Election cycle 2016 has kicked into high gear, and the unrelenting battle for political power between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party has taken center stage.
This political paradigm is not new.
In a 1956 piece titled, “Why I Won’t Vote,” published in The Nation, W.E.B. Du Bois issued a statement many considered radical for his time, one that appears to be radical to some even by today’s standards. He wrote, “I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party.”
It was a scathing indictment of the two-party system that still holds true today, with one caveat: There is a viable third-party option, the Green Party.
The Green Party first entered black America’s consciousness on a large scale with the 2008 candidacy of former Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, who together formed the first all-women-of-color presidential ticket in U.S. history.
Though McKinney and Clemente were not successful in their presidential bid, their diligence, as well as that of such hip-hop legends as Immortal Technique, has kept the Green Party on the nation’s radar, paving the way for Dr. Jill Stein—the party’s 2012 presidential nominee and current front-runner—and her 2012 running mate Cheri Honkala to reach black and Latino voters in a way that may have been impossible just eight years ago.
But eight years ago, there was then-Sen. Barack Obama reinvigorating America’s imagination and reintroducing cynical and apathetic voters to this nation’s possibilities. If the impossible could happen—the election of the first black president—what else might this nation be capable of achieving?
As it turns out, more of the same and, in many ways, worse—a corrupt, two-party system that gave Wall Street love taps on the wrist for the chaos it inflicted in the lives of everyday Americans; the continued privatization of education and expansion of the prison industrial complex; the erasure of black women from social-justice initiatives; wealth inequities that continue to widen along racial fault lines; heartwrenching child poverty; police brutality that continues to devastate communities of color; a war on drugs that continues to target low-income communities of color; and the catastrophic effects of environmental racism that have come to the fore everywhere from Flint, Mich., to Baltimore to Selma, Ala.
This is not to say that there has been no progress in recent years—including the Supreme Court’s legalization of marriage equality and now-President Obama’s executive decision to ban solitary confinement for minors. Still, some successes, such as the Affordable Care Act, which has made health care accessible for millions of Americans while leaving the most marginalized communities in Republican-led states without options, feel like settling.
Yet many voters dwell in the land of “lesser of two evils,” a place of fearful pragmatism and resignation, where borders and walls prevent them from reimagining what true democracy could and should be. This is by design, which is why, despite some valid critiques, Clemente continues to support the Green Party.
“The Green Party is definitely needed,” Clemente told me when I reached out to her. “It’s what an electoral, political party should represent, and its values—around issues of social justice, racial justice, women’s rights, education, the environment, as well [as] demilitarization here in the United States and abroad—is really key.
“But the national leadership doesn’t do a good job with connecting, particularly African-American and Latino young folks and working-class people,” she continued. “There’s a lot of liberal-type racism in the party, a lot of old white men and women who don’t want to step aside and let newer leadership emerge, whether it was me in 2008 or bringing on people like Kali Akuno or Jared Ball or Shamako Noble, who is running for the U.S. Senate out in California.”
Though Clemente believes that this stagnation is hindering the Green Party from reaching the 5 percent of the vote it needs to reach major-party status, she also still believes in the party’s future.
“I like a lot of what Jill represents. I voted for her in the last election, and I’m going to vote for whoever is the eventual Green Party nominee this year,” Clemente said. “Now is the time that the party needs to be making waves, when the establishment, from Republicans and the Democrats, is on trial.”