Elaine Brown withdraws from Green Party presidential race

Elaine Brown

Former Black Panther Party leader and long-time activist Elaine Brown has resigned from the Green Party.

As of today, I am no longer a candidate for the Green Party nomination for president of the United States, and I hereby resign from all affiliation with the Green Party. I believe the leadership of the Green Party of the United States has been seized by neo-liberal men who entrench the Party in internecine antagonisms so as to compromise its stated principles and frustrate its electoral and other goals.

I completely understand. The unending, pointless, vicious infighting was a primary reason that I left the GP in 2004 after being Co-cordinator of the Green Party of Los Angeles County. Quite simply, it was impossible to get anything done.

I believe this small clique that has captured control of the Party has transformed it into a repository for erstwhile, disgruntled Democrats, who would violate the Party’s own vision and sabotage the good will and genuine commitment of the general membership.

Then there’s the long-time members who jealously guard their little fiefdoms.

This became clear to me almost from the moment I announced my candidacy in February of 2007. I intended using my campaign to bring large numbers of blacks and browns into the Party.

She was immediately sabotaged by rumors that she was a government agent and it became clear that some in the GP hierarchy did not want an influx of people of color.

What this effort revealed, though, was how the Green Party, while advocating “diversity,” remains dominated by whites. Indeed, the Party is able to count less blacks, browns and natives in its membership than our national population percentages and certainly less than the Democrats themselves.

True. Let me re-phrase that, embarrassingly true.

My sharp criticism of high-profile Party members’ support for the “three-strikes” crime laws, the sole basis for the inhumane mass incarceration of people in the United States, particularly blacks—the repeal of which the Party’s platform advocates—has been met with outright enmity.

They tried to block support for repealing Three Strikes? Wow, which of the Ten Key Values does that represent? Certainly not the one about Social Justice…

And, to divert attention from this and other critical issues, the leadership has employed chicanery in their promulgation of defamatory lies about me—which they finally extended to character assaults on my supporters and critics of their unscrupulousness.

If Cynthia McKinney gets the same treatment from the GP in her current run for the presidential nomination, then it will probably have succeeded in destroying itself.

It is my sincere belief that the Green Party as it now exists has no intention of using the ballot to actualize real social progress, and will aggressively repel attempts to do so.

Brown is not speaking about the rank and file of the Green Party, but of a dysfunctional, inept “leadership” that manages to get little done except for internal warfare.

To remain in the fray or in the Party, then, would require a betrayal of my lifelong and ongoing commitment to serving the interests of black and other oppressed people by advancing revolutionary change in America.


  1. So, when will we form the “Party of All Those Who Have Been Driven From the Green Party Because They Had Skills and Constituency” — which as far as I can tell would be considerably larger and far more effective?

  2. http://www.commonplans.blogspot.com; http://www.eisenhowerproject.org

    It is amply known that I have written similarly, and extensively, to Ms. Brown’s complaints, and that I, too, left the party for other activities (see websites above). That having been said, this is a press release. It announces one person’s perspective on a particular situation in which she was involved, and to a large degree (as she stated), genuinely victimized. But for purposes of discussion, and not to incite further racial acrimony, I’d like to make observations on a couple of the statements made by Ms. Brown. I make these comments based not upon speculation, but because I have followed her campaign, and Green reaction to it, since its inception.

    She’ll have to elaborate a bit on opposition she claims to have found to her anti-3-strikes agenda. I’ve seen none of that. It’s not impossible she met one or two jackasses, which happens quickly and often in GPUS, but I have never witnessed anything resembling enmity to anti-3-strikes activity. Elaboration is called for.

    That the Green Party in general, and GPUS officers in particular are overwhelmingly white is a fact. That it is so by design, or that it somehow contains institutional mechanisms that exclude Blacks and other minorities is preposterous. Hugh Esco, an NC delegate from Georgia (who is someone I do not support, for the record), is a white GPUS officer who has also been a long-standing employee and promoter of Cynthia McKinney. He announced her candidacy with a lengthy manifesto about the goal of the McKinney Campaign being to merge GPUS with Blacks, Browns, and immigration rights activists who are failed by the Democrats. He and Cynthia have met with no opposition — quite the contrary, McKinney’s candidacy is widely supported inside and outside the leadership. GPUS’ platform also includes dozens of social justice items from those groups that are far too radical to even be discussed, let alone endorsed, by mainstream parties, including but not limited to ending the drug war, amnesty for immigrants, ending discriminatory policing and sentencing practices, and reparations for slavery. GPUS has also created Black and Latino identity caucuses with tallied votes on the National Committee so as to increase the policy influence of those groups beyond their ordinary representation as equal Greens within their own states. It ran a Native American candidate for Vice President in 2000, and had a Native American on its 9-member Steering Committee from 2005 to 2007.

