Green & Growing: 2004 in Perspective


Over 158 Activists Sign On To "Green & Growing" Document #(intro dated 6/20/2003)

Disclaimer: This perspective piece generally represents the views and opinions of its many contributors, although there may be some minor differences on one point or another. Although the authors of this article represent a political cross-section of U.S. Greens, the article is not a policy statement of the Green Party of the U.S.

Forward freely. Please see the end for the original list of signatories.


GREEN & GROWING: 2004 IN PERSPECTIVE

The 2004 election season begins in an era of crisis:

In sum, the 2004 elections find the sole superpower at the center of a spiraling global crisis, fed in part by the actions, and sometimes inaction, of the establishment political parties. The moment demands leadership in the form of an opposition party. Tens of millions of people across the United States thirst for opposition to the downward spiral of our government and politics, and many hope for a reversal. On February 15th, 2003, in demonstrations of millions, the people of the world demanded it.

The Green Party of the United States has an obligation to go much, much further. In 2004 the Greens must present an active electoral opposition to the establishment parties and the interests they serve. The Greens must develop a positive, forward-looking strategy that involves elections at the bottom, the middle, and top of the political ladder. We must address the current crisis with our candidates and our campaigns, and provide voters and non-voters alike with reason to believe that the Greens are here to stay, to grow, and ultimately, to transform American society for the better.

II - WHERE WE'VE BEEN

In assembling any strategy, some of the key questions that must be asked include: "Who and where are we?", "Where have we been?", "Where do we want to go?", and finally, "How will we get there?" Among these questions, the question of "Where have we been?" is most often overlooked, and of particular importance to the Greens.

We often forget that the Greens are not a brand-new entry to American politics. To a great extent, the history of the Greens known to most party members is informed less by real events in our party's development, and more by the media's portrayal of the Greens. Despite what many pundits say, the Greens are not a new party, not created from above by any single person, and not a faction of the Democratic Party. Who are the Greens then? Where have we been?

(A) Early 1980s - Origins - Inspired by the rise of Green movements in Europe and Africa, U.S. peace, ecology, international solidarity, farm, feminist, and labor activists begin to discuss the formation of a new Green political movement in North America. U.S. Greens hope to bring the practice of the European Greens "anti-party party" movement politics to the U.S., and to plant it in the indigenous U.S. tradition of independent progressive party politics.

(B) 1980s-Early 1990s - Initial Growth - Green parties take root across the United States and Canada. Greens across the continent contribute significantly to anti-war, anti-nuke, and anti-biotech movements, and also make electoral gains in states like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, and California.

(C) Early 1990s-1996 - Divergence - Significant political differences within the Greens lead to the divergence of Greens into various camps; as a result, party growth at the national level stagnates, while local and state parties continue to grow. At this time, two other major national progressive political parties are formed in the United States: The New Party and the Labor Party.

(D) 1996-2000 - National Renewal - Greens decide to adopt a New Mexico proposal to build 40-state presidential campaign. The 1996 Nader/LaDuke campaign puts U.S. Greens on the national electoral map for the first time, rejuvenating dozens of local and state parties in the process. The following years witness a coming together of the vast majority of Greens under the principles articulated in an agreement called the "Boston Proposal" of 2000. Meanwhile, the New Party collapses following a 1997 Supreme Court ruling (Timmons v. New Party) hostile to the practice of so-called "fusion politics," and Labor Party languishes due to its failure to engage in electoral politics. Finally, 2000 Nader/LaDuke Campaign receives almost 3 million votes, the best showing by a progressive party ticket since 1924, resulting in the growth of Green parties in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

(E) 2001-2003 - Rapid Growth - Greens build on the 2000 election by forming a new national party - the Green Party of the United States - out of the elements of the Association of State Green Parties and the Boston Proposal. Although a few states suffer setbacks, most state parties grow quickly. Within two years, the number of state parties affiliated with the national party increases from 29 to 41, and various caucuses begin to apply for and receive accreditation. Other increases include the number of candidates (287 to 552), elected officials (87 to over 180), party members (increased to over 300,000), and annual budget (roughly $30,000 to almost $1 million). These years are also marked by the emergence of the Global Greens Network and of regional Green networks on all 6 populated continents. Finally, the 2002 elections witness a major increase in votes for Green candidates, a near doubling of votes from under 3 million in 2000 to almost 6 million in 2002.

