Illinois Greens: Browning and Growing

From the weekly Chicago Reader is article on one of the strategic broadening of the Green Party in Illinois. The Greens’ commitment to social justice, immigration rights, and community economic campaigns positions the party to serve as a vehicle for political participation by communities and constituencies underserved by the Illinois political establishment. The history of political corruption in that state disconnects the public from politics, but provides an opening for alternative politics.

The Illinois Green Party has been an estabished party, as defined by the state, since the excellent result of its 2006 candidate for governor, Rich Whitney.

By Kari Lydersen,
August 14, 2008

The most impressive thing about the Green Party’s national nominating convention, held at Symphony Center July 10-13, might’ve been how multiracial it was. In the crowd, black nationalists and young activists of all colors mingled with white hippies. Fiery former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who’s African-American, was named the Greens’ presidential candidate, and Rosa Clemente, a Latina hip-hop activist and journalist from New York, was slated for vice president.

But when keynote speaker Omar Lopez took the podium, it became clear that there’s more to the browning of the Green Party than just putting nonwhite candidates up for office. There’s a move, especially in Chicago, to incorporate immigration rights as a central issue for progressive Greens, whose focus on environmentalism has sometimes pitted them directly against immigrants. [Go to the rest of the article->]

The Greens in Illinois have been helped by the series of scandals that wracked the two major parties. Illinois deserved reputation for machine politics rests on hardball politics and recurrent scandals. In the run up to the 2006 election, the Daley machine was implicated in the Hired Truck Program scandal, Democratic Governor Ron Blagojevich may yet be indicted or impeached for a hiring scandal, and Republican former Governor George Ryan was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a political kick-back enterprise. Ryan is the third Illinois governor since Democrats Daniel Walker (1973-1977) and Otto Kerner, Jr. (1961-1968 ) to serve time in prison (though Walker’s embezzlement was committed after his term). It is commonly accepted that Illinois state government is “throughly corrupt.”

The Greens were able to make a breakthrough with Whitney, a good speaker, a public figure and an excellent candidate and obtain “established party” status. This puts the Illinois Greens on the same legal footing as the Democrats and Republicans, meaning easier ballot access, a state financed primary, free access to additional voter data, the ability to elect precinct committeemen, run a partial slate of candidates at any jurisdictional level, and slate candidates without petitioning.

Now the party is running the broadest campaign of any alternative party, running twenty-eight candidates for state and federal office.

There would have been thirty-two candidates, but Democrat ballot challenges succeeded in keeping four Green congressional candidates off the ballot: Iain Abernathy of Round Lake Beach (8th District), Dave Kalbfleisch of Arlington Heights (10th District), Rob Hill of DeKalb (14th district) and Troy Dennis of Mount Zion (17th district).

Where the Greens are running community activists and respected local leaders like Omar Lopez, you can expect to see good results and maybe some wins in November. Both Lopez and the incumbent Democrat Gutierrez are have policies that would challenge the anti-immigrant orthodoxies of Southern politics. Gutierrez has co-sponsored the much maligned Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act, which would permit a route to citizenship for a new category of legal guest workers while toughening means of enforcement and penalties for illicit immigration.

Lopez is active in community health organizing and helped build the March 10 Movement, which sponsored large national rallies in recent years. Lopez is supporting the Green Party’s immigration plank, which “includes permanent border passes for Mexican and Canadian citizens, an end to immigration-related racial profiling and English-only laws, and immigration laws that ‘promote fairness, nondiscrimination and family reunification.'” (from the August 14, 2008 Chicago Reader article quoted above).

On the key area of immigration reform in the 4th District, voters have a choice between placing further controls on human traffic, or endorsing free passage for people along with capital across political borders. Gutierrez’s rear-guard reaction to corporate globalization, but that cow left the barn with NAFTA in 1994. Lopez, while deploring the exploitative effects of NAFTA, wants to put the rights of labor on the same footing as investment: free passage over borders and the right to organize.

The inherent corruption of Illinois politics and the exclusion of immigrants from the polity reduces participation:

But Lopez…sees it as a split between Latinos who have benefited or hope to benefit from the Latino arm of Daley’s Democratic machine and those who want to strike out on their own. At the nominating convention Lopez didn’t mince words in describing the former: “We are going to stumble on many Latinos who will reject the Green Party because they joined the Democratic Party in search of privileges, a job, to be elected to a political position, even to get some consulting and patronage contracts,” he said. These “mercenary political activists close the door for others who are sincerely wanting to participate in the electoral process.”

(from the August 14, 2008 Chicago Reader article quoted above).


2008 Illinois Green Party national level campaigns:


Kathy Cummings

3rd District Jerome Pohlen
4th District Omar N. López
5th District Alan Augustson
9th District Morris Shanfield
11th District Jason Wallace
12th District Rodger Jennings
13th District Steve Alesch
16th District Scott Summers
18th District Sheldon Schafer

Chicago politics:


Posted on August 20, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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