Recent events, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, have renewed my interest in the pox-ridden political landscape in the United States. I’m wondering whether, if I put my mind to it, I might actually be able to do some good. It’s not easy to see how I could accomplish anything, or even how to get started.
For a few years I was a registered member of the Green Party in California. I even had a vague stab at getting involved with the Alameda County Greens. It was a frustrating experience. I came away with the impression that while the Greens have good intentions, they’re poor at organizing, they don’t know how to communicate using modern mass media, and they seem to have very little understanding of — or, what’s worse, interest in — the messy process of actually governing.
This morning I had a look at the website for the Green Party of the United States. It’s depressing. Now, we have to acknowledge that the quality of a website is not always a reliable indicator of what’s going on in an organization. But it’s hard to escape the idea that a political party needs a good website, both to communicate and to recruit new members.
The most telling weakness of the Green Party website is that the party’s platform is not posted anywhere. Unbelievable! On the platform page, we learn that the 2010 Platform Committee is in the process of compiling the amendments adopted by the Green National Committee for inclusion in an updated 2010 platform. (At this writing, it’s March 2011.) This is a perfect example of poor organization and poor communication.
We’re told, as well, “The GPUS Platform is a living document and we intend to always stay ahead of the issues facing our country and the world.” They’re so far ahead, evidently, that there’s no platform. And does it matter what they intend? As my friend Dennis used to say, “I preferred to judge myself by my intentions, but the rest of the world was judging me by my actions.”
The list of Green Party office-holders in the US consists mostly of board members of neighborhood councils, school boards, and sanitary districts. There’s a handful of mayors, all of them of small towns — Marina City, Willits, and Richmond in California, Ward in Colorado, and the villages of Greenwich and Victory in New York. There are no state legislators in the list, and certainly no members of Congress. There are no mayors of large cities.
Turning to the About Us page, we find several assertions that, while admirable in the abstract, are not indicative of anything very concrete. “Greens are renewing democracy in the United States through community-based organizing without the support of corporate donors.” In what sense can they claim to be renewing democracy? I’m not even sure what that means. Does it mean better monitoring of polling places to prevent ballot-box stuffing? Probably not. Does it mean holding mainstream media accountable (somehow) for biased reporting? Probably not. In any event, the results, if any, are not readily visible. If there were any visible results, you’d think the Greens would be trumpeting them. But perhaps they’ve failed to let us know about actual results due to their poor communications skills.
“Greens provide real solutions for real problems,” we’re told. Well, no, that’s not technically accurate. Greens propose real solutions for real problems. The actual providing of solutions, were it ever to occur, would have to come from Congress or from state legislatures, venues from which the Greens are conspicuously absent.
“We devote our attention to establishing a national Green presence in politics and policy debates.” And how well is that working for you?
Somebody ought to pick these people up by their heels and shake them until their teeth rattle. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
Hello all! I am a student working on a project in political psychology. I have created a poll that should help me identify any trends leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election. The poll will only take a minute or two, and all of your answers would be extremely beneficial for my study.
I appreciate your time, and your political interest!
Find the poll here…
I’m going to assume this is a legit response, and not spam. Having said that, I’m wondering what the possible relevance would be of “trends leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election.” Like, does this student actually think the election will change anything? Or is he or she happy to engage in pointless wheel-spinning?
Excellent article, I think you summarized the problem really well. The greens only show up when a presidential contest rolls around and are M.I.A for the rest of the time. As far as the party platform is concerned, the impression I get is that Greens spend more of their time arguing about internal processes – all words and no action.
“The list of Green Party office-holders in the US consists mostly of board members of neighborhood councils, school boards, and sanitary districts.”
Yup, If you have no stake in actual power, how are you going to accomplish the changes you hold so dear. Michelle Goldberg wrote a really good piece about the greens that shed light on a lot of these problems.
did you read the platform?
It hasn’t changed all that much in 10 years, often when someone decides we need to update it they find better language than they propose is already in place. It is a living document, it is kept up to date, but it was very precient to begin with.
Having a consensus process with 50 state partries and all their members is neccessarily cumbersome and takes two yers to complete a cycle.
If you read it you will find that it remains robust and precient enough that this is not really a problem.
Other parties also only publish federal level platforms during federal election years, and these don’t change much in any way that is meaningful or actually applied.
We could get the platform out much faster, if we had a top down, corporate funded, seeking to replace one hierarchy with another, type vision, that included doing whatever it takes to quickly seize power by a few in the name of everyone.
Instead we seek to involve as many as possible in a consensus seeking process that is unique and thus has no ready and well understood off the shelf solution.
You did not address a single element as missing from, or present in, the platform.
The only argument you seem to be making is that you could not find it despite it being as clearly labelled, and available from every page, as possible.
As for the student doing the poll, maybe they just want to graduate and actually already understand what you think you know.
Maybe they, as my party should be, are more interested in finding out what others think than in telling them what to think based only on one’s own opinion.
It is easy to sit on the sidelines and poke fun (at what you seem determined not to grok, to the point of reading this page – http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2010/index.php – as not having a platform), building an alernative that US voters take seriously w/out being dominated by corporate donations is not so easy.
It’s easy to tear down an ancien regime that is already hollowed out and falling down on us, it’s not so easy to build a more survivable way that powerful people percieve as being against their interests.
Once you get used to doing things in a way that works for everyone else, to build a real alternative, then you find the solutions are ever present and look very similar from many very different perspectives that are mindful of many different concerns.
Public financing of elections by provision of free airtime for all candidates, in exchange for use of the public air space, is my favorite plank in our platform. It has been my favorite solution since 1977 and I have never voted for a republicrat for president, am I not doing my best to have found a party I can work with at all?
People in the US are so concerned with being right (in terms of voting for a winner) they don’t care if it is for all the wrong reasons, you seem able to transcend this. It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and “win” it.
When you are ready to see that it is time to build rather than focus our energies on death and dying things, I hope you too can find a way to be supportive of something.
If I am tilting at windmills, at least I’m keeping occupied discussing which solutions we can all agree on.
How about next time you give some constructive advice? Try actually reading the platform and give some planks a thumbs up and others a thumbs down (you could actually propose improvements you would like to see). Like you, we are collectively exposed to every frailty of the US voter culture, when your house is no longer made of glass it is still not a good time to throw stones in a time so needful of constructive and participative solutions.
If you have an idea of how to win more races for higher offices, let’s hear it, but let’s not lay down our arms and go into that darkest ever of nights, just because it seems the only sensible choice from where we sit. Move your perspective, widen your choices, inform yourself so you may better inform others, find the habit of participation and construction, as opposed to opposition and destruction; you will then increasing find that what is needed most is whatever you feel good about doing. Critiquing our lack of a Platform (@ http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2010/index.php), and/or our lack of success without your help, is not helping anyone.