III - WHERE WE'RE GOING

(A) From Alternative to Opposition

The experience of the U.S. Greens is typical of a textbook shift in the rise of political parties; this is the shift from alternative to opposition politics. Where the Greens of the 1980s were intent on building a cultural and political alternative to the dominant political establishment, two decades later the Greens are becoming a movement capable of offering not only alternatives, but also active opposition to the establishment.

To say that such a shift is "textbook" is not to say that it is common; recently the New and Labor parties have failed to make the shift from alternative to opposition. In fact, relatively few national political parties in the history of the United States have made such a transition (namely the Republican, People's, Socialist, Progressive, Communist, and American Independent parties). Today, the Green Party is entering a period of political opposition, in which one of our roles is to confront and oppose the deadly policies enacted by the establishment parties, as well as to oppose the establishment parties themselves. In this era of global corporate consolidation and control, the Green Party has a duty to embrace its role as an electoral opposition force both for democracy and against the practices of the two captured corporate parties.

(B) Towards Transformation

The long view of a political party's growth sees a textbook transition, from the posing of a political "alternative," to the confrontation of the establishment with active political "opposition." This view sees also, finally, a shift from "opposition" to "transformation." Because the Greens take our purpose seriously, we cannot be satisfied with posing alternatives, or with the offering of opposition, but we must in the long run be working toward the democratic transformation of U.S. politics, culture, economics, ecology, and international relations. Solutions. This means that Greens need to be thinking about, and preparing for, a shift in our party's role as well. The Greens will remain the anti-party party, refusing co-optation of all kinds, and yet the Greens must also commit to the end of actually succeeding in our work.

(C) Government Power

In a growing number of communities, Greens in elective office, together with local Green parties, now have the ability to use the power of local government to enact the policy proposals long offered only as alternatives. In these Green localities, our movement is already at the cusp of the transition from opposition to transformation. As Greens win more local and state offices across the United States, the task will be to use them effectively to further the goals of the overall movement.

Elected Greens have taken a lead in implementing expanded living wage and tenant rights ordinances, in democratizing municipal government, instituting Instant Runoff Voting, and in establishing public ownership of utilities. Greens holding office have also learned how to use local governments as instruments of resistance to authoritarian policies enacted by the federal government (for example, the PATRIOT Act, corporate personhood, biotechnology, military recruiters, etc). Recent progressive movements in the U.S.A. possess limited experience with the effective use of government power as an instrument of democracy. As Greens win more elections at the local, state, and eventually, national levels, we will need to learn how to make the most of our electoral successes. We will need to learn how to use local government power as an instrument for building the democracy movement.

(D) Resistance

As an electoral force, the Greens have the ability to provide the larger democracy movement with the use of a "no" vote at the ballot box. In those races where Greens are not yet winning elections, we can still affect them. That such votes would be characterized as protest votes is unsurprising, for they are. That protest votes are often denigrated in the U.S., even by those who applaud the traditions of electoral resistance in other counties (Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, for example), only speaks to the weakness of much of the establishment U.S. Left. At the same time, the 3,000,000 votes cast on behalf of Nader and LaDuke in 2000 represented a significant act of "ballot-box solidarity" against the economic policies of Bush-Gore. These were votes against neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism both.

Protest votes, like protest in general, should not be indiscriminate. Votes of resistance should be voiced first and foremost in the most critical races against the most irresponsible members of the political establishment. For example, in the 2002 congressional elections, Greens nationally named 10 incumbents responsible for tipping the balance on corporate trade proposals such as China-MFN status, the FTAA, and GATT, and Greens were recruited to run against them; the majority of the incumbents so named switched their votes in the course of the 2002 campaign and voted against Fast Track.

