G R E E N PARTY NEWS
The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics: "Overall, Green Politics is a valuable, concise, and inexpensive introduction to the Green Party, green movements, and Green politics in general
IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN, BUT. . .
t's not easy being Green but it sure is easier than being a Democrat these days.
I was reminded of this as I scanned some proposed changes and additions to the Green platform. Over and over I found myself reading stuff that not only fit my views but those of many Democrats. The sort of things that would have been standard for the New Deal and Great Society.
Unfortunately, however, the Democratic Party has become the Bernie Madoff of politics. It gets unsuspecting individuals to trust it with their money, beliefs and future, and then immediately starts ripping them off.
There was, for example, Barack Obama's Madoff moment at the liberal Netroots conference in which he admitted their returns had been slow, but it would improve if they would just be patient. In politics, however, what in fiscal fraud would be considered criminal evidence, is simply treated as "reassurance."
If the only things that mattered in politics were the issues and you opposed the war in Afghanistan, wanted single payer health insurance, wished to preserve Social Security and thought the jobless should get more federal assistance than a handful of Wall Street bankers, there would be no doubt you'd be a Green.
But it gets complicated by the fact that Greens don't do all that well in elections, there are a lot of close races that test loyalty, and liberal voters have been trained to believe that any deviation is a de facto gift to the Republicans.
Greens demand a lot of fidelity as well, enough that when I was invited to my first Green conference in the 1990s, I already felt compelled to tell organizer John Rensenbrink that I didn't think I was good enough to be a Green. He repled, "That's okay. We're going to have a Libertarian there as well."
I went on to help get the Greens organized but designated myself chair of the Big Mac caucus of the party, dedicated to all wishing to be Green without being perfect.
I've had my problems with the Greens over the years. I didn't like how much emphasis was placed on presidential elections. I'm sorry the Greens haven't formed more alliances with other interests including labor and ethnic coaltions. And I know from the history of American third parties that their effectiveness lies in mass local organizing, which hasn't happened with the Greens.
But they still seemed great compared to the alternatives, especially when the Democrats repeatedly treated Greens not as part of a progressive coalition but as traitors and other forms of scum - changing laws, denying them rights, altering districts, and even blaming them for Al Gore's failed presidential campaign (a clear statistical lie).
But now that we've had two presidents double-cross their own constituents, it looks like the Democratic party is far more in need of therapy than loyalty. And the first rule when around the dysfunctional is: don't let them call the shots.
There are, to be sure, practical problems. But they're not as complicated as they seem. Here's a good plan of action:
1. Join the Green Party. Just because you join a party doesn't mean you always have to vote for it. Whether for ideological or pragmatic reasons you can make that choice on election day. You join a party for a political home. So you want to join one whose beliefs reflect your own. For a large number of Democrats and independents this would be the Green Party. Besides, if you leave the Democrats and join the Greens, you are no longer liable under the RICO fraud statutes.
2. Do as little or as much as you want. Political organizations function much like the Episcopal church's three factions: the high and crazy, the low and lazy and the broad and hazy. Find your own level.
3. Argue with the Green Party when it does the wrong thing. Or does nothing and that's the wrong thing to do. Every good party needs some good fights.
4. If you want to get into a Democratic primary battle, temporarily switch your registration. I've done this lots of time, becoming a Democrat for a day. Just don't forget to switch back.
5. Remember that fusion politics - in which parties come temporarily together to reach a common goal - was so effective in American history that nearly all states passed laws to eliminate it. You can create your own fusion politics by aligning with the Democrats on specific issues while not hiding the fact that you're a Green.
6. Just because you're a Green doesn't mean that you have to be perfect, noble or idealistic. There are plenty of contrary roles models in the party, such as myself.
7. There is nothing radical about the Green party. It actually quite conservative. It wishes to conserve the Constitution, the environment, communities, free speech, and numerous other threatened virtues we used to take for granted.
8. Finally, one of the great joys of being a Green is that you never again have to defend stupid things said or done by Obama, Reid, Pelosi or the Clintons.
These are bad times with few happy solutions. In such moments, finding oases of sanity and decency is extremely important, and in politics you won't find a better one than the Greens.
The Green Party of Germany announced that a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats and Left Party in the state of Thüringen (population approximately 2.18 million) has been reached. The negotiations with the other parties produced agreement on, among other things, the sustainable use of nature and environment and an undertaking to establish a biosphere reserve in the south Harz area.
Christian Science Monitor - When Germany's left-leaning Green party was born 30 years ago, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt dismissed them outright. "Theyre just environmental idiots who will have disappeared again soon," he said.
They didn't. In fact, in a turn of events reverberating across the nation, the Greens on Sunday ended six decades of conservative rule in one of Germanys wealthiest states, completing their transformation from a radical protest party to a mainstream force shaking the traditional political order.
