A Closing Message: Steve Greenfield
Thank you so much for supporting my campaign
It was a success well beyond expectations for an ordinary year, let alone a time of political trauma like we are experiencing today, the likes of which I have not seen since 1968-74, and never thought we’d face again. I’d appreciate it very much if you read this wrap-up in full, and explore the links, because it will help in organizing to move forward.
Superficially, from the Election Night machine count, which will go up a bit after absentee and provisional ballots have been tallied, I got 4,037 votes, on a budget of around $3000. This is around 75 cents per vote, whereas the two major parties spent around $12-13 per vote. I exceeded independent candidate and former TV star Diane Neal by over 1400 votes, more than 50% higher, and she spent an astonishing $48 per vote. This is particularly rewarding, as it suggests that the GP brand, the campaigns of our statewide candidates reinforcing public attention on Row D, my own experience in office, and whatever recognition I have for my many years of activism in the district, and by most accounts my performance in debates, resonate much more strongly than celebrity and money. It’s a safe bet that many of her votes would have come my way had she not been in the race, as the non-major voting pool does appear to come, as I have always stated in interviews, mostly from a stable “outsider” voting base, and people who don’t habitually vote. More on the data behind that coming below.
I want to especially thank GPNY Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins, candidate for Lt. Governor Jia Lee, Comptroller candidate Mark Dunlea, and Attorney General candidate Michael Sussman for their strong statewide campaigns that kept the Green Party a household name in New York, and helped provide legitimacy, and draw attention to, the down ticket races. Congratulations to Howie and Jia for bringing home, once again, ballot status for the GPNY that allows people in potentially winnable local races, and all of us seeking state and federal office, relative ease in getting on ballots through 2022.
Speaking of debates, there were milestones there. I was invited to four high-profile debates, and was able to attend three of them. The most impactful was the one hosted by NPR and public television, followed closely by a very crowded Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast. As far as I could tell, I was denied invitations to only two debates.
In a somewhat sideways measure of the appearances I made, I was deluged with messages from Democrats begging or demanding that I leave the race, because they hadn’t previously thought my campaign could be a threat, as they perceive that. The spoiling myth is deeply entrenched. Online, and in person, I was contacted (and I am still being approached) by many people telling me I’d won the debates hands-down, and that in a better electoral system, they could see me representing them in Congress.
If there was one moment that could be called a highlight, it was the opportunity that came up in the public TV and radio debate in which I forcefully lectured Faso for the severe racism of his campaign, as well as the media heightening it as a distraction from the real issues of the campaign, which drew such spontaneous applause from the mostly Democrat audience that Alan Chartock had to admonish them to stay quiet for the remainder of the event. NY19 Congressional District debateAntonio Delgado and his wife thanked me when we met up in the lobby afterward. Institutional constraints had inhibited his ability to take it on directly, with the degree of anger appropriate to the crime, which was, in part, why I chose the highest-profile forum to do so myself. It was not about partisanship or vote-getting — it was about basic human decency, and about community standards, and our children’s future. Without access to the forum that only a candidacy could provide, the matter would have been left unaddressed. Oftentimes the unlikelihood of victory enables truth-telling. This was one of those times.
A second moment was the couple of times during the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau debate, which Antonio Delgado did not attend, when John Faso started his responses by saying “Steve has a good idea there.” We must run for office at every opportunity. Half of registered voters do not vote, so obviously many important messages are not being delivered by major-party candidates.
Here’s the excerpt from the debate in which I delivered the broadside against the Faso campaign’s racism
I lost track of media coverage, which was also far in excess of what I’d imagined. Every major daily in the district covered me, and rather nicely, and the Kingston Freeman, in particular, regularly. Besides the 90 minute debate I had 30 minutes of one-on-one interviews on WAMC.
There were community radio interviews:
- WKNY in Kingston had me on for 30 minute segments at least 5 times, one of those on a Spanish language program WHVW, which has a signal reaching most of the district, had me on three times.