(E) Global Politics

The Greens are a global network of political parties. As such, the Greens are an almost unique movement in world history. Commitment to the common pillar values of non-violence, social justice, ecology, and grassroots democracy among Greens is near universal on six continents and in over ninety countries. Participation of Greens in continental Green Party federations and a new Global Greens Coordination has proved especially meaningful in this era of global corporatization and war. Global Green solidarity against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan kept many nations out of those wars, and contributed to changes of government in such countries as Brazil, Scotland, Kenya, and Lithuania. The success, therefore, of the Green Party of the United States here in what the world views to be the "belly of the beast", is of keen interest to tens of millions of Greens around the world. The obligations of U.S. Greens are importantly not duties to ourselves alone.

IV - THE MEANING OF LEADERSHIP IN 2004

The 2004 elections begin at a moment of profound global crisis. War, global warming, poverty, and corporatization are all common elements of what is at its source a crisis of democracy. Corporations rule the world, and an anti-democratic elite rule the corporations. Until the crisis of democracy is resolved, the many problems of the world cannot be.

In the United States of America, the crisis of democracy is especially sharp. The crisis is evidenced by the unparalleled power of corporations, the unequaled wealth of a tiny minority, a massive and faceless political bureaucracy, and the monopolization of political office by men, whites, older people, heterosexuals, and especially the super rich, to the exclusion of women, people of color, youth, LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) people, and the working majority.

Part of the problem is, and has long been, the corporate capture, control, and subsequent elevation of the two major parties. As agents of the state, the establishment parties receive hundreds of millions of dollars yearly in federal and state subsidies. As private corporations, the central committees of the two establishment parties exercise broad Supreme Court-sanctioned rights to control the primaries, control the debates, bar "fusion" candidacies, harvest corporate contributions, invest heavily in elections, and control local and state parties affiliated with them. The establishment parties themselves pose as great an obstacle to democracy as the major corporations that finance them.

The Green Party stands against the establishment parties. Given the historic advantages of the establishment against all independent challengers, the relative success of the Greens is exceptional. Where other third party efforts have risen and sunk, the Greens row on. To succeed further in 2004, it is necessary to both understand and embrace the evident exceptionalism of the Greens.

Why the Greens? Why not the New Party? Why not, to date, the Labor Party? Or the Socialists? Why the Greens? Short answer: Because the Greens chose early on to do what political parties do - walk the electoral road. Dig deeper; why the Greens? Because the Greens spent decades building the party from the bottom up; national party leaders could not dictate a non-confrontational electoral strategy if they tried. Digging deeper still, why? Because the Greens recognize the current crisis for what it is; they will not accept crumbs, or even half a loaf, they know the world needs the whole loaf to live. Why? Because the Greens recognize that political parties should not be the exclusive domain of elites, but instead must become genuine community organizations made up of one's friends, neighbors and coworkers; thus, the dual nature of the Greens (movement/party). In sum, the Greens are exceptional among the independent progressive parties because they are committed to running and winning elections, rooted in grassroots organization and democratic culture, and because, in the current global crisis, the Green agenda is an idea whose time has come.

The challenge is exceptionally hard, yet the Greens are an exceptional party. This contrast reveals two facets of Green organizing in 2004. The Greens must become an even more vibrant challenger of the political establishment. The Greens must also be realistic in our approach to creating a successful electoral strategy.

What factors should Greens consider in making realistic decisions about elections? The Green Party of the U.S. has established an elected committee to deal in part with exactly that question. The Green Party Coordinated Campaign Committee (GPCCC) weighs eleven general factors in the evaluation of potential campaigns.

These include:

Considerations of these factors, not necessarily in the order listed above, form the backbone of the GPCCC's Campaign Resource Programs. (For a full description of the GPCCC, go to http://www.gp.org/committees/campaign/index.html).

And what of the 2004 elections? What are realistic, yet meaningful, goals for the Greens in 2004? We suggest the following:

(A) In congressional races, our goal should be one of steady improvement. In 2002 we ran 72 congressional candidates; our best showing was 22.3%. This time we can do better. We should run 100 candidates in targeted races. We should especially choose to run in races where the incumbent would otherwise be unopposed, or where the Green candidate is likely to place at least second; our goal with these races is to increase the percentage and number of voters who vote Green, and thereby increase the overall sense of identification with the Green Party. We should also run in any race that a Green candidate has a realistic chance of winning; these races would deserve substantial national assistance. We should choose to run in races, furthermore, where all of the other likely candidates, especially the incumbents, are really objectionable; these races would constitute the 'protest' races for the Greens, and should be tied to specific issues where the other candidates are out of step with their constituencies.