For the first time ever in Germany, and only the second time in European history, a Green will be prime minister of a major regional state. "Its a new political era," says German Green party leader Claudia Roth.
Capitalizing on a mix of nuclear aversion and local furor over a highly unpopular railway project in Stüttgart, the Greens doubled their representation to 24.2 percent in Baden Württemberg, stealing power from Chancellor Angela Merkels ruling Christian Democratic Union. The Greens were also the clear winners in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, where they tripled their share of the vote and weakened the Social Democratic grip.
... The German Green party was born in the late 1960s with young, rebellious students trying to shake the political establishment. In the 1970s, the Greens became a platform for antinuclear protests. In the 1980s, they embraced the antiwar movement.
Business Green - As the Liberal Democrats prepare to gather in Glasgow for their annual conference, the electoral challenge the party faces next year was again underlined as the Green Party revealed it has taken its membership past the 20,000 mark for the first time.
The announcement, which comes hot on the heels of a recent poll showing the Greens and Lib Dems neck and neck in fourth place on six per cent of the vote, confirms the Green Party membership has grown 45 per cent this year - a performance that is in stark contrast to the contracting memberships of the two coalition parties.
The Party also revealed that membership of its Young Greens branch has doubled since March this year to nearly 4,000 members.
The Greens leadership hailed the milestone as further evidence of the political momentum the party has enjoyed since its record performance in the European Elections in May, when it forced the Lib Dems into fifth place.
The Party is now preparing to contest at least 75 per cent of the seats at next year's General Election - an increase of 50 per cent on 2010 - and is targeting a number of seats in Bristol and Norwich alongside its one current seat in Brighton.
With the polls suggesting that the election will be extremely close concerns are mounting in Labour and Lib Dem circles that a continued strong showing for the Greens could impact the result in a host of marginal seats.
- Cam Gordon was re-elected to the Minneapolis City Council, a seat he has held since 2006.
- In Connecticut, Mirna Martinez elected to the New London Board of Education.
- Brian Cummins won a very close race to be re-elected(based on preliminary results) to the Cleveland City Council.
- In Maine, Anna Trevorrow was elected to the School Board in Portland and Josh Plourde was elected to the City Council in Bangor.
- Three Greens - Neil Haagen, Tausif Khan and Eric Hamell - won local seats in Pennsylvania.
- Green Party's Mirna Lis Martinez gets elected to the New London CT school board.
- Greens do well in Luxembourg
Rwanda now has an officially sanctioned Green Party
We were talking to a DC journalist friend who recalled a 2005 visit to the Maine state legislature. . . He had mentioned to one of the members that he noticed that Maine had a Green legislator: John Eder. . .The disgusted reaction: "Yeah, he rents and he doesn't even drive a car." - Sam Smith
Green Party Watch - 53 Green Party candidates appeared on the ballot this November, one more in Washington was on the ballot in the primary, and 4 more ran write-in campaigns. Of the 54 ballot candidates, results ranged from 0.16% to 8.32%, from 157 votes to 17,545 votes. The average percentage of the vote of all 54 races was 2.21% from 225,000 votes. This is a decline from 2008, when the Green Party's 59 US House of Representatives brought in over 500,000 votes, averaging 3.47% of the total vote
Greece's two largest cities have elected Socialists for mayor
WASHINGTON POST: NOT ENOUGH REPORTERS TO COVER GREEN PARTY
A Post reporter responds to a reader inquiry:
Belfast, Maine: In the coming weeks there will be many days when there's little real political news about the Republicans or Democrats to report. Any chance that one of The Post's political staff might do a piece on what the Green Party, for example, is up to? . . .
Paul Kane: I'll happily answer this one, and I'll be brutally honest. We don't have enough resources to cover your party. it's that simple, and if that infuriates you, I'm sorry. But that's life. The Green Party and Nader got plenty of coverage in '00 when, at the least, he had the chance to play a decisive role in some states. So far, there's little indication that the Greens will have any major impact on the '08 election. Until you can demonstrate that there is some level of support for your party, our paper isn't going to spend precious resources reporting on whatever it is you're doing. I'm sorry, but we're a business, and lots of my colleagues are walking out the door under volunteer buyouts. We don't have the resources to cover you guys.
THE BRITISH GREENS
ALEX NUNN RED PEPPER There is a party, ostensibly of the left, that has more than 100 councilors (and rising), holds seats in the European Parliament and London Assembly, and might just drop an electoral bombshell by securing its first MP in the next general election. It's called the Green Party. But for reasons either of jealousy or good socialist sense, it is regularly hauled up before the Court of Left Opinion, suspected of being overly electoralist, unduly white, middle class, and Not Sufficiently Left. It doesn't even have factions that hate each other.
