Sunday, January 21, 2007

First among Firsts

The entry of New Mexico Governor Richardson into the presidential race gives the Democrats a chance to choose the first among firsts.

Hillary Clinton
would be the first woman president.
Barack Obama would be the first African-American president.
Bill Richardson, despite his anglo name, would be the first Hispanic president.

There is a Green Party challenge in this, with special emphasis on identity politics.

To begin with, each of these candidates will have an obvious arguement that a vote for them is a vote for their identiy constituency. In many cases, these are the same voters that we would want to reach out to in the Green Party. We would be offering them ideas and ideals, policies that make sense. But a vote for Clinton, Obama or Richardson offers them a chance for power.

If you bring this back to California, where the issues raised by these constituencies have turned California into a very blue state we will be engaged in a fight for our political lives. These are are unusual times and they require unusual actions.

Besides the commonality of representing a frist, these three campaigns were similar in that they made their official announcements on the internet, reaching out to the netroots of the party. Beginning with Howard Deans campaign, the Democrats have learned how to do this very well. The Republicans have learned how to use the internet in other ways, being very skillful at using what they know about you to microtarget the messages you receive. All of that is stored in The Vault.

Every one of the Democratic initiatives is backed up with large amounts of cash, enough to pay for flashy, professional web sites. The Green Party depends on volunteers to keep things going. Most of the work on the GPCA web site is handled by one person when they are not attending to their day job or to family life. Similarly, the entire GPCA IT Committee is in the same position, doing the best that they can in the time that they can afford to give.

The challenges for the GPCA are very specific and how we meet them will determine if we have a future.

  • Do we allow identity politics to cut us off from constituencies who need Green Solutions to real problems?
  • Do we make a real effort to develop an effective netroots strategy, or allow the Democrats to claim that as their own special province? At least Vibes Watch has returned and is taking on LA area Green Issues.
  • We have been most successful in terms of number in urban areas: LA and the San Francisco Bay Area. Do we continue to build there or do we reach out to the faster growing ares of the Inland Empire and Central Valley to grow our base?
I don't think we have a lot of time to spend making those decisions. Will the current focus on developing a Standing General Assembly get us there, or is that going to be a distraction? I would tend to believe the latter, since all of the energy spent on internal machinations only sucks that energy away from effective action in reaching out to the rest of the world.


Patrick Meighan said...

"We would be offering them ideas and ideals, policies that make sense. But a vote for Clinton, Obama or Richardson offers them a chance for power."

And that's the problem. To this point, I think we Greens have put our faith in our ideals and our policies, hoping that if enough voters would hear them, they'd agree that the GP stands for what they stand for, thus they'd vote for us, thus we'd win, thus the world would get better. At least that's what I used to think.

I don't think that anymore.

I think the Green Party just plain has to get better at offering an actual path to power. Until we've achieved electoral viability, it won't matter if our Democratic opponents are white or black, male or female, liberal or conservative. We just won't be able to successfully appeal to disempowered constituencies (and peel them away from the Democrats) until we, ourselves, demonstrate some power to go with our good wishes and forward-looking ideals.

That's what I think, anyway. But I could be wrong. I frequently am.

Patrick Meighan
Los Angeles Greens

Roger, Gone Green said...

Path to power -- AND good ideas. But another way to phrase "power" is "already part of the system." Or the way I like to put it "demonstrated ability to govern well."

The GP can gain a demonstrated ability to govern well by putting Greens up for increasingly responsible positions -- all of which starts with Greens being active at the committee and commission level, moving on to local Special Districts, City Councils and School Boards -- and so and so on.

In addition, Greens may be able to make some progress that is NOT co-opted by progressive Dems by offering up a coalition of support for the greeniest Dem or Rep this year.

In light of the widespread wrong perception of spoiler status, we might be best served by sitting out a presidential and lending our green credentials to one candidate or another.

Of course that might mean appointments down the road too . . . there are lots of lower level appointed positions that can be filled by Greens , which can also act as springboards to elected positions locally . . .

michael said...

Thanks for the link, and for encouraging me to bring back the blog. I tend to agree with both Patrick and Roger. We need to build influence by getting involved in both local issues and local government. But I'd also like to see us take the leap to hire organizers and fund-raisers.