(B) In the presidential race, our goal should be to hold our own as the nation's opposition party. The presidential race is vital for the Greens. It's the race which deals directly with national policy, and which defines for the voters the Greens as a real party with a distinct policy agenda. In those states where the Greens are currently less developed, roughly half the country, this will be the only race of note; weaker Green parties rely on the presidential race to gain ballot access, establish the party identity, and to seed Green locals in new regions of the state. The presidential race is also essential to the growth of new skills and new leadership within the party.

The presidential race is also vital for the country. A strong Green presidential ticket will provide voters with the means to confront the establishment parties for their disastrous economic, international, ecological, and social policies. A strong Green ticket will force the establishment to address the failures of the electoral system, and to choose between the implementation of reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), and the continued loss of votes to the Greens. A strong Green ticket will bring non-voters into the arena of electoral politics, and thus strengthen the overall movement for democracy in the United States.

What would a strong Green ticket in 2004 look like? How would we measure it? In some regards, holding our own in the presidential elections would represent a significant victory. No one expects the Greens to break out in this race. Given the history of third parties in the U.S., the Greens are not even supposed to exist anymore. Thus, to capture several million votes, as we did last time, would be a major victory in itself.

Expectations regarding the 2004 presidential race will really depend in large part on what happens in the Democratic primaries. Should the Democratic Party nominate a Lieberman, Edwards, Kerry, or Graham, as seems likely, the Greens can expect to do very well, indeed, to improve on our 2000 showing. Should the Democrats choose a Kucinich or a Sharpton, no one will be surprised to see Green votes dwindle significantly. If Dean, Moseley-Braun, or Gephardt are the nominees the impact on the Green vote will likely be middling.

We believe that the Democratic primaries are most likely to produce a Lieberman Democrat, not a Wellstone Democrat. We think it essential to build a vigorous presidential campaign now, so that in that likelihood, there is a Green opposition ticket in full bloom next Spring.

(C) In local and state races we see several achievable goals for 2004. The Green Party is currently represented by Rep. John Eder in the State of Maine and by Rep. Matt Ahearn in the state of New Jersey. The Green Party nationally should seek to at least double their number, which would mean we would hold four or more seats in state legislatures after election day next year. Additionally, the Greens must continue to build on our recent double-digit successes in campaigns for statewide office.

In local offices, the Greens are nearing a point of national effectiveness. In a growing number of communities, Greens are in the position of not only offering policy, but of setting the policy agenda. Today, over 180 Greens hold elected office. In 2004 Greens should work to far exceed the 200-seat threshold, bringing new activists into elective office, and enabling for the first time the creation of a working national alliance of Green municipalities.

V - GETTING TO WORK

The Greens have come far and have a long distance yet to go. The 2004 elections pose important challenges along the way. The work of the Greens for 2004 is already well begun, and yet the hands and voices of many more will be needed to complete it.

A - Vigorous primaries - The Greens have a nominations process. As with other parties, the work of determining who the Green Party presidential team will be is a matter for a national convention made up of delegates from state parties. Each state will determine, by convention, caucus, or primary, depending on state law and state party rules, which candidates their delegates must vote for at the national convention.

We call upon Greens everywhere to engage wholeheartedly in the nomination process. May the best candidates receive the nomination. Those who support Ralph Nader should work to get the state delegates behind him. Those who support Cynthia McKinney should work to gain delegate votes for her. So too with the backers of David Cobb, Paul Glover, Lorna Salzman, and, potentially, of candidates who have not yet expressed an interest in the nomination. So too also, although we may disagree with them on their objective, those who back NOTA (None of the Above) should campaign actively for their choice. The members of the Green Party have created a nominations process; it is up to all of us as members to use it. A vigorous presidential primary can and should produce a strong Green team in 2004, equipped with a full campaign staff, a strong campaign-party relationship, oriented toward working with down-ticket candidates, ready to energize the alienated non-voting majority in a new insurgent campaign.