- I was able to pay for 60 second ads during the last four days of the campaign on major independent local stations WKZE and WDST, as well as on WHVW. These were played in excellent time slots, and generated a lot of mail (yes, much of it freaking out about spoiling), so they were definitely widely heard.
WHVW has offered me a daily show starting after the new year, from 6-9 AM, which is the best time slot. It will be mostly a Hudson Valley music show, since that’s what I and a lot of my friends do for a living, but the public affairs component will focus on labor news, the arts, and the supporting the volunteer fire service.
I am pleased to report that I littered the district’s roadways with exactly zero lawn signs.
There was an unexpected twist the day before Election Day. A glossy postcard, social media ads, and robocalls went out, presenting themselves as in my support, highlighting distinctions between my platform, and even my length of residency in the district, and Delgado’s, identifying me as the “true progressive.”
Faso FlyerFor the record, that word did not appear on my website, my social media pages, my ads, or come out of my mouth at any debate. I had a sense that things I was addressing would appeal to many conservatives, and all evidence is that that came to pass. I even had a reporter from the NPR outlet in Binghamton exclaim, mid-interview, “some of the things you’re saying are as likely to get conservative attention as liberal.”
That is something to which Greens should give greater attention. Talking about platform planks one at a time, as problem-solvers, rather than threads in a broad progressive tapestry, seems to eliminate a lot of traditional tribal communications barriers. More on that later.
The ads, identifying themselves as the products of a conservative SuperPAC based in Austin, Texas, were targeted to habitually voting Democrats — which are, of course, the least-likely voters for a Green at such a late date, especially in a race polling neck-and-neck. It took me until lunchtime that day to figure out what was going on, and I issued very strong denunciations through a press release, and my social media and web pages. The media, including two national outlets, carried the story.
Happily, most people got the message and did not pull the usual “see, I told you Greens are fronts for Republican money to steal votes from Democrats” routine. In fact, there were plaudits for my response, and many people who called and sent emails to say “wow, it turns out you really are honorable.”
Here’s a tweet carrying my denunciation from a Democratic Party media figure previously employed by Sean Patrick Maloney and Kirsten Gillibrand, who previously had been smearing me on a daily basis. The bottom line is that by jumping on it immediately, and forcefully, the message that Greens are neither for sale, nor specifically aimed at undermining anyone, but, rather, are promoting our own ideas and ideals, got to the public.
- The press release content can be found here.
- Samples of regional news coverage can be found here and here.
- Samples of national coverage are here and here
So about the vote data ...
... and maybe Day One in burying the spoiler myth once and for all — I did much better in Republican strongholds than in Democrat ones. Much, much better. Even before those results came in, I already knew from feedback, particularly after Farm Bureau events, that I’d be getting conservative votes.
It turns out that not starting wars, and blowing all that money, and killing all those people, including Americans, for no reason ordinary people can discern as being in their interests, is very much a conservative position — not that that should be a surprise.
But more surprising is that there is broad support among conservatives for Medicare For All, especially among the self-employed, small business operators, and farmers.
There is brought support, particularly among farmers, for strong intervention into climate change — they know why they’re dealing with crop failure and invasive species, and they don’t want bigger subsidies for crop insurance. They want to produce crops, and they are repeatedly unable to do so now, and can see it’s getting worse.
Farmers and contractors also want permanent work visas for their immigrant labor, and not the current Republican proposal to force them to go back to their countries of origin for one month for every year they’re here, which is wasteful, and forces them to deal with, and pay fees to, foreign labor brokers and travel agencies.
Conservatives who are not wealthy, the overwhelming majority of conservatives in this district, want free higher education for their kids, including trade school. They want social mobility for their kids, and they know that’s been stagnant for over 40 years now.
