Gateway Green Alliance/Green Party of St. Louis
The article below on Zaki Baruti and the Gateway Greens ran in the leading Black news monthly in St. Louis, Take Five (October, 2000, pp. 16-18).
Green Party and African Americans Come Together
Groups Tout Nader and Baruti on Diverse Ticket
by John Chasnoff
When Don Fitz from the Gateway Green Alliance invited Zaki Baruti to discuss police brutality on the Greens TV show, the opportunity for an new coalition was created. Off the air the two discussed the politics of the Green Party candidate for President, Ralph Nader, and Baruti found they held the same stance on many issues. It has long been the belief of Baruti's United African Peoples' Organization that African Americans should be proportionally represented in political offices, and Baruti was finding himself disillusioned with the Democrats lack of responsiveness to this goal. The Green Party was looking for ways to grow as a movement for people of color.
The two groups began finding ways to work together, and have proposed a mutual slate of candidates under the Green banner. Its Missouri ticket is headed by two African Americans: Baruti for governor and Evaline Taylor for U.S. Senate. Now they are attempting to answer the question, can this third party coalition be effective?
Let's first face the facts. Third party movements in America are the political equivalent of skating on thin ice. Often these movements start off with a sense of exhilarating forward momentum, only to fall through into the icy bath of reality and a sudden death. The two major parties have such a stranglehold on money and information that some question how democratic our system really is.
Our history is littered with examples, from Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party, through the Dixiecrats in 1948 and the independent runs by Eugene McCarthy and John Anderson. The Reform Party may currently be going through this process, with a split between two factions and mass defections from its ranks. Other parties such as the socialists or libertarians manage to survive for years but make hardly a blip on the national radar screen, skating as they do around the ideological edges. However, the Republicans were once a third party which displaced the faltering Whigs. This year we have the Green Party, making themselves known with Nader for President, and attempting to build for the future in local races across the country.
Already successful abroad, the Green Party has been part of government in Germany, Italy, France and Mexico. They entered national elections in the United States in 1996, gaining ballot access in almost half of the states. This year they have had even greater impact and are on the ballot almost everywhere. Their numbers are strongest along the west coast, though recently Nader has been drawing large crowds on a midwestern tour.
Can this party be more than a spoiler, taking key votes from Gore in states such as California and throwing the election to Bush? This question continues to dog them, but the Greens insist they are here to stay—that they are forming the coalitions such as the one in Missouri which will make them the new voice for the left. They claim that the Democrats have become a second conservative party, abandoning the field of progressive politics to them. Furthermore, they hope to draw much of their support from the disaffected, non-voting majority of Americans who see not enough real differentiation between the major parties.
In creating themselves, the Greens have avoided some of the pitfalls which doomed earlier third parties. They are not so far on the outskirts of mainstream American politics that they can be easily marginalized; they have broadened their agenda so that they are not a one issue party rising or falling on environmentalism; and they do have a consistent ideology which should keep them from splintering like the Reform Party.
With the demonstrations against corporate globalization protesting the World Trade Organization, NAFTA and GATT, the Greens have found a natural constituency among youth, labor, and environmentalists who want to halt the power of giant corporations to exploit workers and resources around the globe. Through these protests they have taken votes away from both major parties, who are supported largely by corporate campaign donations and accept the world economic order as it currently stands. The Greens are attacking the major parties for acting alike on too many other major issues as well. As Nader says, "The parties are the same on phony welfare reform, IMF,WTO, China trade, the bloated Pentagon budget...capital punishment, abolition of nuclear weapons, the criminal injustice system, helicopters to Columbia, the private HMO profit ridden so-called health care system and curtailment of civil liberties..."
The two parties are the also the same in standing together to insure that truly dissident voices are not heard. Thus their mutually created forum for debates has denied access to Nader, Pat Buchanan and others who cannot participate in the democratic process if their message is squelched. By defining its agenda on these issues, the Green Party has reached out to other groups fighting for social justice. They believe there is a natural alliance between progressive whites, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other "minorities" who will soon make up a majority in this country.
Progressives in all these groups see the corporate structure in America as the force which is ultimately responsible for low wages, economic devastation in communities of color, and political repression of the working class. Thus Nader challenges the corporations, saying "Your profits must be subordinated to the changes for justice." The success of this coalition-building is evidenced by the recent endorsements of Nader by such notables as Randall Robinson of the TransAfrica Forum and Manning Marable of Columbia University.
Nowhere is this new coalition more clear than here in Missouri. It is no accident that Baruti and Taylor are at the top of the ticket. "Shame, Shame, Shame," reads one Greens pamphlet denouncing both Democrats and Republicans for their lack of racial diversity. Of the 16 candidates from both parties for national and state wide offices, the pamphlet states, none are blacks or other racial minorities. Only one is female. Baruti states, "In the nineteenth century, there were only two black senators and one black governor in the United States. In the twentieth century, just ended, we did no better—again we had only two senators and one governor in the whole period of 1900 to 2000! There has been no progress. I for one am tired of Republicans who parade our people for show and Democrats who count on our votes but do not represent us."
Baruti quotes Malcolm X when he states, "Oh, I say and say it again—you've been had, you've been took, you've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck." What results, he asks, have minorities gotten from Democrats Robert McCulloch or Jay Nixon on issues of police brutality or economic justice? Baruti believes that his Democratic opponent Bob Holden has made only minimal gestures to the African American community, and has had no minorities in positions of power while State Treasurer.
