One of the first things Minnesota Greens did when we formed our state Green Party in 1994 was participate in a series of meetings involving local chapters of alternative parties: the Green Party, New Party, Reform Party and Grassroots Party. The purpose of these discussions was to acquaint ourselves with each others' programs, organizations and strategies, and identify ways we might-or might not-support each other. Fusion continues to be a natural topic of discussion among what may appear to some to be an unnecessary factionalization of our local progressive political community. In January of 1996 the Minnesota chapter of the New Party challenged and won the right to run candidates on more than one party line, making fusion campaigns an option for 1996 elections. The constitutionality of multi-party nominations, or fusion, is being reviewed by the Supreme Court this session, and if passed, will allow fusion campaigns to be run nationwide. Gaining an advantage through combined electoral efforts may soon be a strategy that is available to all political parties.
. . .there was a significant increase in community and trust between Green Party and New Party members.
Fusion got off to a rocky start in Minnesota, however. The Minnesota state legislature was allowed to write its own bill providing for multi-party nominations; naturally when the elected Democrats and Republicans were left to their own devices, the resulting bill ended up actually making things tougher for developing parties. Qualifying for minor and major party status is now more difficult; there is no separate tally for individual parties listed on the ballot for a single candidate; and cross-nomination requires the approval of both the candidate and the state chairs of the participating parties. While this last makes sense as a way to protect a candidate from unwanted or damaging cross-nominations, it turned out to be the downfall of the New Party's first attempt at fusing with Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidates in Minnesota.
The New Party nominated five of the most progressive DFL incumbents running for state house of representatives, plus US Senator Paul Wellstone; then they went out and collected the signatures required to place these candidates on the ballot-over 20,000 signatures in two weeks. As Jim McGrath points out, these folks are phenomenal at getting things done. Some of the hardest working activists on the left are members of the New Party. Sadly, when they filed with the state for ballot access, DFL chair Mark Andrews refused to allow the cross-nominations, leaving the party empty-handed for this election cycle.
The local New Party chapter is currently rethinking their strategy of nominating DFL candidates. They did endorse (not nominate) Green Party candidate for legislature Cam Gordon later on in the campaign, which turned out to be a very positive move for both parties. The Gordon campaign benefited from the influx of activist energy that the New Party brought; they sent the DFL a message that they were willing to put their support behind a third party challenger; and there was a significant increase in community and trust between Green Party and New Party members.
Green Party members in Minnesota are divided on whether or not to run fusion campaigns with other third parties. Because of this division it is unlikely that this will be one of our strategies for a while. The Nader/LaDuke campaign has left us with a peculiar mythological legacy-peculiar because the myth is currently driving the reality. It is the myth that the Green party has enough clout to draw the support of candidates like Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, and come in fourth in a Presidential race. I would like to nurture that mythology for awhile, not dilute it.
At the recent post-campaign meeting of Nader campaign organizers in Middleburg, Virginia, Ralph Nader's advice was very simple: he suggested that we all go home and rent cheap storefronts, put up a "Green Party" sign, and invite people in to talk. This sounds like a good plan to me. Rather than make any pretensions of uniting our diverse and sometimes competing progressive political parties and/or becoming a national political force, let us instead have a dialog, a give-and-take, where at least for the present we can each come to the table with confidence in our own ideologies, our differences and our common ground.