    One of the problems with Brown’s campaign vs. McKinney’s is that Brown has no environmental history or current agenda. She is exactly how she presents herself, which is as a social justice and anti-capitalist revolutionary overwhelmingly devoted to communities of color. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but none of those colors are green, small g or Capital G, as articulated by Ms. Brown. At least McKinney has the highest possible ranking from the League of Conservation Voters going for her. Ms. Brown has no activist experience, and no current agenda, that is in any way related to the Green Party’s core identity as a party.

    Another problem with Ms. Brown as a potential Green Party standard bearer is that there is nothing on record indicating she has renounced violence. Non-Violence is one of the Four Pillars, and as far as most Greens are concerned, if you don’t fully embrace Non-Violence as defined in the Key Values and platforms, you’re not going to be embraced by either the party regulars or the grassroots.

    It’s easy to create racial controversy when skin color masks the overall failure to be Green. Considering that poor communities and communities of color suffer overwhelmingly from the health and wealth reductions associated with the environmentally devastating practices that upper and middle-class NIMBY-ism dump exclusively upon them, there is no reason whatsoever that environmentalism need be dissed as “white,” “bourgeois,” “suburban,” or any of the other accusatory epithets that have been in play surrounding Ms. Brown’s campaign — nor is their any reason why insisting on an environmental focus defines the Green Party as anti-minority or insensitive to urban issues.

    In Ms. Brown’s defense, she was indeed smeared as an “infiltrator” from jump street, and suffered numerous other slings and arrows exactly along the lines she described. But there was no racial component to this, just the usual deficiencies of intelligence and character that infect the Green Party leadership and caused people like you and me to leave our positions long ago, and in which they are by no means special in Third Party activity. It is fortunate that Ms. Brown learned so quickly everything that it took us years to acknowledge (and who knows how much longer to overcome).

  3. Steve –

    Thank you for your detailed, valuable comments.

    The racial component may be that an influx on people of color into the GP would invariably lead to calls for new blood in the leadership, something the comatose old guard doesn’t want.

    It would also have a huge rejuvenating effect and maybe even transform the party.

    Maybe a McKinney campaign can do it. Let’s hope so.

  4. One of the stories behind Elaine Brown dropping her run for President as a Green Party candidate is that the National Green Elite is doing its best to pre-select Cynthia McKinney and not allow the grassroots greens to decide for themselves who they wish to be the Green Party Presidential Candidate. In California, at the Sept 7-9 Riverside Plenary there was an attempt to only have Cynthia McKinney appear on the February 5th Presidential Ballot, with the lesser known Presidential Candidates, and exclude both Elaine Brown and Ralph Nader from even being on the ballot. To the California Green Party’s credit, it put all serious candidates on the ballot with an 83% vote of the Plenary delegates. This caused Cynthia McKinney to withdraw from the Green Party Presidential race, to later re-enter, as I hope to see Elaine Brown do. Cutting and running is not the way to go. Sticking in with the Green Party and holding it true to the Ten Key Values is the best behavior. Yes, there are issues with the National Select that can afford the time and finances to be politically active and attend numerous meetings at great distances. But, the average green sunflower does not know about the internal problems and will do the right thing, given the opportunity, as just happened in Riverside.

    The same packing of the National Convention as happened in 2004 is being attempted in 2008 by giving too many delegates to “paper” state Green Parties, which are often Southern States, and not enough delegates to real State Green Parties, like California and New York, that have substantial activities, run lots of candidates and have state voter registration. The problem of how to give national delegates to states where there is not voter registration is being used to give too many delegates to these states. How do you determine the number delegates to give a non-registration state? When Steve Greenfield was moderator of the Green for Democracy and Independence list, he created viable models that measured Green Party activity by the number of candidates run for office, the votes that they received, the number of paid green party members, and similar measures that had a great deal of significance for ballot status green party states and non-ballot status green party states. These models should be the basis of allocating Green Party delegates to non-ballot status states for a proportional representative National Convention.

