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Learning to be Like the Two Major Parties
by Maris Abelson, Greens/Green Party of New York State
Winning a ballot line in 1999 (thanks to the candidacy of Grandpa Al Lewis!) required the Greens/Green Party of New York State to file official party rules with the NY Board of Elections (BOE), and to elect a state committee for the purpose of filing candidates with the BOE. Fearful that such a committee would replace the traditional decision-making body of locals (the Assembly), the Assembly voted to file a skeletal set of rules with the BOE and to have the state committee’s function be only to file candidates with the BOE. This differs dramatically from the major parties, whose state committees virtually control their parties from the top down.
Unfortunately, conforming to the State requirements rather than challenging them has caused problems for the Greens/Green Party of New York State. Once elected, many members of the State Committee (who were not elected by the Assembly but by enrolled Greens in their respective election districts) decided that the Assembly was unnecessary. The State Committee elected representatives to ASGP (always a function of the Assembly) and proceeded to make bylaw and platform changes.
The argument the State Committee (SC) uses to legitimize these actions is that it is the truly democratic and legal body, since its members were elected by registered Greens. The SC, however, is a limited body, whose members are making all decisions for the party. The traditional Assembly allows all Greens who work in locals to have a voice and a vote. The SC does not allow non-elected members to speak at meetings without approval, to vote at meetings or even be on committees!
Many SC members do not attend local meetings to divine the will of their constituents. Almost half of the elected SC does not regularly attend SC meetings. The result is that a handful of people are left to make decisions for the party!
Grassroots democracy, the crucial aspect that distinguishes the Greens from the two evils of lesser, has been undermined in New York.