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Synthesis/Regeneration 33   (Winter 2004)

The Only Thing That Wins...Is Winning

by José M. Tirado

It’s a bit early yet for bets to be made on who will be the next President of the United States, but barring a mass conversion to leftist ideology or Green priciples, my money says that most Americans will be speaking about a President Bush, President Kerry, or President Dean (a slim wildcard might be a President Wesley Clark). So what has been the progressive Green response? Vote Democratic! Yes, that’s right, the most visible and viable progressive movement in the country has some of its best and brightest advocating working for the Democrats! Talk about dumb and dumber.

Why do I say this? Because from the early excitement coming out of a Green meeting in July, some of the most respectable Greens on the national stage are de facto suggesting Greens vote for Rep. Dennis Kucinich. It was widely reported that Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez, and California Green gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo all came out of a meeting with Kucinich gushing loudly at the Progressive Democrat’s appeal to Greens and suggested Greens help put Kucinich at the head of the Democratic ticket.

We cannot get the system we want by voting for people who do not want our system.

Now, I like Rep. Kucinich. I believe he is one of the only Democrats truly worthy of that name and certainly the one whose politics most resemble my own. He is not, however, going to win the Democratic nomination, he is not going to be the next President of the United States and he is not Green. I am. That’s the way I vote, and here’s why.

Greens stand for not just a few policy changes nor for getting a few progressive elected officals in positions of political power; we stand for a new and different system. A system that is more sensitive to the enormous problems affecting our environment; more truly democratic, responsive to the people and not corporations; more internationalist in scope and less violent, isolationist, and imperial. We cannot get the system we want by voting for people who do not want our system.

In order to really change this country, we must change our electoral system. This crucial fact, which is beginning to get a bit of press, remains the single greatest obstacle to a more democratic society in the United States. The very rules used to elect officials from Congress to President must be changed (getting Proportional Representation and Instant Runoff Voting and getting rid of the Electoral College). That can only be done by voting Green everywhere and putting into positions of influence Greens who are committed to our vision of a different, more truly democratic society. We need to show the electorate that ours is a truly different vision and beat the Democrats in as many places as we can. I believe we should aim for the 5% goal and with the Federal matching funds (certainly, if we get that far) build up our party everywhere and make a real difference. Thus a Presidential run, with Nader or someone else at the helm (I personally would like to see a Nader/Benjamin ticket) is essential.

It is not our responsibillity to shore up the barely tolerated, “progressive” wing of Rep. Kucinich’s (brain dead) party. He is the one that should be helping us. In fact, he should be encouraged to drop the Democrats and join the Greens. He should join us in changing the country. Now that would be a real message.

People like Arianna Huffington, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Rivera, Cynthia McKinney and Jim Hightower (among others) should all call a press conference together and say they are switching parties and becoming Greens. That would really shore up the progressive movement in this country in general and inject a lot of jazz into the Greens.

...why are we saying that we should work for their election instead of demanding that they work for ours?

Since it is obvious that they do not believe in our vision enough to join the Green movement, why are we routinely imploring them to symbolically pick up our banner and run on our behalf? Worse still, why are we saying that we should work for their election instead of demanding that they work for ours? This servility is a slap in the face to the many people who have devoted years to developing and sustaining the Green movement in this country.

It ruins the long-term credibility of Greens to continually suggest that we go and work for other parties, parties that have consistently moved rightward and whose occasional and incremental movements to the left have only taken place because of titanic pressures from the street when the aspirations of progressives had no visionary electoral outlet. The whole point of working electorally is to give voters a viable alternative electoral option and then get elected. Period. Thus it’s the responsibility of progressives to go (and urge others to go) progressive (and therefore vote Green), not the responsibility of progressives to vote Democratic so we don’t get a Republican.

Once again, it is the system that is the real problem and the Democrats support that system, including Kucinich (his continued presence in the Democratic Party belies all claims to the contrary).

Greens have the most progressive ideas on how to change that system. The Democratic Party does not want PR (proportional representation) or IRV (instant runoff voting), Single-Payer Health Care, same-day voter registration, DC statehood, repeal of Taft-Hartley, discussions on Black reparations, public financing of elections, energy independence and shifting to renewable resources like solar, wind, etc., a non-interventionist foreign policy, a return to the UN; in short, the Democrats are against all the things that would really make us a better democracy and a more effective “team player” on the international front. The Greens want all these things and more.

So what are we to do? Vote Green everywhere! The only thing that wins is winning. Yes, some will scream that we “cost the election” if Bush wins again, and there will be those in our movement who will sound the death knell of Green involvement in US politics, so we must be prepared to answer each with facts and patience and more ground-level work to build a more democratic Union. Beat Democrats on the left side, beat Republicans period (because we care about the future and not short-term profits), and excite everybody in between because, with PR in particular, we will expand democracy, getting more parties, more viewpoints and more good people in elected offices. So vote Green everywhere!

José M. Tirado, formerly in the Green Party of California, was a union president at Warner Bros. Pictures, co-founder of the Latino Writers Group, charter-chair of the Colorado Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) and long time activist in the Engaged Buddhism movement. He currently lives in Iceland with his family and welcomes all correspondence. He can be reached at bodhishiva@buddhamail.net

[14 dec 03]

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