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Theater of the politically absurd

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The Democrats and Republicans don’t have a monopoly over who gets on the ballot, when there are also minor party and independent candidates for voters to choose from.

But for all intents and purposes, running for office on a minor party or as an independent is an exercise in futility. You can look forward to being ignored by the mainstream media, and unless you’re rich, you won’t have the money to wage a viable campaign. As such, you will usually wind up getting very few votes.

Despite the absurdity of this situation, four minor parties, the Green, Libertarian, U.S. Taxpayers and Natural Law parties, have qualified for the Michigan ballot. Unlike the major parties, minor parties don’t have primaries, nominating their candidates at conventions.

And so it was that last weekend, the Green Party of Michigan held its state convention in Detroit, which quickly became an exercise in theater of the absurd. The convention’s main business was nominating candidates for office, but first came approval of the party’s platform, for which 20 minutes was allotted.

Does anybody read party platforms besides the committees that write them? One would be hard-pressed to remember anything that was in the 2012 Democratic and Republican platforms. In that context, who cares about a minor party’s platform?

As drafted, the Green Party platform took consistently progressive positions on the issues, to the left of the Democrats. But Margaret Guttshall, who went on to be nominated for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, wanted to add an amendment calling for reparations for slavery for African-Americans, as well as for Native Americans and other oppressed groups, to be paid for by a special tax on billionaires.

It was quickly pointed out that the national Green Party platform already calls for reparations, but with no mention of a billionaire tax. In that context, some saw the proposed amendment as a waste of time, while others wanted to leave out the billionaire tax. And then the question was brought up of how to define an African-American and a billionaire. With the whole discussion getting out of hand, Michigan Green Party Chairperson Fred Vitale, Guttshall’s husband, called for tabling the platform until the next day, which was unanimously agreed to.

The Green Party went on to nominate 20 candidates, a majority of the people attending the convention. At the federal level, Chris Wahmhoff is the Senate candidate. There are seven candidates for Congress: 1st District, Ellis Boal; 3rd District, Tonya Duncan; 6th District, John Lawrence; 8th District, Jim Casha; 9th District, John McDermott; 10th District, Harley Mikkelsen; and 14th District, Stephen Boyle.

At the state level, the party nominated Paul Homeniuk for governor, Candace Caveny for lieutenant governor, John LaPietra for attorney general, Sherry Wells for State Board of Education, Ian Swanson for University of Michigan regent, Adam Adrianson and Terry Link for Michigan State University trustee, and Guttshall and Latham Redding for Wayne State University governor. There were no candidates for the Legislature.

There were three candidates for local offices: Wayne Vermilya for Presque Isle County 1st District commissioner, Tom Mair for Grand Traverse County 2nd District commissioner, and Eric Borregard for Washtenaw County Community College trustee, which is a nonpartisan office.

We can expect these candidates to become non-factors in their races, with the possible exception of very close elections where the Green candidate takes enough votes away from the Democrat to enable the Republican to be elected. The Green Party platform favors instant runoff voting to prevent such situations, but don’t hold your breath on that coming to pass any time soon.

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