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A coalition of me

If yesterday’s Medea-Benjamin-inspired post-without-comment had been a contest (and it wasn’t), Robert Young would have won it (see the comments thread).  But here’s my version:

MANY OF US IN THE GREEN PARTY made a tremendous compromise by campaigning in swing states for such a miserable standard-bearer for the progressive movement as John Kerry. Well, I’ve had it. As George Bush says, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”

Admittedly, it is not clear from this nose-pinching paragraph just which Green camp Ms. Benjamin belongs to.  As you’ll recall, there are two options here:  (a) Ms. Benjamin is unaware of the extent to which the Bush crowd consists of kleptomaniac Contra-funding retreads, neo-segregationists associated with Confederate outlets like Southern Partisan magazine and the Council of Conservative Citizens, and Christian fundamentalist jihadists who believe themselves to be the instruments of God; or (b) she is sublimely indifferent to the fact that the Bush crowd consists of kleptomaniac Contra-funding retreads, neo-segregationists associated with Confederate outlets like Southern Partisan magazine and the Council of Conservative Citizens, and Christian fundamentalist jihadists who believe themselves to be the instruments of God.  I’m going with (a), on the basis of Ms. Benjamin’s remark in April 2003, “I’m stunned by how extremist the Bush presidency has become on foreign policy. We never could have predicted this.”

But I could be wrong—Ms. Benjamin could be working with option (b).  The point remains that in making the tremendous compromise of working for the most liberal Democratic nominee since McGovern, Ms. Benjamin had to hold her nose so tightly that she only had one free hand with which to register new voters in Ohio.  And despite her willingness to sacrifice her principles for an unworthy cause, that noxious Kerry fellow went ahead and lost anyway.  So now Ms. Benjamin feels burned, tricked.  Never again!

For those of you willing to keep wading in the muddy waters of the Democratic Party, all power to you. I plan to work with the Greens to get more Green candidates elected to local office.

Face it, the Democrats are hopeless.  Especially in Ms. Benjamin’s part of the country, where the only sane option is to build a third-party alternative to the corporate duopoly.  Take Gavin Newsom, for instance—a corporate sellout if there ever was one.  Just as Kerry failed to endorse gay marriage, instead supporting “civil unions” that fail to meet my personal standard for social justice, so too did Mayor Newsom stop short of promoting a truly liberatory sexual economy.  Yes, he permitted gay marriage.  But he only permitted it for gay and lesbian couples who already wanted to marry. He never once opened his mouth on the subject of arranged gay marriages, fearing that this would provoke a “backlash” among heterosexuals who would find themselves in same-sex couples without their consent.  Well, I’ve had it.  I’m not trusting any local Democrats ever again.

Seriously, folks, I have no problem with Greens getting elected to local offices.  In the Bay Area, in Madison, in Seattle, in Cambridge, they make fine alderpersons and deputy comptrollers.  The problem since 1996 has been that the Greens keep running candidates for national office even though on the national scale, they’re a boutique party at best.  Now, I was a member of the New Party for almost as long as it existed, and the New Party (a) stayed local and (b) advocated fusion ballots.  For the same reasons, the Working Families Party in New York deserves the support of anyone left of the Democrats.  But until the Greens get serious about the kind of electoral reforms that would make their party meaningful (and no, instant runoff voting doesn’t count), I can’t take them seriously, and neither should you.

Let’s stop the infighting, though.  Dems, Greens and other progressives must not only respect one another’s choices, we must start using these different “inside-outside” strategies to our collective advantage. A strategically placed Green/progressive pull could conceivably prevent a suicidal Democratic lurch to the right.

