The following is written as a personal history/testimonial and should not be construed as the views or opinions of any organization or persons besides myself.
In order to explain my journey through this history, I need to begin with a preliminary moment that made me open to the possibility of engagement with the Green Party.
I voted for Barack Obama twice and was initially enthusiastic about his election. As a college senior who had just come out of the closet, his lip service to the LBGT community on the campaign trail enchanted me. As someone who had been instinctively opposed to racism all my life (despite being raised in a libertarian-leaning Republican household), it was impossible for me to miss the symbolic nature of his candidacy and what it might mean for Black children and their self-esteem.
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But by 2011, the illusion was collapsing. I had been studying the history of Rhode Island’s role in the slave trade for a documentary film I produced and Occupy Providence was like a bolt of lightning that illumined a rather dull consciousness.
Things came to a head for me with the 2014 Israeli massacre in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, and the absolutely unpardonable excuses made for it by every Democrat, including Progressive sweethearts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I had been slightly impressed by the rhetoric of the nominal Socialist from Vermont during the Occupy moment but found his statements about Gaza disgusting. That rhetorical cesspool inoculated me against his later presidential campaign. In the meantime, I became a daily reader of sites like Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report while being skeptically intrigued by outlets like RT and PressTV. (In college I had been given a thorough dose of Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent documentary and so never was able to shake the suspicion that any state-sponsored media outlet was inherently beholden to its own biases, regardless of how antagonistic those biases might be towards the American government.)
So I was looking for an alternative to the Sanders campaign and was converted by the writings of the late Bruce Dixon, who was a hard advocate for the Jill Stein 2016 campaign. (Though in hindsight, I admit there was a kind of micro-cult of personality around Stein in the making there, fostered mostly by the liberal wing of the Green Party that had lots of rhetorical skill and no desire to build a movement after the election.)
I heartily disagreed with the Stein campaign’s decision to pursue recounts in swing states after the 2016 election for two reasons. First, it served as a tacit admission that the Greens were responsible for delivering the election to Trump rather than pointing out the much more blatantly obvious, that it had been Clinton’s race to lose and she did a stellar job of it! Second, it risked unleashing the Trump voter animus against Greens nationwide. Considering the amount of ammunition held by their side as opposed to the Green side, that was a pretty stupid risk.
The Green Party of Rhode Island has been an alcove of liberal Greens for thirty years. The major leadership never had a substantial organizational strategy or program. For instance, after 2016, they made no effort to strategically engage with and develop Rhode Island’s Stein voters into party members. (The personal nastiness and reflexive anticommunism among prominent leaders is particularly astonishing considering that I was still wearing diapers when the Berlin Wall was dismantled.) In my opinion, the GPRI had failed because they are instinctive liberals, meaning that they rely on a naive and utopian notion that the State will play a proactive role in their efforts to build an organization made up of Dissident Democrats that en masse defect to the duopoly in order to instantaneously build a new social democratic organization that “greens Keynes.”
From 2017 and 2020, it was a paper party that did nothing besides operate an email ListServ where correspondents would squawk and rant here or there but sans serious mobilization, political education, or organizing.
When Howie Hawkins announced his bid to run for president, it was utterly predictable that the GPRI would do whatever they could to stop his campaign. They have hated Hawkins and his politics like poison for thirty years. In 2003-2004, they had been major agents in the operations that stole the Green Party presidential nomination from Ralph Nader in order to run the “safe state” campaign of David Cobb, a move that squandered all the gains made by Nader’s 2000 campaign. (For further reference, I have archived PDFs by both Howie Hawkins and Greg Gerritt that offer dueling autopsies about the 2004 debacle. Hawkins anthologizes primary source documents from the entire period authored by both sides of the debate while Gerritt wrote a first-person narrative.)
In summer 2020, the GPRI issued a series of public statements refusing to support Hawkins and instead called for a Biden vote. It is undeniable that there are multiple reasons for this reflexive “Blue No Matter Who” position, some extremely emotional and controversial. However, there are several points to also consider:
- Liberal Greens do not have an organizational strategy. Instinctively they default to the state as the agency that will do the organizing for them;
- Liberal Greens are genuinely opposed to the prospect of being involved with a direct action organization that could be accused of anything that risks their comfort;
- Rhode Island has been loyal to the Democratic Party in presidential elections for over 30 years;
- Rhode Island’s two Electoral College votes would never be responsible for swinging a presidential election;
- If such an unimaginable episode somehow were to occur, the failures of the Democratic Party would be far more consequential than any success of the Greens, particularly given how the internal political economy of the state is so deeply entwined with the Democrats.
In response to the the GPRI refusal, there was uproar across the entire country. Local Hawkins-Walker supporters convened to get the Green presidential ticket onto the Rhode Island ballot. Notably, the GPRI refused to allow the Hawkins-Walker 2020 organization access to their existing PAC and organizational skeleton, an intransigent step that required hours of extra work and relegated the Greens to being a write-in candidate. The GPRI has offered multiple excuses to cover a simple fact, they hate Howie Hawkins, radical politics, and want to stymie any growth of the Green Party that would be outside their narrow vision of political organization.
After we filed a complaint with the national Accreditation Committee of the Green Party for multiple GPUS bylaw violations (read the text of the complaint here), the GPRI chose to resign their accreditation. Now the supporters of the Hawkins-Walker 2020 campaign are building a new dues-based organization, the Ocean State Green Party, predicated upon a firm eco-socialist, anti-imperialist, and intersectional politics. We intend to build locals in each municipality that members live in, creating an organization that is accountable and able to mobilize with sustained involvement in the state’s politics.
This is a long journey and we invite anyone seeking to build a viable opposition to the Democratic Party to join our efforts.
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