And Chambers of Commerce know that their lifeblood is disposable income in the hands of customers — that is to say, higher wages. They don’t like Jeff Bezos. They don’t like the Walton family. They don’t like the tax structure. They don’t like that 15-20% of their property taxes go to pay for public employee health insurance on the for-profit market. The more they struggle, and the more market share they lose to Amazon, the more open they become to our economic and tax justice proposals.
As much as I knew I had attracted some conservative voters, the vote results demonstrated I was attracting them in greater proportions than from among liberals. There can be no doubt that some conservatives disliked the Republican incumbent. There is also no doubt that the Democrats had done an incredible job over the last 18 months of contacting far more of their members than ever before, contacting them regularly, and impressing upon them the urgency of flipping the district. I have never seen volunteerism among the Democrats to the degree I saw this cycle. But that would only increase their own turnout, rather than decrease mine, which is how it turned out.
I polled 50% better than in my 2002 race, and roughly 120% above Green Party enrollment district-wide. But I got from 266% to over 600% above enrollment in the most heavily Republican counties.
In my home county of Ulster, where liberals significantly outnumber conservatives, but also where I’m best known, I got the highest superficial number, but lowest percentage above enrollment of the entire district at only 39% above enrollment. So the argument that Greens get votes from what liberals perceive as the “next-closest” candidate is pretty comfortably ended.
Our votes come from all over the place, as a few earlier efforts to research the matter had already indicated. There is no default, and based on the most current data set, a more viable case can be made that we may be getting more votes from conservatives, and from people whose policy preferences don’t fit neatly into the red-blue divide.
NY19 Congressional DistrictThere has never been any data demonstrating that we draw primarily from liberals, let alone that any meaningful number of our voters would choose the Democrat in our absence, rather than leave a race blank, write someone in, or stay home. Now there is data indicating quite the opposite, and at the very least, no discernible default. The data shows margins so wide that nobody could credibly argue they are within a reasonable margin of error for the sample size.
I also confirmed this anecdotally throughout the campaign by asking everyone who contacted me about spoiling if they knew a single person who had told them that they were voting for me, but that if I dropped out, they’d vote for the Democrat. Every single one said “no.” Then I asked the logical follow-up question, which is “then how do you know such people exist, let alone exist in large enough numbers to swing the race?” Most of the time, the answer was “because they just do,” but sometimes people attempted the “well where else would they go but the next-closest?” In that case, I’d ask the third follow-up question, which was “if there is not a single plank in my platform that can be found in Delgado’s, or even a close approximation to it, then how to you gauge what people interested in me would consider ‘next closest; to the things they want?” Surprisingly often, they would say “I never thought about any of this before,” thank me for responding in detail, and afterwards left me alone.
Several told me they’d be contacting Delgado to suggest that he go after my voters by stealing a couple of my planks. Delgado refused all such suggestions. Since he won, we can expect him not to legislate more progressively than he ran or how he worked as an attorney for Wall Street mega-law firm Akin, Gump. Pressure will have to be brought to bear from the outside through traditional activism.
But there was an even more noteworthy statistic repeated around 200 times throughout New York State this past Election Day, which is the one I’d always told people when they barrage me with their spoiler complaints. So far, we’re not really drawing from either habitual voting pool. We’re drawing from a relatively stable pool of habitual voters who don’t vote for major party candidates, and from irregular or non-voters.
If you go through all the elections in which both major parties were represented, and look separate into two groups the races that had minor party candidates, and the ones that did not, you start to notice that in races without minor party candidates, the total for “blank” and “write-in” is around the same percentage as votes for minor candidates, and blank and write-in, all added together.
The dark cloud of the scattergram, or the center mass of the bell curve, depending on your plotting preference, runs from a hair below 2% to a hair above 3%. You can check this out for yourself in all Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly races in New York on this database.
In the absence of data supporting the traditional liberal concept of “spoiling,” which has been absent since its inception in late 2000, this data set goes a long way towards validating my long-standing observation that as much as there are habitual Democrat and Republican voters, who run around 95% consistent, there is also a small percentage of habitual voters who do not choose between Democrats and Republicans, and instead leave some offices blank, vote for minor party candidates, or write someone in, and are probably also 95% consistent in their habit.
