Saturday, November 07, 2009
Green for 2012
It is not too early to start thinking about who might be the best choice for a Green Party presidential candidate in 2012. You know that both the Democratic and Republican Parties are doing just that… some like Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty are already spending a lot of time in other states.
It is with that in mind that I think it a valuable exercise to describe the characteristics I would want to see in a Green Party candidate. Click Read more! to pursue that idea.
Economy: If Greens are to have a real impact in the next presidential election cycle, we must have a candidate who can articulate what being Green means to the typical voter. Whether you view that voter as Joe the Plumber, or just as you next door neighbor, we do know that there is a diverse population of voters whose needs must be met in order to secure their vote. Aiming a campaign only at some imagined progressive block will only further marginalize this party and, in my opinion, increase the likelihood of having to travel The Road of Cormac McCarthy.
James Carville coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" in the 1992 Clinton campaign. If Greens try to turn that into "It's the stupid economy" and run from the issue rather than embracing it, then it would be better not to run at all. Significant (over 80%) majorities of voters in the recent NJ/VA gubernatorial elections said that they were most concerned about the economy. This is not likely to change by 2012. Republicans will surely exploit this in every way that they can, linking every weakness to Obama's liberal big government spending.
It takes some 18 months before employment numbers turn positive after the economists say that a recession is over. We will still be recovering as candidates truly engage in the POTUS dance. Greens will only make inroads if they make economic sense.
Ecology: The only way to truly expound the Green way of thinking is to forget about the environment and start talking about ecology. Words have meaning. The terminology we use is important. As Dr. Frank Luntz wrote, "It's not what you say, but what people hear." The environment carries the connotation of a place that is far away. People go out into the environment. The Glenn Beck's and Rush Limbaugh's use "enviros" as a term of derision. Let them try that with "ecologists".
By 2012, we will not have resolved the climate change issues. This battle will still be fought and right now. It is a battle of people against the universe and, sad to say, we are winning. The ecological truth is that we need to view it all as a system and find ways to make the system work together like a well tuned engine. The fundamental change in thinking is that ecology means we consider how decisions that we make over agricultural practices in Iowa will have an effect on shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Mexico or the probability of another Katrina-like strike at New Orleans. It is all that interdependent.
It means that the measures we take to control climate change must be explained in terms of their economic impact. If the Republicans, who have long waged a war on science, are allowed to define this in Sarah Palin terms, millions will die.
Social Contract: Most of the truly revolutionary changes in American politics, especially those that came out of a time of crisis, have defined a new social contract for Americans. Whether it came with Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, LBJ's Guns and Butter or the Newt Gingrich's (really Frank Luntz's) Contract with America, leaders were able to articulate a vision of how government should work for all of the citizens of this country.
We should not make the mistake of blurring the enemies lines of demarcation. There are real difference in this area between Democrats and Republicans though both buy in to the concept that all good comes from growth. Their difference lie in how to achieve that goal and those differences can be exploited.
The real difference is with the Green view of the social contract, one expressed in terms of social ecology, where free individual choices need to be seen in terms of the entire system in which they are made. It is extremely difficult to do this, but it must be done.
Past Green Party presidential campaigns have failed to ignite enthusiasm because they accomplished none of the above goals. They talked to Greens rather than to all Americans. One might be able to speak to a hip-hop audience in their own terms, but may have to deal with the fact that hip-hop listeners want their President to rise to a different level, to be, in fact, presidential.
The Green Party has to do a lot of soul searching and candidate searching between now and the next election. We better get it right because the fate of mankind may just depend on what kind of president we have in 2012.