B - Ballot Drives & Registration Drives - The Green Party of the United States has established a Ballot Access Working Group (BAWG). Already, this group is working with Greens in tough ballot access states like Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, the Dakotas, and Georgia to kickstart their ballot drives. These states, and a half-dozen others, will need outside Green support. Greens living in ballot-qualified states should start thinking about taking a vacation to help less-fortunate Greens who live in tough states that allow "outside" petitioners to collect signatures.

C - Congressional, State, & Local Races - Local and state Green Parties need to be actively engaged in the recruitment of talented, attractive, diverse teams of candidates to run for congressional, state, and local offices in targeted races next year. The Greens need to tirelessly work to increase the quality, quantity, and diversity of our elections campaigns. Greens who have not started to actively recruit candidates, both from within and without the current ranks of the party, need to get going now.

D - National Support - Several working committees of the Green Party of the United States are dedicated to assisting our candidates at all levels. The Coordinated Campaign Committee is preparing regional campaign schools throughout the country, and is about to embark on a matching-fund program for campaign staff in targeted races, among other projects. The Diversity Committee is doing outreach and inreach in challenging the Greens to grow more inclusive, and in challenging broader communities to examine the Greens. The Platform Committee is hard at work soliciting proposals for amendments to the 2004 party platform. The Presidential Exploratory Committee is communicating with potential presidential nominees, insuring that they have the information they need to effectively seek the party's nomination. A Green Network of Officeholders is also in the works, committed to providing Green Party elected officials with policy support, and to highlighting their successes as examples of what Green government can look like.

E - Media and Message - There is a real need for party members everywhere to contribute toward the development of a strong, positive, future-focused campaign message. The party platform will to some extent convey this message to those voters who read it. But the majority of those we hope to reach will likely never read our party platform. Green candidates, activists, and spokespeople need to work together to develop a simple, clear, agenda for the United States that is distinctly Green, appealing, bold. The major national campaign themes in 2004 need not be comprehensive of all Green concerns, but they need to address and offer specific solutions to the fundamental crises our country is experiencing. We hope that existing Green bodies, such as the national Coordinated Campaign Committee, Platform Committee, and Media Committee will work with Green Party and Campus Greens members across the country to create such campaign themes.

VI - CONCLUSION

The Greens are entering their third decade in the United States, and yet the Greens' race is just begun. We believe that the 2004 elections pose a great challenge for the Green Party, and we urge Greens everywhere to rise to meet the opportunity. The world community is demanding the rise of an opposition voice within the United States, and Americans deserve one. The information is all at your fingertips. Please visit www.GP.org and join us.

       Green & Growing,

      (signed)

