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The way forward, part 1

Publishing this now, as is; there’s much more to say, but I’ve been sitting on this for long enough.  More to come.

As we all know by now, Cynthia McKinney won the Presidential nomination of the Green Party on the first ballot last weekend in Chicago, and chose Rosa Clemente, a hip-hop activist from New York, as her running mate.  Most are reporting that the atmosphere was very positive and congenial.

I was unable for financial reasons to make the trip to Chicago and participate as a member of the Maryland delegation, but as most out there also know, I was actively involved in the campaign and my candidate didn’t win.

Now some would be interested in hearing what I have to say about this.  After all, I’m a former co-Chair of the Party, I was actively involved, as I said, and I have a blog and a podcast dedicated to, in part, news of the Green Party.  And I’ve been weighing this carefully, because there’s a lot to say.  I don’t want it to seem like sour grapes because my guy didn’t win – that’s really not the case – and I want to make sure that the GP itself isn’t getting damaged.  Not being a “major” party, we can’t really afford to have a lot of people forming caucuses and such that work at cross-purposes.

As you can guess, I’m not enamored of this choice.  Cynthia McKinney has a great many upsides: she’s intelligent, she’s dedicated, and she’s  a great speaker.  She’s a six-time Congresswoman, so she knows how to win, and she’s got support in her district among African-Americans.  She’s also got some downsides: she’s a former Democrat, with a history of flip-flopping on her commitment to the GP; she’s known in the larger populace as being a nut who goes off about conspiracy theories and punched a Capitol police officer; and she has an adversarial relationship with the media, tending to lecture and harangue them rather than treating them as a resource for getting the message out.

Over in the other parties, their positions are weak: McCain is a consensus candidate while the Republicans work out leadership between the small-gov libertarians, millenarian Christians, and the hate-based neocons and protofascists.  He’s forced into running as a Rightist in order to appease the knuckle-draggers in his constituency.  Barack Obama is coming off a tougher-than-expected primary against the classic anointed Democrat; he too is now running right to try and appeal to the same segment as McCain, and he and his fellow Democratic Senators have been a model of inaction and broken promises since taking control of Congress in 2006 – as Greens expected.

Now consider from that where the GP is.  Nader is taking his last bow as an independent once again – the break between he and the Greens, in all except the casual voters’ minds, is now complete.  David Cobb, the 2004 candidate, signaled a different way of running, indicating that the GP would not become yet another “Socialist Worker’s Labor World Radical People’s Front” style of party – an insular, far-leftist concern that does nothing of any consequence, existing only to attack other groups like it.  While he was roundly attacked for it, Cobb insured that the Greens would not simply be a cudgel for angry leftists to bludgeon the Democratic Party, but a party in its own right which would frame its concerns as those of the majority of Americans and try to build an independent base away from the fringe.  It was unsuccessful due largely to the stridency of the Nader concern, which is, if Chicago was any indication, finally dissipating (as not even Nader is willing to lead them).

The chance existed for the GP to continue moving to a different dynamic.  The room existed among the populace at large for a principled progressive candidate to move in and take over the spot abandoned by the Democrats.  As the Dems did in 2006, and so many times before, Obama began by pitching progressive reform and then slouching towards the expected “Republican-lite” positions; never has “Chaaaaaange!” sounded so preposterously hollow.  Additionally, the Greens could fall back on their Ten Key Values and attack both parties on their corporatist base, coming from directions that weren’t previously expected.  Comprehensive health care is the obvious one: both majors take large amounts from Big Pharma and the insurance companies, and so will never deliver health care for all; the Greens could insist on it and attack them freely for the money they take.  “Personal and Global Responsibility” is another Value: how about revealing that when Greens govern, taxes go down, because they insist on sustainable economies?  Greens could produce a budget that cuts out the vast majority of “defense” spending, including the Iraq War, stops shipping weapons abroad, and uses the money to repair our social programs and crumbling infrastructure – and we could legitimately sell it by saying that your taxes won’t be raised and may in fact go down.  Can you imagine the Republocrats and the media trying to assimilate that?  When the party they’d dismissed as a collection of far-leftist freaks suddenly attacks from a majoritarian position of fiscal responsibility?  And, more to the point – does so without pandering, without “going right”, without compromising its values one iota?

Even with McKinney as the nominee, all of this was possible.  We could have come forward with a platform and a strategy in 2008 that announced to all that we were ready to run with a winning strategy, and, regardless of the odds against us, we were ready to govern when we won.

to be continued…


One Response

  1. I am anxious to read the conclusion of this …

    This kind of sounds like when my favourite politician, bar none (and my own MP for the past 4 years, but I’ve been an admirer of the man for about 20 years now) Bill Blaikie ran for the leadership of the New Democratic Party in 2003. He was definitely the best candidate, and the sensible candidate (I believe, going in he had the most support among fellow MPs and other delegates), but in the end they chose Jack Layton, because he’s a) from Toronto and b) more charismatic (a point I would argue quite vehemently). Picking Layton, instead of the best candidate, was done to bolster the party’s showings (appeal to voters in the most populous area of the country, and present a politician that is camera-worthy), neither happened. I can’t really guess what would have happened if Blaikie was elected (he was house leader until Layton won a seat in 2004 (yes, Layton didn’t even have a seat and they elected him!), although Layton, as elected leader, was the party’s “public face”, Blaikie was named “deputy leader”, and currently is deputy speaker of the House) but one really has to wonder. I still think, considering how America is wired (and how the MSM presents things) that no matter who the GP elected, even if it was God Himself, that a GP candidate would make much of a dent in the polls in November (although, as I said before, I’ll be closely watching how they do do, and see how that might make things come to pass in ’12).

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