Necessity is the mother of invention. And sometimes, frustration is the mother of creativity. It couldn’t be more obvious that the corporate parties don’t serve our interests, or that the world is in crisis. And as an active member and leader in the Green Party, I have no doubt that only an independent party like ours can embrace the radical change that this moment demands.
I also have no doubt that, although the mainstream media works overtime to hide the fact, it is true that many Americans are now screaming for radical change. A typical moment for me was yesterday, when I heard the tools at National Public Radio compare Greg Smith, who just published an op-ed in the New York Times blasting his former employer Goldman Sachs, to the flight attendant who grabbed a beer and slid down the emergency chute after ditching HIS job, as if it were some kind of joke.
I know many, if not most, Americans are well aware that our current situation, in which a company of vampire squids controls our government AND our economy, is unsustainable and morally wrong. We even see increasing calls for the “creation of a third party.”
So why aren’t people flocking to the Green Party? What can we do to get the message out that our values are America’s values, and we have real solutions? To my mind, both the Green Party and the left in general have completely failed to create or communicate a positive vision of the society we want to see. This failure isn’t the only reason we aren’t growing, but it is a major factor.
When John Rensenbrink of the Green Party of Maine and I started discussing what we could do about this a few months ago, we came up with the idea of an open letter to the American people. John says “the letter is an informal and personal way to tell the American people about the Green Party, and to remind them that in their creative struggles for a good life we are 100 percent behind them.”
For me, it was critical that the letter be carefully written to embrace ideas held by many people across the political spectrum, both about what’s happening now, and what a bright future might look like, without compromising Green ideals or policy. We don’t use the words “left” or “right.” My initial inspiration was the Port Huron Statement, which the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) released in 1962. However, where the Port Huron Statement is specifically by and for students, and spends a lot of time on the existential crisis of “the left” of its time, we are seeking a broader audience and advocating a broader concept of how to organize for change.
We describe our reasons for writing the letter this way:
First, to celebrate the fact that people throughout our country aren’t waiting for politicians to save them, but are building a new economy from the bottom up. Second, our government, rather than helping the new economy take hold, is standing in the way. And third, to identify seven steps you can take to spur the new economy and help bring about a new society.
We struggled long and hard over the following paragraphs. We wanted to be “trans partisan” and inclusive, without backing away from our ideals.
From the letter’s introduction:
The Tea Party has focused attention on the failures of government. The Occupy movement has focused attention on the huge gap between the Wall Street super-rich and everyone else. Together they create space for an important national conversation about the true meaning of democracy and our national commitment to liberty and justice for all.
From the second section, entitled “Government: The Problem Or Part Of The Solution?”:
We believe that hope lies with people who are taking matters into our own hands and creating solutions. There are millions of us. Even those among us who have traditionally looked to government as the solution, recognize that our government is no longer able to agree on much of anything, as in the Congressional Super-Committee, or is actively making things worse.
In the first section, we seek to paint a picture that acknowledges the crisis we are in while being optimistic about the ways in which people are creating their own solutions. Here’s an excerpt:
Some of us are struggling to stay afloat and too many are sinking. Some have been doing this a long time. Others are new to long-term unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Even those of us who still have jobs, homes and savings don’t feel at all safe. We all know, deep down, that the world we knew, the world of steady jobs and endless growth, the world of every generation doing better than the last, just isn’t coming back. We also know that the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing isn’t a fluke. We’re all taking a good hard look at our situation, and we know we need to figure out a new way to live.
The good news is that people are figuring it out. We see a movement that Yes! magazine calls the “Do It Ourselves Economy.” People are reclaiming control of their economic and political lives. They are focusing on livelihoods, not just jobs. They are focusing on rebuilding Main Street and revitalizing local democracy in ways that will enable us to create our own work, localize credit, and reduce our dependence on money and paid employment. People are living well on less money, and building stronger families and communities along the way.
In the third section, we outline seven steps people can take as individuals to move the whole project of a new society forward. Here, the letter connects the Green Party directly with non-electoral progressive actions including the Occupy movement and local community-building for a new economy. And without hammering Obama, singling out Democrats as the enemy, or saying Greens are the only saviors—all things that can cause progressives to shut down—it shows how the two-party, money-driven system just can’t work and we need to expand the political process.
We are seeking input from other Greens on the letter and on how we might use and disseminate it. John and I plan to conduct a Workshop on the Letter at this summer’s Green Party Annual National Meeting in Baltimore. Thereafter, we will finalize the Letter and invite people to sign on: individual members of the Green Party, state Green Parties, local Green Parties, the National Green Party, Green-minded local groups and individuals, and members of other political parties. We then plan to get the Letter out to the American people through as many channels as possible.
Read the letter in its full form and comment on it at: greenpartyrising.blogspot.com/