    On the Three Strikes issue, I can only speak for California, and know that in this state there are many Greens involved in FACTS and its currently circulating Amend Three Strikes initiative. Donna Warren, the Amend Three Strikes State Coordinator, is a woman of color that the California Green Party has run for Lt. Governor and Congress, as well as Los Angeles Community College Board. I myself have given two trainings on petitioning for FACTS chapters and participated in the campaign planning. There are no Greens that I am aware of that wish any Three Strike law to remain on the books. There may be Greens that are unable to drop everything in their lives and devote themselves utterly to campaigns against the Three Strikes laws. To interpret this normal devotion to personal responsibilities as being for Three Strikes laws to not being reasonable.

    On the working with people of color concern, yes the Green Party is mostly white, with white woman being a clear plurality, and this should change. But, political activity is a luxury only available to those that have meet their material needs. Thus the Green Party is reflective of America as it is now, not as the Green Party would like it to be. To fault the Green Party for the historic resource pattern and the natural consequences of such, is unfair. Does the Green Party need to do more outreach to black, brown, yellow and red communities, absolutely! Here is Los Angeles County, we tabled at the National Latino Congreso and have had several County Council meetings in South Central locations to do exactly this. Do we need to do more? Yes, and we will do so!

    In closing, the answer to the internal issues in the Green Party is to get in work with the grassroots to grow a new crop of greens. This means doing Tree Plantings and Community Gardens in inner city neighborhoods, creating cooperatives, building bicycles, bicycle amenities and other such proactive economic and social justice work, not just run candidates for office and expect everyone to salute the Green Flag, whether it waves for them or not.

  5. Will –

    Maybe the GP could also organize against environmental racism in the inner city, as this might be a more pressing issue. Too often the inner city gets used as a dumping ground for toxic materials or as a place to locate toxic industries. A few victories against such things and you would have helped build a community movement that would remember the help Greens gave them.

    And you can use the organizing to tell people about the party too. But the organization would have to be community-based and run to be effective.

  6. Will, Bob, and readers:

    Thanks, Will. But in order to understand how easy it is for the Green Convention to be rigged, people must understand that the problem with giving too many votes to the “paper states” (that is, states with no discernible Green membership or activity) is vastly compounded by these two facts:

    1) There is actually no requirement in GPUS that its member states, be they paper or real, use any standard method, or a choice from a set of methods, to survey its membership for purposes of naming a candidate at the convention.

    2) There is no requirement that any state delegation, even when they have attempted to use a survey technique, actually vote at the convention in proportion to the rates at which the surveys or primaries indicated for membership support for the various candidates.

    Without these most basic mechanisms, which would seem to fall naturally under the domain of the Pillar of Grassroots Democracy (or any democracy, for that matter, since “democracy” is defined as governance by the people), any Green “convention” is a faux convention before it convenes. It’s a gathering of overwhelmingly self-appointed leaders who have a) no requirement to have a membership; b) where they have a membership, no requirement to determine its wishes; and c) where they have determined its wishes, no requirement to follow them at the convention.

    Any readers of this blog should also understand that these failures cannot be changed. That is an absolute. In order to change them, a 2/3 vote by the National Committee is required. But that’s impossible, because the current NC voting strength of states for which these changes would significantly reduce delegation sizes and/or intrude upon their internal state operations (such as they are) considerably exceeds 1/3.

    I submit this explanation so as to dissuade anyone from joining, or remaining in, GPUS in the hopes of “saving” it. It has a mathematical firewall between its operational procedures and its would-be saviors. It’s incredibly important that progressives in search of a viable electoral alternative for American politics fully know and understand this, because starting a new party from scratch, as overwhelming and daunting an investment as that would require, is unquestionably a better approach than to struggle endlessly to reform that which is unreformable. It is a Sysiphian pursuit. Just as bad money drives out good, so does bad politics drive out good. One must never attempt to mix good politics with the Green Party. Too many good people have drowned in the effort, and those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Learn it, know it, live it: If you have the capacity to do good organizing work, leave the Green Party. If you are not yet in the Green Party, don’t join.

    For a reminder of what community organizing is all about, please visit my website at http://www.eisenhowerproject.org, and my blog at http://www.commonplans.blogspot.com. My email is commonplans@gmail.com.

    Steve Greenfield
    New Paltz, NY

Comments are closed.