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Which Way Forward for the Green Party?
At their 2005 Annual National Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Green Party delegates voted down resolutions offered by the Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) designed to ensure proportional representation inside the party, national delegates accountable to the expressed will of the membership, and political independence from the two corporate parties. The votes against these proposals fly in the face of everything that the Green Partys platform and membership stand for.
At Tulsa two currents came into conflict over the future of the partya radical wing embodied by the GDI and a liberal wing led by David Cobb and others closely tied to the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).
GDI argues that the Green Party must become the political expression of social movements that challenge the corporate duopoly at the ballot box and can only be successful in this endeavor by conducting its affairs, setting policies, and nominating candidates who are completely independent from corporate-sponsored parties and policies. GDI came into being to resolve the political and organizational crises in the Green Party that threatened to sideline it as a progressive electoral force in the national political arena.
The Nominating Process
The current crises originated in the period leading up to the nomination of Green presidential candidate David Cobb who argued for a safe states strategy during the 2004 campaign. This tactic was viewed by many Greens as a backhanded way of sustaining the centrist Democratic Party in order to defeat Bush at the expense of Green Party interests. Cobbs running mate, Pat LaMarche, had spent the primary season arguing for complete abstention from the presidential race.
Cobbs strategy enjoyed only minority support in the Green Party, but his forces were able to win the nomination by rallying leaders of the small state parties who had a disproportionate number of delegates allotted to them and by convincing several delegates to change their assigned positions and vote against the expressed will of their state partys membership. Cobb thereby won the nomination and official support for his lesser-evil strategy. The Green membership and potential Green- leaning voters registered their disapproval as the Cobb campaign for president won less than 120,000 votes, or about one-third of the registered Greens in the country and less than 4 percent of the Green Partys previous national tally.
As a result of this disastrous showing, Green Parties in 7 of the 22 states with Green Party ballot lines lost them, which resulted in those states election boards purging computers of Green Party membership databases and terminating enrollment rights. The enhanced vote totals and membership increases Cobb and his promoters had assured the Green Party would result from his lesser-evil approach failed to materialize. Despite accommodating the Anybody But Bush forces and the high-profile position Cobb and the Green Party took in the ballot challenges and recounts in Ohio and elsewhere, Green Party membership declined, local candidacies declined sharply in numbers and vote totals, and the Green Party continues to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
Under Cobbs leadership, many in the liberal wing aligned themselves with the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) whose stated aim is to transform the Democratic Party through a policy of encouraging progressives to think realistically about the immutability of the two-party system and apply their energies inside the Democratic Party, rather than through third-party challengers. Cobb has appeared on many PDA panels as an alliance partner. Cobb ally, Medea Benjamin, of Global Exchange and Code Pink, wrote a glowing fundraising letter for PDA, which was disseminated in Green Party circles.
Like many inside/outside formations, such as the Working Families Party, PDA exists to shepherd progressives into the left wing of the duopolys electoral pen and reinforce the two party system and its consequences. If the AFL-CIO and mainstream civil rights groups heavily integrated into the Democratic Party and backed with millions of members and millions of dollarshave failed to bring progress with this technique, the PDA, with its meager forces, stands no chance of succeeding.
The Tulsa meeting was essentially a contest between the two wings of the party played out through the same undemocratic scheme that distorted the outcome of the 2004 Milwaukee Convention. Under this scheme California and New York control only about 16 percent of the Green National Committee (GNC), even though 65 percent of all registered Greens reside in these two states. By process of this disproportionate allocation system, liberals constitute as much as 75 percent of GNC representation and, through the Tulsa Green Party Convention, control 100 percent of the executive power vested in the steering committee (now reduced to a still unassailable 89 percent) and a similar percentage of standing committee and working group positions. These allocations can only be altered by a two-thirds majority vote and are thereby effectively self-sustaining.
Conflict between the two wings erupted early in the convention over which delegates to seat from Utah, a state where two groups claim to be the official Green Party. The original Utah Greens split into two factions in 2004 over which candidateCobb or Nader to put on their states ballot line. The small Cobb-supporting wing was officially recognized by the national steering committee as the sole representative of the Utah Greens. By contrast, the Nader- supporting wing, ten times the size of the Cobb-supporting wing, was recognized by the Utah secretary of state as the official Green Party of Utah, but was barred from access to the national Green Party by internal executive fiat.
