Eric Bergman Explains Local Success for Greens in Clinton

CLINTON — Eric Bergman, an English teacher at the Morgan School, was elected to the Clinton Town Council in November. A resident of Clinton for nearly 20 years and an active participant in local politics, he is an unsurprising choice. But Bergman ran as a Green Party candidate, making him the first third-party candidate in history elected to Clinton town council. 

Bergman estimates that Clinton has roughly 2,700 registered Democrats, 2,300 registered Republicans, and close to 5,000 unaffiliated voters, a breakdown that created a clear opportunity for a third-party candidate to succeed at the local level. 

“Clinton has a distinctly working class worldview,” Bergman said. “A lot of the kids work with their hands, and a lot of the folks in town are blue collar workers. That makes this the perfect place for a party focused on issues affecting the working class.” 

Still, he cautioned against suggestions that his win means Clinton will support Green Party candidates writ large. 

“Clinton has a distinctly working class worldview,” Bergman said. “A lot of the kids work with their hands, and a lot of the folks in town are blue collar workers. That makes this the perfect place for a party focused on issues affecting the working class.” 

President-elect Joe Biden carried Clinton with 55 percent of the vote to President Trump’s 42 percent. The Green Party’s presidential ticket garnered just 24 votes in town, or less than half of one percentage point. In the race for state representative, Green Party candidate John May received 281 votes, or about four percent. 

“I’ve been a public school teacher in town for 20 years,” Bergman said. “I don’t know how many kids have come through my door. I have a fairly decent reputation in town, so I’m not sure how much my being a member of the Green Party was even much of a factor. People know me, and know that I know their kids, and I think that’s what it came down to.” 

Bergman says he was drawn to the Green Party as an alternative to the two major parties which he did not feel meaningfully represent his political values. 

“I felt like both parties were bought and sold to corporate interests,” Bergman said. “Republicans in some ways come out and say they’re for the wealthy, and then you have Democrats, who I feel have abdicated their responsibility to the working class since [Bill] Clinton. The Democratic party is center-right at this point.” 

But Bergman said that his bid for town council did not emphasize the ways in which his policies are farther left than the Democrats, but instead ways in which he could unite council members from both sides of the aisle. 

“I saw very reputable people on these boards and commissions making ad hominem attacks on each other, and I found it disgraceful,” Bergman said. “I figured that if I ran as a third-party candidate, I could be a bridge between two parties and try to bring more civility to those discussions. Democrats and Republicans in Clinton aren’t actually as far apart on the issues as they claim to be.” 

“I did not run to the left of Democrats on a local level,” Bergman said. “I tried to run as a bridge between the parties. My council record proves that I’m fiscally responsible, which you have to be on a local budget. I also have the respect of conservatives in town because I haven’t spent my time just trashing them.” 

The decline in civility in local politics is a key area Bergman hopes to improve in his tenure. 

“I saw very reputable people on these boards and commissions making ad hominem attacks on each other, and I found it disgraceful,” Bergman said. “I figured that if I ran as a third-party candidate, I could be a bridge between two parties and try to bring more civility to those discussions. Democrats and Republicans in Clinton aren’t actually as far apart on the issues as they claim to be.” 

For the Green Party to grow, Bergman believes the party must find credible candidates — a party with a “wacky” reputation will have a hard time achieving meaningful electoral success. 

“My number one concern is candidate recruitment,” Bergman said. “I go to state meetings and it’s the same 25 people I saw 10 years ago. In the past, the Green Party hasn’t been taken seriously because the candidates have been people who are performing politics as a lifestyle as opposed to really engaging with the issues.”

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