THE LARGEST AND LEAST POWERFUL GREEN PARTY IN THE WORLD, AND HOW TO EMPOWER IT

24 09 2017

The United States has the largest Green Party in the world, with around a quarter million registered voters, plus thousands more supporters in states like Tennessee that don’t have party registration. In survey after survey, and as demonstrated by Bernie Sanders’ galvanizing effect on the American public, substantial majorities of Americans support Green positions, from universal single-payer health care greenyetto a greater emphasis on alternative energy and a cleaner environment, to local economies and greater community and economic democracy, but you wouldn’t know it to look at election results, where the Green Party rarely even gets into double digits, let alone is a contender, in any election higher than the local level.

As I researched this piece, I discovered that it was easy to find links backing up my statements about public support for health care, alternative energy, a cleaner environment, and stronger local economies, but it seems as if nobody has thought to ask about the radical notion of having more “everyday people” involved in their own governance, let alone the ownership and governance of their workplaces. Both of these have been taken up enthusiastically in places where they have been tried, such as Burlington, Vermont when, and ever since, Bernie was mayor, Jackson, Mississippi today, and the increasing number of worker owned and managed companies around the country. The Democrats will attempt to co-opt Green Party positions on the environment, alternate energy, and the minimum wage, but you can bet they won’t touch economic, workplace, and community democracy. The change from hierarchical ownership and direction by the few to governance by the network of people actually involved in a workplace or community  threatens the corporatist, oligarchic monopoly of the few that currently calls the shots in this country, and thus consideration of such ideas is not welcome in polite society. As Noam Chomsky said,

chomskynarrow

I think that’s a very apt description of what’s going on the US these days: there’s tremendous passion and polarization around scores of issues, while the root cause of all of them is never touched, and keeps throwing up new shoots that we activists hack at until we grow weary. If we are going to put an end to all the many levels of oppression that saturate our society, we need to uproot the oligarchy that is the source of our oppression. It’s not just an oligarchy that’s outside us. All of us have internalized it to some extent, and we each need to win our own our personal psycho-spiritual revolution if the external revolution is going to succeed.

Meanwhile, around the globe, Green Parties are achieving a satisfying level of electoral success in a great many countries, and changing those countries’ priorities for the better in the process. Let’s examine some of those countries, and then look into why it hasn’t happened here, which leads directly to what it will take in order for it to happen here. Read the rest of this entry »

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THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE IN KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE…

25 06 2017

This report makes extensive use of a paper written by Barbara Bridges and Joel Kennedy, who pulled together most of the basic information and are quoted at great length in it, to the point where it’s hard for me to separate out their contributions from mine. The fairest way to put it is to give them credit as co-authors. Thank you both for your co-operation!

Not long after last month’s broadcast (which you may have heard as a repeat two weeks ago), I found an essay by two Knoxville Green Party members, Barbara Bridges and Joel Kennedy, about the consonance between Knoxville’s “2017 City Council Movement” and the Green Party’s “Ten Key Values.” None of these candidates have been active in The Green Party, but, to me, that doesn’t matter much. The ideas are  FAR more important than the brand.

knoxpeoplepower

Read the rest of this entry »





THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE

14 05 2017

The word “Resistance,” with a capital “R” and a hashtag, has become rather fashionable in America these days. Thousands of people are marching in the streets, turning out for town meetings, and generally letting it be known they are not pleased with our new administration’s presumption that its narrow technical victory in last November’s election constitutes a mandate for sweeping changes in the way our government is run and in the every-day lives of millions of people.

I’d like to take this opportunity to look at some popular movements around the world that have, to one degree or another, challenged the professional political class and returned government to the people, and examine how they were able to succeed, as well as ways in which they have failed. By learning from other peoples’ experiences, we can do a better job here in America.