Confusingly for the presiding judges of the court, none of this seems to matter too much to the public jury, who are giving favorable verdicts to the Greens in growing numbers. Quietly, unassumingly, the Green Party of England and Wales has been making strides over the past few years, propelled by the ever-increasing urgency of the climate catastrophe.
One of the main reasons why the left is suspicious as to whether the Greens can be counted among its number is that it contains many people who simply do not associate themselves with the British left and its glorious history of defeat.
One such man is Chris Rose, the party's national election agent, who points out that 'many Green Party members wouldn't like to describe themselves as left. If we positioned ourselves as explicitly left it would be dangerous, with no guarantee of success. We need to keep our reputation on the environment.'
But London Assembly member Darren Johnson, who is not on the left of the party, takes a different view: 'I'm not a socialist but I feel comfortable about being on the progressive left. Not the far left - we never will be. But we're the serious party of the left and a potential power broker working with centre left parties.'
One thing is beyond doubt. Whether or not they see themselves as left, the Greens have a manifesto as radical as any other, based on sustainability and equality, which if implemented would constitute nothing short of a revolution. Their espousal of an end to economic growth is unique, and has resulted in attacks from parties who believe in either capitalism or the traditional Marxist model of growth leading to a world of plenty. Instead, the Greens promote economic localization, and say wealth should be measured not in GDP but in overall wellbeing.
And the party's policies stretch far wider than the environment. They would (if they could) make income tax more progressive; replace VAT with eco-taxes; replace benefits with a non-means tested citizens' income for everyone; increase the pension; nationalize the railways; welcome asylum seekers; stop the privatization of council housing; reverse the privatization of health and education; . . . scrap prescription charges; scrap tuition fees; scrap ID cards; scrap nuclear weapons and scrap wars.
So far so good. But other leftists squeal that when it comes down to electoral politics the Greens can be bloody uncooperative, as when they refused to make a pact with Respect before the last general election. Darren Johnson is defiant: 'We often get criticized by left groups for standing against them, but they can't even sustain coalitions with each other! It would have been a disaster if we had had a coalition with Respect - look where they are now.'
But hang on. The Greens do form alliances on councils - and have even been known to work with Tories. Most controversial was a coalition with the Conservatives and Lib Dems on Leeds City Council. The Greens eventually pulled out over plans for a new waste incinerator in 2006, after two years, but in many other places the Greens co-operate informally with other parties, including Tories. . .
The potential for such unholy alliances goes further than just the council level. In December David Cameron announced that he wanted a 'progressive alliance' with the Lib Dems and the Greens to push for decentralization. They rejected the offer as a publicity stunt, but it pointed to a new and unexpected problem for the Greens - they're suddenly very popular with the other parties. . .
Darren Johnson believes the existence of the Green Party over the years has contributed to people taking the environment seriously, but that this is not enough. 'We have put pressure on the other parties to green up their act,' he says, 'but we aren't just a pressure group. In terms of making things happen you need Greens elected - not necessarily in government but in a position to really push the agenda.'. . .
One of the reasons why the Greens have so far failed to break through that credibility barrier at the national level is the first-past-the-post voting system. In Germany, and more recently in Ireland and Scotland since devolution (where there is a separate Green Party), the Greens have fared well under proportional representation. Ironically, the experience of these successes suggests that the barriers erected by the electoral rules might be one reason why the English and Welsh Green Party tends to be more left than its European cousins, which have often been sucked into the prevailing system. . .
A cursory glance around the Green Party's conference in Reading in February revealed that delegates were indeed overwhelmingly white and well-spoken; many of them boasted a Dr before their name; and an improbably high proportion of members seemed to have a perfect grasp of the most intricate details of green energy technologies. But this is unfair. Something similar is true of most party conferences. . . and the Greens had a higher proportion of women than is usually seen.
Away from conference, Greens insist they have been picking up support in ethnic minority and working class areas. The best example of this is Lewisham in south-east London where the Greens occupy six of 54 seats on the council. Darren Johnson, who has been a Lewisham councillor since 2002, as well as a London Assembly member, tells how he 'started campaigning in Lewisham in the mid-1990s. By 1998 we got 30 per cent in my ward. That was the Guardian-reading middle classes, but it proved enough of a base to then widen our support. The big difference now is that we're getting votes on the council estates, which make up about a quarter of the ward. You can't get 50 per cent in Lewisham without significant support from ethnic minorities and the working class.'
Meanwhile, Stuart Jeffery thinks the class accusation is outrageous. 'We're not middle class idiots,' he barks (as your intrepid questioner ducks for cover). 'That's quite offensive. I don't mind being called an idiot but don't call me middle class.'
ANOTHER REASON FOR GREENS TO CONCENTRATE ON STATE AND LOCAL RACES
THE TOP COUNTY SUPPORTING third party presidential candidates in 2004 - Mecosta County in Michigan - gave on 7.5% of its votes to those candidates. Only one other country gave more than five percent of its votes to third party presidential candidates.
