In a time of immense divisiveness, who is the Green Party to Democrats? In Washington County, Democrats are setting a potentially monumental precedent in their decision to ally with the party against Republican incumbents William Wivell and Neil Parrott. The United Democrats of Washington County have supported Andrew Barnhart of the Green Party as a delegate for district 2A in Western Maryland. Barnhart, a 26-year-old Hagerstown native, graduated with his B.S. in Biology and Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2014 and proceeded to earn his M.A. in Bioethics & Society from King’s College in London in 2015. He returned to Hagerstown in 2016 and began teaching at Frederick Community College, where he also represented faculty in the Faculty Association and College Senate.
Unlike previous candidates such as Bernie Sanders, an Independent who ran on the Democratic ticket, Barnhart seeks to make it clear that he is not running as a Democrat, or even as a Democratic back-up. He is running for the Green Party and its values of sustainability. He rejects the current two-party system, believing that a democracy is healthiest when multiple party perspectives are incorporated into elections.
For many Democrats, this comes off as a threat to our party, but does it necessarily have to be? While there has been much controversy in recent years as to the issue of “splitting the vote,” this race is unique in that there is no such risk; there is no Democrat running. We may not always agree, or even outright oppose one another sometimes, but when facing Republicans like Wivell and Parrott, it is important to recognize our similarities, especially when it comes to the planet. We know that climate deniers must be stopped and that corporations should not have the ability to demolish entire ecosystems.
It must be made clear, however, that the Democratic Party and Green Party are not the same. The Green Party falls on the side of one-issue politics in its focus on the environment and sustainable development; it has many stances on policies beside this, but the environment is their primary concern. They do not support Democratic Party leadership, which is where I and other Democrats disagree. The Green Party may share many values with us, but I still believe that the Democratic Party is best suited to bring about progressive legislation and elect those who will defend such laws.
So, if there was a Democrat running, would I vote for them? Yes. But there isn’t. Barnhart may not be running as a Democratic back-up, but it cannot be denied that his views on environmental sustainability, equality for all, and an economy that works for everyone is very similar to that of Democrats. It would be a mistake to refuse his candidacy based on the lack of a D next to his name. Both Democrats and Greens can agree that we cannot survive under the GOP.
While this race is unique and new, it will not be the last like it. With Trump energizing the most extreme members of his party, it should be evident in races like these, where the Green Party and Democratic Party are not running against each other, that we need to support the other regardless of affiliation. In a race where both a Democrat and Green are running, there will almost certainly be tension. However, in the face of such greater threats, we will all lose if we are at one another’s throats constantly. Democrats cannot and will not win every election, and the same is true about Greens.
Western Maryland cannot wait. From the floods that are increasing in occurrence every year to the proposed TransCanada pipeline going under the Potomac, our main water source, Maryland needs leadership that isn’t under the thumb of the Republican Party. It is important that the Democratic Party of Maryland does not forget those who are furthest from the Bay, because the right certainly hasn’t.