Saturday, January 05, 2008

Energy Policy

At the end of his 2006 primary battle with Richard Pombo (CA-11), Pete McCloskey wrote an OpEd that I printed here in its entirety. Pete is a man who fervently believes in the potential of this United States and has, throughout his long career, always upheld the Constitution and challenged those who would besmirch the honor of either. He was not prepared for the degree of voter apathy that he found.
The recent poll showing that less than a third of the people respect what Congress has been doing is not as disappointing as the fact that half of the electorate doesn't seem to care enough to try to change it.
McCloskey's observation is only a year old, but there seems to be an energy for change that has flowed into this year's presidential election. Barack Obama has built his entire campaign around the idea of change. In many ways he has created the impression that he is the embodiment of change. So strong is this impression that some media have begun to use the term "cult of personality" to describe the phenomenon.
Among the Democrats, the momentum belongs to Barack Obama, who came out of Iowa like a freight train with his win. On his whistle-stop tour of New Hampshire, every event is a mob scene and his campaign for the presidency is fast becoming a cult of personality. - Charlie Gibson
It would seem that the Green Party lacks the charismatic leadership to challenge this aspect of an Obama campaign, should he win. However, I am more concerned about my growing suspicion that McCloskey has made an astute observation about our party, the people are no longer fired up about what our party can do, that apathy has replaced energy, not on the issue, but regarding the belief that this party, lacking the charisma of an Obama, can do anything to affect those issues. The most telling recent example is the fact that very few of our county councils have been able to respond to an internal poll regarding Green Party positions on the ballot measure in the upcoming election. The list of non-responding counties contains some of those counties on which we count for leadership: Humboldt, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara.

Yes, I know that some of this is a problem of timing, the county council's not having a meeting scheduled in order to take a formal position. I consider that an excuse for non-action, or rather a sign that developing formal positions on ballot measures is not a priority for the activists in these counties. If it were, they would have found a way to get it done.

This is particularly galling since Proposition 93 concerns Limits on Legislators’ Terms in Office. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Those counties that did respond to the polling were overwhelmingly opposed to this measure. These was not a single indication that even one individual supported it. But, according to our bylaws, we will not take a position because we could not get a quorum of interest.

My real concern is not with the results of this polling, but rather my fear that is demonstrates a lack of concern for state and local issues as a complement to the energy that goes into such national, emotional, "progressive movement" concerns such as impeachment and the Iraq War.

Note, I did not place these as a either / or proposition. If we are going to be a party that is ready to practice governance, we need to be able to provide leadership and direction on a broad range of topics at all levels. In the terminology that I have used before, we need to move beyond protest to provide Green solutions to the problems that face our local communities, our counties and our state as well as being the voice of protest at the national level.

In my mind, this is a failure of local leadership to keep the focus on local concerns equal to the major protest issue. Remember the words of Tip O'Neil. "All politics is local." If we are not growing this party, it just may be because we are not fully engaged at the local level.

So, back to McCloskey's warning of the danger of apathy. Enough of the votes got the message to turn Richard Pombo our of office. There were a few, very local, media outlets that had the integrity to lay things out the way that they really were, without spin. Such was, and continues to be, the Tracy Press, whose editorial policy is to put the real welfare of the entire community above everything else.

I know that Lisa Taylor will remind me of all the good work that Greens are doing outside the party. That is wonderful, energy well directed. I only want to make sure that there is a little energy left to actually operate this party because that is the only way that real change will happen.


Lisa said...

No, I'm not gonna say that, Wes.
I'll say that there are not enough of us, volunteers all, to do all the necessary work.


Wes said...

Maybe we should have all the volunteers turn into fund raisers, and then use that money to pay people to run the day to day business.

We have tried about everything else Well, maybe. The GPUS has just hired a fund raiser. Let's see if that can start brining in what we need.

Orval Osborne said...

This is a core concern, for the Green Party and for the entire project of democracy in America. I blame TV for the apathy. But I feel apathy's drag myself.

We are not dealing with facts here, but primarily on the level of analysis, and partly on goals and strategies. I have written elsewhere on "the arc of the Green Party," having peaked and now spiraling downward.

Duverger's Law says in a plurality (winner-take-all) system like we have, it always ends up with a 2 Party system. We need IRV, if the Green Party will have a chance of power. The "movement" for IRV and electoral reforms may be resisted indefinitely by the Democratic and Republican Parties. What is the strategy? Is this or any Third Party viable? I don't know.