My main examples will be Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Greece, and, to bring it down to the local level, the city of Montreal, in Quebec. That provides a spectrum. The Korean movement is just now in the process of achieving its initial aim. In Taiwan, the citizen’s movement has won its initial objectives and established mechanisms that, it hopes, will keep things from slipping backwards. In Spain, the “Podemos” movement is rising into power. Greece’s Syriza Party has won elections, but run smack into forces it cannot change, and is learning how to keep focused on its long-term goals while encountering short-term failures.  In Montreal, the political wing of the movement seems to have been absorbed into the mainstream, but has left significant changes in its wake.

As I write this, Koreans are celebrating the impeachment of President Park Geyun-he, who roused the ire of lawmakers and citizens alike by being too cozy with the country’s financial elite and by going along with US policies that have escalated tensions with North Korea. Her replacement, Moon Jae-in, the son of a North Korean refugee, was a student radical in the 70’s, and was jailed for his role in protesting the dictatorship of Ms. Park’s father. He went on to become a prominent human rights lawyer. On the basis of that, he was hired as Chief of Staff by the Korean Democratic Party’s previous elected President,  Roh Moo-hyun. He was the KDP’s candidate for President in 2012, when he narrowly lost to Ms. Park.

This is what democracy looks like!

This is what democracy looks like!

So, how did the Koreans do it? Massive street demonstrations were a major contributor. Some demonstrations turned out nearly two million people on the same day. Korea’s population is fifty million, so the equivalent in the US would be about thirteen million people all demonstrating against the government at the same time. The real key, though, was that Ms. Park’s party did not have a majority in the legislature (in which four political parties are represented, along with some independent members). Mr. Moon’s party had a plurality, but not a majority, and as the country became ungovernable due to the force of protest against Ms. Park, it was not that difficult to round up a majority to support impeaching her for her very real crimes. The Korean constitution calls for new elections when a President is impeached, and that created an opening for change. Read the rest of this entry »





GREEN PARTY ELECTION NEWS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

8 04 2017

Let’s start with election news: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a good news – bad news kind of evening for the Wisconsin Greens in Dane County elections on April 4. The Greens lost both contested races they entered but won four seats on Madison City Council, with candidates running unopposed in each instance.

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Samba Baldeh

district18

Rebecca Kimble

Steve Arnold took 41.4% of the popular vote in a two way race for Mayor of Fitchburg but came up short. Similarly, Ali Muldrow of the Greens garnered 44.1% and over 20,000 votes but wound up second in her bid for a place on the Madison School Board. Winning their seats to Madison City Council were Ledell Zellers (Distruct 2), Marsha Rummel (District 6), Samba Baldeh (District 17) and Rebecca Kemble (District 18). Congratulations to the Wisconsin Greens candidates and volunteers for making it happen!

Out in Los Angeles, US House candidate Ken Mejia had this to say about his April 4 election:

As of this morning, we are 7th out of 23 candidates, with the top 2 front runners who raised the most money (over $1,000,000 combined) getting a majority of the votes. However, we are only 249 votes away from 4th place out of 23 people – beating 16 Democrats and all other party candidates (Republican, Non-Partisan, Libertarian). In addition, there are many mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted.

We always knew it was going to be a tough race, especially running as the outsider campaign in a very low voter turn out Special Election (9.6% voter turnout so far). Nevertheless, regardless of what the final numbers are, WE HAVE ALREADY WON!

yeswekenThe top two candidates, both Democrats, will face each other in a general election in June.The winners received 5-8,000 votes to Mejia’s 1300. When you consider that the winning, corporate-sponsored, candidates outspent him by a factor of ten to one–Mejia raised about $50K compared their roughly half a million each–Meijia did very well, indeed. By doing some admittedly simplistic math, we could say that, if Mejia had had access to the same kind of financing as the winners of the election, he would have received 13,000 votes for his money, as many votes as the actual top two combined, and nearly enough to win outright and not need a runoff. Sure, that’s a fantasy, but it points up the tilted nature of our political playing field, and the need for serious campaign finance reform, if not a whole other socio-economic-political paradigm.