Gene Akins - TX
Kamran Alavi - CA
Nancy Allen - ME
Sara Amir - CA
John Atkeison - DE
Heron Baker - ID
John Battista - CT
Adam Benedetto - WI
Vanessa Bliss - MA
Don Boring - CA
Gina Frances Bosben - WI
Bob Brister - UT
Owen R. Broadhurst - MA
Jill Taylor Bussiere - WI
Douglas Campbell - MI
Larry Cafiero - CA
J. Roy Cannon - DE
Sandy Carrubba - NY
Ginny-Marie Case - CA
Donna Charpied - WA
Larry Charpied - WA
Craig Chevrier - VT
Guy Chichester - NH
David Cobb - CA
Richard V. Crane - NY
Ginny Crisco - NE
Joe Crompton - CA
Katey Culver - TN
Tiffany R. Csaszar - NJ
Emily Dale - CA
Morgen D'Arc - ME
Sarah Davidson - IA
Don DeBar - NY
Gwendolyn Debrow - NY
Norman Deeley - FL
Masada Disenhouse - NY
George Dolph - PA
Emily Drennen - CA
Susan Dridi - VA
Teresa Dye - CA
Jeanne Egasse - CA
Tracy Eames - CT
Michael Emperor - NY
Tyler Endsley - MO
Hugh Esco - GA
Jose M. Escobedo - TX
Natalie A. Estevez - CA
Regina Etheridge - GA
Mike Ewall - PA
Leslie Farney - NY
Jim Farney - NY
Joe Fortunato - NJ
Gabe Gabrielsky - NJ
Greg Garrett - RI
Doug Gerash - TX
Marnie Glickman - OR
Annie Goeke - DC
Charlie Green - CO
Tony Gronowicz - NY
Holly Hart - IA
Craig Harvey - MI
Howie Hawkins - NY
Steve Herrick - MI
James Henderson - NY
Gary Hicks - MA
Craig Hill - VT
John Howes - FL
Fred Jakobcic - MI
Gordon Johnson - CA
Terry Floyd Johnson - CA
Badili Jones - GA
Ald. Pete Karas - WI
Dan Kinney - PA
Ald. Brenda Konkel - WI
Karin Lee Norton - CT
Tim Lagerman - WI
Karen Lienau - DE
Paul Loney - OR
Susan King - CA
J. Tyler Kinkade - CO
Kathryn Kuppers - NC
Mike LaForest - WI
Michele Magee-Nelson - WA
Ben Manski - WI
Geroge Martin - WI
Rachel Markowitz - MD
Bill McCormick - CO
Scott McLarty - DC
William C. McLean - FL
Lynn McLean - FL
Ald. Kevin McKeown - CA
Benjamin Meiklejohn - ME
Jeff Melton - IN
Bill Meyers - CA
Carol Miller - NM
Com. Robert Miranda - WI
Amy Mondloch - WI
Lynn Montgomery - NM
Jim Moreno - MI
Dr. Sophia K. Mubarak - CA
Frank Neelis - LA
Aaron Neumann - NM
Kayly S. Newcomer - PA
Gray Newman - NC
Martin Nolan - PA
Maya O'Connor - DC
Gil Obler - MA
Jon Olsen - ME
Larry Orr - IA
Mark Ortiz - NC
Andy Parks - HI
John Peck - WI
Brent Perdue - TX
Maron Pettes - CA/TX
Mike Piacsek - DC
Linda Piera-Avila - CA
Troy Pickard - CA
David Pollard - TX
George Plumb - VT
Joannes R. Pool - IA
Questioning Bear - GA
Nick Raleigh - MN
Starlene Rankin - CA
Marc Reichart - MI
Juscha Robinson - WI
Chris Robinson - PA
Taku Ronsman - WI
Cynthia Rose - RI
Dante Salvatierra - NE
Lorna Salzman - NY
Brian Sandberg - MA
Courtney Scott - OR
Tom Sevigny - CT
Jake Schneider - WI
Steve Shafarman - DC
Elizabeth Shanklin - NY
Walt Contreras Sheasby - CA
David R. Shorey - CA
Jeff Sutter - IN
Chris Stegman - WA
Sarah "Echo" Steiner - FL
Jessica Thill - WI
Ruth Trujillo - WI
Robert Tufts - MD
Matthew Vance - NJ
Ted Watts - MD
Steve Welzer - NJ
Rich Wenzel - KS
Diane White - PA
Dan Whitesell - CA
Julia Willebrand - NY
Jim Wolbrink - MI
Dawn Wolfe - MI
Seth Woolley - OR
Tom Yager - VA
Bahram Zandi - MD
Betty H. Zisk - MA




Intro header 6/20/2003

Three weeks ago, the following document, "2004 in Perspective: Green & Growing" began circulating on the internet. Since then, over 158 activists from across the United States, representing diverse communities and political views within the party, have signed on. Please consider signing on yourself, and please forward the document to Greens, and to the Green-curious. If you wish to sign on to the article, please email brmanski@yahoo.com.

The disclaimer again is this: This perspective piece represents generally the views and opinions of its many contributors, although there may be some minor differences on one point or another. Although the authors of this article represent a political cross-section of the U.S. Greens, the article itself has not gone through official party processes, and does not necessarily represent official party policy.

Please read to the end for the current list of signatories.


[Note: This statement has been refused publication in Green Horizons, on the IPPN website, by Common Dreams, The Nation, and any number of other on-line sources, despite requests to each of these. I've placed it on the web here as a service to Greens (it has never been submitted to Synthesis/Regeneration for publication [correction: an abridged version is in issue 33]). Please forward freely. Direct inquiries regarding the statement to brmanski@yahoo.com.        ójs (19 nov 03)

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[url: http://www.greens.org/s-r/greengrow2004.html; posted 19 nov 03 by jsutter@igc.org (jeff sutter)]