HARDBALL POLITICS IN PENNSYLVANIA
CARRIE BUDOFF, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER - When Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) encouraged everyone in state politics to help the Green Party earn a spot on the November ballot, at least one group answered the call: Santorum donors. Fourteen Santorum supporters gave $40,000 to fund a petition drive that has allowed Carl Romanelli to collect about 100,000 voter signatures to qualify for the Senate race. That's 33,000 more signatures than required, and double what independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader gathered here in 2004. . . Romanelli made no excuses for Santorum's donor support, but denied coordination. "Both Republicans and Democrats have this notion that, if Greens are in the race, Democrats lose votes," said Romanelli, a railroad-industry consultant from the Wilkes-Barre area. "If that was going to motivate someone to contribute, I am fine with that."
For more than two months, Romanelli has attracted considerable attention from Santorum, who is trailing Democrat Bob Casey Jr. in the polls. As an abortion-rights, anti-Iraq war candidate, Romanelli could siphon votes from Casey, who opposes abortion and a timetable for pulling out of Iraq.
SUCH TACTICS upset some people. For example, reader JR in Marin County writes, "I have heard all the arguments about how Greens have as much right to run as anyone else and if Democrats can't get a majority too bad for them. Arguments and rationalizations. . . But a party that cannot deal with political reality does not have much claim to the confidence of a majority of voters. If Greens play the role of Karl Rove stooge and help Santorum snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat, it will be hard for many to regard them with anything besides contempt."
THE PROBLEM IS that the Democrats are once again not taking responsibility for their own politics. They think they can annoy people with impunity. They can't and some of these people become Greens. Romanelli was one; not only was he a Democrat but he was county coordinator for Gary Hart in 1984. Basically, if you are going to run an pro-war, anti-abortion Democrat for Senate you have to expect some people to go elsewhere and for them to play the same sort of hardball politics Democrats consider routine when they do it. Besides, Romanelli seems far less a Karl Rove stooge than Joe Lieberman.
HERE ARE A FEW HINTS for Democrats that will work better than scolding Greens for not going along with their decadent politics:
- Try the response DC Democratic mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty gave your editor who identified himself as a Green Party member: "Oh, I've got lots of Greens working for me."
- Treat Greens at least as nicely as you treat soccer moms.
- Adopt Green programs just as you adopt other positions to win people's votes
- Stop berating Greens. That's a lousy way to win support.
- Stop coming up with ways to keep them off the ballot or trying to legislative redistrict them out as occurred in Maine This suggests to some that Democrats are no better than Republicans.
- Support instant runoff voting which will instantly convert Greens from the scourge of humankind to a constituency worth wooing in case you need their voters on the second ballot.
GREENS WON A QUARTER OF THEIR RACES
GREEN PARTY CANDIDATES won a quarter of all the races in which they competed in 2005. Out of 177 Green candidates, 46 were elected to public office. There are now at least 227 Green office holders. Greens enjoyed some 'surprise' victories in various states:
- Mike Sellers was elected Mayor of Cobbleskill, New York. There are now two Green mayors in New York; the other is Jason West of New Paltz
- On May 7, David Lanman was elected Mayor of Marfa, Texas.
- Hillary Bradbury-Huang was elected to the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees.
GREEN LEADER ROD DONALD
ONE OF THE WORLD'S best known Green leaders died last month in New Zealand. 48-year-old Rod Donald - who was a Green before they had a name for it - started an ecology action group at his school in Christchurch in 1972 at the age of 15, and used the swimming pool changing sheds to store huge piles of newspaper - enough to delay the start of the school swimming season for a week.
GREEN PARTY, NEW ZEALAND - A year later he joined the Values Party at a recruitment stall, to the strains of Tom Lehrer singing: "If you visit American city you will find it very pretty. Just two things of which you must beware - don't drink the water and don't breath the air."
And just one year later, at the ripe age of eighteen, he cycled from Christchurch to Nelson - to become the campaign manager for the local Values Party candidate.
He remembers debating issues with his parents while still at intermediate school, and acknowledged them in his maiden speech in Parliament on 26 February 1997, after polling over 7,000 votes in Banks Peninsula as a first time candidate: "I know they were very disappointed when I skipped bursary exams to help Values [the forerunner of today's Green Party] in 1975. Their concern grew when I became an environmental campaigner instead of going to university."
He worked at the Canterbury Environment Centre, editing the Canterbury Environment Journal. He moved into the inner city to live in the Avon Loop and got involved with the local Residents' Association to set up their recycling centre. Running the local accommodation service, he encouraged people "of like mind" to move into the area. By 1978 there were around 20 homes in a community of 120 who formed a loose community within a community, sharing good times and a common vision of sustainable living. Every week they would meet at Rod's house for a 'Community Crumble'.