I had always known this anecdotally because I’ve personally never missed an election since my first on in 1979, and I think I’ve voted for major party candidates in any race maybe five times over that entire period, and in all cases but one because they were personal friends of mine. And because I organize outside of the major parties, I’ve met many others of the same habit. Now we have real numbers. If it weren’t a function of habit, including the typical 5-7% variation within habit, the percentages would not be so consistent across 200 races.
I will be publishing and releasing to the media these figures as soon as possible, and will do as much as I can to get speaking appearances with civic groups. Green candidates and party media officers should adopt it promptly as the standard response to the spoiler libel. It’s fake news. Even the long-held belief that Ross Perot made Bill Clinton President in 1992 has long-since been dispelled by Nate Silver’s group.
If anyone wants to continue claiming that Greens have in the past, or in the future might, “spoil” victories by Democrats specifically by attracting votes that would otherwise go to Democrats, there is now a massive burden of proof on them to substantiate that claim. Let’s all work together with this data set to force that upon them whenever they say it. They’ve had 18 years to produce substantiation, but nobody has forced them to produce it. They won’t be able to do so now.
Finally, on to next steps
For now, I return to issue activism. Since peace really did make a big splash across the ideological spectrum:
- I will be activating a long-dormant dream of mine to start building a network of community-based, non-partisan, self-operating, anti-militarist organizations operating on principles found here.
- My old blog of organizing tips for locals is here. Please join, and promote to others on their Facebook page. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am also advising everyone to join the Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, which is modeled after the project Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination interrupted, has a civil disobedience component, and is destined for success. The principles are those preached by Dr. King in his Three Evils speech and became the foundation for the original Poor People’s campaign — that militarism, poverty, and bigotry in America are institutionally intertwined.
The climate change crisis is now fully upon us. Even the OFF Act, at 17 years just to end fossil fuel use in power plants, is too slow, but it’s the best thing on the federal table right now, and hardly any Democrats are supporting it. Antonio Delgado refuses to support it. We need to change that by applying pressure for new co-sponsors to step forth, and for the bill to be brought quickly to the floor. Information on how to join a local group, or start one, to promote the OFF Act can be found here.
Here is the Green Party of New York website. Donations have dropped precipitously, so if you feel so inclined, work your way over to the “donate” button.
American Federation of MusiciansI will be devoting more time to my position on the executive board of the Hudson Valley’s musicians union, local 238-291, conducting a major recruiting drive and lobbying the new one-party state government to add musicians to the state’s prevailing wage laws. If you’re a musician in the Hudson Valley and would like to join the union, visit this site.
My new radio show on WHVW-950 AM, which can be heard throughout the mid-Hudson Valley, will be a morning show, 6-9 AM, Monday through Friday, and probably an additional three hours on Sunday afternoons, starting after the New Year.
WHVW 950AMI’m aiming to build a strong local following by devoting it exclusively to working Hudson Valley bands. So far, the early response to the suggestion that it will be created has been substantial, and with regional bands and venues as stakeholders in attracting an audience, I expect it to do well. It’s a small commercial station, so I will be seeking ads, but only ones that are commensurate with my goals for the show, such as labor unions and small local retailers and live music venues. The public affairs component of the program will pioneer regional “news for working people” content.
Finally, I’ll be putting my economics training to use. I hope those of you who support labor and local live music will let people know I can be reached at WHVW950AM@gmail.com, or on my cell phone at (845)532-0280.
Again, thank you for your support. Keep the faith and keep up the pressure. Tell the truth. Conserve energy. Enjoy nature. Enjoy family. Enroll new members into the Green Party, and give what you can in financial support to your state committee. Join your volunteer fire department.
2018 Green Party Candidate for US House of Representatives, NY-19th CD