Turning the Grassroots Green

Mark Berlin

The Green Party is holding their national convention this weekend in Chicago. Former Georgia Congresswoman (and former Democrat) Cynthia McKinney is favored to beat out three other candidates to win the presidential nomination. Earlier this week she tapped community organizer and Hip-Hop activist Rosa Clemente to be her running mate. Despite the quixotic vibe running through the halls at the historic Palmer House Hotel, I don't think anyone has any illusions as to the Greens' presidential chances this November. The real action in the Greenosphere, however, is happening on the local level. "It's the grassroots where we make a difference," said Scott Summers, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois. The Green Party boasts 231 elected officials across the country, from mayors to school board representatives. I talked to a few of the Greens who are running on local tickets this year. There was a common theme of Greens stepping up to act where Democrats are falling short. Farheen Hakeem is a Green running for state representative in Minnesota. (Hakeem is also a Muslim woman who wears the hijab.) In 2005 she ran as a Green for mayor of Minneapolis and received 14% of the vote, coming in third out of twelve candidates. Then in 2006 Hakeem ran for a county commissioner seat. Even though she lost, Hakeem garnered 33% of the vote as a relative unknown in a race that pit her against a long-time Democratic machine candidate. That impressive showing caused the Minnesota Democratic Party to take notice. They came calling and tried to convince her to run for state representative as a Democrat. I asked her why she decided to snub the Dems and stay a Green. "Mostly it's their corporate agenda," she said, expressing frustration with what she sees as pressure from the Party to protect the wrong interests. Hakeem went on to recount an instance where the county board authorized a new sales tax to pay for a baseball stadium without the necessary referendum that the law requires. The Democrats on the board, she said, were forced by the Party establishment to approve the measure. Such episodes reinforce her belief that being a Green affords a level of independence that she would otherwise not have as a Democrat. "No matter how much [the Democrats] try to woo me, they're not gonna get me away from [the Greens]," she said. Hakeem says that she is now favored to win the state representative race. More coverage from the convention to come…

Please consider supporting our work.

I hope you found this article important. Before you leave, I want to ask you to consider supporting our work with a donation. In These Times needs readers like you to help sustain our mission. We don’t depend on—or want—corporate advertising or deep-pocketed billionaires to fund our journalism. We’re supported by you, the reader, so we can focus on covering the issues that matter most to the progressive movement without fear or compromise.

Our work isn’t hidden behind a paywall because of people like you who support our journalism. We want to keep it that way. If you value the work we do and the movements we cover, please consider donating to In These Times.

Mark Berlin is an editorial intern at In These Times.
Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.