The twenty houses represented enough of a critical mass to kick off their own newspaper - Loopie News - and small business, Piko Wholefoods. "After six months we were making enough money to actually pay people," Rod remembers. Their success grew. Just a year later Piko needed to expand - and swapped premises with the dairy next door, after buying the building it was in.
The community protested against, and halted, two motorways proposed to run right through the heart of their neighborhood. . .
It may be difficult to imagine Rod remaining politically neutral, but that's exactly what was required from him for four years, while he was the National Spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Coalition. . .
He joined the Greens early in 1994, and in June 1995 was encouraged to stand for the position of co-leader. He still looks mildly stunned when he recalls being voted into that role so quickly after joining the party - not surprisingly, as things didn't stop there. He was placed at number 10 on the Alliance list and was elected to Parliament in the 1996 election.
WE HAVE ARGUED, with total ineffectiveness, that the future of the Green Party lies far more in local and state organizing than in the presidential campaigns that seem at times to totally divide and absorb the party. The argument is based on the history of successful third parties such as the Populists, Progressives, and Socialists, each of whom did well in only one presidential election, but whose candidates and views spread across the land with remarkable influence thanks to state and local organizing.
Now a study by Heather Crescentini and Tony Affigne (one of the founders of the national party) in Green Horizon Quarterly lends support for this view. The presidential results for the Greens were disastrous last election compared to the previous one - from 2.8 million votes in 2000 to 120,000 in 2004. Even with the heavily Green Nader vote included, the Green's David Cobb and Nader together got less than 600,000 votes.
In congressional races, however, the Green vote went up from 294,000 to 355,000 even though the number of contests was down.
And while there was a decline in the vote for local races it was far less than in the presidential race, i.e. from 1.7 million to 1.2 million, due in part to the anti-Green sentiment of those Democrats who thought they shouldn't being running a presidential race.
Looked at another way, the vote at the local level was ten times that for president and the vote at the congressional level was more than twice as great.
Our suggestion has long been that the races such as those for president and governor should be used as a way of inspiring a compensatory vote for Greens at a lower level. Instead of insisting that people vote Green for president, one says, "I understand, but you can at least vote your conscience at a lower level." There are millions who might buy into this if they saw it as an option.
JIM LEFTWICH, MD - I have reached a turning point. I propose that we declare this year's Summer Solstice, Tuesday June 21, 2005, to be Moving Day. Whereupon longtime Democrats such as myself, on one day and en masse, move to a party that has the set of values and principles that the Democrat party not only used to stand for, but used to successfully fight for, both on the legislative floor and in the hearts and minds of the American people.
It is time that we joined the Green party, bringing to it the sheer numbers of people it now lacks to wield significant political power, and begin the long journey of creating a world that will be better and sustainable for generations hence.
I am the product of generations of proud and believing Democrats. I have never been a hardcore political activist, nor a marching protestor against things my government has done that I vehemently disagreed with. I have believed in the traditional values of the Democrat party that my father and his father believed in. I have believed in the progressive path. The defense of the common man and small businessperson upon which this country was built and has endured for over two centuries. I have fought against attempts to split our party, and have held fast through the last two national election cycles, hoping against hope that true leadership and a compelling and simply-stated set of principles would emerge.
I cannot begin to describe the deep sadness I have when I think of what the Democrat party has lost. but have now, as a single individual, come to the conclusion that the Democrat party is a failed and ruined institution. It is truly, and fundamentally, time to move on.
I am by no means the first person to arrive at this point, but I believe I am exemplary of a particular type of Democrat. A dyed-in-the-wool Democrat that until now has vowed to hang on for as long as it takes. I now feel that that strategy is doomed. And our country with it, if a major and significant shift does not occur, and occur very quickly. In the present political environment, time is definitely not on our side if we continue on our current path. . .
I hold no ill feelings toward the Democrats. I believe there have been many decent, thoughtful, and hardworking Democrats, doing their best to hold the line against an increasingly leveraged Republican message. But I no longer believe the Democrat party can produce the message that will attract back all those that have abandoned it for the false promises of the far right.
I believe that we must abandon a party that can only manage, at its best, to offer up a weak and reactionary protest after the fact. That is not enough to save this country. We need a new model. That model, that set of values, that truly and deeply progressive and whole vision already exists. It can be found in the Green party.
NOT EVEN WRONG
Josh Frank gets a lot of stuff right in his recent Counterpunch piece about the Greens. He's right that it doesn't do any good pretending, as Ted Glick does in his Znet retrospective, that the 2004 presidential circus was anything other than destructive and maybe even fatal to the Green Party. And it may be the case that the Greens are now just another progressive racket which exists mainly to pay the salaries of "non-profit careerists" within its leadership. While I think Frank is wrong, the possibility that he is right is cuts pretty close to the bone for those of us who tried to make the Green Party a reality.
