Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle



Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein talks to the media after accepting the official nomination during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein talks to the media after accepting the official nomination during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle
Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice president Ajamu Baraka talk to the media after accepting the official nomination during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston. less
Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice president Ajamu Baraka talk to the media after accepting the official nomination during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in ... more
Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle
Julian Assange speaks to the Green Party on Saturday, August 06.


Julian Assange speaks to the Green Party on Saturday, August 06.


Photo: Andrew Kragie
Herb Gonzales Jr., states the Green Party delegate counts during the convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Herb Gonzales Jr., states the Green Party delegate counts during the convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle
Photos of the Green Party's National Convention delegates voting for Jill Stein as their presidential candidate and Ajamu Baraka on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Photos of the Green Party's National Convention delegates voting for Jill Stein as their presidential candidate and Ajamu Baraka on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle
Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice president Ajamu Baraka take to the stage after being introduced during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Green Party's presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice president Ajamu Baraka take to the stage after being introduced during the party's national convention on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Houston.

Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle


Green Party presidential nominee says November election pivotal for nation's course






Emboldened by voter dissatisfaction with the major party candidates, the Green Party nominated Massachusetts physician-activist Jill Stein for her second White House bid on Saturday at its national convention at the University of Houston.

The fiery roll call of delegates that preceded Stein's nomination demanded an end to poverty, racism, voter suppression and fracking.

"We are not only deciding what kind of a world we will have in this election," Stein said, accepting the presidential nomination from the party's 400 delegates. "We are deciding whether we will have a world or not going into the future. The day of reckoning is coming closer. … We cannot wait. We have to act now, if we want to stop that sea level rise from happening in 2050."

In befitting activist fashion, the Greens congregated in a state driven by oil and gas industries to vociferate the party's fundamental initiative to promote alternative fuels.

Locked in their annual fight to merely get on the presidential ballot in most states, the Greens rode here on a wave of excitement over Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters joining the movement or, at the least, casting votes their way. They will leave Sunday, excited as they came, but still a marginal party perhaps known best for bolstering Ralph Nader enough to foil Al Gore in Florida, in his run for the presidency 16 years ago against George W. Bush.


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Still, watching the Sanders movement turn socialism into a less dirty word in the American lexicon, the Greens have sensed an opportunity to doff old stereotypes and show their brand of progressivism is not so far-flung as it once was. They argue that their key values appeal to a variety of occupations, philosophies, races and creeds, just like the traditional parties.

"We're not all just old, granola-crunching, white tree huggers," said Bonnie Lane, 43, a Maryland delegate who dyed her hair green for the convention. She found the alternative party after climbing out of homelessness and becoming an advocate for others on the streets.

In her acceptance speech, Stein hammered the expected points about climate change, immigration, police brutality and student loan debt. But a clear message to distinguish the Greens from corruption in the major parties emerged.

Ajamu Baraka, Stein's vice presidential running mate who served on the Amnesty International board and directed the U.S. Human Rights Network, said: "People are wondering why we have to accept these situations? So when these two parties attempt to herd these people out of fear, we have found millions of people that are prepared to go another way."

'We are the solution'

Stein denounced Hillary Clinton as an option for leftists, suggesting that voting for the Democratic Party will exacerbate systemic oppression.

"The lesser evil is a losing strategy because people stop coming out to vote," she said. "Hillary Clinton is the problem. She is not the solution to Donald Trump. We are the solution."

Four years ago, Stein won 0.36 percent of the popular vote for president, but recent polls suggest the Greens may get 5 percent in the November election thanks to an influx of disaffected Sanders supporters who dislike Clinton and Trump. Despite the improved polling, to challenge the two-party race the Greens will need to gain far more traction, perhaps by shedding its reputation as a haven for peripheral politicos with scattered ideologies.

The convention drew just a few hundred people, most of whom were the delegates, over three slow summer days on the university campus. The cashier at the convenience store in the student center, the heart of the event, had no idea anything was going on Saturday until the third or fourth customer clad in a green T-shirt approached. On the second floor, around the meeting rooms, security was sparse. Doors were open to anyone.

