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Synthesis/Regeneration 14   (Fall 1997)

"All Politics Is Local"

by Winston Grizzard, Green Party of Tennessee

At the April, 1997 meeting of ASGP (Association of State Green Parties) delegates and observers were asked to speak about their hopes for the organization. Because of the number of people in the room and time constraints, the comments were necessarily brief. Each participant had about a minute to respond. This article is an attempt to elaborate on my sound bite at that assembly.

I am a newcomer to Green politics and I became associated with the Green Party through the Ralph Nader for President campaign. Prior to 1996 I had discounted the Greens in the mistaken belief that environmental issues were the sole focus of Green Party efforts. I attended the '96 Green Gathering in Los Angeles and was able to appreciate that the Green agenda was more diverse than I expected. With the help of a small but determined group, Tennessee was able to field a full slate of electors for Nader. On election night we celebrated our modest achievement and declared ourselves the Green Party of Tennessee.

As someone who has been sporadically involved with alternative political strategies for three decades, I'm hopeful that ASGP can become a national apparatus that can offer support to the broad spectrum of Green tendencies. As ASGP begins to plan and discuss its function, I would encourage consideration of the well-worn phrase, "all politics is local." My experience is that if nothing is happening on the local scene, then what is taking place nationally is irrelevant. ASGP should consider positioning and structuring itself as a national resource for local politics and movements that further the Green ideal. As that resource, ASGP should focus on disseminating information and contacts among Green groups that have common issues. The newsletter, Green Pages, could be one method of transmitting experiences around the Green Party network.

For example, in Nashville some Greens were part of a coalition that tried to prevent public funding of a stadium and accessories for an NFL team (Houston Oilers). We lost the referendum, but have information about our strategy (do's and don'ts) to share. Greens in Washington state are facing the same situation right now and other urban communities will soon face off against the corporate forces seeking taxpayer financing for private endeavors. ASGP could be the conduit for the transmission of this kind of experience.

I would strongly urge ASGP to consider the idea of "traveling organizers" along the lines of SNCC and SDS models.

In addition to the newsletter, I would strongly urge ASGP to consider the idea of "traveling organizers" along the lines of SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) and SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) models. We could call them Joe/Joanna Hills, after the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) singer-organizer. As a college student I can recall how energized and connected our small group felt after a visit by one of the organizers from the national body. Organizers could also use such visits to evaluate the talent pool in a particular local party.

ASGP was formed to encourage and facilitate Green electoral politics. To that end ballot access must be a desirable end for each state party. ASGP has begun to position itself to assist local parties to move toward that goal.

I also hope that ASGP will encourage local Greens to run for as many offices as possible. Let us create one, two, many Carol Millers*. Greens should be rallied to run for office, not by a well-reasoned polemic, but because of the experience of other Green parties and candidates. Green electoral experience should be shared with Greens cautiously eyeing the electoral challenge. Since we argue that an electoral effort and a movement effort can fit nicely together, ASGP can share the positive Green history to confirm this. Our national organization should promote the numerous reasons to consider a political campaign: raising issues, discovering which journalists are decent and which organizations are shallow. And another reason we hope becomes more common: winning.

So basically I hope that ASGP will focus on being an information/experience clearinghouse for local parties and on fostering electoral activity. If there is the possibility of a national candidate in 2000, that can be considered at that time. But for the moment ASGP should start from where we are and from where Greens have enjoyed success-at the local level.

As diverse as Greens are, we share more in common than we usually care to concede.

Ideally, our national organization will welcome participation by all individuals and local parties who agree with the 10 Key Values. The task we face precludes exclusion. Anarchists, members of the counter-culture, Marxists, liberal democrats, and all who say they are Greens can enlist. If we are sincere about Green ideals, even the bitterness of the past can be released in the interest of our common goal. As diverse as Greens are, we share more in common than we usually care to concede.

The greatest transfer of wealth to the rich in human history is taking place as we debate. If ASGP is to be viable, it must call for creative action, spur coalition building and rally local parties to oppose the corporate forces at the ballot box and elsewhere.

* Recent Green congressional candidate from New Mexico, who polled nearly 20% of the vote.

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