16 January 2005

Greens v. Dems

I received the following comment the other day, which I believe needs a main posting to answer:

How do you believe the Democrats have "sold out," their progressive values? Do you agree with me, that the Dems and the Greens have virtually the same values, it's just the Dems don't articulate it as they should, or, do you believe the Dems are equally rules by corporate greed, and if so, in what ways? Do you believe that the Democrats are willing or capable of moving towards a Green platform, or do you believe only a 3rd party Green candidate can accomplish that, in which case, how alive do you believe the Green movement to be, especially in a society that seems so unlikely to ever take a 3rd party seriously?

Dan, I think you are making assumptions based on my Green party affiliation. I am currently disgusted with both Democrats and Greens, but I'll try to answer this fairly. I don't believe the Democrats sold out their Progressive values, those who are actually progressive I am willing to support. However, this is the same party that contains both Dennis Kucinich and Zell Miller. If I knew what it actually meant to be a Democrat I might be more supportive. In short, some Democrats do support Green policies, but many do not, especially in the South. Some southern Democrats are more conservative than northern Republicans; southern Republicans are just plain scary. The coming fight for the DNC is going to be a showdown between reform Democrats and those who believe the party should move to the right.

What the Greens need to realize is they cannot leap from a crawl. They need to build up support by running in smaller, local races, and win more seats in state legislatures before they can even think about running statewide or nationwide. Also, no third party has ever gained major party status without doing some coalition work with other parties, major or minor. One thing that turned me off about some Green party members is their holier-than-though attitude. As the chair of our county organization, I advocated endorsing progressive Democrats (but not all Democrats). We did not have the means to run anyone ourselves, so I thought it should be our responsibility to local liberals to identify candidates that share their values. This provoked a big fight. Even those who supported endorsement were against the idea of doing so in the primaries, when we had our best shot at boosting a liberal over a conservative. They wanted nothing whatsoever to do with "that other" party. I don't believe you can build a party by alienating potential members. I have not been active in the Greens lately, so the question of my excommunication has not yet come up.

For the present, I am a believer in ballot initiatives, which is why the non-partisan redistricting issue I mentioned earlier is going to mark my reentry into activism. If we get this thing off the ground, watch the reactions of both parties and see who is more interested in necessary electoral reform. I hope I am wrong, but I'm not expecting the Democrats to show much leadership on this issue, and if they do the reactionary Greens will want no part of it. My friend Rich likes to point out that some of the major political reforms in America came from citizen support (such as Women's suffrage and MLK's civil rights victory), and not from partisan action. I am starting to come to that way of thinking myself, but usually I have to learn things the hard way. A few years ago we were having dinner with a Democratic member of the Florida legislature, and we were discussing electoral reform. The legislator said he doubted much would be done, as he and his fellow reps. did not see the need for reform. It was then I realized it's not supposed to be their decision, it's supposed to our decision.

No comments: