We've got the first in an interesting series of Q&As for you today, beginning with Colorado Green Party Chair Dave Chandler.
On Thursday of this week, the outgoing Chair of the Colorado Libertarian Party, Norm Olsen, will join us; then next Tuesday, Pueblo Chieftain reporter (and Denver Bureau Chief) Charles Ashby will answer your questions about Western Slope and Southern Colorado Politics as he covers the closing days of the 2005 Legislative Session.
This week we're talking third party politics, and to kick things off, we've got Dave Chandler, the Chair of the Colorado Green Party. Mr. Chandler was the Green Party candidate for congress in CD-7 in 2002 and has previously run for the Arvada city council as well. Most recently, Mr. Chandler was a delegate to the 2004 Green Party National Convention in Milwaukee. He lives with his wife and two children in Arvada, where he operates a website called Earthside.
Mr. Chandler will be answering your questions throughout the day, so read through the first 11 questions and then ask your own in the COMMENTS section. We do ask that you follow a couple of quick rules:
1. Please be courteous. You may disagree with Mr. Chandler, but if you can't do so in a respectful way your comments will be removed. Mr. Chandler is gracious enough to take time out of his day to answer your questions, and the least we can all do is be respectful towards him.
2. If you want to discuss something Mr. Chandler has said but do not want to ask another question, please comment in the OPEN THREAD above. We'd like to keep the COMMENTS section in this post reserved for questions and answers to make it easier for everyone to track both.
And now, on with the show...
Dave Chandler, Chair, Colorado Green Party
1. The Colorado Green Party is relatively young – how did it come to exist? How many Colorado Green Party members are there currently?
I have been a member of the Green Party since January 2002, so I’m not completely knowledgeable about the beginnings of the organization in Colorado. But I do know that the Colorado party affiliated with the national Green Party in 1998. That was also the year when state Greens, working with the Colorado Coalition for Fair and Open Elections, were instrumental in getting the law changed giving improved ballot access for third parties. In 1998, Dean Myerson ran statewide for CU Regent and garnered 41, 000 votes.
In the presidential election year of 2000, the Green Party national convention was held in Denver where Ralph Nader was nominated for president. That November, 17.2% of San Miguel County voters chose Nader, the largest percentage for a county in the nation. In 2000, Art Goodtimes was reelected as a Green Party candidate for Miguel County Commissioner receiving 69% of the vote.
With Bush agitating for war, 2002 was a significant year for the Green Party in Colorado. Pro-peace Green candidates ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Congressional Districts One and Seven. Ken Seaman challenged Diana DeGette, and I vied for the new congressional seat eventually won by Bob Beauprez. That year we also ran Ron Forthofer for governor and Sunny Maynard for Attorney General.
Last year, our Green Party candidate for Jefferson County Commissioner, Tanya Ishikawa, received over 9000 votes. Bob Kinsey was also an important factor in his race against Marilyn Musgrave in the Fourth Congressional District.
I believe that there are about 5000 registered Green Party voters in Colorado today.
2. In a nutshell, what is the Green Party platform? What makes Greens different from far-left Democrats?
The Green Party’s principles are summed up succinctly in our Ten Key Values. They are:
1) Ecological Wisdom: We recognize that the Earth sustains all life. Green ecology understands the common roots of the abuse of nature and people.
2) Social Justice: Greens want to replace the system of poverty and injustice with a world free of oppression based on class, sex, race, age or sexual orientation.
3) Grassroots Democracy: The powerless suffer the most from environmental degradation. Greens believe in direct participation by all people in the decisions that affect their lives.
4) Nonviolence: Greens reject violence as a method for settling disputes: it is shortsighted, morally wrong, and self-defeating.
5) Community-based Economics: A healthy measure of self reliance strengthens democracy and prevents distant power brokers from dominating a community.
6) Decentralization: Power must be restored to local communities within an overall framework of grassroots democracy and socially just values where all participate in decisions.
7) Feminism: Green politics is inspired by feminist values. The ethics of cooperation must replace the values of domination and control over others.
8) Respect for Diversity: We honor the diversity of the Earth, and the cultural, sexual, and spiritual diversity of Earth's people.
9) Personal and Global Responsibility: Greens demonstrate a commitment to justice and global sustainability through political solidarity and personal lifestyles based on sufficiency and living lightly on the Earth.
