March 9, 2004
Letter of Resignation to Green Party from New York National Platform Committee Representative
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
I resign effective immediately as national platform committee representative to the United States Green Party from New York, and I also resign effective immediately as a member of the New York State Green Party state committee.
A respect for the opinions of fellow greens obliges me to explain my resignations.
I no longer feel the Green Party is an effective instrument for advancing significant political change in the US. Support for the Green Party has evaporated locally in my area, and it appears to be down dramatically regionally and nationally.
I joined the Green Party in 1998, inspired by Nader's '96 run for president. I organized the Green Party in my county and ran for local office as a Green and got 36 percent of the vote. I worked for Nader in 2000. I served for two years as secretary of the New York State Green Party. I have attended several national meetings, including the 2000 nominating convention in Denver. I have good friends in the Green Party.
Nader's 2000 candidacy jolted the national political landscape and set in motion questions and issues which, at least in part, have gradually come to penetrate political discussion, even in the resistant mainstream media. That was an important achievement.
The apparent revival of the Democratic Party in 2004 is something for which the Greens and Nader can take some credit.
The Green Party based its strategic approach on building itself up as a third party, challenging the reigning duopoly in electoral terms. It decried the 'winner-take-all' system and called for replacing it with proportional representation. The Democrats, it insisted, were hopelessly corrupt, and could never be a vehicle for fundamental change.
This all made a lot of sense in 2000, after years of rightward drift under Clinton, when Nader pointed out that the Republicans and Democrats were Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But that is no longer the case.
It was not the Democrats, but the Republicans, who upset the duopoly. Although the Democrats cooperated, it was the Republicans who brought us the unilateral preemptive War in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the tax cuts, the loss of jobs, and the crippling deficits. The Democratic Party today -- judging by results of the primaries -- has found itself suddenly animated from below by strong opposition to all these policies.
Yes, many Democrats, including John Kerry, enabled the Bush agenda by supporting it with their votes in Congress. But the Democratic Party, thanks mostly to the Dean campaign and to the continuing outrage at the grassroots, has now made Bush and his policies the issue in this campaign.
Given the significant differences which have now opened up between the major parties, sincere Democrats deserve support in their battle against the Republicans. To deny them that support by running a third party presidential candidate in the general election puts the Greens in the moral bind of helping Bush by dividing the anti-Bush vote.
The likely result will be that the Greens will be crushed and discredited by the Democrats, just as they were in 2000 when Nader lost more than half his support to Gore in the closing weeks of the campaign due to Democratic attacks.
Today most Greens are in denial about this. They dismiss the 'spoiler argument' as an illusion, as if it was still 2000. But the spoiler argument is built into the winner-take-all system. It didn't matter in 2000, when the parties were almost indistinguishable. But it matters greatly when they display significant differences, as they do today.
Greens say: 'We must change the winner-take-all system.' Unfortunately, they do not seem serious about this. If they were, they would have crafted the requisite federal and state constitutional amendments to this end, and they would have focused on advancing them before the public. Instead the Green Party choose to focus on running presidential candidates and high profile candidates in places like California.
This was important in 2000 but since has turned out to be a trap. The Green Party is now caught by the very same electoral system it pretends to decry. It has to play the 'winner-take-all' game and this has led it increasingly to accept the terms of the game, and it is now on the verge of being swallowed and coopted by the system. Green Party talk of proportional representation has been slowly receding, while power politics and cults of personality have been on the rise.
More important, the Green Party has failed to distinguish itself from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. This is shown clearly by the support given by Nader as well as by David Cobb and other Greens to Kucinich. All the Democratic candidates ran if not wholly, then at least largely or in significant part, on progressive issues also supported by Greens.
Greens like to talk about consensus, but they have cut themselves off from the much larger group of people who share their values who remain Democrats. It's too bad in retrospect that Nader and the Greens were not part of the Democratic primary process this time around. Suppose Nader had been in the Democratic field, participated in the debates, etc. What a difference that might have made!
A political party, after all, is only a means to an end. Greens at this point would do better to become Democrats. The Democratic Party is not yet quite up for grabs, as the destruction of Dean showed, but its leadership is under serious challenge from within, from the grassroots, for the first time in a generation.
When the Republican right wing was devastated in the 1964 election, with Goldwater going down to spectacular defeat, they did not go off to found their own party. Nearly all of them stayed in the Republican Party and worked to build up coalitions until they began to win elections. In the meantime, they imposed most of their values on the Republican agenda.
Greens could help other progressives do something similar in the Democratic Party. They could help to 'green' the Democratic Party. They do not have to lose their identity to do so. There could be a Green Caucus within the Democratic Party.
Of course this would be a difficult struggle. The Democrats may well pull back from preemptive war and economic chaos, if they win, but it's not clear how far they would be willing or able to reform the system. Certainly the Democratic leadership under someone like Kerry is not likely to make major reforms. But this doesn't mean that the Democratic Party should be conceded to its current leadership.
To succeed in making it an instrument for political and social justice, the Democratic Party would have to be liberated from corporate control. Howard Dean showed the way here. This may be a more important and realizable task then indulging in what now appears to be the self-defeating and self-righteous luxury of insisting on a third party.
If the Democratic Party cannot be reformed, as many Greens think, then the corporate powers will have confirmed their control over electoral politics in the country. But if that is the case, it would seem even more naive to believe that a third party like the Greens could make any headway at all playing straight electoral politics in a rigged system. The tiny Greens wouldn't have a chance to replace the Democrats; they would simply be crushed by the corporate powers.
It really isn't that important if the Democrats fail again; they probably will, and even if they win they will probably betray most Green values. Yet the Democrats remain the principal potential vehicle of opposition, one which could and should be reformed from within.
This goes to a deeper issue. The Greens have not justified their claim to national party status. To make a national claim is to offer something to the public no one else is offering. But the Green Party platform does not differ in essentials from the broader progressive agenda offered through the left wing of the Democratic Party.
That progressive agenda, it should be said, remains largely inadequate to the problems confronting us. It remains mired in a false left/right dichotomy. Progressives and other leftists retain a reliance on big government, on collectivized solutions; they have not adequately addressed the failure of both governments and corporations to be democratically accountable.
The left would give us big government dominating big business, just as the right has given us big business dominating big government. Neither is really satisfactory.
Still, at this point in history, the progressive/left agenda retains the potential to mitigate the recent excesses of the right, and pull the country back towards the center. In the long run, we will need something beyond that.
But that's another story.
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