But if the Greens are the terminal case which Frank diagnoses, it's not so much a problem for those us who were involved coming away with egg on our faces; it matters much more to anyone who cares about the future of progressive politics, and indeed, anyone who cares about the future at all. For if there is any hope to countering the appalling reality which the two parties have created and preside over, the Greens or something like the Greens will have to get off the ground, sooner rather than later.
In the mean time, torture memos, renditioning, melting polar ice caps, a prison population of two million, Walmart level wages, and chronic homelessness will continue to define the essential reality which any leftist who wants to honestly assess our recent history needs to come to terms with.
And, if we are honest with ourselves, we can't stop there, for we need to recognize something else, albeit unpleasant: our own complicity through our failure to develop a successful strategy for engaging in the struggle. The unbroken string of victories for corporations over the public interest-the near total marginalization of organized labor, the prospect of global environmental collapse, unchecked militarism is not just a triumph for elites and a defeat for everyone else. All these represent a decisive indication of our own dysfunctionality as a movement.
If we're serious about what we're doing, we are required to understand why we have failed so often and so badly and then move on to doing what is necessary to break the pattern. Thinking along these lines brings us back to Frank's criticism of Greens and puts it in a different light. For while Cobb and Glick made mistakes, as Greens, they were at least willing to ask the right questions and try to answer them. In this respect they are far ahead of a left which is defined by its refusal to admit that many of the strategies which we unthinkingly embrace are to blame for where we find ourselves-deafeated and, what is worse, having to live in a world which everywhere reflects the legacy of our defeat.
How we got there: three habits of highly ineffective movements
Having a frat boy dunce in the White House surrounded by religious zealots, cynical manipulators and corporate criminals means that it is pretty easy these days to be good at criticism, And the left, as it has repeatedly demonstrated, has more than warmed to the occasion. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly incapable of self criticism which has the unhappy result that there is little understanding that we consistently return to the same failed tactics which have landed us where we are. A good example of our strategic bankruptcy is paraded in a recent Nation article reporting of a division within United for Peace and Justice between two groups: older activists trying to "influence those in Congress to defund the war" and younger firebrands who "bristled at what they considered the mainstreaming of UFPJ's grassroots base by playing with electoral politics."
While the two sides see themselves at odds, what is revealing is the embrace by both of what should be by now familiar pathologies of a now geriatric new left activism:
1) The assumption that single issue, mass protest should constitute the near exclusive focus of political organizing.
2) The assumption that those who hold power will be influenced by displays of popular will.
3) A contempt for electoral politics (among "radicals") and an out of hand rejection by all sides of the possibility of creating change by competing for and achieving state power.
These are three of the basic premises of a politics defined by protest-a politics which is guaranteed to be limited at best and almost surely a losing politics.
To note the inherent limitations of protest politics does not tell leftists anything that we don't already, at some level, know to be true. For it should now be obvious that huge amounts of activist energies can go into the creation of events which will completely and totally fail. And if the bankruptcy of the slogan defining protest politics - "If the people lead, the leaders will follow" - was not apparent to us before last February, it should have been after.
What happened was exactly the opposite: the people led and the leaders didn't follow. Indeed, they ran in the opposite direction. The New York Senators Schumer and Clinton responded to the million plus throng in front of their eyes on the streets of Manhattan with contempt: voting for the authorization to commit troops in the weeks following and then most of the rest of the New York congressional delegation joined them in signing off on the financing required to sustain military operations. The presidential campaign, fought between two prep school plutocrats competing in their macho willingness to violate international law made for an appropriate coda to a political season based on a cynical exploitation of self-deluding activists.
Stating the obvious: how power doesn't work
This depressing outcome should have been predictable for anyone who is not completely naive to the realities of power. To state the obvious: there is no necessary connection between expressions of dissent, no matter how large and disruptive, and political change. This fact is a logical consequence of something more fundamental and even more obvious which is that changes in governmental policy are effected by political actors-those empowered to disburse funds, levy taxes, write laws and to declare war. This is why demonstrations, no matter how massive or passionate can and do fail: what forces change is political force in the form of a credible threat to put in jeopardy the positions of those who hold and exercise power.
Once we recognize that, it will be seen that protest politics amounts to a parody of the forms of political engagement taken for granted in much of the rest of the world. Protest as it plays out here, as an isolated end in itself, would be regarded as absurd everywhere else.
Of course, protests in Italy, Indonesia, or Argentina can be large, theatrical and violent but they almost always take place within a context of existing political institutions which are explicitly directed towards competing for and exercising power. The huge demonstrations in Madrid which occurred simultaneously with ours, gave a clear indication of a functional politics- where bodies on the street support and give muscle to institutional power which is committed to goals articulated by the bodies on the street. And they worked: following the demonstrations, the Socialists came to power, and immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.
