July 26, 2010


Sam Smith

It'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 role 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.


Tian said...

I like the part about how joining the greens makes you immune to RICO fraud statues for the crimes of the Democrats.

I agree, but you left out the war crimes that both incumbent parties are party to. Since realizing what a serious matter that was, I've taken to painting them all with one brush, just calling the lot of them "incumbents".

Remember that sticker that said "POLITICIANS AND DIAPERS SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASONS"? Half of our problems can probably be traced back to too much voting for incumbents.

Axel in Montreal said...

Ha! ha! I told all my Usanian friends to vote for McKinney (but most of them had never heard of her). About point 4, why bother switching for a primary? It might be a good idea to let the Democratic party slide ever rightward, so eventually even the most numskull voters will notice something is wrong. Good on you for point 7: you might add how weird it is that the least conserving people nowadays are so-called conservatives - they don't wan't to conserve anything. The Greens, however, should find a label that doesn't paint them into a narrow issue - and find a better strategist than Cynthia McKinney, wonderful as she is in many ways.

skeptical. said...

Seems to me you backed Kerry and Obama as least worsts. What dom I want with your advice?

Anonymous said...

Well said, Sam. My only quibble is with #4. Any Dem worth voting for will always lose in the primary. Changing your registration, even temporarily, can threaten the Green Party's ballot access.

Bill in Boston said...

I am presntly a docile reader of Sam's posts, and I take all of these points to heart, especially that of the Episcopalians: no pressure/do what you are able. I intend to follow the advice, and to vote for the lesser of the evils when (at least as the Electoral vote clings to it's last threads) the Dems are in a close enough battle. As I learn to contribute in the struggle, I'll find out what works best, but alligning myself w a party w which I identify most: that makes solid sense.

Jeremy Keith Hammond said...

Great article! I'm the Secretary of the State Steering Committee here in Maine and I would love to join your Big Mac caucus - though, I won't eat a Big Mac. You touch on a great flaw of the party - that the good often becomes the enemy of the perfect. I hope to recruit more "good" Greens.

Speaking of which - are you active in Freeport? We've been developing a strategic plan at the state level to roll out soon that involves local organizing. Now that we don't have to have a gubernatorial or presidential candidate to maintain party status - it's freed us to focus on where we can more easily succeed. Unfortunately there's a disconnect between municipal/county committees and the State level Greens - I'd love to connect.


Also - for anyone reading PLEASE VOTE as a registered Green in November. It's difficult for many considering there's not Green gubernatorial candidate and the referendum isn't that exciting - but we NEED 10,000 Greens to vote (however they want - doesn't matter) to maintain party status. Get out and VOTE!