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More diverse candidate pool crucial


Active outreach needed to solve gender, race gaps.
by Green Party of the United States†

Wed 10/01/03†
GreenPages, Vol 7, No.3

The Green Party has matured substantially in the past year; gains in voter registration, increasing sophistication of committees and programs and experience in running campaigns have convinced political insiders that the Green Party is now a force with which to be reckoned.

What we need now is to win elections, and to do that we need candidates, and lots of them. However, the ideal candidate probably won’t believe that she or he is ideal.

Greens must actively seek out fellow progressives. In particular, people who are systemically disenfranchised ñópeople of color, gays and women ó may not come forward of their own accord.

Last year, 84 percent of the Green Party slate, nationwide, consisted of white males.

It is critical that we approach elections with an attitude of outreach, rather than waiting for the right candidate to walk off the street and into our meeting.

Green issues must be talked about in places where low-income people, minorities and women gather.

If time can be made for only one meeting a month, better that it be a meeting of working people, regardless of whether they’re all Greens.

We must begin to participate in society, even though many of us often feel completely out of touch with mainstream America. Insularity is for Republicrats.

The Green Party’s lack of diversity results in part from blockades set up within our society, directly and indirectly, by a ruling elite who have successfully divided and conquered.

The channels of communication have been closed between different ethnic groups, classes and races ó even between the sexes. (Women really aren’t from Venus, you know.)†

But there is more to the equation: We must examine, objectively and without blame, but uncompromisingly, our own contributions to our insularity.

At the national meeting in July, many white Greens used the words “us” and “them” to describe the Green Party and racial minorities, respectively, when directly addressing Greens of color. What does that say to a non-white person? Is he or she not one of “us?”†

And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen women shut out of a discussion, overlooked for a role for which they are qualified or have their ideas co-opted by men since joining the Green Party.

It is very frustrating to live in a racist and patriarchal society, but even more so to be working with people who sincerely believe they’ve gotten beyond all that, but haven’t.

If we can all allow for our own humanity, and challenge ourselves to make our behavior align with our professed beliefs, we will be better positioned to improve the diversity of the party.

The ease with which the anti-American USA Patriot Act passed bipartisanly reveals the urgency with which Green electoral victories must be pursued. This year and next are pivotal election years for the Green Party.†

People from across the political spectrum are watching us to see if we are a reformist offshoot of the Democrats; a crackle-hiss-sputter-die dud; or a serious, viable alternative to the entrenched, joined-at-the-hip party of corporate lapdogs.

Because of the scrutiny, many Greens feel that the coming election cycle could make or break us.

Toward that end, it is essential that party diversification be realized.

We will never sway enough comfortable white voters to our party to elect a member of Congress. We can only take on the big offices if we start from scratch by drawing into local elections people who have never bothered to vote because they’ve never felt the value of their vote.

Beyond that purely pragmatic concern is the principle: We are the party of the people, all people. End of story.

With a genuine attempt at inner growth and outward reaching, in 2003 and 2004 we will see a diverse slate of intelligent, motivated, dedicated Greens running and winning.

Penny Teal is from Mystic, Conn. She is a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Green Party of the United States, a former member of the Coordinated Campaign Committee and a former candidate for state senate.

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