The following represents the opinion solely of the author and should not be construed as an opinion of the Green Party of Rhode Island.
I recently became a national delegate with the Green Party. A few weeks ago, I was driving to a hotel in Providence to pick up Eric Draitser, host of Counterpunch Radio who was on a business trip that evening, when I got a phone call from Bruce Dixon. There had been a bit of inter-party debate that raised some tempers mightily in the course of a few days and Bruce was kind enough to tell me his perspective on the matter, an issue which I had a difference of opinion with him about.
“We've got to be able to get into a room and have conversations with the people we disagree with or this thing is not going to go anywhere.”
That's a paraphrase of what Bruce told me but it's all the same when you get down to it. Anyone who has followed the inner dynamics of the Green Party over the past twenty plus years and particularly since November 2016 understands that there are certain contradictions at hand within the party.
First, the party has seen an upsurge in activity. Part of this was tied to the success of Bernie Sanders, part of this was tied to the unpopularity of Clinton, and part of this was related to the general growth of a social movement that has returned the notion of class to public discourse in a fashion unseen since before the Red Scare. As such, the influx of new membership, composed of young people with no memory of the Cold War taboos about 'socialism', has begun a process that includes coming into critical debate with longtime leadership.
Second, the Democratic Party is undeniably refusing to bow to any pressure that would dictate it embrace a progressive agenda. While it seems that the Clintons are perhaps gone for now, the foul stench of Clintonism and its neoliberal identity politics aura pervades the leadership of the party. As Thomas Frank describes it, this is due to the fact that the various constituencies that make up the progressive base “have nowhere else to go”. Women, LGBTQQIA+, union members, Africans, Latinx, all of these various demographics are part of what is known as a 'captive caucus'. They are people who loath the rightward shift of the Democratic Party yet simultaneously recognize that the overt white nationalism of the GOP is simply not an option. This means the Democrats can do whatever they want and get away with it, something we have seen again and again since at the latest the 1992 election of Bill Clinton.
Third, the current composition of the Green Party of the United States renders it effectively more of a collection of about 50 different state parties, give or take a few. Part of this is due to an intentional structuring that was built into the GPUS from the start. After decades of centralization as an organizational principle of Left parties, the Greens wanted to differentiate themselves from others by making decentralization a key value of their praxis. But the other reason is because of an ongoing inter-party debate around how to build the party base. Both of these issues contribute to an ongoing lack of direction from the national level and I say this with deep respect for our national Steering Committee. As such, we need to begin to hold regional summits where our people can come and build a strategy that goes across state lines. Certainly that will entail some heated debates and maybe even cause a few arguments. But we need to assert a kind of control of these parties now that makes us have a strategy going into the 2018 elections so to overcome the perception of amateurism.
And so I want to extend to everyone reading this an invitation to come to The Green Party of Rhode Island 25th Anniversary Celebration and New England Regional Summit <https://greensofri.nationbuilder.com/gpri-25th-event> on December 2 at Bell Street Chapel in Providence. Featuring keynote addresses from Dr. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, our 2016 presidential and vice presidential nominees, this is a chance for us to build our Green Party from the bottom up while honoring past accomplishments and leadership. It is guided by the following mission statement:
As I drove around Providence with Eric, we had a long conversation about what is on the horizon for American politics. Our ecology is rapidly reaching a critical turning point caused by climate change. The cyclical nature of the stock market seems to be indicating that we are due soon for another downturn. Trump's bellicose narcissism and white nationalism are omens of a far greater threat, the potential of a truly competent and overtly militant political figure who might try to build a genuine neo-Nazi party in the halls of power. We both agreed that the forecast is grim.
The only answer to this is that we must build institutions, organizations, and, yes, political parties that can offer an alternative to the neoliberal agenda. The point of such an effort cannot be to just win elections. Instead, we must take heed of Harvey Milk's wisdom. Milk was living in days much like these, when the reaction to the 1960s was beginning to metastasize into the force that put Ronald Reagan into the White House and later took form as the Moral Majority. He envisioned in one of his more famous speeches creating a broad-based coalition of “not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es.” In that speech, he emphasized repeatedly the goal of electoral politics:
The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right… And you and you and you, you have to give people hope.