Time for Bolder Leadership
By Brent McMillan, Political Director, Green Party of the United States
Is the Green Party in danger of becoming irrelevant? What both the Green Party and America needs now is a bolder form of leadership. The American people are becoming radicalized. They are angry! Neither major party is representing the majoritarian values of the American People. Zogby exit polling after the 2006 Election cycle looked like a list of Green Party programs: ending the war in Iraq, concern about global warming, and universal health care for all, etc.
When people come to Washington I tell them that DC is occupied territory. The federal level of our government has been taken over by corporate interests and no longer acts in the interest of the American people. Our laws are written by lobbyist on K Street and are walked over to Congress to be voted on without them even being read.
Typical of the end of any cultural era is that whatever was characteristic of it gets taken to gigantic proportions right before it collapses. This being the end of a 500 year cycle of Empire building, the dinosaurs are getting bigger and bigger as corporations gobble each other up for global dominance. In the process, the cracks in the system are getting bigger and bigger. People who never thought it would happen to them are being dropped from basic services.
Years ago the U.N. said that the biggest need in the 21st century would be for people capable of going into communities that had lost basic services and help pick them back up. Whether from the disaster of privatization or the impacts of global warming there is a great need for this work.
Over the last couple of years I have been involved in working as part of a trans-partisan network that cuts across political lines and looks for common interests to work on. One of these interests is stopping the invasion of Iran. Many worked to get the National Intelligence Estimate to the public phase without being gutted by the White House. This was key to pulling the rug out from under the Bush Administration for now. Our work is not done though. U.S. troops continue to mass on the Iranian border. Our naval force in the Persian Gulf is as large as it was prior to the invasion of Iraq.
As a part of that trans-partisan network I was ap proached this last Fall about forming a Sustainability Caucus in Congress and staffing it. Itís not that easy to work across the political spectrum to build support for the issues under the umbrella of sustainability but the work is very important.
Itís time to think bigger. Greens are being invited to the table. Here are some ideas about where there are great opportunities:
Form an Emergency Response Team ó a kind of shadow government made up of non-governmental organizations that is capable of assisting impacted communities. Malik Rahim has done some great work in the Lower Ninth Ward in addressing the impact of Hurricane Katrina. He could have used a lot more support from Greens across the country though. There will be plenty more opportunities. Of note and to her credit, Sarah ìEchoî Steiner, current GPUS co-chair from Florida led an impromptu ef fort to get supplies to New Orleans quickly.
Form a Green Leadership Institute ó Greens clearly have leaders. Itís disingenuous to claim otherwise. But Greens are different. How are we different? Much of the leadership in the Green Party is already self-empowered. How can we consciously bring forward those who are not? See the history of The Highlander Center as a good example.
Lead the discussion on Immigration ó The Major Parties are ignoring a real discussion about immigration, big time! What if Greens worked toward holding town hall forums across the country about this important issue?
Work to rebuild Public Health Care ó Form cooperatives in rural areas that have been decimated by privatization. Look to the work of Horace Mann on public education for examples.
Work to build organizations such as Empower DC, †which was co-founded by registered DC State hood Green Parisa Norouzi. One of its more popular campaigns is the Peopleís Property Campaign which seeks to end the sale, transfer and giveaway of valuable public property in DC. Con tact her at: parisa@ empowerdc.org.
It would be naÔve to think that helping people in these ways can happen without obstruction. Check out The War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It (Boston: South End Press, 1989) by Brian Glick. Anyone who has any success at all in bringing about cultural change will find that there are those who will hate you for it and will want you dead. That is another topic, perhaps for a future column. Greens need to be more supportive of each other as we learn how to develop new leadership.