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Kat Swift on the evolution of the Texas Green Party

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

No confusion this year. No machinations.

Right. That lawsuit [the Texas Democratic Party sued to keep Greens off the ballot in 2010] and all that stuff is irrelevant. After 2010, it's completely irrelevant. And we will actually have ballot access in 2014, I almost guarantee you, because the Democrats did not run in two races where we have candidates.

Have you seen more Libertarian-leaning votes getting involved with the Greens?

It's weird because we get a lot of people who are like, “I'm going to stick with Ron Paul until he wins the nomination.” And it's like, “What planet are you smoking?” OK fine, he wants to legalize marijuana and end wars, but we actually get more people who are anti-capitalist and anti-Wall Street but are also socially conscious. I know some people who are more Libertarian leaning but I'm not seeing an influx. That may change after the Republican primary is finally over and all the Ron Paul people realize he's not going to be on the ballot.

This is the year of the Occupy movement. How has that affected the Green Party in Texas?

The Green Party has always been against corporate personhood. The Move to Amend movement was started by a co-founder and former presidential candidate of the Green Party. We've been on the Occupy train for longer than Occupy. We've been talking about this stuff forever. I put together an Occupy the Ballot proposal telling people, “Look. The corporate parties are not going to do anything you want them to. You're already out there and you know that, so why not run for office as a Green or Libertarian or some other party and get on the ballot and occupy it in the election cycle instead of just on the street in protest.” From my experience, you have to hit it from both angles. You can't just go street protest, you can't just go elections, you gotta do both, and more. I sent that out and we made a concerted effort here and in Houston where we have the most developed county parties. Our people went out said if you agree with the 10 key values and you're interested in electoral politics, come talk to us. A lot of Greens are still real hardcore street protestors. In San Antonio, we got a significant number of Occupiers who hadn't been involved in party politics at all to sign up and run for candidacies.

What is the role for the Green Party in a state that hasn't seen a Democrat in office since...

Since Ann Richards. I think it was Ann Richards.

What's the message of that? Does that mean that the Greens are even farther afield and more out of luck or that since the Democrats can't get traction it falls to a third party?

People who I know who are progressive Democrats have been trying for 30 years to reform the party and they have failed time and time again. If you look at who they elect in their primaries, they're not the progressives, they're the other ones. In other states progressive Democrats work with the Greens on common issues, but in Texas they don't get involved with the Greens unless it's something they want. We'll work with anybody. I mean we worked with the Constitution Party, the Reform Party, the Libertarians, on issues that are common: like ballot access and corporate personhood and what have you. The Green Party has been that way as long as its been around in Texas. The Democrats here are, because they've lost so many times and been so beaten down by their leadership, they're like battered-wife syndrome. It's very clear if you talk with them about it. I posted a cartoon on my Facebook page where it was like going through all the things that Obama's done that are atrociously worse than Bush and at the bottom it says the words “gay marriage” with a highlight on it and off to the side it says, “See. I told you he was a good guy.” It's like, “Oh, yeah. My husband beats me, but he's a really sweet guy.” It's the same sort of mentality.

Can you identify a key plank of the Green Party that if it were understood statewide would get your candidate into office? That people would say, “Yeah, I agree with that. I'm going to vote Green.”

Everything the Occupy movement is talking about? It's in there. If you want the Federal Reserve gone, if you want legalization of marijuana, single-payer health care, guaranteed income ... The platform is about ending classes and corporate control of society.

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