I just love “let’s stop the infighting.” First a middle-finger salute, then a kissoff, then a hug.  First “I’ll never work for a Democrat again”—regardless of whether it’s Joe Lieberman or Russ Feingold—and then an appeal to “our collective advantage.” And what’s with the “strategically placed pull”?  What are we talking about, moving a heavy piece of furniture?  Is there any context, in actual electoral politics, where this makes sense?  How exactly does a left-wing breakoff from the Democrats keep the Democrats from lurching right?  How exactly would Green candidates add to progressive Democratic candidates’ vote totals in states that don’t allow fusion ballots?  It’s no wonder Ms. Benjamin has to be vague here.  But all the same, I suppose we should be ready to pull when she gives the word.  Strategically, of course.

Finally, the most significant problem with this post-2004 strategy for progressives is that, like Gavin Newsom, it doesn’t go far enough.  This blog will not make the same mistake!  I hereby announce my candidacy for Senate in 2006, to try and unseat Senator Rick “Man-on-Dog” Santorum.  But I will not work with the parties of the corporate triopoly!  In the past I have been burned by Democrats and Greens alike, and as a matter of principle, it is intolerable for me to spend time talking with people less progressive than I am.  I will therefore run for Senate under the banner of the Red Party, which I have just founded in this very sentence, and which will promote a coalition politics for a progressive future—forming multiple, pragmatic, fluid coalitions with people who believe exactly what I believe, and for all the right reasons.

The initial meeting of the Red Party will be held in my study at 9:00 tomorrow night.  I hope to see me there.

Posted by on 12/14 at 08:12 AM
  1. Some suggested campaign slogans:

    The Red Party: We’re So Left We’re Right
    Better Red Than . . . Having to Compromise
    Red--Because We Have No Chance in Hell of Winning
    An Organic Chicken in Every Pot and a Hemp Beret on Every Hatrack

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  10:17 AM
  2. "The initial meeting of the Red Party will be held in my study at 9:00 tomorrow night.  I hope to see me there.”

    What if you don’t show for the meeting? Will you feel betrayed?

    “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me--me can’t get fooled again.”

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  11:11 AM
  3. Great image Michael: Go Red, Beat State!
    Berube for Senate because you can lead a Neocon to knowledge but you can’t make him or her think.

    What happened to the Veep slot? You do understand that being a Senator is not a vacation like the Vice Presidency. You may not have the time to keep conservatives out of academia.(I’m still laughing over Terence’s hemp beret.)

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  11:14 AM
  4. Thanks for the slogans, Terence!  But it has to be a free-range organic chicken.  Also it has to be vegan.  And Chris, don’t worry, I’m still focused on being selected as Obama’s running mate in 2020.  But I checked the historical record, and it appears that no one has ever gone straight from blogging to VP.  Almost every veep has spent some time in Congress first.  OK, Charles Dawes got the nod from Coolidge in 1924 without having any electoral experience at all, but historians debate whether Dawes kept a “blog” or just a “diary.” And aj, if I don’t show up tomorrow night, I’m not going to forgive myself.  In fact, it’ll be the very last time I work in a coalition with me, ever.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/14  at  12:14 PM
  5. Excellent post, eloquently put.

    And yet.

    There is something to what Medea said that I find represents a concern I have about the Dems. “I will never work for a democrat again” is a silly statement from someone who lives in Barbara Lee’s district. I live in George Miller’s district, immediately to the north of Lee’s, and I’d work to get Miller re-elected in a heartbeat.

    I’d put it this way: the Democrats can no longer assume they have my vote down the line. I’m glad to have voted for Kerry. I’m glad to vote for a Democrat if that person is the best choice - and I factor electablity into that determination.

    But the dems have long assumed they have the right to votes of people like me, and that is no longer warranted. Kerry may be the most liberal candidate since Debs, but that does very little good if a Kerry victory installs him in a White House surrounded by GOP congressdroids. And from where I sit, the Kerry campaign treated his liberalism as a liability, not a proud, cohrerent and moral strand of American culture. In California, Davis and Bustamante ran so far to the right that Schwarzenegger has actually proven to be to the state Democrats’ left on a number of issues, notably environmental issues.

