hopes of making a positive difference. If that works, build on it. Work on instant-runoff voting at the local level, and then state-by-state. Until they do that, they’re doing nothing but siphoning off votes from Democrats.

  4. On April 29, 2008 at 10:58 Kaihsu Tai said:

    The Greens should continue their strategy of ‘siphoning off’ votes, until the incumbent Democrats at various levels are threatened enough to introduce instant-runoff voting where possible. Then we can proceed to a new strategy of ‘Green first, Democrat second’, as is now endorsed by the Observer in the London mayoral election (in that particular case, ‘Labour second’).

  5. On April 29, 2008 at 14:11 Adam Villani said:

    I’m sorry, but that’s a lousy strategy. Voting in the U.S. is controlled by states and counties. Any voting structure reform would have to take place at that level. In the meantime, a 5% share of the votes is easily within the margin of victory for many Presidential, Senatorial, and Gubernatorial races.

    If the Greens were to reach that level of success, it would be at the price of a Republican White House, a 2/3 Republican Congress, and Republicans in control of most state houses. And of course in doing so, there would be real harm done both to the environment and elsewhere.

    And what would they gain? Even if the left side of the American political spectrum could stop fighting, they’d face the task, then, of getting 50 different state legislatures — most of which would now have significant GOP majorities — to approve instant runoff voting. Remember, this is under the Green Party’s best case scenario under their current strategy.

    It’s unlikely to ever reach that point, though; the Greens in the U.S.A. peaked with the 2000 election, and the result of what’s crippled them in its wake. So what’s more likely? More of the same. That is, continued siphoning of small numbers of Democratic votes by and to ideologues. Never enough votes siphoned to actually gain power or achieve their objectives, but occasionally enough to throw the election the other way.

    Remember, in Florida that year, Bush’s margin of 537 counted votes gained him 25 electoral votes and the Presidency. Although that margin was less than the votes of at least 5 minor political parties, and the narrow margin of victory brought to light numerous other problems with the balloting, the primary offender was Ralph Nader and the Green Party, who were certified with 97,421 votes, 1.6% of the total, and more than 5 times the total of the 4th-place candidate, Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party.

    While Florida got the publicity, it was hardly alone. Nader’s votes were well over Bush’s margins of victory in New Mexico and New Hampshire, too. All told, there were six states George W. Bush won in 2000 with margins of less than 5%. In 2004, there were five.

    And who was the big, bad corporate Democrat that Ralph Nader successfully prevented from entering the White House? None other than AL GORE, who later won a Nobel Prize for his work on behalf of the environment.

    The Green Party’s tectics have little chance of accomplishing anything good and in the meantime, they’ve caused real harm to the environment and the rest of the world. This infighting on the left — fed by outsized egos and a didacting world view that recognizes nothing of value if it’s not ideologically “pure,” reminds me of the destructive campaign tactics of Hillary Clinton right now, joining forces with the Republicans to attack Barack Obama while John McCain gets a free pass.

    There’s a reason why Ralph Nader, a man who’s done more for American consumer rights than anyone else, is today treated as a pariah. He got a warmongering, Constitution-shredding oil man elected to the Presidency. Shame on the U.S. Green Party for continuing to support this doomed strategy.

  6. On April 29, 2008 at 16:03 Kaihsu Tai said:

    I think we agree with each other, Adam. “Voting in the U.S. is controlled by states and counties. Any voting structure reform would have to take place at that level.” Yes, that is exactly what I said in “The Greens should continue their strategy of ‘siphoning off’ votes, until the incumbent Democrats at various levels are threatened enough to introduce instant-runoff voting where possible.” The Greens cannot just concede every race to the Democrats. If they do that, the Democrats are just going to sit around and introduce no reforms, and we would be worried about a 0 % party, rather than worrying about a 4 % party. There can be tactical concessions case-by-case, but I don’t think it is a lousy strategy overall. (I am too far away to determine which is the good tactical concession across the Atlantic; I will leave that to the U.S. Greens.)

  7. On April 29, 2008 at 20:21 Adam Villani said:

    They can make these efforts at the local level where they have a chance of succeeding, but forgo having a Presidential campaign. The state level, which is inbetween, is more of a judgement call. What is decidedly non-ideal is for the Green Party* to be big enough to siphon off votes, but too small to make any kind of effective contribution. Get instant runoff working at local levels – start with college towns and such, move to more progressive cities and counties, and then try to organize for a change at the state level. In California, for example, ranked-choice voting is used for local elections in San Francisco. Any campaign to expand this should build off of this. Running a gubernatorial candidate in the next election in California would be a fruitless gesture, but a Secretary of State (who runs the statewide elections) candidate would be worthwhile as a platform to get the word out.

    It’s also worth noting that local and county elections in California are officially non-partisan; mayoral elections, for example, could very well have two or more Democrats (or two or more Greens or Republicans or whatever) running against each other, but their party affiliations would not appear on the ballot. What this means is that Green Party members can make their case for election at the local level without tying themselves to or against any particular party.

    *Part of this discussion kind of presupposes that it would be a good thing for the Green Party to become more powerful. I like a lot of what they have to say, but I’m not 100% behind them; I’m not 100% behind *any* candidate or party. If Democrats are willing to take up good Green Party positions (some are, some aren’t), then I don’t see a particular need for the GP per se. I find myself personally very much in favor of ranked-choice voting but remain unconvinced on the value of proportional representation. I think the implementation of RCV is more important than the rise or fall of the Green Party**.

    **This is regardless of whether or not their views more closely resemble my own than the Democrats’ do. Part of politics is understanding what is possible and what can be feasibly implemented. If I really only wanted to vote for whoever had the views most closely resembling my own, I’d just write in my own name on every ballot, but that wouldn’t accomplish any good. Similarly, as long as there is no ranked-choice voting in place, I’m likely to vote for Democrats whose views I prefer to Republicans’.

  8. On November 8, 2008 at 15:16 Kaihsu Tai said:

    The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, after today’s general election, has become the third-largest party in Parliament with 8 Members (out of 122) and more than 6 % of the popular vote. (I might as well also mention that New Zealand First, the former foreign minister’s party, seems to have been completely wiped out.) Yay!

  9. On November 9, 2008 at 02:15 Adam Villani said:

    The Greens’ candidate for the President of the U.S. (Cynthia McKinney) got about a tenth of a percent of the popular vote this year, coming in sixth place. Ralph Nader ran yet again as an independent, got half of a percent of the vote, and after the election went on Fox News and called Barack Obama an Uncle Tom.

  10. On April 7, 2009 at 05:44 Kaihsu Tai said:

    Ralph Nader, in the question session after this talk on Corporate Power, Law Firms, and Law at the University of California, Davis, explained himself about his expectation of President Obama and the electoral system. He also mentioned the book Undoing the Bush/Cheney Legacy: A Tool Kit for Congress published by the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute.

  11. On April 11, 2009 at 15:43 Adam Villani said:

    Hm, I couldn’t hear the audio on that clip after the intro in the first few seconds. My computer is kind of quiet, and it makes it difficult to follow podcasts or video clips that are recorded at low volume.

  12. On April 11, 2009 at 15:55 Mike said:

    Here’s a YouTube link that may work better: