August 9, 2016
HOUSTON, TEXAS, CASCADE PRESS (CP) Is a Green challenge to the red and blue teams possible in 2016? I am not Green. But last week I spent three days at The Green Party Convention in Houston, Texas. My presence prompted three people to ask me the following question. “Harold, why would you travel to Houston to cover The Green Party Convention,” Tracy Larkin, host of the Tan Town Coffee Club on the Tracy Larkin Broadcast Network (tlbnetwork.com) asked right off the bat, during our weekly telephone interview on Presidential Politics. For the past year, I have been offering my perspective of the 2016 presidential race to listeners of the Tan Town Coffee Club Show. In the past, I have provided my commentary from the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas, from the Golden Isles of Georgia on Saint Simon Island and while lost on a country road in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Last Saturday morning our interview took place via telephone, as usual, while I was in a theater at the Student Center South on the campus of the University of Houston. I was embedded in the media section of the Green Party’s Nominating Convention. As fate would have it, the convention took a recess in order to set up a Skype interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, just in time for me to receive my regular Saturday morning call from Tracy Larkin. This was not the first time I had been asked that question. The day before, I was walking through the student center enroute to a press conference with Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein. I was stopped by a sheepherder, Beryl Baker, from Tucson, Arizona. She took one look at the handwritten media pass that had been issued by the media credentialing committee and queried, “What’s with that media badge?” She has been a member of the party since 2000. She is running for the office of constable in Tucson. The look on her face doubted that I was a member of the media and had handwritten a media pass in order to spy on her party’s gathering. I assured her that I did not have time to play games and that I did not appreciate her challenge of my credentials, inasmuch, as her party had issued the handwritten press badge. The Green Party Press Pass was a far cry from the press credentials that allowed media access to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The 2012 DNC was a historic convention. It was the first time a major political party had nominated a Black man as it nominee for two consecutive election cycles. After we cleared the air, she wanted to know why was I there, because she said, media outlets rarely covered any of their other conventions. As only a sheepherder can do it, she got to the real nitty-gritty, she asked if I was there to write a mean-spirited story about the Greens. I told her what I would tell Tracy Larkin the next day. I told her that I came to answer two questions in my mind. First, I wanted to understand who are the people who make up the Green Party. Next, I wanted to get a feel and sense of whether the Green Party could take advantage of the growing discontent Americans have for both of the major parties nominees. In short, could the Green Party pull off a miraculous victory. Then a prolific blond video blogger from Vermont, Claudia Stauber, posited the same question and broadcast my answer to thousands of her followers on Facebook. As a result, I received a flood of new friend requests from her subscribers. So, in between, press conferences and workshops on “abolishing corporate constitutional rights, confronting oppressive behaviors on racism and sexism and why the Green Party must become a membership financed party,” I talked with as many delegates and attendees as I could. Racially, the Green Party is primarily white, working class and poor. Very few of them watch television and of those who do, none tune into Fox News. It has a strong contingent of indigenous people, and a small, but solid tribe of Africans. If I had to guess, I would surmise that fewer than 10 percent of its members make more than $50,000 annually; with a large percentage making an average of $35,000 per year. There is no scientific basis for this guesstimate. I based these numbers purely on what members told me about their lives and by use of my own internal radar. Many of those in attendance were like Tim Dehne, a party regular since President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law in 1994. He took a two-day ride on a Greyhound Bus from his home in Corvallis, Oregon. A two-time victor over cancer, Dehne, encountered many Americans on his bus trip, who are not registered voters and could care less about the presidential election taking place in November. Others drove from California, Washington State, Missouri, Vermont, Michigan, Georgia and Mississippi. They are serious about their issues, i. e., climate control, $15.00 an hour wage, universal health care, immigration reform and providing reparation to descendents of enslaved Africans. A refrain heard by several white speakers during the convention was that white people had to stop being white. David Cobb, the driving force behind the Move to Amend Movement said that white was a construct that has no place in today’s world. In fact he opined, that race was created to keep the natural allies – European immigrants and African immigrants – separated and at each other throats; and not at the throat of the captains of industry who profit from this division. Two black scholars, Asa Gordon, an expert on the electoral college from the District of Columbia and YahNe’ Ndgo, a nineteen year old freedom fighter from Philadelphia, challenged members to cleanse themselves of their racial biases. One white delegate from Mississippi walked out on Ndgo’s challenge for whites to purge themselves of their racism. The delegate later explained over a cool beverage, “I walked out on her because, I know I am a racist, but she does not have to tell me that I am one.” Which leads me to the second question I wanted to answer during my sojourn to the Green Party Convention. In order to have any chance of competing against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Green Party will have to expand its base. While they have much in common on the issues with progressive whites, Latinos, indigenous people and Blacks who supported Bernie Sanders, they are not, as is the case with most white Americans, familiar with the nuances of people of color. However, I saw a genuine and unique attempt to embrace the differences in people, in race relations, in sexual preferences and in perceived disabilities. It was refreshing to see white people check other whites on race and ethnicity. Stein has pledged to paint the White House Green, thus sticking a psychological dagger into the heart of racism and white supremacy with the stroke of a house painter’s brush. No longer will the assumption be that the White House belongs to a dominant white male mindset, but to people of all hues, sex and religious belief or nonbelief. While the Jill Stein-Ajamu Baraka ticket will get some Black votes, it is not likely they will pull many members of the Black Bourgeoisie into the Green fold. Members of the Black professional class would lose status and finance should the Green Party win and lift the Black poor out of poverty. Surely, had this class of Black people been interested in lifting up less fortunate Blacks, there would be some tangible manifestations of this desire, as there is enough representation from this Black class in congress to have made significant inroads by now. Black congress members perpetually fight the battle for voting rights, purely it seems, out of a desire to survive in office; without correspondingly pushing for a decent wage, or for instance, financial access to college. A case in point, many of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were founded to provide a pathway for Blacks to enter the American economy coming out of the era of enslavement are on the verge of closing their doors due to lack of funding and student financial aid from the federal government. If the Green Party is going to get a large percentage of Black votes, Baraka, a renowned international peace activist, will have to get the Pan African community to turn out in record numbers. This segment of the Black community, like the disinterested white poor that Dehne saw on his two-day bus ride down from Oregon, has never exerted its political muscle on election day; at least for the Blacks, not like their ancestors did in 1868 and for a few decades after the Reconstruction era. Many Pan Africanist have thrown up their hands at what they believe is a corrupt political system. This resulting hopelessness in the system, causes a sense of apathy about voting. Should the Pan African community show up around the issue of reparations; and Stein can mobilize recent college graduates with her plan to forgive student loan debt, the Greens could pull off a nonviolent revolution at the ballot box. We will watch and report. Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.