    I’m happy to support a candidate that most reflects my values, and much of the time that candidate will be a Democrat. But the party no longer owns my vote or my campaign contributions.

    They can rent it, though, by articulating a platform that is 1) not just warmed-over mitigated Republicanism, and 2) not just NOT Republicanism.

    Anyway, my 2 cents. Thanks, Michael, for the thoughtful takedown. Can you add me to the Red Party Email Newsletter Distribution List?

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/14  at  12:17 PM
  6. Thanks, Chris-- and I agree with you completely about Davis and Bustamante.  Talk about not having a dog in that fight!  And I agree with the rest of your comment, as well, though I think the Kerry campaign was actually kind of ambivalent about Kerry’s liberalism (they ran from it on foreign policy, for too-obvious reasons, but not on abortion or civil unions, and they refused to stage a Sistah Souljah/ Ricky Lee Rector moment for the benefit of the editors of the New Republic).  So yes, there’s enough agreement here to allow me to add you to the Red Party Email Newsletter Distribution List.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/14  at  01:04 PM
  7. I hear the id is going to challenge the Super Ego for control over the Red party.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  01:42 PM
  8. The problem with the Medea Manifesto is that it makes the same error as the Yellow Dog Democrats she abhors: both reify the Democratic party as a coherent unified subject, which it most certainly ain’t. The decision whether to vote for a particular candidate--Democrat or otherwise--while properly informed by principle, is ultimately a tactical one. It is important to work on building real progressive political institutions. But not at the expense of surrendering real power to real reactionaries.

    That said, I do wish the Red Party had been on the ballot the last time Santorum ran, so I wouldn’t have had to sully myself by voting for the crappy Ron Klink. It would have made Santorum’s re-election so much easier to bear. Alas, I no longer live in PA, so I won’t be able to vote Berube next time around. Instead, I’ll have to hold my nose and vote for Feinstein!

    Posted by Eric  on  12/14  at  02:53 PM
  9. Eric, so what you don’t live in PA?  Neither does Santorum.  I plan to build my campaign around that (and the hemp berets)-- Bérubé:  At Least He Lives Here.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/14  at  06:19 PM
  10. Red Party Anthem (proposed)

    Flaming leftists from the sky
    Fearless freaks who vote while high
    We forget just what we say
    We who wear the Hemp Beret

    Mumia buttons on our chests
    We’d all fail a urine test
    One hundred crowd the hip café
    But only three score the Hemp Beret

    Trained to live off nature’s land
    Making candles out of sand
    Birkenstocked by night and day
    Patchouli scent from the Hemp Berets

    Mumia buttons on our chests
    We’d all fail a urine test
    One hundred crowd the hip café
    But only three score the Hemp Beret

    As the same-sex partner waits
    Her Hemp Beret has met her fate
    Her meetup ended in mass arrests
    She has died for those oppressed
    Put a rainbow on her chest
    She was Mendocino’s best
    She bought albums by Folkway
    And always wore her Hemp Beret.

    Mumia buttons on our chests
    We’d all fail a urine test
    One hundred crowd the hip café
    But only three score the Hemp Beret

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/14  at  07:37 PM
  11. Dang. I’d invite you to join the Clean Hands party, but it sounds as if you have enough support to taint the whole thing, and possibly infect my Clean Hands with some sliver or at least odor of mattering. And my Clean Hands don’t need that kind of thing. Clean Hands stands for me, and my own ideological purity, and what does the Red Party stand for? Is it above the fray? Is it clean? Is it entirely apolitical? No! Their founder actually speaks of ‘running’ for office, as if ‘running’ were not part and parcel of the entire bought-and-paid-for politiarchy.
    Well, I’ll give this Red Party one more chance. If they turf this ambitious and unscrupulous Bérubé—a miserable standard-bearer for the standard-bearing movement—and withdraw from electoral politics altogether, then maybe, perhaps, Clean Hands will consider touching them. With a stick.

