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The Missing Conversation and the Road Forward- a Green Perspective

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The Missing Conversation and the Road Forward

The 2004 and 2006 election campaigns have taught us many things about the various perspectives of Greens and others throughout the nation. People had different experiences and thus also different understandings regarding the role of the GPUS (Green Party of the US) and the bonds that connect voters in this day-and-age. But these experiences and understandings have not been sufficiently looked at as different approaches to the way Greens should proceed in the years ahead. We need a conversation. This conversation has been woefully neglected.
It is my hope that this conversation can be and will be deepened and
developed based on the options that have already been demonstrated and can be summarized. It is very important that, as we do this, we do not remove the presentation of the different approaches from the context of the work actually being done by the state parties and county organizations. I advocate for a comprehensive approach by the Green Party in regards to the issues of ecological restoration. This is an effort, not to define the Green Party as a one-issue party, but to look at the inherent limitations of defining our conversations by classical right-left political definitions. Let me briefly identify the five perspectives that I see out there and invite representatives of each to speak up for themselves and share their own experiences. If any strategy or approach is missing, please feel free to add to my list of five, and join the conversation.

My favorite strategy is to approach the work of building the GPUS as an independent political party, having its own agenda and platform, and
building its own constituencies. It is a strategy that seeks to refine the GPUS through the electoral process and to sharpen the language of the platform based on voter response and policies rooted in the aspirations of its supporters. Its evolution is guided by the goal of policy implementation and political influence and power necessary to accomplish its agenda. We have joined together around the 10 Key Values. But, we have not really coalesced around a common strategy or a common agenda. Within the Green Parties around the country there are some who promote radicalism and "anti-imperialism as their message in campaigns and in their visible public presence. While others, such as myself, seek to build the presence of the Green Party addressing the political concerns focused on ecological democracy and ecological restoration.

The distinction is not just one of emphasis. Rather, it is one of self-identity. If we are trying to outflank the Democratic Party from its left, all we are doing is trying top appeal to its traditional voter base. If we are seeking to unite with Independents, Libertarians, Conservatives, Republicans, Unregistereds, Non-affiliateds and Democrats, then we need to define new agendas that are capable of uniting these folks. For instance, issues of regional water planning in the Middle Rio Grande provided real opportunities to unite farmers, smart growth and new urbanist advocates, water managers, hydrogeologists, urban users and environmental advocates when we were focused on the recommendations of the 50 year regional plan.

That is because, for different reasons, a variety of stakeholders agreed with the need to focus on the need to reduce groundwater mining in the context of integrating land use with water use and defining growth in the context of renewable water supplies. This establishes a new, greener agenda. This is critical for implementing a new Green presence on the political stage. Growth management, reconstruction of brownfields and adaptive governance in resource planning by stakeholders are all proposals that reach across the traditional two party lines and establish a common interest in policies and structural reforms. This is a direction that takes innovation and political daring, but it represented an ecologically-centered strategy that talks to voters in the context of the issues that impact on their daily lives.

Another strategy for moving forward is to emphasize a "progressive" agenda coalition and focus on issues and interactions with groups such as Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), which have similar positions. I would call this the Left-Green approach, and the GreenDem approach. The GreenDem approach is characterized by a "safe-states" strategy and seeking to promote unity between Greens and progressive Democrats as a priority. The Left-Green approach is adamantly opposed to working with the PDA, because of their ties to the Democratic Party. These approaches depend on classical liberal, progressive and socialist agendas and propose developing a political party that is defined by traditional right-left, liberal conservative constructs.

This position essentially sees the Green Party as the left of the Democratic Party and seeks to impact policy by hurting the Democratic Party at the polls enough to make it change its positions. These GreenDems, along with many others, often propose IRV as the keystone strategy to negating the "spoiler" charge and providing support to the left in the Democratic Party. This approach is primarily focused on given issues using positions developed by advocacy groups and issue-oriented non-profits. They see the role of the Green Party as being an uncompromising advocate for those positions.

Still another strategy puts the emphasis on promoting a multi-party alliance of minor parties as a tactical electoral campaign strategy to broaden the base of candidate support. They are distinct in their approach and present a scenario that is unique for future electoral work. While they could be considered as "fusion", their focus is with joining with such parties as the Libertarians and the Populists and other local parties as they exist. The basis of such unity is to present campaigns focusing on common concerns of the parties. In this context, a summary of the Nader campaign in 2004 by those who worked on it might also provide insight as to the dynamic of this approach.

Some under this strategy propose "triangulation", where Greens actively seek voter support from both Republicans and Democrats with a broader and more distinct approach. It is based on the assumption that a progressive agenda will never provide a winnable base and that there is a base of support among paleo-conservatives, or classical conservatives, that can be united with. They support a land value tax and resource use taxes such as the Ontario Green Party proposes in its platform plank on taxation. The focus is on preservation of the commons through user taxes in place of income taxes to pay for the damages currently inflicted on the environment. They rely more on a Georgist approach after the American political economist Henry George.

Finally, there are others who favor focusing on particular issues as the
foundation for building the GPUS, through work in the anti-war and other mass movements. Some of these folks go so far as to work to raise issues through other parties' primaries. Many Greens changed registration to support and/or work for Kucinich in 2004 and at least one Green in 2005 changed his registration in NY state to run in the Democratic Senatorial primary to raise the anti-war issue.

One thing that has only been touched on briefly to this point is the role of the platform in the development of strategy. This is a separate topic in itself, but has a great bearing on how the party’s positions and platform planks impact on the recruitment of particular candidates, its self-identity and its public face in elections. This is a key element as we decide how to configure a new popular coalition for the future that can be represented by a new party. Baggage needs to be left at the station as we embark on this journey. There remains a future to define that is just now emerging and becoming evident. But, if we go back and try to resurrect old models, we will surely miss our opportunity to have influence. The road is forward.

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Martin Zehr is an American political writer in the San Francisco area. He spent 8 years working as a volunteer water planner for the Middle Rio Grande region. His article on the Kirkuk Referendum has been printed by the Kurdish Regional Government, Another article was reprinted in its entirety by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) He is a Contributing Writer to Kurdish Aspect more...)

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