Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Green is our valley?

There are debates which rise to the fore that have not been addressed following elections of Green campaigns and numerous campaigns throughout the country. The question asked in Wes's post: "Who killed the Progressive movement?" should be preceded with the question: "Who created the Progressive movement?" The term progressive, like the term liberal, is the latest whipping boy in the media and was no more then an effort to avoid the label of liberal by substituting words. The strongholds of progressivism are the same strongholds of liberalism. The priorities of progressives are the same as the priorities of liberals.

The self-definition of the Green Party has not recognized the real social forces behind the political priorities of a green party. It has not matured sufficiently to distinguish between Greens and progressives at the political level. This accounts for the constant fusion issue and party jumping of activists, former candidates and elected public officials. This is no small obstacle. There are many who fear openness in this discussion. Acceptance of a third party strategy has to move to the point where we develop language in our campaigns, priorities in our issues work and reconstruct our own strategic political map and vision for the future. Our independence is our ballot line, our Platform, our base of support and our distinct ties to the communities that we live in.

There is a separate discussion to be held as to strategy, vision and priorities. It involves assimilating our electoral experiences, considering the political landscape and mapping out survival tactics in heavily Democratic states. If we see family farmers as a potential base of support in a given campaign, then we need to identify what are the critical issues of concern to them that are not represented by the Republican Party and are consistent with the Green Platform and Key Values. If we are addressing an urban context, we can provide leadership only if we present a distinct agenda of policies that differentiate the Green Party from the urban Democratic Party machines.

This goes back to my post on redefining the politics of bioregionalism. Resource management and renewable energies are critical areas where the Green Party is able to address both urban and rural residents with distinct policy proposals. They are also significant issues on the current political agenda. Our presentations need to be distinct; otherwise, we will be exposed as Bill Richardson did against the Green candidate for Governor. He said: “I am greener then the Green” because of his position of stopping the project on Otero Mesa. The Green Party candidate simply stated his desire to review the issue. On the one hand, this can be dismissed as a gaff that was seized on by Richardson, but on the other hand it demonstrated that Democrats can out-green Greens if we do not distinguish our positions fundamentally.

Today Richardson has been doing things on the state level that present him as a greener then Green and the Green Party of New Mexico has fallen off the ballot. There are windows of opportunity, but the windows are not open for long and there is a need to demonstrate the relevancy of the Green Party in concrete victories. Visibility and viability are based on our real role in politics and not simply our rhetorical flourishes condemning the other parties. Being called spoilers will be neutralized only if we demonstrate our relevancy in decisions being made and show our base on Election Day. You cannot be a spoiler if you are contributing to the decisions being made in demonstrative terms.

Democrats in California are losing a significant base of support in regards to the peripheral canal and the California Delta. But, without the concepts of adaptive governance and regional water planning being incorporated in the debate the distinctions between the Green Party and the Democratic Party will not prove sufficient to engage Delta stakeholders in the local Green Party work. Likewise, failing to distinguish the concerns of farm workers and family farmers in the Central Valley from corporate agribusinesses will only push those stakeholders into the arms of the Republican Party.

All of this requires a party organization much more rooted in our communities than is currently the case. It means seeing our electoral politics as connected to our distinct vision. It means recruiting candidates that have deep roots locally and have the capacity of presenting the need for structural reforms needed to implement a Green agenda. It means being there with the people when they are expressing their anger and frustration, while presenting new options that address the underlying concerns.

We are the only game in town capable of doing this. But, it does mean deciding as an organization how we can do this. Our state Water Planning Platform plank presents the vision, but it does not give us a roadmap forward. The window of opportunity is closing and if we cannot act decisively now, we will not be able to do anything when the window is closed and locked.


Lisa said...

Good food for thought.

I had not been following the Bill Richardson story in New Mexico, about out-greening the Green Party. Did he actually mention/engage the Green Party? because usually someone that "big" just ignores us and co-opts our values/vision/plan without ever acknowledging us.

Lisa Taylor
L.A. City Greens

Martin Zehr said...

It was a head-to-head-to-head TV debate with all three candidates. He really was outraged at the whole thing debating a Green.

Lis said...

Well, I consider that progress; us merely getting into these debates is always a struggle. And to get the incumbent to acknowledge he is borrowing from us is even better.

Did you watch it? Is it archived somewhere?

