Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Greens vs. Demorcrats

I would like to make an interesting observation about the difference between Greens and Democrats. It may explain our ongoing lack of ability to win elections.

I will relate two items:

First I remember Ex San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown saying something to the effect that you have to do anything you can to win elections, because unless you win the election you have no ability to implement anything you deem to be for the good of the people.

Second, in response to a post of mine at dailykos today, one kossak replied that the most important thing is to win seat... then to see that there are good people in those seats.

These are just two observations that the Democratic Party has consensus on the idea that the purpose of political parties are to win elections and to exercise political power. Hopefully, that will be for the good. After all of that is accomplished, then they begin to talk about issues. Actually, since they understand the necessity of power, they are able to talk about issue all of the time. There is no need to discuss the other publicly.

Greens, on the other hand, distrust power. For that reason, there is very little discussion about issue and a lot of discussion about the methods of gaining and exercising power. Since all of the talk is about how we govern ourselves, and our failures in doing so, there is little reason for others to join in. That is not what they are interested in.

Until we regain our focus on the way the Green Issue and Green Values can make life better in America, we will never win elections.

In my opinion, the fact that so much energy is spent on trying to resolve the so-called LA Problem is that is easier than dealing with issues. And so we miss opportunities time and again.

Maybe we should be going through the 37th CD and telling all of the Hispanic voters who were once again short changed by identity politics that there is a place, a party, which does not practice that. But then, we would have to create it, wouldn't we. But until we do start acting like a political party, we will have to be satisfied making a big deal about winning 10% of the votes.

Just a rant from a frustrated Green.


Lisa said...

Sure, it is easier to focus on what is right in front of your face , a squeaky wheel internal power struggle, rather than solving global warming in 2 easy steps.

What you seem to sidestep too easily Wes, is what we as a third party are up against in the frickin 2 party system (most people think that is what we have anyway --a 2 party system--not questions asked--no options). this is frickin hard work to get a third party candidate elected , or to get any notice at all in this system.

We just had a speaker tonight at our LA City Greens meeting--Rex Frankel-- a Green Party member who has been working to save the Ballona Wetlands for 22, yes 22 years!! He said he ran as a GP candidate for Assembly in 1998 and also LA City Council, then decided to focus more on a Green issue.

He made a point to say that it is mostly all Green Party members--not Democrats-- who have been in this struggle for decades. One used her inheritance on it.

A very small group of Green Party activists have saved a portion of the wetlands and caused the developer to spend almost 1 billion dollars over 2 decades.

The Green Party will never get public credit for it, of course, but isn't this a victory? Isn't this what we are trying to accomplish?

And of course, most of the people have not remained or been active in GP politics, because they have been too consumed by this one issue.

Lisa Taylor
LA Greens

Michael Feinstein said...

Regarding the role of Greens in the fight to save the Ballona Wetlands...the fight has been going on for a very long time...

But as part of this fight, I can recall being at the founding meeting of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust - it included the aforementioned Rex Frankel, Sabrina Venskus, Kathy Knight and myself - all Greens. I don't recall whether Tom Francis was at that meeting or not, but of course he has been a giant with the Land Trust, and he is a Green too. So are Bruce Robertson and Marcia Hanscomb, both very, very, very active on this over years. Recent office staff for the Land Trust over the last couple of years included Amanda Goeke and Paul Herzog - both Greens. And of course, there have been many, many other Greens involved as well.

This is significant on many levels of course, but in part I think it is most significant as a demarcation between Greens and Democrats, in that many Democrats have tried to promote Playa Vista as "smart growth" when we Greens have always known it is "unsustainable development".

This primary difference is something that has elected to us on many City Councils across the state, and should continue to do so, if we are just honest and aggressive about it, because it really addresses quality of life for people all over California.

And in that vein on a personal note, the City of Santa Monica was a co-plaintiff in the successful lawsuit against Playa Vista. I take personal pride in being the one who introduced the original motion before the City Council when I way Mayor, to initiate our role in the lawsuit - i.e. the role of a Green in government complementing Greens in the field, doing movement work.

Michael Feinstein said...

PS - Here is a video of my testimony to the LA City Council on behalf of Santa Monica (August 2004)

Wes said...

Lisa, I agree. There are so many examples of what can be done if green energy were targeted toward making the world green rather than into trying to make the Green Party into a perfect model of consensus politics.

We have been most successful when we apply green idea to solving real problems. In all of this, one of those whom I greatly admire is Art Goodtimes. Art is now in his third term as County Supervisor in a Western Colorado town. When asked about his success, he said something to the effect that he listed to the people and then found ways to solve their problems.

Yes, the Ballona Wetlands victory is, for now, a great thing to celebrate. I added the words "for now" because we all know that there are many developers and they will never quit. The list of politicians who have been developers themselves is quite long and includes our current governor, his most recent opponent, Phil Angelides.

However, we have to separate the Green Party from the green movement. Many are in the GP because it is the political embodiment of the green movement (not the progressive movement... though others join for that reason also).

However, the purpose of a "political" party is to acquire elective office and then to exercise whatever power that brings to further our vales. If that were not the case, we could all join the Sierra Club, or some other green organization to our liking. Mike gives us a very good example of how we can exercise the power of elective office. That is why we need to be focused on winning elections. Period.

I can not think of any power struggle that was more vicious that that between Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel for leadership of the Democratic Party. Still, it did not prevent them from focusing on getting people elected. Right now, when every decision becomes just another skirmish of the power struggle, we can't seem to do that.

I don't think that I am side stepping the third party problem. I also don't think that this problem is going to be solved by the choices we make for the presidential primary ballot in California. It will be solved when we follow the Bernie Sanders example. An independent socialist who manages to get elected as US Senator.

Lisa said...

The Dems can have a big internal fight and then pop right back out to their anointed place in our 2 party system, with mega media access, PR machine, etc.
We are grassroots, and you're right, it takes a greater toll on us.

As has been said before, most people in the party, and in L.A. , are not in either faction and have tried to stay out it and do the work, but it has had ramifications at many levels.

Anonymous said...

I think of speech as something with political implications. I remember when I got my MEND YOUR FUELISH WAYS sticker into the catalog. I had to talk the management into creating the "bike size stickers" category. All they knew at the time was bumper stickers for cars.

Since then my category has blossomed in their catalog. Now there is a sticker in that category that says only "do no harm". What is that if not an endorsement of the Hipocratic Oath? There is another one that has the text of the First Amendment on it. I'm planning to get the light green on green one that reads "CHANGE HAPPENS". Every time I see the new issue, with the small sticker category just a little bigger than it was before, I get that "we are moving forward together" feeling.

To my way of thinking, getting elected is fine, if you can do it. For the rest of us, working with the cultural resources American society gives us is the best we can do. Green Politics maps very well into a "walk your talk" format. Democrat politics is something you need to get elected to be a player in. For my money, green politics is the better value.

Wes said...

Working with those cultural resources is great, as long as that is not all that one does.