The socialist victory was, it needs to be stressed, achieved through "electoral politics" which the younger activists in UFPJ deride.
Moreover it's worth adding that political change achieved through the ballot box is not limited to moderates acceptable to elites-a fact clearly demonstrated by Hugo Chavez ballot box victories. Had Venezuelan leftists capitulated to our cynical view of elections as "celebrity driven exercises unworthy of the attention of serious activists," or "playing" at politics as the UFPJ firebrands describe them, the oil industry would remain in the compliant hands of neo-liberal technocrats, its profits continuing to be channeled into the hands of multinational energy consortia. Many thousands of Venezuelans would be much worse off, remaining in desperate poverty which the Chavez' nationalization of the oil industry lifted them out of. Our embrace of the assumptions of protest politics insures that a serious transformation of our politics will remain out of reach. Our nightmare will continue and we will have ourselves to blame.
The only game in town
Few Greens would convey the skeptical view of how the left conducts its business in the unvarnished and admittedly rather confrontational terms I have adopted above. However, the essential realization, that politics without a partisan basis is barely politics at all, is what lies behind our commitment to the party. For all the flakiness of some of the Green membership, Greens, particularly those of us who have won elections, know what it means to engage in politics to win and what it means to compete for and exercise state power. It is this fact, that Greens take politics and political power seriously and insists that others do likewise which has ruffled more than a few feathers on the left. In doing so, the Greens call the bluff of many leftists whose engagement with the movement is well suited to temporary occasional displays of theatrical protest rather than a sustained engagement required of building an insurgent partisan politics. In particular, this includes the academic left whose engagement takes for granted that the mere acquisition and dissemination of data constitutes a form of political activism. This, at best, is of secondary importance and assumes relevance only when institutional power is interested in or sympathetic or at least willing to listen. At worst, assembling the facts of oppression without a equivalent commitment to their remediation amounts to nothing more than voyeurism.
That the Greens are the only game in town puts Frank's criticism in a different light and Ted Glick and David Cobb's capitulation to Anyone But Bush in a different context. For unlike the rest of the left they are merely wrong - wrong in advancing a strategy which ended up hurting rather than helping long term prospects of an insurgent political party. But these prospects, even with a few notable successes such as the Matt Gonzalez near victory for mayor of San Francisco, were weak going into the presidential election. And the fault for that lies not with Glick and Cobb - both of whom did what they could to help build the party's foundation (though Glick's weak New Jersey senatorial campaign was another ill-conceived exercise in "party building").
Rather the fault lies with a left which is constitutionally incapable and uninterested in doing the work which is necessary to engage in the only means by which real political change is achieved and which has shown so little interest in critically examining its own failures in understanding of how political change occurs.
So while Glick and Cobb and the rest of the ABB camp within the Greens were wrong, much of the rest of the left, as the physicist I. I. Rabi once put it, is not even wrong: even when it succeeds its overall trajectory is sure to fail. Not only does the left not have any answers, it has shown itself incapable of even asking the right questions.
And so the Greens have been brought to their knees and may be down for the count. Frank is right that some of its wounds have been self inflicted by the ABBers in the party. But much more of the damage has come from self-professed leftists standing idly by while the one of the few signs of an emergent institutionally organized opposition-the only sort of opposition which has any chance of succeeding against the forces we confront-has vanished.
Much of the rest of the left has thereby gotten what they've wanted.
This will not be the first time that getting what many of us claim to want may turn out to be exactly what we don't need.
TEN QUESTIONS FOR THE GREEN PARTY
Judging from the exchange over the 'decline' of the GP during 2004 (which was really a year of growth for some states and for DC), I think a lot Greens are still drawing all the wrong conclusions and lessons from last year's presidential campaign.
Both Cobb & Nader got a fraction of 1% of the national vote in 2004. Combined, their numbers are still a fraction of 1%. This suggests that we would have drawn under 1% in 2004 regardless of who we nominated (or endorsed) or what campaign strategy the candidate pursued.
It is not useful to have a discussion about how the GP could have received a higher fraction of 1% if only we had chosen a different candidate or strategy.
The reason for the low numbers we drew in 2004 has very little to do with anything we did wrong or right, and everything to do with forces external to the GP.
The 2004 presidential contest between the Dems & Repubs was more contentious than any we've seen in recent decades, which made it very difficult for 3rd parties to play a role. A lot of progressives, independents, alienated Dems & Repubs, and other voters who might have considered voting Green in other election years were determined to vote for Kerry in order to remove the worst president since Warren G. Harding (maybe worse than Harding).