10) Future Focus: Like the Iroquois, Greens seek a society where the interests of the seventh generation are considered equal to the interests of the present.
What makes the Green Party unique is our total commitment to campaign finance reform. We want to end the legalized bribery that really describes our current system. Our candidates do not take contributions from Political Action Committees and they limit the size of donations they will accept. When you vote for a Green, you vote for the genuine article -- a candidate devoted to principle, not influenced or bought-off by big money from special interests.
3. People probably assume that Boulder is one of the strongholds of the Green Party? Is that true? Where else is the Green Party particularly strong, both in Colorado and throughout the country?
Well, you know what they say about assuming. While there are many dedicated Greens in Boulder, right now the most active local chapters are in Denver and Jefferson County. For example, this past March, Denver and Jeffco Greens together sponsored a public forum on the problems with the CSAP tests. We’ll be sponsoring another forum in June to discuss Peak Oil.
Colorado Greens have ten active chapters throughout the state with Arapahoe Greens expected to become a new group soon.
I was a delegate to the Green Party National Convention in Milwaukee last year and it was clear to me that the party is vital and growing across the country. The latest information I have is that there are at least 221 Greens holding elective office in twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia.
4. What are the most common misperceptions about the Green Party?
The thing I hear most is that the Green Party is just another kind of environmentalist special interest group. But, of course, we are a complete political party with positions on all the important issues of our times.
The other most common misperception about the Green Party is that we are all just a bunch of raving socialists - that is just wrong. I would call your attention to these three Key Values: Grassroots Democracy; Decentralization; and Personal and Global Responsibility. Greens have a deep belief in individual freedom and liberty. Now we do think that people should have the power in a democratic republic to make decisions together to help one another when individuals cannot help themselves. That is why we favor a national health plan that is paid for by a national insurance pool, but delivers care through private providers. Likewise, we also believe that the federal government should keeps its nose out of our private lives, so we oppose the intrusive Big Brother aspects of the Patriot Act, and we support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body.
Interestingly, I often hear the radical Republicans point to Greens and try to paint us as proponents of big government programs and spending. Yet Greens believe in economic responsibility. Our 2004 national platform stated that “We must continue to move toward reduction of the national debt and compensate for the neglect that the deficits caused.” By contrast, Bush and the spendthrift and reckless Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate have given us the largest federal deficits in the history of the nation. The greater misconception that we want the public to understand is a Congressman like Bob Beauprez -- who talks like a a fiscal “conservative” when he’s back in his district, but who just voted for a budget resolution that will increase the federal debt from $8 TRILLION this year to over $11 TRILLION in 2010!
5. Is Ralph Nader’s “legacy” a hindrance to the Colorado Greens, or does it help in giving people a name and a face to help identify the party with?
Every Green you ask will give you a different political analysis of what Nader’s legacy is for our party. While I was not a Green in 2000 and didn’t support Nader in that election, I think he was instrumental in growing the party and helping to define the very principled positions Greens continue to take on the issues of the day.
Greens still occasionally hear the charge that the Nader vote cost Vice President Gore the election in 2000. My response is that we need to keep our focus on what is really important to the legitimate functioning of the republic. Voting for the candidate you wanted, be it Nader, Bush or Gore, was the right of every citizen in our democracy. Therefore, let’s never forget that the last independent news media tabulation of the Florida vote showed that Gore won that state. We must also never forget that an activist, partisan U.S. Supreme Court stopped the recount and disregarded Article 2, Section 1, and the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, thereby sanctioning Bush’s ascension into office. That extra-constitutional action was unconscionable and haunts the legitimacy of the Bush hold on the presidency to this very day.
6. If Nader had been able to reach the threshold in 2000 that would have given the party federal matching funds, how might that have changed the future of the party?
That’s a pretty big hypothetical to contend with ... and extrapolate into a just past future. (Did you get whatever that means?)
Well, I’ll hypothesize that our 2004 presidential candidate, David Cobb, still would have received our party’s nomination last year. Since Cobb ran a “safe states” campaign, that is he did not actively compete in swing states where Bush could have been defeated, federal matching funds through the Cobb candidacy would have assisted the Green Party is growing and building our organization nationally. Undoubtedly that would have helped the party be better prepared for the 2006 elections.