Do you feel that the GP candidate was prepared or overwhelmed or what? That is the key--preparation. We need to rehearse with our candidates.

One of my pet peeves about Nader was that he would talk 2 hours on all the dire problems and then say "oh there are many solutions" as a throwaway line at the end without spending enough time on them.

Our candidates need to get much better at articulating a positive future with solutions.

sunfarm said...

If Greens and their almost non-existent party are going to have any impact, then it must be a fundamental shift to a new, novel, political approach based on building a new society that breaks completely from the standard linear political spectrum. That means jumping off that limited line and striking out into a 3-dimensional political world where we go back and build a new society from scratch. This can only be done by doing it ourselves as examples. It means changing our lifestyles dramatically-starting to grow our food, rejecting our consumer dominated ways, and providing almost everything ourselves. That means leaving the "workforce" and not buying into the "well fed contented slaves" most of us have become. The Greens will be ignored until then, as they are only the same old same old with a different name. It means hard physical work and getting off our fat butts for starters.

Lisa said...


How do you propose that we make your idea palatable to the masses, when we are already seen as still fringe to many in the mainstream.

sunfarm said...

Those concerned with what people think of them will get nowhere. Just get out there and start doing it. The politics will follow. For a direct example, if you have broadband, go to:
scroll about 3/4 of the way through to see Sun Farm and myself doing it.

Lisa said...

I already know many greens and Green Party members who are living how you describe. And no the politics won't "just follow" , many have already been living this way since the '70s.

As a political party we have to be concerned with how to spread a message to others; so yes, we in the Green Party have to be concerned with how to reach the mainstream--in other words what people think of us --whether it is perceived as fringe or crunchy or wacky or deprived or not--does matter.


Dave said...

You wrote that "the Green Party of New Mexico has fallen off the ballot." Out of fairness to the NM Greens, it should be noted that the NM secretary of state was actively seeking to deny the Green Party its ballot line and other trappings of party-hood. In September 2008, Ballot Access News chronicled how the secretary of state arbitrarily left the Green Party (ballot-qualified at the time) off NM state income tax forms.

In April 2009, BAN reported that the NM SS ruled that the Greens were no longer ballot qualified, by interpreting a vague statute in its maximally restrictive form:

It must be frustrating to gather thousands of signatures, run competitive candidates in partisan races like Rick Lass (who got 75000 votes for 44% in a Public Regulation Commission race), then have all your hard work tossed away by a public official with a vendetta.

sunfarm said...

Dear Lisa,
This movie I was in has been shown on our PBS tv channel over 15 times. They sell a lot of DVDs of it. People stop me on the street and tell me how much they enjoyed the film and my message. I daresay I'm more popular and well known in NM than Rick Lass (who lost primarily because he was exposed doing bad things and had to apologize in the middle of the campaign. His opponent was the sleaziest politico in the state, which drips with such offal, and was under indictment for campaign finance violations during the campaign and Rick still couldn't beat him!) I also have a solar powered movie editing studio and make modest films on water and regeneration. It is a given that not only must we live our lives better, we have to show the world. That's what politicians do, no? Thinking that anybody is going to follow you if you don't live your life according to your true beliefs is delusional. And, if you run for office, don't do bad things that will haunt you later.

Martin Zehr said...


This wasn't the same debate as I quoted which was in ABQ but it gives a flavor of Bacon's role as the Green candidate.

Lisa said...


There are millions of city-dwellers in the U.S. (and billions worldwide) that can't live a back-to-the-land lifestyle, even if they want to. We need solutions for people in all corners of the globe.

Some studies are showing that city dwellers have a lesser carbon footprint than rural folks anyway. See:

So carry on brother with your thang, and I'll carry on growing the Green Party in Los Angeles, livin my frugal, green city lifestyle as much as I can.

And remember, the politics doesn't just happen. We must Organize, organize, organize as history teaches!!

Lisa T

sunfarm said...

Dear Lisa,
There's nothing stopping urban folks from growing their own food, generating their own electricity, harvesting their own water, coming together in tight sustainable communities, etc. The opportunities are endless and sitting right in front of you. In Albuquerque we had a program where we turned front yards, medians, and alleys into gardens with onsite harvested water. We need to have a more holistic approach to politics, and incorporate them into the whole enchilada. Our vision must expand as dramatic changes in the world make demands on our imaginations.