So that’s some good news, and some bad news. The ugly stuff happened in Philadelphia, where Democrats did a serious number on Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala’s campaign for a Pennsylvania State House seat.

cherihonkala

Poll workers, who were almost universally Democratic Party activists, reportedly pushed people to vote for the Democrat by, for example, telling voters that if they were registered Democrats, they had to vote for the Democrat,  and otherwise overtly campaigning in the polling places. The write-in election featured the use of ink stamps of the candidates’ names, to eliminate the possibility of illegible ballots. Some voters reported that, when they requested a Honkala stamp, they were given a stamp for her opponent instead, and then not allowed to change the misvote. According to the official results, Honkala lost by about a 4-1 margin, but both she and the Republican candidate, the only one actually on the ballot, have filed complaints, and it seems the DA and the legislature will both be investigating.

And, on that note, a song from The Clash seems appropriate…..

The Clash,”Know Your Rights





TALES OF TWO GREEN CANDIDATES

12 03 2017

There’s a couple of elections in the next few weeks that Green Party candidates are widely regarded as competitive in, and I wanted to mention them.

In California, Kenneth Mejia is running for the US House seat that was vacated when  California Attorney General Kamala Harris won a seat in the US Senate and Representative Xavier Becerra resigned his seat in Congress to become the new Attorney General. There are 23 candidates in the race, most of them Democrats, plus a few declared Republicans, one independent who’s an anti-abortion activist, and Ken, who is a 26-year old accountant. He’s also treasurer of his local neighborhood association and works with a group that helps homeless people. Contrary to people’s usual image of Green candidates, he was active in Air Force ROTC in college. He was not active in politics until Bernie Sanders struck a spark with him. When Sanders failed to prevail against the Democratic establishment, Kenneth went Green.

The election is April 4th. Will the presence of so many Democrats in the field cause them to cancel each other out and give the victory to the Green candidate? We’ll soon find out.

A more local race with its own set of complexities is taking place in Pennsylvania State House District 197, an impoverished, mostly non-white, strongly Democratic bailiwick, where former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala is running. The Democrat who was the State Rep had to resign when it came to light that she had been convicted of felony money laundering in the Spring of 2016, so that’s why there’s a special election for this seat. The Democratic Party nominated a candidate who, at the behest of Republicans, was removed from the ballot because, although he owned property in the district, it seemed from the low utility usage for his house that he didn’t actually live there, but, according to his neighbors there, in high-class Bucks County. (He is an MD who runs a clinic in the neighborhood.) His removal from the ballot came close enough to the filing deadline so that the Democrats’ substitute candidate couldn’t get on the ballot, either.

I should mention here that The Green Party has official “minor party” status in Pennsylvania, so ballot access itself was not at question.  When Cheri Honkala, who definitely does live in the district and has been active in community organizations there for thirty years, filed her paperwork with the board of elections, she asked them to confirm that she had everything in order, and they told her she did. Then, a few days later, after the filing deadline had passed, election officials “discovered” that one sheet of her paperwork was missing, and, even though she got the proper document to them within hours of being informed that it was missing, they declined to accept it and took her off the ballot, too, leaving only the Republican on the ballot. The last time a Republican was on the ballot in this district, in 2012, he got 5% of the vote. Honkala and the Democratic Party candidate are now running write-in campaigns. The election will be March 21st.

When I first heard this story, with only a Republican actually on the ballot, I thought it must be on account of the state of Pennsylvania being run by Republicans, but, it turns out, it’s run by Democrats. It’s odd that they’d take hassle one of their own people like that, but with 95% of the voters being Democrats, I think that they figured they could win anyway.

For Honkala, and the Greens, this is not-unexpected treatment from Pennsylvania Democrats. When Ralph Nader tried to get on the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004, the state disqualified most of his signatures–for things like people signing their name as “Bill” rather than “William”–and charged him over $80,000 in legal fees for his failure. Two years later, Green US Senate candidate Fred Romanelli had the same thing happen to him, resulting in him being billed for about $80,000. It took nearly ten years, but Nader and Romanelli sued the state and won. In the process, they discovered a broad, deep web of corruption and collusion to keep Pennsylvania politics in the hands of pro-corporate professionals, and people went to jail for their part in denying citizens the right to participate in their own government.