7. Why is it so difficult for a Green candidate to get elected to an office as high as the state legislature? Realistically, how soon do you think it will be before we see a Green member of the state legislature?
I’m hoping that we will elect our first member to the state legislature next year. Bruce Meyer is contemplating a run for the state house in district four.
Of course, we have to understand that a Green Party with ballot access in Colorado is only a bit over six years old. We’ve experienced our share of growing pains just like any new organization. The other thing is that we’re up against some pretty entrenched opposition. The Democrats and Republicans have had a presence in this state since territorial days. We’re also presenting some new ideas and ways of doing politics and government that are different than the tired, old ways of the big party politicos - it will take some time for our message and our principles to be communicated to the electorate at large. And the other difficulty we face in elections right now is answered in the next question.
8. What are the most difficult hurdles for Green candidates to overcome?
Our dedication to honesty and representing the will of the people is ironically also the biggest hurdle for our candidates to overcome in the course of a campaign. The Republicans and Democrats have become parties that are totally captive to big monied special interests, they’ll always listen first to the folks who brought them to the political dance. In other words, the big parties are raising and spending money like mad to get and stay in office. Green candidates are firmly committed to campaign finance reform, to the idea of returning government back to the control of the people.
GREENS WALK THE WALK. Our candidates will not take contributions, for example, from the real estate developers PACs or from the Sierra Club’s PAC -- that alone makes us unique and special. Consequently, since we rely on individuals to make small contributions to fund our campaigns, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to raising the necessary amounts of cash that now indisputably dominates American politics. But we believe that over time, citizens will find out about the principles of the Green Party and about our honesty, and we will be rewarded with the trust of the people to reform our political system and restore to all the American people, the founding dreams of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
9. Who is the most successful Green in Colorado history? Who are your star candidates/elected officials today?
Art Goodtimes is currently our highest elected official in Colorado. He was just reelected in 2004 as a County Commissioner in San Miguel County. Additionally, we have the following Greens who are elected members in these local offices: Jeffrey Bergeron, Breckenridge Town Council; Scott Chaplin, Board of Trustees, Carbondale; Jon Fox-Rubin, Town Council, Basalt; Robert Kelly-Goss, Town Council, Minturn (Eagle County); Wendy Mimiaga, Town Board, Dolores (Cortez); Hillary White, Town Council, Telluride (San Miguel County); Richard Hamilton, Park and Recreation District, Title 32 - Special District, South Park; and Dave Long, City Council, Cortez.
The campaigning for the 2006 elections has started early this cycle, as evidenced by the popularity of and the news on the Colorado Pols web site. Greens are also getting ready for campaigns next year. Bruce Meyer is a potential candidate for Colorado state house in district four (northwest Denver). The chair of the Denver Greens, Rick Van Wie, is exploring a run for Congress challenging Diana DeGette; and I am thinking about running again for Congress in the 7th District.
10. How do you convince people to vote Green when there is a perception that has been created by both Democrats and Republicans that a third-party vote is a wasted vote? In a particularly tight election, where third-party votes might make a real difference, how can you counteract that sentiment?
Americans should always vote according to their own conscience and convictions. I think that more and more there is just too much politics in our politics. I know Republicans who hate the gigantic deficits Bush has run-up, but they voted for him because they wanted their side to win. I know Democrats who have a deep abiding belief in peace, but they voted for candidates who supported the Iraq war resolution because they wanted their side to win. I’ve been involved with politics for a long time, I understand why folks often times decide to vote strategically, and occasionally that is the best thing to do. But it seems to me that in recent years party loyalty is playing too large a role in people’s decisions. We hear it all the time from the pundits in Washington and New York, about how critical it is for the party leaders to appeal to and strengthen “their base.” As a result, the country is becoming more partisan, more divided, and more intolerant of differing viewpoints.
So, I just make a simple argument: You never waste a vote when you vote in what you believe in. If that means that once in awhile a third party candidate makes a difference in an election ... well, that is democracy in action, that is the will of the people. And one never knows when the third party of today will become the winning party in the next election -- just ask Abraham Lincoln about that!
11. Have you tried to recruit Democrat Gwyn Green to your side, or would that just be too confusing for everyone?
“Rep. Green (Green-Golden)” would be very colorful, wouldn’t it?
Do you have a question for Dave Chandler? Click on the COMMENTS link and ask away...