Whoever wins, after election day it will [continue to] be bloody, for the poor, for the working class, even for that mythical creature known as the middle class. And it’s that bloody morning after we should be thinking about.
Any plan that does not embrace the day after is no plan at all
I recall my volunteer days working on Democratic Party campaigns in San Francisco in the 70’s. The campaign staff would work us into a frenzy — lit drops, registration tables, etc. (but not community outreach, that was their turf). All for the glorious cause. It served two purposes. Of course it did further the glorious cause, rent control, district elections, defeating Prop 13, whatever. But more importantly to the paid honchos, it left the troops exhausted, burnt out, and hung over. Meanwhile, the Democratic heavies were poised like jackals to move in the day after and grab up the spoils, steal the credit, allocate the blame, and divvy up the staff jobs while the rest of us were left with bitter memories of opportunities squandered.
Wake me when it’s over
I’m getting deadly bored with the state of the current debate. Just how bad is Obama? How much worse is Romney? Is either a lesser evil? Or are they equal evils? At this point, minds are made up, and the debate has become a lifeless ritual masking a dearth of strategic thinking.
For the record, I am fully supporting — indeed, working for — the Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala ticket and the Green Party. But those bold radicals who say over and over that they can’t comprehend why anyone would vote for Obama? At the least, they show a shocking lack of imagination.
The key question, in my opinion, is not whether the Greens are programmatically better or morally superior — though they are easily both — but whether they can grow into a significant force in the coming decade. I contend that they can. But for that to happen, it will require transformation of the left and, more importantly, transformation of the Green Party itself. I also contend that such transformation is now underway, and has the potential, along with the Occupy movement, to transform the left.
It’s all Nader’s fault
A superficial review of the last several Green presidential campaigns does not give great cause for optimism. After Nader received 2,883,105 votes (2.74%) as the Green candidate in 2000, the party went into steep decline. In 2004, David Cobb squeaked out 119,859 votes (0.096%), and in 2008 facing the Obama juggernaut, Cynthia McKinney managed 161,603 (0.12%) or 5.6% of Nader’s 2000 tally. 2012 will be different, quantitatively and qualitatively.
First, Stein has polled at 3% of the vote, according to OpEdNews, with a jarring 1% in battleground Ohio. Those numbers may shrink some as we are engulfed by lesser-evil frenzy, but it could still potentially rival Nader’s 2.74%. But it’s not just Stein’s personal numbers that are making Democrats (not only in Ohio) sweat. For a vote for less-known Stein is not so much a vote for a celebrity as it is a vote for a party, and a party is a much tougher sell than a personality.
Nader catches blame from all sides, most frequently for having cost Gore the 2000 election, especially from those who conveniently forget his running mate, Joe Lieberman. But in independent circles, he is excoriated for his failure to run so as to build the Green Party itself, rather than advance his own fame.
And I say yeah, yeah, that’s all true. But at least as significant is the failure of the Green Party itself to use Nader to build the party. After all, when you invite a big-name celebrity to carry your banner, you get … a big-name celebrity doing the same things he did to become a big-name celebrity in the first place (“you knew I was a snake before you let me in,” as the old song goes).
Could then a smarter Green Party have been able to equal Nader’s numbers in 2004? Of course not. As I mentioned, a left party is a harder sell than a big name. Still, there was a massive failure to consolidate. Could it have been different? Maybe not, even probably not. Experience counts. But this is 2012 and it’s a very different ballgame. We now have a party working to act like a party.
As David McCorquodale, co-chair of the party’s newspaper Green Pages, wrote in the Fall 2012 issue, “… into the breach stepped the pairing of Dr. Jill Stein as candidate and Ben Manski as campaign manager … The campaign began to assume a role that we might expect the National Party to fill, but which it currently can’t do for lack of money and volunteers … So what is going on here? I believe we are seeing the evolution of the way the Green Party must operate in order to move forward … The focus of the current campaign is clearly about building the party.”
