Category Archives: Green Strategy

Games Democrats Play #423: Everything is Secondary to the Primary

When I introduce friends to my work in Green politics, they often wonder why it has been tough for Greens to make gains against the two parties when our platform is so close to what people desperately want to see in government. This week provides a great example.

The Fort Greene Association here in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn was going to co-sponsor a June 4th debate between congressional candidates Hakeem Jeffries and Charles Barron. Jeffries and Barron are seeking the Democratic Party nomination which, in the conventional wisdom of Brooklyn politics, will essentially decide the election.

The corporate-funded Jeffries is the front-runner, but he and Barron both are challenged by the internationally renowned eco-activist Colin “aka No Impact Man” Beavan, who has secured the Green Party ballot line and will appear on the general election ballot. Beavan’s campaign convinced the Fort Greene folks that it was in the interest of democracy that all of the candidates for Congressional District 8, including Beavan and the presumptive Republican nominee, participate in the debate.

The good people of Fort Greene agreed, but Jeffries immediately bailed on the debate, saying opening the doors to other parties might “confuse” his prospective voters since these candidates were not participating in the Democratic Party’s primary. Nice estimation of your constituents’ intelligence, Jeffries.

But there’s more! See, the co-sponsor of this “great debate” was none other than the New York Times’ own “The Local” blog, helmed by longtime BK hack Gersh Kuntzman. Kuntzman promised hard-hitting questions, but The Local has withdrawn sponsorship of the debate, warning that including more candidates somehow…threatened democracy?

And herein lies the lesson: In a one-party, machine town like Brooklyn, Democrats and their cronies in the media use the primary as an excuse to exclude alternative choices. When a Green (or anyone else, really) tries to participate, they’re told to wait out the primary .

But after the primary season is over, the Democrat can just stonewall until the election because the press assumes the Dem will win anyway. The press, neighborhood associations, civic groups…they just accept it as a foregone conclusion and move on to other things.

See the bait-and-switch? That’s why Beavan wanted in on this debate and that’s why FGA widened participation. Jeffries’ campaign says they will address other candidates after the primary, but…will they? And why should voters have to wait until after some magic date to hear what other candidates have to say? This isn’t like the presidential campaign, where the partisan primaries started last year.

It’s also noteworthy that Jeffries, himself, is technically a third party candidate since he has secured the Working Families Party endorsement.

Now keep in mind, Greens face these kinds of shenanigans every year in local campaigns across the country. This is what we go through just to get in the door, fighting against political bigotry that has nothing to do with what voters want, or who is the best candidate. No party should be able to coast to the finish line at the voters’ expense.

A Party Of The Left Is Essential

In the above Democracy Now! segment that attempts to provide some context for the Occupy Wall Street movement, Professor Dorian Warren extols the brilliance of Left Populism during the Great Depression and New Deal years, but coolly omits the role of socialist parties, communist parties, and anarchist organisations who –in conjunction with radical trade-unions (between which there was significant membership overlap)– provided the infrastructure, popular education, and grassroots media that provided a backbone for the “uprisings” Warren celebrates.

The way he tells it, farmers and factory workers plucked the idea of mass mobilisation from the air and went on to pressure for New Deal reforms. Wow…if only!

Warren also gives a pass to contemporary union leaders who have “been making some of the same critiques (as the Wall Street occupiers) for a long time but have not gotten the leverage politically or economically as the protesters have, in terms of capturing our imagination.”

First, despite the impressive grassroots fundraising efforts of the Occupation movement, the money at the disposal of unions has dwarfed anything else in what we call “the Left” for a very long time. So it’s unhelpful to talk about a relative lack of economic traction.

As for political traction, that comes down to union leaders choosing to squander their significant resources on backing corporate-friendly Democrat candidates who just were not that into workers.

Union leaders were willing to back Democrats just to keep “a seat at the table”, even if that table had nothing for them. The DNC has always known this and, since American unions have been largely phobic toward building real 3rd party alternatives, the Democrats continue to take workers for granted and cater to finance.

And let’s take a moment to point out that, during the boom years, many unions opposed initiatives popular among the #OWS movement, such as single payer health care/Medicare For All.

Why would a union leader oppose such a patently humane and effective program for working people? Because then the *union* would have one less benefit to offer members and, perhaps most importantly, the unions’ own health insurance companies were cash cows for cronies and retired leaders salivating for sinecures.

It comes down to this: radical, competitive parties of the Left are necessary to keep both Democrats *and* the leaders of labor institutions from giving the game away. As long as elected Democrats fear no challenge from the Left, they will continue to take the ecological and economic crises for granted.

When FDR said the country needed to “make him” pass reforms, he wasn’t talking about the power of a PAC with an email list. The New Deal passed because Washington DC faced real pressure from the Left in the streets, on the shop floor, *and at the ballot box* — from local elections on up.

And as long as unions have no parties to the Left of Democrats to back, the urge to stay in that abusive relationship will continue, and the DNC will use its influence to ensure the most corporate-friendly factions stay in leadership positions within labor.

A party that is unashamedly of the Left is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is a critical piece, and we have too long been in denial about its necessity.

Chris Williams on How To Green The Planet

Via The Indypendent:

It is clear from all the studies and possibilities – as well as nearly two decades of delays and sabotage of international treaties to address climate change – that the central problem is the political priorities of the social and economic regime of Capital. This point was made forthrightly by the United Nations in its 2011 report, Towards a Green Economy:

“Although the causes of these crises vary, at a fundamental level they all share a common feature: the gross misallocation of capital. During the last two decades, much capital was poured into property, fossil fuels and structured financial assets with embedded derivatives, but relatively little in comparison was invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transportation, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and land and water conservation.”

Hardly a hotbed of radical thought, the United Nations says the system is to blame.

The real answer to whether or not we can power the planet on clean energy isn’t so much a technical question as a social and political problem. Either we change the social power relations or we will continue to obtain our electrical power from fossil and nuclear sources.

Links From 01/13/2010

[[Richard D. Wolff]] Attacking Public Employees: Will New York Lead?From 2000 to 2010, personal income taxes rose 50%, sales and excise taxes rose 24%, and corporate and business taxes rose the least, 20%.

One reality jumps out from these numbers.  If taxes on corporations and businesses were raised by 50% over what they yielded in 2000 — equaling what happened to New York’s personal income taxes — New York State’s budget would get much healthier.  Such a business tax would generate more new revenue for New York than would be saved by the new governor’s proposed wage freezes and other public employee cutbacks.

When Green Matters Horch and Eder are examples of backyard Greens, whose influence spreads virally through human contact and experience and not through the mass media. … The big parties gave up human relationships long ago. Which is why we have such a hard time relating to them. But you can’t text your way to the presidency, you can’t Facebook a revolution and you can’t save the planet with Twitter. At some point real people have to join with, talk to, and help other real people.

(Unfortunately, the article assumes you can’t be an economic radical and have human connections. While some of our most vocal Marxists have exhibited…anti-social tendancies…I see that more as a side-effect of the marginalization of Left economics than a cause. Who would study Marx, up to this point, besides uber-geeks?)