The current political climate focuses on the belief that there are only two options for U.S. President this fall, but the Mean Green Vote Green organization is working to inform student voters of their other options. The group is a local student organization aiming to bring awareness of Howie Hawkins and the Green Party platform to UNT's campus.
The first Presidential debate between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden brought the 2020 Election back to the forefront of everyone's minds. Despite Trump and Biden being the frontrunner for the electorate, there are two other candidates running: Hawkins and Libertarian Joe Jergensen.
Members of Mean Green Vote Green believe there is a massive lack of information in the general public for third-party options.
"[We're] an organization to give students another option not only in electoral politics but also to promote the Green Party platform in a way that exists outside of electoral politics, in things such as community involvement and issue-based education," said Caleb Naylor, the MGVG social media team member in charge of Twitter.
The history of the Green Party dates back to the initial 1984 convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, but was not officially founded and recognized by the Federal Elections Commission until the 2000s. This initial convention, known as the Committees of Correspondence (named eponymously after a convention from the American Revolutionary War), was formed to organize local Green groups, which included "activists from peace, ecology and justice groups, veterans of women's civil rights and community movements and farmers, community leaders, church activists and teachers." A 1996 ticket consisting of Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke was the first instance of the Green Party presenting a presidential nominee. Nader and LaDuke received 685,297 (0.7 percent of votes) in an election that also saw Ross Perot running a third-party platform against Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Robert Dole.
Percentages of electoral votes for Green Party presidential candidates has fluctuated since 1996 when Reform candidate Ross Perot received the largest total in recent electoral history.
Nader ran again in 2000 and received blame from some Democrats for "spoiling" the election of Democratic Party nominee Al Gore. Every presidential election since 1996 has included a Green Party ticket, with Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka most recently representing the Party in 2016 under the slogans of "#ItsInOurHands" and "People, Planet & Peace Over Profit." Stein received 1.07 percent of total votes cast.
Third parties have historically struggled in national elections, with Reformist Ross Perot gathering the largest amount of votes for a third-party candidate (8.4 percent) in recent years in 1996.
Naylor said MGVG's main goal is to bring awareness to voting options outside of Trump and Biden, primarily through their social media platforms. The organization aims to emphasize why voters should "Go Green" not just at the presidential level but also down-ballot and highlight what the Green Party is about.
"A lot of people, myself included before I researched them, thought, 'Oh ya know, that's the hippie party,'" Naylor said. "'It's just a bunch of washed-up Boomers from the '60s.' But, it's not the hippie party by any means. They have real solutions to modern problems. So that's kind of my job, to show that if you vote Green, you're doing it for an ideological reason, but also to break apart the two-party system."
The goal of the Green Party and the MGVG organization on campus is to get the Party
past the minimum voter threshold to receive federal funding -- which in most states
is 5 percent -- and appear in debates and nullify large filing fees in states such
"As we're seeing with this election, the Democrats especially have been trying to get the Greens off the ballot," MGVG Vice President Lianna Mendoza said. "They're worried about their voter base being taken away by the Green vote. But in the end, I don't think that's democracy if you're just kind of forcing someone into voting for you."
University campuses have been largely closed down due to COVID-19 related concerns, so normal initiatives like leafleting and voter registration booths have been abandoned by the MGVG organization. As a newly registered organization, the org's leadership is struggling to build meaningful connections with existing and potential new members.
"With not being able to meet on campus, you can't really promote a lot of stuff," Mendoza said. "I do feel like Zoom meetings are slightly easier to promote in that you just have a meeting time. It doesn't matter where you are, you can just have the link and join. But, there's also that disconnect, like Zoom meetings are kind of awkward."
UNT offers free COVID-19 testing for students living on campus and there are several private locations across Denton that offer rapid COVID-19 tests covered by most insurances. There are 22 confirmed cases and 0 coronavirus-related deaths between UNT students and faculty as of September 25, according to an official tracker on the UNT website.
The Green Party is running on a platform of eco-socialism, which combines environmental protection policies with democratic socialist ideologies to turn the United States towards a different future.
"They're running on a platform of eco-socialism," Naylor said. "Which is completely different from the two main parties, because even though the Democrats and Republicans offer slight ideological differences, they're both pro-capitalist, pro-corporation. The working class doesn't really have a party in this country and the Green Party tries to fill that void."
The Mean Green Vote Green organization joins the UNT Democrats, College Republicans and Young Conservatives of Texas as the major political student organizations on UNT's campus. Collin Renfro, the UNT Democrats social media chair, acknowledged the dissent within the Democratic Party concerning the moderate political views of Biden.
"I feel like a lot of our members are more left-leaning than [Biden] would be on the political spectrum," Renfro said. "Certainly a lot of our officers aren't necessarily happy with the DNC choosing Biden over other candidates. That's definitely a debate, where it's like, even if I don't like [Biden], is it better to vote for him because he's the Democratic candidate and is not Trump? Or is it better to vote for a third-party candidate just because I like their platform better?"
More information about the Green Party's involvement in the 2020 Presidential Election can be found at Hawkins' website, www.howiehawkins.us. The MGVG currently has Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts that offer more information about the organization and the Green Party.