None of that changed the system, unfortunately. Incidents like these demonstrate that the electoral process in the United States, from the drawing of district lines to who gets on the ballot to how the ballots are counted, needs to be non-partisan. There are lots of other changes, but this is one we might could accomplish without a full-scale revolution–and it might help open up this country for the full-spectrum peaceful revolution it needs.

Neville Brothers: “Wake Up

 





THERE MUST BE SOME KINDA WAY OUT OF HERE…..

12 02 2017

I promised that, this month, I would devote my attention to the question of how to get out of the Republican quicksand our nation has fallen into, and how to set our steps on a saner path that will not lead us back into the swamp of corporate-dominated politics, Republican or Democratic. I  want to start by looking at what happened in another country–Argentina.

I recently had the pleasure of a long, informative conversation with a man who grew up there, during “The Dirty War.” “The Dirty War,” in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the term that is used to describe what happened in Argentina after the military took over the government in 1976. There were guerrilla forces operating in the country, but the military didn’t just move against them. They decided to get rid of everybody who kinda sympathized with the guerrillas’ ideals of a more just and economically equitable society. That included the brother of the man I spoke with. His twenty-year old brother was in the military, but somebody thought he might be a threat, so away he went. Thrown from a helicopter into the ocean? Roasted alive? Or simply shot? His family has never learned his fate.

His disappearance was profoundly unnerving for them. Sometimes the military just “disappeared” someone, and that was it. Sometimes, after one member of a family had been abducted, they would come back for the rest of the family, one at a time, or all at once. There was no way to know. dirtywar03My friend was a teenager at the time, “a long-haired hippie kid,” as he described himself–though you’d never know it to look at him now. So there he was, sixteen years old, growing up in a country where the middle class he was part of was not that different from the US middle class. He was going through all the things an American boy his age would have been going through–girls, grades, and, I suspect, ganja–but he also had to think about whether he was going to be kidnapped and tortured, and how he might respond to that. Fortunately, he never had to find out.”But since then,” he told me, “the kind of things that most people feel scared or worried about just don’t bother me that much.” Read the rest of this entry »





CORPORATISM WITH THE GLOVES OFF

15 01 2017

Last month, I went on so long on the question of “how did we get here?” that I didn’t have time to address my next two questions,“What is the nature of this “here?” we now find ourselves in?” and  “Can we/How do we change this “here” into a different, happier ‘here’?” I’m going to address that second question–the nature of our new environment–this month. I’m also going to examine just how much choice we really had about this change.

Trigger warning: I’m going to talk about “the big O” a lot in this post–no, not the anime series, not Oscar Robertson, not that “big O.” I’m going to talk about oligarchy.

Trump has made it abundantly clear that his show of sensitivity to the needs of disgruntled, formerly or still barely middle class white Americans, was a huckster’s trick to draw in the marks. His promise to “drain the swamp” was nothing more than campaign rhetoric, like Ms. Clinton’s claim to be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had spent so much time promoting as Secretary of State, or her alleged concern for the welfare of that same sorta-middle class that Mr. Trump was wooing. More on that later. Trump not only isn’t draining the swamp, he’s bringing in bigger, hungrier alligators. His initial cabinet selections, if they are confirmed, constitute the wealthiest Presidential cabinet ever assembled, most have clearly made their fortunes by squeezing the common people, and none show any signs of remorse for their ruthlessness.

For example, Wilbur Ross, who may be our next Secretary of Commerce, made a good bit of his 2.5 billion dollar fortune through corporate raiding–buying companies that were in trouble and putting them through bankruptcy, which involves shedding workers, lowering wages, and reneging on pension plans. He iced his money cake by making millions in the mortgage bubble that prefaced the financial crash of 2008, and was further enriched by the policies Wall Street’s friend, Barack Obama, put into practice, which bailed out the banks and left homeowners hung out to dry. In The Nation magazine, David Dayan comments on this Read the rest of this entry »








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