With both delegations asking to be seated, the pro-GDI delegation from Florida proposed that each Utah group be allowed to seat a single delegate and that they resolve to work out their disputed affiliation after the convention. The liberal wing of the GNC, however, strongly opposed this proposal and the vote to seat one pro-GDI delegate was defeated 57 to 34 (with 4 abstentions).
Cobb repeated several of Camejos points, but then emphasized an exclusionary message. Instead of inviting debate, Cobb condemned what he called sectarianismhis label for anyone who opposed his safe states strategy or believes in building a left wing of the partyand did not accept or even acknowledge Camejos olive branch. In answer to a question after his speech about critical reviews of Green Party performance, authored by prominent Greens that have appeared periodically in the online progressive magazine CounterPunch, Cobb assailed these articles and denounced Counter- Punch editor Alexander Cockburn, saying that he represents why the sectarian left has failed. The not-so-subtle message was that the Green Party should exclude the left, continue to support Democrats in their election campaigns, and suppress dissent.
Key leaders of the liberal wing of the GNC made their support for Cobbs position clear after the speeches. Im not willing to define us as a party independent of the corporate parties, declared Illinois delegate Phil Huckleberry, who heads the Presidential Campaign Search Committee and co-authored the 2004 Convention Rules. I did not join the Green Party to fight against Democrats and Republicans . We are more than an independent party; we are a Green Party. Similarly, Jody Haug, Green Party co-chair and delegate from the state of Washington, declared her opposition to independence from the two corporate parties by arguing, We should not paint ourselves into a corner.
The GDI Proposals
The real conflict broke out when GDI members presented their proposals to the National Committee. GDIs strategy was to present a short overview of each proposal (since they had already been passed by several state parties and been discussed on the GNCs list serve) and then allow delegates to provide comments, concerns, and amendments.
The liberal wing, however, did not argue against the content of the proposals. Instead they relied on objections concerning bylaws, implementation, and procedural concerns. They also attempted to draw GDI supporters into accepting an alternative proposal from the DC Statehood Greens that would send the proposals to a committee without any political direction regarding democracy and independence, even though party bylaws forbid introduction for vote of new proposals without the mandatory three-week discussion period.
The GDI wing stood its ground and rejected this compromise as it would have nullified the basic principals of their proposals. After a long period of confusionduring which the steering committee frequently left the room to caucus (without explanation) and anti-GDI forces led delegates in doing the Wave and singing Oklahoma and Take Me Out to the Ball Gamethe GNC defeated all three proposals.
While the Green National Committee defeated the GDI proposals, there can be no doubt that this decision expressed the minority view of grassroots Greens throughout the U.S. Many Greens will be horrified by the travesty in Tulsa while most will be kept in the dark. The test now for GDI is to determine how to rally the majority inside the party and appeal to activists outside the party to build a democratic alternative dedicated to challenging the corporate duopoly.
If the liberal wing is able to maintain its dominance and orient the Greens towards subordinating themselves to the Democratic Party, the Green Party is likely to wither away like the New Party and other progressive alternatives before them.
The opportunity and responsibility for GDI members is immense. Democrats continue to ratify the Bush administrations program of deficit-financed corporatism, upward economic redistribution, and permanent war, thereby stoking frustration with the two-party system. Democrats continue to support the occupation of Iraq, the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, gave the margin of victory for the passage of CAFTA in the Senate, and helped confirm the nomination of conservative John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Millions of Americansworkers, women, gays, Latinos, blacks,
Muslims, the foreign-born, other oppressed populations, now including
mainstream anti-war advocates who are finally reaching the majority
of the U.S. publicfind no electoral expression for their demands
and aspirations. Millions more have grown frustrated with the failure
and consequences of the lesser-evil strategy of voting for the Democrats
in 2004 and its impending resurgence behind the early card of centrist
Democratic hopefuls for 2008. They are looking for an alternative.
They think it was a mistake to suspend all progressive social movements
and anti-war activities in order to mobilize the vote for Kerry,
who opposed all of their interests.
These millions of people form an electoral force with which GDI and supporting state Green Parties must connect. Such a coalition offers the hope of galvanizing the Greens and the broader social movements to build a genuine third party.
The authors of this report are state and national Committee delegates of the Green Parties of Vermont, California, and New York. All consider themselves to be active participants in Greens for Democracy and Independence.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.