Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where to grow the Green Party

In my previous post today, I called attention to a report on political partisanship in California that had been prepared to by the Public Policy Institute of California. It is clear that there is a perception that a third party is needed in California. If this "need" is true, then we have to ask why we are not meeting that need.

I think that we have to look at where we expend our time and energy. The PPIC report begins with some charts on the demographics of the major parties in California. For example:

There is a big difference in party affiliation by gender.
  • Republicans: Men comprise 54% of registered voters while women are 46%.
  • Democrats: The opposite is true. Women make up 57% and men are 43%.
There are major differences based on ethnicity:
  • Republicans: 84% White, 8% Latino, 5% Asian, 1% Black.
  • Democrats: 63% White, 20% Latino, 10% Black, 5% Asian.
Still, the total registrations for both major parties have been in decline and the growth has been in voters who decline to state a party preference. According to the PPIC, "If current registration trends continue, we expect that there will be more independents than either Republican or Democratic voters by 2025."

If we are to grow this party, we have some choices in where we begin to look for those new voters, especially since we see that there is an overall rejection of the extremes of partisanship among many voters.

One option might be to try to woo Progressive Democrats (PDA) to join us, after they are inevitably disappointed by their own candidates performance once elected. This viewpoint is the position of those who see the Green Party as the logical electoral arm of the progressive movement. It seems to be the opinion expressed by Peter Camejo and his associates. However, in light of the PPIC data on voters turning away from extreme partisanship, I wonder if this is an effective strategy.

Another option might be to concentrate on the Hispanic / Latino voter. This is the fastest growing segment of the electorate. The are involved in both major parties and have been voting in record numbers, as explained by KNBC - Los Angeles.
The outpouring was especially strong on the Democratic side, with Latino voters accounting for 30 percent of Tuesday's presidential primary vote.
That is, in itself, an astounding statistic since it nearly doubles Latino participation from the 2004 election. It was also a part of the strong showing by John McCain. On the Republican side, Latino voters made up 13 percent of the vote, which also was a record. The very fact that so many Latinos voted Republican shows that this segment can not be taken for granted by any party. That is especially the case for the Hispanic Evangelical movement, more aligned with Republicans on social issue, with Democrats on other issues, but with some 15 million members nationally. Still, I think believe that ignoring Hispanic voters, or just relying on MAPA and Nativo Lopez to deliver some vote, is being either blind or lazy.

At least the other parties are working on this, as noted in the following statement from the same KNBC article.
"You can almost say this was the first major effort to bring the Latino voter to the polls in the same way that they attempt to bring all the other voters to the polls," said Mark DiCamillo, who directs the Field Poll. "I think the whole segment got aroused and turned out."

A third option is to focus primarily on the independent voter, those who are registered DTS in California. Their numbers are growing more rapidly than any of the parties. However, according to a study of attitudes of independent voters from the PPIC, these voters are much more likely to be centrists than the members of Democratic or Republican parties. That would seem to indicate that you can not attract both PDA Democrats and Independents with the same message, the same policies.

There is an implication in all of this that one way forward is to convince the public that the Green Party is in some manner different from all the others; That the solutions we provide have a different foundation, principles rather than campaign donations; that you can not put the Greens on a left<->right continuum; that we will always speak to the needs of the public.

Where are we going? I don't know. I do know we need to shake up things a bit.

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