Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tea Party and the Green Party

Tea Party has made the news and has had their convention and remains working in communities around the nation. Recently, the Green Party of the United States released a Press statement on the Tea Party. I would say that the Tea Party folks are likely to find the same sort of schisms that have plagued the Green Party over the years: lack of a defined mission, a lack of a defined strategic vision for electoral work and a lack of funding. As long as they maintain the status of an independent "advocacy" group, like the Christian Coalition, outside the Republican Party, they will have the support of the Repugs. As soon as they try to build an independent party, like the GP or the Libertarians, they will encounter the real problems that we have as well in regards to ballot access. It is certainly worth our while to say this as a real starting point to those people in the Tea Party movements and engage in dialogues in states regarding ballot access where the coalition in support of open ballot access can increase its social base of support.

Greens need to ask not only where are we now, but how can we work together in the development of fundamental structural reforms. We lack a real Mission statement or strategic vision that binds our state parties together. Parties have disappeared off the political landscape after significant gains in electoral work because we lack a comprehensive grasp of our role on the political landscape. Some want to simply represent the "social movements" (also a concept within the tea Party movement). Some want to adopt a strategy of being leverage for particular factions within the duopoly parties.

The GP has been unable to realize the impact of failing to decisively engage on this issue and to make a decision. The result is party hopping of candidates and activists, failure to develop stable local organization with close ties in our communities and the resultant decline of state parties when electoral victories are so few. This also affects how our candidates project the distinct character of elected Greens if they were to be elected, as well as their focus if they are elected to office.

In regards to the health plan debate, I have yet to see a comprehensive policy analysis that present a distinct model for health care for the Green Party. We remain followers of advocacy groups in this regard and have yet to address the existing concerns in regards to viability of Social Security and Medicare in the future. Young people are already planning their futures in the context of these programs being off the map by the time they qualify. This is important because the Republicans have seized on this in the health care debate to rally support of the elderly who are concerned about the cutbacks in Medicare for "efficiency".

Much of the original influx for the Tea Party is coming from what used to be called "the white middle class". They are focused on budget issues, are newcomers to political engagement and feel that the duopoly parties have been unresponsive to their needs and concerns. Their naiveté will not provide them the sustainable vision to establish organization. The Reform Party has already been tried in this regard. They are not reactionary but are reactive in regards to their current priorities. Hillary had a grasp in her primary campaign of the sentiment out there. Barack shot himself in the foot here in San Francisco appealing to local elitism in his comment about western Pennsylvanians "grasping their bibles and guns". But most Tea Party people are angry at such dismissiveness that continues within the Dems and consider the Repugs to be simply any lacking suburban and rural focus, while they pander to large corporate and financial interests.

It is Green to be inclusive and to work to implement grassroots democracy that goes beyond administrative fiats and are a real reflection of the public will. Bioregionalism is not simply the adoption of a Green Party agenda, but requires adaptive governance that is inclusive and transparent. If we engage in such structures, such as water planning, we soon find that we don't win every argument. Sometimes it is because we fail to see the impacts of certain actions on certain sectors of the population. Sometimes it is because we are dismissive of the very people we need to engage in real democracy. And sometimes, like in California, it is because we really do feel that Democrats are the "lesser evil" and wind up supporting entrenched bureaucracies and unrepresentative government.

It is not simply the Press Statement of the Green Party that will enable us to understand our fellow countrymen and women. It is also our willingness to work directly with our neighbors in developing more representative forms of government. From there we can learn much more from each other than from confrontations and dismissing of the views of others. We still have a lot to learn and we still can begin to grasp the various forms of discontent that are out there. From concrete experience we can glean the fundamental concerns of others, whether Tea Party or elsewhere. And we can begin to become more inclusive and respectful of the people.


Ross Levin said...

Really good post - very thoughtful. I don't think I have enough political experience to comment further on it, but I will be thinking about these things as I launch into Green politics for the first time this year.

BTW, have you read the stuff at GreenChange about "Green Tea Parties"?

Martin Zehr said...

Please include the links so that others can read it.

Ross Levin said...

Here it is: