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The Green Party blossomed as an outgrowth of the environmental and conservation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1970, Charles Reich published The Greening of America, a popular extended essay that effectively inserted environmentalism into politics. Reich, along with anarchist Murray Bookchin, helped inspire a worldwide environmental movement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, environmental activists, calling themselves Greens, began to work within the political system to advance environmental causes around the globe.
The Green party first achieved electoral success in Germany in the early 1980s. German Green party candidates were elected to public office on platforms that stressed four basic values: ecology, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence. In the mid-1990s, the Green party was established in over 50 countries, and Green party politicians held seats in approximately nine European parliaments.
In the United States, Greens originally were reluctant to move into electoral politics. Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, they teamed with military and Nuclear Power protesters to promote their agendas from outside the formal political system. In 1984, the Greens began to discuss the organization of a political party and, in 1985, the organization fielded its first candidates for elective office in North Carolina and Connecticut. The U.S. Greens became known as the Association of State Green Parties.
In 1996, in response to the need for a national Green presence, the organization's name changed to the Green party of the United States. The U.S. Green party also expanded the European platform to forge its own identity. According to its Website, the party offers a proactive approach to government based on ten key values: ecological wisdom; grassroots democracy; social justice and equal opportunity; nonviolence; decentralization; small-scale, community-based economics and economic justice; feminism and gender Equity; respect for diversity; personal and global responsibility; and future focus and sustainability. Each state and local chapter of the party adapts these goals to fit its needs.
The Green party of the United States also extended its reach in the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 1996, the party fielded candidates in 17 states and in the District of Columbia. It increased its national profile the same year by nominating Ralph Nader as its candidate for president. Nader accepted the nomination, but stipulated that he would not become a member of the Green party and that he did not feel obliged to follow faithfully its political platform. Nader ran a no-frills campaign, eschewing advertising and usually traveling alone to speak at various locales. He accepted no taxpayer money and spent approximately $5,000 on the campaign. With political activist Winona LaDuke as his running mate, Nader appeared on the ballot in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. The ticket also received write-in votes in all but five states. Nader and LaDuke lost to the Democratic incumbents, President bill clinton and Vice President al gore.
Nader and LaDuke ran again in the 2000 presidential election, again on the Green party platform. Nader raised more than $8 million for the campaign, about $30 million less than Reform Party candidate pat buchanan. Nader received the third highest number of votes with 2,882,955, representing 2.74 percent of the total vote. By comparison, Buchanan received a total of 448,895.
On the local level, the Green party has realized electoral success. For example, in 1996, Arcata, California, became the first town in the United States to be controlled by the Green party when Green party candidates won three of the five seats on the city council. And during the 2000 elections, the Green party entered 284 candidates in 35 states. Forty-eight of these candidates won their elections, mostly for local offices. The number grew to 552 candidates in 40 states by 2002. Seventy-four of these candidates successfully ran for office.
Burchell, John. 2002. The Evolution of Green Politics. London: Earthscan Publications.
Green Party of the United States. Available online at <www.greenpartyus.org> (accessed July 22, 2003).
Herrnson, Paul S., and John C. Green, eds. 1998. Multiparty Politics in America. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.