Wo sind die Gruenen? (Where are the Greens?) (with apologies to Leon Rosselson)
As the Bush Administration continues its immoral and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as the Democrats pee all over themselves in finding ways not to stop the idiot-in-chief and his anti-democratic administration from destroying everyone in the world including us, I have a recurring question pop into my mind: where are the Greens?
Things were looking up. Living in Illinois, I was delighted to see that Rich Whitney, the Green candidate for Illinois governor, got over 10% of the vote last November. To me, one who is generally not involved in electoral politics, this suggested that the Greens were getting their act together, as to get 10% in a highly-populated state such as Illinois suggested a certain level of electoral party infrastructure and sophistication had been built.
And I had (perhaps naively) assumed that similar gains had been built in a number of states across the country.
Yet, I never heard anything more, really. Usually, a Green representative will issue some sort of press release/article informing us of their performance-but if they did after November 2006, I never saw it. Curious.
Perhaps I wasn't on the right e-mail list. It's possible, although I'm a member (albeit, not an active member) of the Illinois Green Party, and I would have thought I would have gotten something from the Party. And while I don't spend my life checking out every web site on the net, I peruse several (of several different political persuasions) regularly, am on numerous e-mail lists, and usually manage to see a pretty good range of left thought and opinion.
But nothing. And that has continued across the first five months of the year, while Baghdad burns and DC political leadership turns into fecal matter.
To say that opportunity is knocking on the Green's door is an understatement. The war is-not unsurprisingly-a disaster, high level graft and corruption is being exposed regularly, and still the Democrats pee all over themselves whenever Bush clears his throat. It would seem a perfect time for a third party, especially one that has its act somewhat together, to make major gains.
Alas, nothing-at least not publicly.
What's happening? Why can't the Greens take advantage of this incredible opportunity?
To be honest, I don't know-and I certainly don't have inside information to make any kind of intelligent guess. Someone much more active, and much more involved in Party leadership, will have to provide that analysis.
But here is my two cents worth, from the "outside," if you will.
The Greens aren't bold enough in their imagination, in their dreams. And they haven't done sufficient member education to stimulate grassroots members to demand so much more.
The Greens, as an electoral representative of the environmental movement, have a lock on this aspect of politics. They have earned it. And the field is ripe.
One example. In late April, Global Exchange and Co-op America sponsored a "Green Festival" in Chicago (www.greenfestivals.org/content/view/17/37/ )-and in a major convention center that really is not very accessible via public transportation (despite claims otherwise) to city residents-they still managed to get over 31,000 people inside the door over three days, to see all kinds of green businesses (I'm not turned on by green capitalism, although if you've got to buy things, better from a green business than not), powerful speakers, and a very positive example of how much better off we would all be in the country went green. It was clear to me, as my family and I attended, that the social basis for environmental consciousness definitely has been created. And it would make sense that the Green Party has a strong environmental base to build upon.
Join that example from the "Heartland"-we are not talking about the more advanced environmental consciousness generally on the coasts-with the response that Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" has garnered across the world (despite its considerable weaknesses, such as a lack of critique of corporations, for one), and we see something important is developing. And already, there seems to be a slight increase in focus on climate change (i.e., global warming) in the mainstream media in this country.
However, what the Greens have not come to embrace, as far as I can tell, is a radical politics that is more than environmental. They play one note, and some could say they play it with increasing skill, but as well all know, one note a symphony does not make.
Yet, with not that much boldness, there are several issues that if the Greens would take-and take seriously-then I think we could elect a Green president of the United States by 2020.
Core issues to any type of serious radical politics include:
Anti-racism. Because of the still generally not acknowledged history of the United States, which continues today, and the current situation-especially the radically disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and Latinos-any radical project must specifically challenge white supremacy and any discrimination on the basis of race. (And this is particularly important in a predominantly white political project like the Greens.)
Anti-sexism. For the same reasons. (And this holds true that we have to condemn and work against any type of oppression, even though these are the only ones I mention herein.)
A focus on climate change-with a demand that we cut 80% of today's carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. This obviously includes total opposition to nuclear power.
A focus on income inequality-with a demand that no one in corporate management nor government employment can make (including stock options, and any other forms of payment for years worked) more than 10% more than any employee in the firm, and that this must be rectified within three years.
A focus on health care-that free, high quality health care be made available to every one in this country, regardless of immigration status, within three years.
A new US foreign policy, which includes a rejection of any US efforts to dominate the world, a reduction of our military to where we spend no more than 10% of current budget on all forms of the military (including veterans benefits), and a conscious and immediate effort to negotiate the eradication of all nuclear weapons and the capability of producing such any where in the world.
Now, obviously, these could be debated, changed, etc., as they are just a starting point, but the main idea is that the Greens could fight for and I believe win a radical program by 2020-but it has to be fought for and won, not assumed.
And that leads me to my final point. As far as I can see, the Greens could not adopt such a program at this time, because the educational groundwork, debate, etc., have not taken place within the Party, nor any discussion on how to implement such a strategy. If they are serious about winning the presidency-and with the necessary support in the House and Senate to implement such a project-then they have to develop a serious and critical education project especially in the Party, although I would encourage them to make it accessible to interested outsiders.
But, if they will attempt to do this, they actually have a lot of strength they could mobilize, so they wouldn't have to start from scratch. There are a range of progressive academics and educators that would probably be delighted to visit towns and organizations to speak and do educational events for a serious political project. As more and more Green Party members get a deeper understanding of these and related issues, then further leadership development-and electoral candidates-become possible, which means the quality and range of leadership expands further into the hinterlands of the United States.
In short, I argue that the current weakness of the Green Party is not because of being too bold, but because not being bold enough. From my daily work with students in Northwest Indiana, I know that there is a substantial number of people-far from a majority, but not an inconsequential number-who know something's wrong with this country, and they are seeking intently some answers to their situation that is getting worse on a steady basis. These people can be reached, if addressed respectfully and helped to understand their situation and that of the country as a whole. They can be won to develop a global consciousness, one that includes environmentalism and a wide range of critical perspectives. They are seeking a way to put consciousness into action, and electoral politics is one way-if the politics addresses real issues.
The question I have, again, "Wo sind die Gruenen?"
Kim Scipes is a long-time labor activist and a member of the National Writers Union, AFL-CIO. He currently teaches sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana. His on-line "Current Labor Issues" bibliography can be accessed at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm. He can be reached at email@example.com.