Baruti is the most experienced of the Missouri Green Party candidates. He comes to these issues and his run for governor with a long background. As founder and President General of the UAPO, he has been a community activist for many years. In this capacity he has worked to increase economic self sufficiency in the black community and currently serves as Vice President of the Coalition for North St. Louis Economic Development. Also Co-Chairperson of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, he has worked since 1984 to put an end to police violence against citizens and the criminalization of African American youth.
In order to increase African American political power, he helped convene the Missouri Statewide Black Peoples' Political Convention in 1984 and again in 1988 and 1992. His strong belief that Blacks must be represented in the halls of power led him to run for governor in the Democratic primaries of 1984 and 1988. Both times he ran strong statewide campaigns, receiving in 1988 approximately L87,000 votes, 19% of those cast. Running in those races under the name Lavoy Reed, he appears on the ballot this time as Lavoy "Zaki Baruti" Reed.
Baruti insists that his campaign is on behalf of the politically disenfranchised in Missouri. He was reluctant to run, and searched for other candidates. Some potential contenders had similar views but wanted to run independent campaigns and were not as interested in long term party building. Nevertheless, he believes it is crucial that African Americans consistently run for elected office, and he believes he has found in the Green Party a home in which African American power is welcome.
"When I compared the Green Party platform with the founding principles of the UAPO, I found they were almost identical," asserts Baruti. He cites Nader's call for a "Marshall Plan" to revive the inner cities, similar to the massive influx of funds to revitalize Europe after World War II; Baruti also supports the Greens platform calling for a national living wage, an end to redlining, equal funding for urban schools, and Nader's claim that racial disparities in sentencing are "an intolerable affront to the core principles of our justice system." Baruti says that neither major party has spoken out so clearly against the national pattern of police abuse or called for an end to the failed "war on drugs." He supports the Greens' call for universal, single payer health coverage, equal public campaign financing and non-intervention in foreign countries. He is also pleased that the Missouri Green Party has supported reparations for African Americans and put forward the only truly diverse slate of candidates.
Besides Baruti and Taylor, the whole of the Greens ticket represents the diversity of America. Nader himself is of Lebanese descent, and his Vice President Winona La Duke is Native American. The other statewide candidates include two women, Paula Elias for Secretary of State and Mary Ann McGivern for Attorney General. Two men of European ancestry, Ben Kjelshus and Ray Vanlandingham, are running for Lt. Governor and Treasurer respectively. As a spokesperson for the Gateway Greens, Fitz is proud of the rationale which led to these selections: "We have picked candidates who have demonstrated long commitment to issues related to their candidacy. They have come up out of grass-roots organizations and show our dedication as a party to representing the real interests of real people."
The Green Party sees as its major obstacle the habit of people to pick from the two major candidates. The Green response is like that of Mumia Abu Jamal, speaking in a tape to the August 26, 2000 March in Washington against police brutality: "Why vote for conservatives even if they wear the label of Democrat? ...Bill Clinton has savaged habeas corpus and overseen the explosion of the prison industrial complex...When will Blacks demand respect from a party that treats them like step children?"
Nevertheless, many people who agree with the Greens fear that they will be wasting their vote by not picking one of the leading contenders. "When you pick the lesser of two evils," says the Greens' Michael Moore, "you still end up with evil." The Greens believe that choosing one of two look-alikes is the real waste of a vote. They say, why not invest your vote in building a new party which truly represents you. African Americans, and fair minded whites, have never advocated selling out because they did not have access to money, media, or power. Instead they have created alternatives from within their own communities.
The Greens believe that now is the time to do the same in the political arena. If their coalition, still newly formed but coalescing, can gain only 5% of the national vote and therefore access to federal funds in the next election, they may have a realistic chance of achieving their goal.
Green Party headquarters are at 6101 Delmar at Rosedale, with weekly meetings Wednesdays at 7:00 pm. The Committee to Elect Zaki Baruti meets at the same location and time every Thursday. Phone: (314) 721-3192. E-mail: GreensStL@aol.com
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 22:01:48 EDT
Subject: GPUSA-TALK ethnic diversity in the Greens
I noticed several messages concerned with ethnic diversity in the Greens. The article below on the Gateway Greens ran in the leading Black news monthly in St. Louis, Take Five (October, 2000, pp. 16-18). I meant to post it a week ago but was so absorbed in Nader's visit that I have had little time for anything else.
The article focuses on the fact that the Missouri Green Party is the only party in the state running Black candidates for the leading state-wide positions of US Senator and Governor. It was not easy to accomplish this, since it met with intense opposition from the ASGP faction in Missouri. The Missouri Green Party has 20 candidates, and of the 6 state-wide positions, the Green Party is the only one with half women as well as Black in leading slots.
This electoral strategy flowed directly from and is intimately a part of our movement work with oppressed people. Had we not actively worked on an ongoing basis with groups opposing police violence, we never would have had the connections necessary for inviting Black organizers to head the Green ticket. Something else which helped tremendously was the Platform of the Greens/Green Party USA. When Zaki first read it he kept saying things like, "This is something that could really excite the Black community."
If anyone wants more suggestions on building a Black Green coalition, feel free to call me at 314-727-8554. (after Nov 7)
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