Can the Green Party Fix America in 2008?
I went to a Green Party meeting in Mendocino County, California, yesterday. It was a very interesting meeting. Only six people attended. When we finished passing the hat the party treasury had increased to $85.
Yet sometimes you can't measure the future of a cause by the number of warm bodies in a smoke-free room, or by the size of its treasury.
Most counties in the United States don't have a Green Party at all. Among those that do, Mendocino County has a reputation as being relatively strong. One of the first Green elected officials in the U.S., Raven Earlygrow, was on the city council and then mayor of Point Arena. In the 2000 election Ralph Nader did fairly well; in California statewide races Green Party candidates typically get 5 to 10% of the vote, but have on occasion done better.
In the last local elections on June 6, 2007 for 5th District Supervisor, a supposedly non-partisan race, the Democrat, David Colfax, won handily with 53% of the vote. The Republican, Robert Gardner, came in 4th with 8% of the vote. The Libertarian, Tom Madden, edged him out with 10% of the vote.
The Green Party candidate, Els Cooperider, got 29% of the vote.
It is very possible that, in a corridor running up the California north coast from San Francisco to Humboldt County, the two party system is about to flip. The two parties contending for most votes and offices will be the Green Party and the Democratic Party.
If that happens the Democratic Party itself may be in trouble eight to ten years down the road. It has done well contrasting itself to the Republicans. But for many voters in this Age of Global Warming, it does not contrast well with the Green Party.
The last time anything this big happened in American politics was in the 1850's, when the Whig Party died and the Republican Party emerged as the 2nd major party. [See A Brief History of the Republican Party]
The Democrats, especially here in California, are aware of the danger to their hold on power (and the gravy train that comes with that power). They have focussed hard on crushing the Green Party. I can't go into all the details today, but several tactics have emerged. One is promising ambitious Greens power (or grants for their cities) if they will become part of the Democratic Party machine. Typical of former Green party members who have accepted these offers are Mayor Leslie Dahlhoff of Point Arena and Mayor Doug Hamerstom of Fort Bragg.
The other tactic is throwing crums to key environmentalists around election time in return for their supporting the Democratic candidate instead of the Green. It is hard for environmentalists that depend on donations, that in turn depend on showing progress, to turn down these offers. In addition to the bribe there is the bullet: in this case Democratic Party doners who threaten to withhold their donations if any endorsement is given to Green Party candidates.
Given this power, this level of willingness to corrupt and willingness to be corrupted, why would 6 volunteers in a room in Albion in Mendocino County feel there is a real basis for their optomism? When paid Democratic Party staff vastly outnumber them and treasuries run in the millions?
For one thing, many ordinary Democrats are mad that their party has not stopped the war in Iraq. But it is deeper than that. It is a long history of betrayal of the people by the Democrats at the local, state, and national level that party activists always have to rationalize away. For instance, the David Colfax who is our Supervisor, after the election killed a local campaign finance reform measure that even many Republicans hd agreed to. His opponent, Els Cooperider, had limited donations to her campaign to $100 per person; David received donations of up to $5000. After reelection, David also voted himself (with the other Supervisors) a fat pay increase.
In the last Mayoral election in San Francisco, the Democrat barely beat the Green, and even that required a major money and celebrity dump from Democrats outside San Francisco.
It is possible, of course, that the Democrats' tactics will be successful. The Democrats are, after all, the party founded on the principle of slavery and genocide; the Party of the Confederacy; the Party of Jim Crow; and the party that voted overwhelmingly in Congress to launch an unprovoked war on Iraq (and Vietnam, and Cuba, and ... going back through history). They have 200 years of practice in lying and all the dirty arts of politics. Green candidates and organizers don't have the paid staff people (some paid for by taxpayers, some by doners) that keep political parties in business between elections.
But something is happening in northern California and a few other spots around the country. It may spread. Your choices are: help it spread; try to stop it; do nothing.
The Green Party won't fix America in 2008, but it may start pushing it in the right direction. If the progress of the Green Party is agonizingly slow, don't blame Green Party activists: blame the people currently in power.
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