It’s not easy being Green but it sure is easier than being a Democrat these days.
I was reminded of this as I scanned some proposed changes and additions to the Green platform. Over and over I found myself reading stuff that not only fit my views but those of many Democrats. The sort of things that would have been standard for the New Deal and Great Society.
Unfortunately, however, the Democratic Party has become the Bernie Madoff of politics. It gets unsuspecting individuals to trust it with their money, beliefs and future, and then immediately starts ripping them off.
There was, for example, Barack Obama’s Madoff moment at the liberal Netroots conference in which he admitted their returns had been slow, but it would improve if they would just be patient. In politics, however, what in fiscal fraud would be considered criminal evidence, is simply treated as “reassurance.”
If the only things that mattered in politics were the issues and you opposed the war in Afghanistan, wanted single payer health insurance, wished to preserve Social Security and thought the jobless should get more federal assistance than a handful of Wall Street bankers, there would be no doubt you’d be a Green.
But it gets complicated by the fact that Greens don’t do all that well in elections, there are a lot of close races that test loyalty, and liberal voters have been trained to believe that any deviation is a de facto gift to the Republicans.
Greens demand a lot of fidelity as well, enough that when I was invited to my first Green conference in the 1990s, I already felt compelled to tell organizer John Rensenbrink that I didn’t think I was good enough to be a Green. He repled, “That’s okay. We’re going to have a Libertarian there as well.”
I went on to help get the Greens organized but designated myself chair of the Big Mac caucus of the party, dedicated to all wishing to be Green without being perfect.
I’ve had my problems with the Greens over the years. I didn’t like how much emphasis was placed on presidential elections. I’m sorry the Greens haven’t formed more alliances with other interests including labor and ethnic coaltions. And I know from the history of American third parties that their effectiveness lies in mass local organizing, which hasn’t happened with the Greens.
But they still seemed great compared to the alternatives, especially when the Democrats repeatedly treated Greens not as part of a progressive coalition but as traitors and other forms of scum – changing laws, denying them rights, altering districts, and even blaming them for Al Gore’s failed presidential campaign (a clear statistical lie).
But now that we’ve had two presidents double-cross their own constituents, it looks like the Democratic party is far more in need of therapy than loyalty. And the first rule when around the dysfunctional is: don’t let them call the shots.
There are, to be sure, practical problems. But they’re not as complicated as they seem. Here’s a good plan of action:
1. Join the Green Party. Just because you join a party doesn’t mean you always have to vote for it. Whether for ideological or pragmatic reasons you can make that choice on election day. You join a party for a political home. So you want to join one whose beliefs reflect your own. For a large number of Democrats and independents this would be the Green Party. Besides, if you leave the Democrats and join the Greens, you are no longer liable under the RICO fraud statutes.
2. Do as little or as much as you want. Political organizations function much like the Episcopal church’s three factions: the high and crazy, the low and lazy and the broad and hazy. Find your own level.
3. Argue with the Green Party when it does the wrong thing. Or does nothing and that’s the wrong thing to do. Every good party needs some good fights.
4. If you want to get into a Democratic primary battle, temporarily switch your registration. I’ve done this lots of time, becoming a Democrat for a day. Just don’t forget to switch back.
5. Remember that fusion politics – in which parties come temporarily together to reach a common goal – was so effective in American history that nearly all states passed laws to eliminate it. You can create your own fusion politics by aligning with the Democrats on specific issues while not hiding the fact that you’re a Green.
6. Just because you’re a Green doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, noble or idealistic. There are plenty of contrary role models in the party, such as myself.
7. There is nothing radical about the Green party. It actually quite conservative. It wishes to conserve the Constitution, the environment, communities, free speech, and numerous other threatened virtues we used to take for granted.
8. Finally, one of the great joys of being a Green is that you never again have to defend stupid things said or done by Obama, Reid, Pelosi or the Clintons.
These are bad times with few happy solutions. In such moments, finding oases of sanity and decency is extremely important, and in politics you won’t find a better one than the Greens.