[Marxism] Battered Greens

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 15 12:35:05 MST 2004


San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 2004
Battered Greens beginning to rebuild
After tough year, party seeks small wins at local level

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Lynda Deschambault used a simple strategy to win a Town Council seat in 
Republican-leaning Moraga as a member of the Green Party.

"I hid it," Deschambault said of her party affiliation.

The 43-year-old chemist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
said she thought identifying herself as a Green "would hurt me in the 
town. They're very conservative. Either they're Republicans or they're 
wealthy Democrats. I was fighting that 'Greens are all a bunch of 
tree-huggers' mentality."

So instead of waving the party flag in the nonpartisan race, 
Deschambault talked up Greenish issues, like slow growth instead of 
moving ahead on two major housing developments proposed for the Contra 
Costa suburb. Not until the last weekend of the campaign did she send 
the local Green Party endorsement letter to party members in Moraga.

All 85 of them.

In a year during which the Greens virtually went into hiding on a 
national level, the party had to take what it could get even in 
California, which with 160,579 registered Greens and 75 Green 
officeholders is the party's stronghold.

The Bay Area is home to the party's rising stars, such as San Francisco 
Supervisor-elect Ross Mirkarimi; its electoral system of choice, San 
Francisco's instant runoffs; and its great hope for the future, outgoing 
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez.

Nationally, however, the 2004 election was a dud for the Greens. The 
only time Greens got headlines in the past few months was when they 
fought with their 2000 presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.

Now, with Democrats navel-gazing about their future after their 
election- day meltdown, Greens are hoping to lure back progressives who 
reluctantly voted for John Kerry and to work their way into the 
political system, one low-level election at a time. [Low-level? This 
obviously has more than one meaning.]

"We survived the perfect storm and we managed to grow," said Brent 
McMillan, national political director for the Green Party. "But it was a 
tough year. Our visibility at the national level suffered."

Dogged by Democrats calling them spoilers for running Nader in 2000, 
Greens were marginalized in the 2004 presidential election. Their 
supporters split between those who voted for Kerry in hopes of ousting 
President Bush, those who stayed loyal to Nader as he ran as an 
independent, and those who stuck by Green nominee David Cobb.

"About 70 percent of the people who donated money to us in 2000 went to 
'Anybody But Bush,' and we fought over the rest with Nader," McMillan said.

The result: Everyone suffered.

On election day, Nader won less than 0.5 percent of the vote nationally 
and that was five times more than Cobb got. Legal battles to get on 
state ballots drained both the Greens and Nader of any ability to mount 
a formidable campaign, and the mainstream media largely ignored both.

Because the Greens use their federal-level candidates as 
hey-check-us-out billboards for the party, they squandered a 
presidential election year opportunity to capture more voters in a 
highly charged race.

Some say the 2000 election left a lingering resentment against the 
Greens on the left. While 849,966 more Californians have registered to 
vote over the past four years, only 21,845 registered Green.

"There's been a lot of fear generated out there, fear of a possible Bush 
presidency, plus Democrats did a much better job of getting people 
registered, " said Beth More Haines of the Green Party of California. 
"People were hunkering down, and it takes a lot more involvement to be a 
Green.

"It's been a difficult year for Greens," said Haines, a middle school 
special education teacher who lives in Nevada City.

But with the national election behind them, Haines said Greens are ready 
"to be more activist" and get involved at a local level. Their strategy 
is to build a party by slowly winning low-level, "soil and water 
district commissioner"-type seats. [I guess they are ideal platforms for 
challenging US imperialism in Iraq.] In 2004, 430 Green candidates ran 
for office in 41 states; 63 won. There are 212 elected Greens in 27 states.

They're already a force north of the Bay Area and hold majorities on the 
Sebastopol and Arcata city councils. In San Francisco, Mirkarimi took 
over Gonzalez's old supervisor's seat, and Mark Sanchez was the first 
Green to be re-elected to the Board of Education.

In the East Bay, John Selawsky was elected to the Berkeley Unified 
School District Board and Gayle McLaughlin will serve on the Richmond 
City Council.

Next up for Greens: waiting for Gonzalez's next move.

"We've been in discussions with him about running for another office," 
said McMillan, the Green's national political director. He declined to 
elaborate, other than to say, "It was at the statewide level."

Gonzalez and his aides declined to respond to questions about his plans. 
In a May address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gonzalez 
said, "I think I will stand for office in the future," but offered no 
specifics.

Yet he made it clear in that speech that he was not a career politician. 
"My life is more authentic than politics sometimes demands," he said. "I 
spend a lot of time in cafes and art studios and try to live."

With or without Gonzalez, the Greens positioned themselves well in this 
election, even without a strong top of the ticket, said Corey Cook, an 
assistant professor of political science at San Francisco State University.

"The Greens didn't cause the result of the (presidential) election and 
they could position themselves as an alternative for people who think 
the Democratic Party is headed too far to the right," Cook said, noting 
that anti-abortion Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada is the front-runner to be 
the Democrats' new Senate minority leader.

The Greens "are setting themselves up like Republicans did after (Barry) 
Goldwater in 1964," said Cook, referring to the Arizona senator trounced 
at the polls by President Lyndon Johnson. "They're saying, 'We might not 
win a national election for a while, but we're going to win a lot of 
local seats and build a national party.'" [The only question is which 
national party they intend to build, the Greens or the Democrats.]

-- 

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