Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Redefining the Politics of Bioregionalism

Greens have a stake in redefining our political philosophy. The existing premise of progressivism is simply not sufficient to establish a stable and broad-based ecological party. The political climate of the American people needs to be addressed as much as the global climate does. Working for grassroots democracy is not the same as upping the ante on the Democratic Left. Working for ecological wisdom is not the same as increasing a Federal role in environmental protection. Blending grassroots democracy with ecological wisdom means establishing new political entities, new sources for revenues, new local initiatives and new constituencies.

If we dare to take California as a model for the existing political paradigm of green politics, we see it fails the tests for viability, sustainability and financial responsibility. The problems that confront the state of California are the products of unsustainable growth, political structures that are dysfunctional and a lack of prioritization of goals at the state and local levels. It is worth saying that mismanagement, political nepotism and corruption are in there as well. We should recognize that structural reform is absolutely necessary to rebuild the system of governing and the mechanisms for administration in this state. The recent upsurge of popular opposition in the Tea Party and the message of the Republican victory in Massachusetts are not simply demonstrations of a resurgent right wing. In fact, they are a demonstration of the failure of progressivism to have a link with the real needs, concerns and aspirations of the American people.

I have explained on prior posts my experiences in regional water planning in the Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico. The depth of that experience flowed from the demonstration that its process established a working model that was able to integrate open input and transparency with a broad range of local stakeholders united around a common Mission and Goals. Its weaknesses illustrated the flaw in removing this process from political entities capable of implementing its wide range of recommendations. Its strengths united community people, public officials, water users and advocates, specialists and managers towards a dynamic review of the water resource in the region. Its weakness led to the failure to get the blueprint off the drawing board.

There is a wide range of political discussion in regards to strategy, tactics and vision that Greens have not been able to grasp the significance of. Urban Greens would do well to recognize that the appeals by candidates might be better off in addressing constituencies who: 1) Promote brownfield restoration and public infrastructure maintenance and development; 2) Establish local sustainability, as distinct from Federal policies or huge state spending efforts through diversions; 3) Redefine growth in the context of renewable resources; 4) Establish local political entities that define stakeholder engagement and input.

Rural Greens need to be more cognizant of: 1) The positive role of family farms; 2) The diverse character of rural resource issues; 3) The integration of ecological awareness at the local levels that are often reflected by rural Republican representatives; and 4) The conflicts that exist between regions when water is diverted from one rural region to an urban or farming region.

It is not our goal to change people. We should focus more on taking people where they are and analyzing what are the fundamental issues that underlie their current outlook. Urban residents are Democratic simply because they promote the interests of the cities, and not because the diverse ethnic groups are inherently providing real input. People are not simply members of a given ethnic group. The problems they confront are not simply the inevitable product of the lack of economic or environmental justice. We do not live in such a one-dimensional world. Hispanic farmers and farm workers do not have the same needs and concerns as Hispanic urban dwellers simply because they are all Hispanic. The political bases of the existing two parties have carved up the pie of constituencies based on the political fait accompli that exists.

To address this is to redefine constituencies as a Green Party can do. As a political party it is up to us not to preach to people that they have to give up everything in order to live. It is up to us to re-carve the pie of political constituencies in a way that can bring together urban and rural dwellers by establishing a common framework for decision-making and a common set of principles where it is no longer a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The discussions include: how can urban areas be restored to reduce sprawl, how can resource issues be effectively administered, managed and structured locally, how can rural needs be addressed absent a traditional urban-rural water war, how can Greens provide leadership in the development expanding the political base of the Green Party and how can we politically define and organizationally represent new constituencies.

We have to get out of the mindset of advocacy groups. This means not simply setting one group of stakeholders against the other. This means looking to regional planning for the value that it has in being able to present distinct differences in the context of community people working together. Structural reforms means being willing to give the people the benefit of the doubt in regards to the decisions that impact on their future. This means not having things fall out as WE would have done it. This means defusing debates while recognizing the substance of the concerns of all.


Wes said...

Mato, This is the very reason that I started California Greening, to help define the new initiatives, new constituencies.

Now, we need to take this message to the Central Valley.

Philip H. said...

This may yet be the best post I"ve seen on this site - and the best formula for making Progressiveism relevant nationally. Bravo.