Then there is the historic moment.
It’s the end of the world …
To be sure, clever leftists have long pointed out the duplicity of the two-party system, the crisis of capitalism, 1066 and all that. But for those of us who still endure the bourgeois media, we see that this has penetrated the mainstream, is in fact becoming the common wisdom. The New York Times almost daily illuminates the plight of the former middle class, Romney is more passionate than Obama about the misery of the poor and factors the underemployed into the unemployment numbers, which Obama is vested in ignoring. All they lack is solutions.
This coincides with (is driven by, and drives) the historic moment. Yes, to the left this is always the “historic moment,” the crisis is upon us, never before, the system exposed, to the barricades, to the barricades, to the barricades! — or at least send us some money — with the regularity of doomsday prophets declaring the end of the world, only 60 shopping days till the end of 2012. We become numb, been there, done that. But yes, Virginia, there really are historic moments.
… and I’m feeling fine
For the Green Party has solutions: government to create jobs, guarantee and strengthen the safety net, and pay for it all by taxing the corporations, ending our wars, and gutting the Pentagon. The liberals aren’t even trying to put forward solutions. Please note that the Green Party, labeled as a bunch of middle-class hippies who love trees more than people, is backing Stein’s Green New Deal, which focuses on jobs, security, welfare, along with war and peace and the environment, and in nominating Cheri Honkala, a leading anti-poverty activist, has opened up the party to building a base among the poor and working people.
Revolution in the Evolution
But truly seizing the moment requires a revolution in the evolution. So I’m stepping out of the debate over what to do on election day. Hopefully my position is clear.
Now I ask, what are your plans for the day after? In 2008, the left lined up for the holy crusade of healthcare reform, and collapsed utterly in the wake of Obama dropping the Public Option and creating instead a massive bailout for the insurance industry. What’s the holy crusade this year? Obama’s jobs program? Doesn’t have one. (Stein calls for “nationally funded but locally controlled direct employment initiative … public sector jobs.”)
Obama’s defense of the safety net? He’s planning “adjustments” to reduce the deficit. (Stein: supports the RIGHT to healthcare, free education, jobs, affordable housing and utilities.)
Obama’s plan for the Middle East? Drone wars, back Israel in crushing the Palestinians, bludgeon Iran, send in more commandos. (Stein: “repealing the Patriot Act … reducing military spending by 50%.”)
Obama’s plans to tax the rich? Making them “pay a little bit more.” (Stein: tax “in proportion to ability to pay … End taxpayer funded bailouts for the banks.”)
And so it goes.
My god! We’re used to our liberal heroes making promises and then breaking them. But Obama isn’t even making promises. And if he loses, does anyone think that congressional Dems will fight for ANYTHING?
Boots on the ground
Once upon a time, radicals fought for the merits of radical solutions over liberal solutions. Now, even liberal solutions are tagged as radical, and liberals are fighting for solutions that were once tagged as conservative. If elections aren’t your thing, then take to the streets by all means. We Greens will represent you. But if you think the electoral arena still has its uses, then the Greens are it. Either way, we have to get free of the clickosphere. You get boots on the ground by putting your damn boots on the ground.
Won’t be easy. I’ve read a variety of criticisms around working with the Greens, serious matters, to be sure. But I think they stem from the Greens being understaffed (or not staffed) and underfunded. Certainly where I am in Florida is a drastic example. Getting off the dime is hard. Incorporating new blood doesn’t lighten the burden on current members. It actually increases that burden on the individuals, even as the organization grows. They call it growing pains for a reason.
But here’s what decides it for me. The party is keenly (even painfully) aware of the historic moment, is committed to transformation, even thirsting for it, and is willing to work through what has to be worked through to make it happen.
Of course, you can always stand aside and wait for the party to become good enough to be worth your participation. Or you can fight like hell to MAKE it happen!