Green parties have rapidly become a familiar feature of the global political landscape. First elected into Parliament in 1983, the German greens, Die Grunen, would eventually achieve political success in 1998 by entering into a coalition government. Conversely, Green parties in North America, and specifically the United States, have not achieved the widespread success of their European counterpart. As a third party in a two-party system, the US Green Party garnered national recognition in the 2000 Presidential election under the charismatic leadership of Ralph Nader by attracting nearly three million votes, yet this figure only accounted for a small percentage of the total national vote. Nader's Greens were best remembered for drawing votes away from Al Gore's Democratic party. There are many reasons why Green parties in the United States have not been as successful as in Germany. These include a lack of resources and media attention, as well as a far more restrictive electoral and political system.
Most importantly, in both cases, there are structural differences in the political opportunity structure, as explicated below, that play fundamental roles in determining Green party success.
It is necessary to articulate that electoral success in this essay is defined in a specific manner. That is, success is determined by whether a particular party has achieved government status and not whether they have managed to affect political and public consciousness in some way. As such, the German Green party can be considered a success, while the Green Party USA is currently defined as being unsuccessful. Even if the latter are able to raise public and political awareness over certain important issues, they are still very much constrained from having the kind of major political impact enjoyed by the German Greens. This paper serves to introduce the political context of the German and...