Sunday, August 17, 2003

Inviting In The Greens...

A while back I posted a critique of the Green party's electoral strategy and suggestions for a new direction which would, I believe, lead to a more influential Green party and wider implementation of Green policies. I sent this critique to the Green party, of course, and recieved a reply, from Mr. Dean Myerson, the National Political Coordinator of the Green Party USA, a former Co-Chair of the Green Party of Colorado, a member of the editorial board of Green Pages, and a member of Ralph Nader's staff in 2000. He authored an article on the importance and role of third parties in American politics. I responded to his email asking for an elaboration of his view and responses to several additional remarks and questions.

He has yet to reply. I suspect that he feels there is too little common ground in our views for further correspondance to be useful. I disagree.

I think it's about time that Greens and Democrats had a frank and public discussion about the future of both partys. I have had my say, and while it's surely not perfect, it is a reasonable starting point for a deeper conversation about the future of the left in American politics. I am publishing the correspondence between Mr. Myserson and myself, and inviting Mr. Myseron to respond, unedited, in any way he wishes on this blog. I will be sending him this blog entry along with an invitation to post on the blog. My hope is that he accepts and will share his views and those of the Green party with the many Dean supporters who read this blog. I think I can promise him an interested audience for whatever he has to say.

I have no plans to ask him to leave the blog when and if he responds, either. It is very much my wish that he will stay and weigh in on the election as it unfolds. I think it will be useful to have a prominent Green giving his views. Hopefully, it will increase mututal understanding between Democrats and Greens for someone of his caliber to be representing the Greens on this blog.
I originally wrote asking the party to link my article from their web site without any real thought of a response:

At 03:05 PM 8/5/03 -0400, MBryan@aol wrote:
Please consider linking this article on the web site. It analyzes the Green national electoral strategy in light of relevant US elections law, and suggests a course to maxmize Green influence and long-term electoral success.
Michael D Bryan
University Arizona Law School, 3L

And rather unexpectedly, but certainly not unwelcome, came Mr. Myerson's response:

I don't see an article. There is some text in the attachment, but it does not offer an outline or strategy, only criticizes some of what we are doing now, without really seeing the whole of what we are doing.

We are not running candidates anywhere we can find somebody. That is what Libertarians do. Many Green chapters have specifically decided to avoid certain races. However this is lost when Greens do choose to run in a specific race that is not popular. For every Wellstone-type race we have entered, there are many similar ones that Greens specifically decided not to enter, but this is not known outside the Green Party.

What many critics miss is that only by proving a willingness to run consistently can the kind of reform we all want, even the simpler types like IRV, be at all possible. As soon as we decide to stop running in close races, any momentum or pressure for reform will be lost.

This is only a very simple and short response, there is much, much more.

Dean Myerson
Green Party Political Coordinator

In response, I wrote the following, begging for a more detailed critique and re-emphasizing several points:

Dean Myerson,

Thank you for your feedback. I would certainly like to know what the "more" is. I am curious about your statement, "only by proving a willingness to run consistently can the kind of reform we all want, even the simpler types like IRV, be at all possible." Does this mean that you, and presumably others within the party, think that by running in races in which you suspect a Green candidate will split the left vote significantly, but not win, you will bring pressure to bear for electoral reform?

If so, I have to say that it seems unlikely to motivate the GOP to do anything if their candidates win as a result of the Green candidate's run. Just the opposite, in fact, they'll likely start cutting you checks. While it may create a constituency for electoral reform among Democrats, the likely [the] reforms they will call for is even stiffer requirements for third parties to get on the ballot to try and keep Greens out.

It hardly seems consistent with Green principles to use what amounts to electoral blackmail to propel reform. And, as I mentioned in what you are right to characterize as a critique of Green electoral strategy, such a tactic is counter-productive to long-term viability of the Greens, or any third party using it. No third party has even risen to electoral prominence in the US except upon the death of one of the other major parties (usually due to a too rigid ideological stand) or upon the breakup of an existing major party, splitting off a considerable portion of its' electorate and officeholders.

I can see no path to a significant share of power in the US in the Greens evident current strategy. I cannot judge the intent or plans of those inside the party, I am just a voter. And it is we, the one's who would vote for you if it did not aid the GOP, are the ones who matter most to your success of failure, not your inner cadre. So, I admit I am not familiar with the "whole of what you are doing" but unless that whole adds up to much more than the parts visible to the voter, all you have is a lot of very dissappointed would-be supporters who will have labor on for change in the Democratic party without you and your hidden mysteries of party strategy.

I don't mean to be sarcastic, but it is hard not to be when a party's political coordinator tells a well-intentioned critic who is concerned about the fate of the party, that he simply can't understand the party's real strategy. It looks very much to me like the party's strategy is to become as hated by the left as they possibly can. There is a lot of sentiment in the rest of the left that the very first thing a democratic nominee should do is trounce the hell out of any Green candidate. Thoroughly discredit him, oppo him or her so far into the dust that the Greens will never get up again. Spend everything that must be spent to ensure that the Greens never run again - ever.

I don't think that you recognize the towering anger at the Green party among many Democrats. All the sophistry you care to throw at the issue can't change people's instictual evaluation of the numbers: most Dems think Nader's Green candidacy put Bush in office. They won't forgive that twice. They might forgive it once if you're lucky. I fear even trying it again will premanently doom the Green party to being a minor third party of no significance. That would be a tragedy for the US and for the earth.

I've offered a critique with suggestions which reach the party's policy goals in a realistic manner. I will be the first to admitt that it is rough and, obviously uninformed by an inside perspective. But you can't discount that my viewpoint is exemplary of many of the left who wish they could support the Greens. You also can't ignore the fact that my evaluation of where your electoral stregth lies is correct and that my assessment of the Green Presidential candidacy is valid, as far as it goes. I would [be]very pleased if you, or anyone else in a position to instruct me, would introduce me to the "much, much more," so that I can make this outline a better-informed endeavor.

Changes to the electoral system must occur before the Greens will make significant headway. Right now the Greens are a vital collection of local parties. The national party connects these local parties, but the Greens are not a national party. You cannot call yourself a national party with a straight face without a single national officeholder and without even officeholders in every state. Only significant legal change will make that a reality.

Only the Greens, and other third parties, and apparently Dennis Kucinich, wish to make those required changes, and they must do so themselves. For instance, the initiative in the western states gives a wonderful lever of power to third parties, but third parties seldom use it effectively. Building a coalition with other third parties for electoral reform could be effective, but has not be done. Allying with the Democrats and working within to make electoral reform an issue may work. These are [the] sort viable strategies on which Greens should focus ALL their energies now instead of swimming against the electoral stream and nearly always losing. Once you have changed the direction of flow, the stream will take you where you need to go.

If you think I'm wrong, great! Tell me why. If you think I'm an idiot, great! But tell me why. Let me have it. I'm going to be a lawyer, I've got very thick skin.

BTW, I modified the "some text" I sent you somewhat. The result is essentially the same in conclusion but with some areas a little more fleshed out. It is at the following address:

Michael D Bryan

Now, I guess we wait to see what Mr. Myerson decides to do.


At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Health Blog said...

The national party connects these local parties,
but the Greens are not a national party.


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