Thursday, January 12, 2006

Party Affinity:

I monitor more than a few blogs and forums, maybe more than I really have the time to deal with. I would like to tie some comments together to make a point that I think is critical to Green Party growth.

The Cal-Forum list has had a short thread on National Party direct mail report for Dec 2005. That report prompted someone to comment that "To me, that says that your average registered Green has no tremendous affinity with the party as an institution..." If that statement is true, then we are having a real difficulty communicating our message.

As part of the camaign to retire Congressman Pombo, I monitor both lefty and conservative blogs. On one, SanJoaquinBlog, I read a core complaint that may apply to the Green Party as well as the Democrats in this race.
I would like to see ONE post dedicated to how any of the challengers would make Valley residents better off than they are now.

There are multiple implications in this challenge, which was aimed at the activists who are challenging Pombo (3 Democrats and Pete McCloskey).

  • While negative messages seem to arrouse the pasions of activists, they may not be as effective in building sustained party loyalty.

  • Many of the new registrants in a party are pulled in more by the appeal of a charismatic candidate than by the party message.

  • Most effective action has derived from ad hoc associations of people from various backgrounds and affiliations (or non-affiliation) around single issues: affordable health care, Iraq War opposition, California Fair Wage Initiative. Even with Green Party leadership, as the Fair Wage Initiative has, it does not translate to party loyalty.

  • The Green Party has failed to differentiate itself as fundamentally different from other political parties. Even though Nader's message was that both the Republicans and Democrats do terrible things, that did not translate into the perception that Greens were somehow different.

  • In areas where the Democrats are comparatively weaker, like the Central Valley, the Green Party is not in a position to fill the void as an alternative to the Republicans. This is due to a great extent in the urban, coastal focus of the party and lack of organizing efforts in high growth commities of San Joaquin or Kern Counties.

  • We have not fully learned the lessons of Tip O'Neil. All politics is local. We have our best results where local Greens are dealing with solutions to local problems as in Arcata, to choose one example.

5 comments:

Genevieve Marcus said...

about all politics being local:


(Wes) * While negative messages seem to arrouse the pasions of activists,
they may not be as effective in building sustained party loyalty.
*************
This is especially true because those attracted to a negative message tend to be single-issue people that try to keep the party involved with mainly their issue. Those who don't feel strongly about their issue get tired or bored and leave. I've watched this happen several times.



(Wes) * Many of the new registrants in a party are pulled in more by the
appeal of a charismatic candidate than by the party message.
**********
I hope that's not true. Certainly, Nader pulled in lots of people,
but he has refrained from being our leader. I have just read the
series in the L.A. Times about Caesar Chavez and the UFW. It was
heartbreaking. It seems like every charismatic leader eventually
deviates from his/her ideals and becomes a megalomaniac. Power corrupts even liberals. The German Greens had a hard time rotating leadership, but they were on the right path. Another approach would be to divide up the leadership functions (and power) among several people. Of course, the German Greens couldn't do that because they had a small number of representatives and couldn't divide up the representatives' functions.
Bob Smith and I ran for Co-Governor of California by deciding to combine the functions of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor since, by law, the latter becomes the governor when he/she is out of the state. We announced our intention to do so in every speech.


(Wes) * Most effective action has derived from ad hoc associations of
people from various backgrounds and affiliations (or
non-affiliation) around single issues: affordable health care,
Iraq War opposition, California Fair Wage Initiative. Even with
Green Party leadership, as the Fair Wage Initiative has, it does
not translate to party loyalty.
***************
Which brings to mind the thought that the Greens only formed a
party because that is how one influences policy and law in this
world at this time. We had to play the game. If we had our druthers,
wouldn't we invent a way to run the country without politics and power?
So, while party loyalty is important to gaining power, unquestioning
loyalty to anyone or anything isn't the most advanced position for human
beings to aspire to. Still, if we repeatedly represent single issues
that are important to the majority, shouldn't party loyalty be an
automatic byproduct?


(Wes) * The Green Party has failed to differentiate itself as
fundamentally different from other political parties. Even though
Nader's message was that both the Republicans and Democrats do
terrible things, that did not translate into the perception that
Greens were somehow different.
****************

See above. No political party can be extremely different and win in this world as it is today.


(Wes) * In areas where the Democrats are comparatively weaker, like the
Central Valley, the Green Party is not in a position to fill the
void as an alternative to the Republicans. This is due to a great
extent in the urban, coastal focus of the party and lack of
organizing efforts in high growth commities of San Joaquin or Kern
Counties.
***************

Greens have not yet learned to frame their message in local language.


(Wes) * We have not fully learned the lessons of Tip O'Neil. All politics
is local. We have our best results where local Greens are dealing with solutions to local problems as in Arcata, to choose one example
*****************

Yes, all politics are local, but
our local problems may also be universal in our Global Village.
If we could design even one
city in which everyone's basic needs
were met in a sustainable way, we
might be able to replicate it
(with variations) worldwide in
a new weblike structure.

Wes said...

I am glad you joined the discussion, Genevieve. I certainly understand much of what you are saying.

There are still places where I have concerns. Examples:

* Comments on Cal-Forum that it is not a good use of Green Party resources to try and develop organization in the Central Valley. Made by a San Francisco resident.

* Within California, the gains that came through Camejo's gubernatorial campaign did not translate into lasting registration. We shold ask why? He was a very good candidate. Maybe I remember too much Eric Hoffer.

* Jared's comments on Cal-Forum about trying to end the culture of exclusion are very encouraging but we need to make sure that there is buy in from everyone, all committees, all candidates, all behind the scenes opinion manipulators.

I was reading a Conservative writing in San Joaquin County. His major point was that all of the activist rhetoric is aimed a tearing down those in office and that he did not see even one suggestion as to what someone new would do to make things better.

This is perhaps my single biggest issue with much of the "progressive acivist" culture. It is easy to rile people up to protest, but what would you do if suddenly you were empowered to act...and there is not much offered. Somehow I have always felt that we need to be offering a better way and not just throwing stones at Republicans.

Anonymous said...

Who is (or was) Eric Hoffer?

Lisa said...

Who is (or was) Eric Hoffer?

Wes said...

I should have given a link to The Eric Hoffer Resource. http://www.erichoffer.net/ The short answer is that he was the author of "The True Believer" which described the nature of mass movements, those who joined them and those who led them.

Perhaps I can give one quote that you can also find on the Hoffer site:

"The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than of deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without."