The Green Party has been through a publicity nightmare. Were they ready for prime time?
The press has not been kind to the Green Party over the last few weeks. Not that that’s their job, of course, but the party of grassroots is looking ever more like the party of Republican collaboration. Even though the Democrats aren’t trying to get the Greens off the ballot any more, they’re still trying to find out who was behind the half million dollar petition drive—paid for by GOP-linked corporation Take Initiative America—that got the Greens on the ballot. While it’s good news for the third party, it’s not as though they’re rolling in good publicity.
But alas, no one has really talked much with the Green Party folk. Of course, things don’t look great. If taking help from the GOP didn’t get them enough bad press, the Greens are also represented by Republican lawyers, including David Rogers, who sued the state over affirmative action in the landmark Hopwood case and former Republican state Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith (though I’ll note these lawyers aren’t necessarily Rick Perry supporters.)
None of it is inherently damning—the Greens say these were the only lawyers willing to take their case, and Rogers is adamant that he just wants to see the party treated fairly. “Yes we’re conservative Republicans,” he says. But he notes he’s “not [a] Perry Republican.” But such nuances don’t seem to be getting through. Most news stories have focused on collaboration between the Greens and the GOP, but few have detailed the various hurdles that Greens faced in getting on the ballot. The party is losing (or maybe has already lost) the media war.
I mean, didn’t the Greens have a plan? Some sort of strategy? Something to stem the tide of bad press?
Evidently not. Meet kat swift, the capital-letter-challenged Green Party spokesperson. “I’m the only staff person, okay?” she told me yesterday. “Getting on the ballot–I worked personally on that 60 hours a week … I didn’t have time to come up with a media plan.”
Well the Greens have said all along that they didn’t realize Take Initiative America was incorporated. So maybe they just didn’t realize that they’d wind up in the limelight. Wrong again, swift says. “I expected that the Democrats would throw a fit,” she explained, “because they always do across the country.”
While the Greens haven’t made themselves into a particularly sympathetic David, they still had to face the Democratic Goliath. And from the sounds of it, they weren’t prepared or experienced enough to deal with an organized onslaught. “I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know what I could say,” swift told me. She says she got sick as the news began to break, and couldn’t respond. “I spent a week in bed with a fever!” she explained when I asked why the Greens seemed to have little initial response to the charges hurled at them.
It’s hard to believe these guys would have been able to get on the ballot without some help—and maybe that’s the larger point. If the Greens had pulled together a media strategy, they could have highlighted just how hard it is for third parties to get on the ballot. After all, they can’t just gather any signatures—the court only counts those folks who are registered voters but haven’t voted in a primary. It’s an expensive, labor-intensive process. Unless you have help.
That’s how swift justifies taking help from Republicans. “I don’t think it’s counter-productive for us to work with people on common ground issues,” she says. She believes the Republicans she worked with also wanted to give voters more choices, while the Democrats “use the legal system to keep parties off the ballot.”
Of course, the choice between purity and pragmatism is never easy, and obviously, the Greens simply could not play in the big leagues without some help.
“I don’t think that I had a good press plan at all,” she sighs. “I’ve had very little impact.”