How the Green Party Works

History of the Green Party

HowStuffWorks 2008

Currently, there are two Green Parties in the United States. The more prominent and moderate of the two is the Green Party of the United States, which currently holds national committee status under the Federal Elections Commission. The other organization, The Greens/Green Party USA, is more of a political and environmental advocacy group, though a few state and federal candidates have run for office under its banner.

Both organizations, however, can trace their history back to the Green Committees of Correspondence and various state-level Green Parties before that.


The Green Committees of CorrespĀ­ondence

The first Green Parties in the U.S. sprang up at the state level in the early 1980s. They were inspired by the success of Green Parties in Europe and the South Pacific. In 1984, Green activists from across the country gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota to form the Green Committees of Correspondence. They named the group after a body organized by American colonists in 1764 to coordinate communication outside the colonies. The earliest version of the Greens' Ten Key Values emerged from the formation of the Green Committees of Correspondence.

In the years that followed, the state parties met with local success through a few grassroots tactics:

  1. Focusing on community-based activism and local issues
  2. Focusing power to spoil races by attracting votes away from conservative Democrats
  3. Pushing for election reform
  4. Distinguishing themselves from both Republican and Democratic candidates by stressing the Ten Key Values [source: Nation]

Two parties

The Green Party in the U.S. advocated not only reform but radical change in areas like national defense and environmental policy. They remained a loose federation of state groups funded by member dues and contributions from non-corporate supporters. But would the party be an activist organization or a political party? To clarify this, the Greens adopted the name the Greens/Green Party USA, with "the Greens" representing their status as a political movement and "Green Party USA" representing their status as a growing political party.

However, a 1996 split in the Greens saw the formation of the National Association of State Green Parties (NASGP). The new group focused on mainstream, conventional political goals and the Greens/Green Party USA pushed left-wing ideas. The NACSGP was formed as a federation of state green parties, meaning that its members were state-level green parties rather than individuals.

The NACSGP convinced attorney and political activist Ralph Nader to run as the party's presidential candidate that same year. American Indian environmentalist and feminist Winona LaDuke joined the ticket as Nader's running mate. Nader's campaign cost a mere $5,000 but managed to get the candidate on the ballots of 22 states. He placed 4th in the election with 0.8 percent of the vote, just behind Ross Perot, who ran on the Reform Party ticket.

But what happened in that famous contested 2000 presidential election? What have the Greens done since then? Find out on the next page.