By contrast, the GOP presidential debate here in February was a spectacle that gripped the Houston campus for several days, shutting down parking lots, perching Secret Service agents on rooftops.

Earlier Saturday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed the convention via videochat. He blasted Google for controlling communication - comparing its destructive force to "HIV"- the Democrats for conspiring against Sen. Bernie Sanders, and President Barack Obama for cracking down on federal employees who leak classified information.

Assange said that choosing between Trump and Clinton is like asking him: "Do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?"

Later, Professor Cornel West, who spoke frequently at Sanders rallies until switching to support Stein, roused the Greens with a preacher's fever pitch, shouting about corruption so loudly that he distorted the audio feed.

"We live in an age of stupidity and venality, love of money, everybody's for sale, everything is for sale," he said.

Longtime environmentalists like Ohio delegate Jim Villani said Sanders loyalists have reinvigorated the Green Party.

"One of the things that we've had a hard time achieving is attracting youth to the movement," said Villani, 67. A used bookstore owner wearing a pin that read "Poetry for President," Villani realizes leftover activists from the Sierra Club like him need a younger generation to propel the party. "It's necessary if some of us are going to survive, if we are to become a viable party," he said.

The anti-rodeo delegate

The activist pilgrimage to Houston last week painted an eccentric image of Green Party supporters. Rob Sherman might be the first anti-rodeo delegate to set foot in Texas.

When the Illinois delegate arrived, he parked his decidedly un-green "Sherman-ator," an RV on a Ford F-750 chassis, bedecked with his portrait and campaign creeds, on campus. Then he climbed out in his khaki shorts, yellow pinstriped business shirt, suspenders and ball cap with neon green lettering: "Rob Sherman for Congress."

He mainly wants God out of government. Other prominent planks of his include a stance against animal cruelty (and thus rodeos), a ban on websites monitoring users' Internet activities and a roster of federal holidays that includes his own birthday.

On Friday night, Sherman joined about 100 of the convention's most vibrant supporters inside the UH student center ballroom for a talent show. It featured peace songs - some evoking Arlo Guthrie and others eyes-closed caterwauling cries against war - a video on how tadpoles eat and a tune promoting cannabis that was crooned a cappella by a blind woman. Applause and tambourine jingles concluded each performance.

Lane came with fellow Maryland delegate Mike Cornell, also of Baltimore, a management consultant for small businesses who has a master's degree in business administration. On paper, Cornell might have fit in with the GOP convention in Cleveland, but he identified with the Greens after meeting one during a protest at the White House in 1999.

"In the U.S., we socialize and acculturate our children to grow up believing that capitalism - or more accurately, corporatism - equals democracy," Cornell said. "Millennials don't have that same stigma about socialism that the older generation has."

His father, a diehard Democrat, will not even talk politics with him, he said.

Chris Casey thinks he might have found a way to help the third party break through.

A Catholic theologian, mental health therapist, social worker and former Democrat, he counters the crunchy Green Party archetype. Catholicism doesn't jibe neatly with the Green Party's progressive stance on social issues. Casey has qualms with abortion but said women must be able to make their own decisions.

He's been most affected in recent years by the scourge of opiate addiction swamping the mental health and social services system in his hometown of Ilion, in upstate New York.

Shedding fringe party status

"I don't think the Democratic Party is the place true progress can work anymore," he said. "I think what happened with Sanders showed that. The Green Party is trying to be what the Democratic Party used to be when they would really fight for workers' rights and civil rights."

To prove it, though, the Greens will have to do more than just get on the ballot and elect people, he said. They'll need visibility in the community.

Sherman, for his part, does not think his secular-government-for-all message perpetuates the fringe-party status. He points to Green Party key value No. 8: Respect for diversity.

"Rather than hurt the Green Party, it does just the opposite," Sherman said of his inclusion. "It says, 'We let people support the issues that are important to them. We let Rob be Rob.' "

Discussions like these about the party's realistic effect subdued pipedreams of world peace in favor of level-headed optimism.

"It is measured because I understand from my long history in movements that coming out on top requires money," Villani said. "The Greens do not have a big war chest."



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