There was no chance that Greens were going to persuade these voters that 'Anybody But Bush' was a fallacy, that Kerry shared many of the same positions as Bush, etc. Their minds were made up from the beginning of 2004, and probably earlier, to vote for whichever Democrat, no matter how corporate and compromised, would get the nomination. They were not interested in our arguments about why ABB was a retreat from progressive eco antiwar agenda or why it was important even in 2004 to reject two-party dominance.
Greens need to learn that voters make up their minds according to their own criteria and their own terms, not according to the criteria and terms we wish they'd use.
For a lot of progressive voters, we're still a novelty, an occasional blip in the news. This will continue until the GP has grown large and powerful enough to have a permanent and recognized public voice, with lots more Greens in office, a significant number of registrants in many states (i.e., at least 5 or 10% rather than 1 or 2%), regular news coverage of Green politics, etc.
So let me pose ten questions for Greens based on these dilemmas:
(1) How do we run an aggressive, effective national campaign that helps the GP grow in a year in which the Dem-Repub contest is so fierce that the Green nominee is bound to draw a tiny percent, regardless of our choice of candidate or campaign strategy?
(2) How do we appeal to voters who have already made up their minds to vote for the Democratic (or Republican) presidential candidate, and urge them at least to vote for Greens running in local and state races? (And how do we do this without appearing to devalue our presidential campaign?)
(3) How do we stop ourselves from regarding progressive, antiwar, etc. voters who don't vote Green right now as enemies or traitors to what we stand for, and instead regard them as potential and future Greens, i.e., friends?
(4) How do we deal with the fact that, for at least the next decade or two, many registered Greens will decide to re-register Democrat in a presidential election year in order to vote in the Dem primary? How do we persuade them to rejoin the GP after they've done this? (Yes, we want them back in the Green Party. No, we do not reject, rebuke, or punish them.)
(5) How do we deal with the fact that a lot of registered Greens, like registered Democrats & registered Republicans, will sometimes decide to vote for candidates outside the party, and that this may happen more, not less, as the GP grows? (It might even be a sign of our success.)
(6) How do we prevent our participation in the spectacle of the presidential election every four years from eclipsing all our state and local Green campaigns? (i.e how do we keep ourselves from talking and acting as if the future of the GP depended on a single race in a single year?)
(7) How do we persuade voters who share our political agenda that, although we probably won't see a Green president in the next few decades, it's quite possible that we can get a few Greens into Congress, a lot more Greens into state legislatures, and a Green into a large city's mayor's office (as Matt Gonzalez proved) during the next dozen years? How do we assert this as a major goal, not just among Greens, but for all progressives, independents, etc.?
(8) How do we keep the GP in the news, in front of people's faces, in people's political conversations, etc. permanently, even when we're not running candidates for office? (Insufficient answers: participating in other organizations' demonstrations; sending out GP press releases; holding endless party and committee meetings; having endless chitchat on internal GP discussion lists.)
(9) How do we stop believing that the GP is something people should join just because they agree with our platform and 10 key values, and make the GP something people want to join because they enjoy our company?
(10) Every significant political movement has also had a social or cultural component. The Populist Party spread among farmers through useful lectures on the latest agricultural methods. The Civil Rights Movement spread through churches. The protest movement against the Vietnam War percolated in rock and folk concerts and on campus. Gay liberation came out of gay bars, and women's liberation out of coffee houses and consciousness-raising groups. Republican think-tanks emerged from cocktail parties and trips to strip clubs. What is the GP's cultural expression? What will be the social catalyst for the GP?
Despite the focus on electoral politics, I consider (8), (9), (10) to be the most important questions for the growth of the party. If we find answers to them, our future is assured.
THE GREENS won 64 elections this year, which means it will start off next year with 224 Greens in office, a 12% increase from the previous year.
KELLEY BOUCHARD PORTLAND PRESS HERALD - Redistricting helped rather than hindered John Eder's effort Tuesday to keep his spot as the only Green Independent in the Legislature. It also proved to be the undoing of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Edward Suslovic, who found he couldn't compete against Eder's strong base of support in Portland's West End neighborhood. Each of the two incumbents sought the seat representing House District 118, a new district created from parts of their former districts. . . Eder won with 51 percent of the vote. . .
With his win, Eder outsmarted a redistricting effort that promised to - some say it was meant to - unseat the nation's highest-elected Green Party member. His strong showing, and that of other Portland Greens - even those who lost - points to the party's growing profile in Maine's largest city, which is largely Democratic. . .
When redistricting prevailed in the courts, Eder moved to a Danforth Street apartment in the West End. There he built on an established support base to take advantage of an urban demographic that is largely young, single, mobile and politically progressive. "Without those people, I would have been toast," said Eder, 35, who works for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "It's a testimony to grass-roots basic stuff, getting out and meeting people and taking politics to their door. . . . I'm not a politician as much as a person trying to make some positive changes through politics.". . .