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Q and A with Nicholas Triplett

by Ty Shaffer

June 9,2010

Nicholas Triplett is Co-Coordinator of the Charlotte Area Green Party (CAGP), and also serves as Vice Chair of the North Carolina Green Party. Mr. Triplett was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and grew up in Eastern North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. After teaching for six years, Mr. Triplett now is able to stay home full-time with his son. 

How did you get involved with the Green Party?

I saw a local group that had set up a table at a natural foods store, and I picked up some literature. In college, I was interested in politics, but wasn’t satisfied with the options available to me. The Greens were the first group that I agreed with wholeheartedly, about everything. So, I got involved.

It seems that ballot access still is the most pressing issue for Greens. Has this been the bulk of the state party’s activities, and what is the current status of this effort?

Up until about two years ago – aside from membership and educational issues – ballot access was the focus of the vast majority of our activities. North Carolina is one of the most difficult states for ballot access, and we’ve spent the past decade working to get signatures and trying to pass legislation. We’ve also been involved in several lawsuits – in fact, I’m a plaintiff in a lawsuit currently before the North Carolina Supreme Court that should be decided this summer. This suit likely will be the judicial terminus of our actions to get ballot access. Given the two party system, there really is little possibility of legislative change if the court decides against us. If judicial and legislative efforts do not materialize, we will continue our efforts to build from the ground up by working with Green candidates in local non-partisan races.

What are major issues Greens would like to see addressed in Charlotte?

The issues we would like to see addressed in Charlotte are the same issues that we want to see addressed nationally. One is corporate control of politics, through donations, campaign finance, and regulatory capture – where state regulatory boards are filled with like-minded individuals
beholden to corporate interests.

Of course, there are environmental and ecological issues that we would like to see addressed. We’ve been involved in opposing the Rutherford County coal plant [the Cliffside Coal Plant]. This is a great example of how money from corporate interests plays a role, and how packing regulatory boards with individuals friendly to corporate interests completely steamrolls a process intended to solicit citizen input. There is a requirement to hold public hearings, but they’re scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on weekdays in locales that are difficult to get to – usually in small towns where people need the jobs, and have been told that they’re going to benefit from the plant. It just doesn’t create a very friendly environment for the public to be involved.

Do you think the candidacy and election of Barack Obama co-opted some of the more progressive elements in American political life that might otherwise find a home with the Greens?

Yes, certainly. During the 2008 election cycle, a lot of progressive energy was siphoned off from Greens and others. But Barack Obama has done very little to satisfy progressives. People now are realizing that what was attractive about Obama, their hopes that [Obama’s election] was an escape from politics as usual, hasn’t panned out. For example, the idea that Obama was not “buyable” by corporations—Greens warned that this wasn’t the case. And if you’re going to take corporate dollars and then try to make policy, it’s not surprising that [those corporate interests] will have some say in the outcome.

Take a look at healthcare. The Greens want single-payer, universal healthcare. Now we have a bill that really benefits the insurance industry, and it’s probably at least a decade before we can muster energy around real healthcare reform. So it’s upsetting to see someone like Obama masquerade as a progressive, and extract all energy from progressive reform.

It seems that one major (perhaps the major) obstacle facing the Green Party USA is the absence of a visible national candidate – something the party hasn’t had since Ralph Nader.

David Cobb was a good candidate in 2004 . . . but he was no Ralph Nader. The Green Party really isn’t set up for celebrity leaders because it’s a grassroots party, and because of this we put serious demands on our candidates. You can’t accept any corporate dollars, which is something that counts out a lot of people who have been involved in politics all of their life.

In the wake of Citizens United [v. Federal Election Commission], you must be . . . well, maybe despondent is the word?

The Green Party is heavily involved in Move to Amend – if the Court is going to tell us that is what the Constitution says, then maybe we need to change the Constitution.

But, you know, the likelihood or unlikelihood of success has never been a deterrent for me, personally. I want to support people and groups I believe in, even if political success never materializes. If that’s what it takes to ensure we do not compromise our principles and do things the “right” way, then I’m willing to keep working even if I don’t see the changes.

I can’t see eating all of the bad just to see a little bit of good in my lifetime. And now that I have a young son, who is almost four years old, I really see the importance of doing this work.

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