    Thanks,
    -V.

    Posted by Vardibidian  on  12/15  at  10:08 AM
  12. Let’s stop all the fussin’ and the feudin’ and get down to the lovin’!

    That being said, I helped form our county Green Party and am currently the chair of it.  Still, I found Medea’s article difficult to swallow for a lot of the reasons Michael points out.  Let me add this one:  Why is Medea washing her hands of the party, or working with the party or in the party or whatever, at the very point that the party is being opened up (or forced open) for change?  It seems pointlessly foolish (not that us Greens need a point, or even to not act foolishly- I mean just look at our presidential ticket THIS year!) to declare the Democratic Party off limits.

    But enough about Medea, let’s talk about me.  I helped form our Green Party in late 2002/early 2003 (pre-Dean) and I did it because I was absolutely appalled by the midterm elections of 2002.  I was frustrated, disgusted and angry at the Democrats for getting so totally routed, and for being such an accomodationist party.  As a whole, the party did not seem to represent me, or even seem to WANT me (except on election day).

    This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  8 years of Clinton and his defenders looking down on liberals, a Gore campaign that seemed designed to sedate liberals, the debacle in Florida, and the reticent, “professional” reaction to the Florida problems that Gore had all seemed too much to take.

    But I had hope (more pointless foolishness?) I assumed that the Democrats would mount a stiff opposition to Bush, arguing, like Bob Dole, that they represented the majority of Americans who voted AGAINST Bush (and if the Democrats actually believed Nader stole all their votes, why wouldn’t they assume the majority of voters had rejected Bush and his agenda?) But what did I get?  Accommodation and appeasement.  It seemed the Democrats could not find the fortitude to unite in opposition to ANYTHING Bush threw at them.  Tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, Bankruptcy Reform, tax cuts, the Patriot Act, tax cuts, war in Iraq, increased defense spending, (did I mention tax cuts?), banning partial-birth abortion and so on.  Significant numbers of Congressional Democrats jumped onto the Bush agenda as if it were their own, leaving the majority voting against Bush scratching our heads in wonder.

    And their reward?  Disastrous electoral results.  Then Dean flamed across the night sky.  He burned brightly, but briefly.  Still, he set in motion (intentionally or not) forces that understand the frustrations of current and former members of the Democratic base.

    I point out all this because I think the moribund state of the Democrats before Dean’s candidacy is easily forgotten.  I am now seriously torn over how I think our local Greens should proceed because the local Democrats have been infused with a bunch of Dean folks, and I don’t want to work at cross purposes with unabashed liberals (hell, I don’t want to work at cross purposes with ABASHED liberals).

    I don’t think Dean is some liberal messiah come to lead us all to the promised land.  He is problematic, as is ANYONE (Nader, Wellstone, Kerry).  But at least he speaks in opposition terms, not accomodationist ones.

    Posted by  on  12/15  at  01:04 PM
  13. Hey, why the Red Party? Shouldn’t it be the Blue Party?

    Posted by Linnet  on  12/16  at  08:50 AM
  14. It has always been the Blue Party, and we have always been at war with Eastasia.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/16  at  10:00 AM
  15. So what is so left about liberalism? Where are these fire-breathing liberals advancing singlepayer health care, defending progressive taxation to preserve democracy and overturning the oligarchical corporate feudalism under which we currently live, equal public education for all, an end to repressive drug laws, radical prison reform, profound environmental repair, or building peace as a foreign policy?  What liberal has ever in his/her life uttered the words egalitarian or social libertarian and passionately defended them?  All I hear are slime-bucket status quo professional politicos willing to sell-out the poor and oppressed for a little attention from their reactionary overlords that will never come.  Yes Bush is awful, but what did liberal liberal Kerry offer except to marginalize real lefties with endless gutless meaningless half-assed compromise and the desire to better kill more Iraqis? What liberal has dared to say those Iraqis we’re killing are actually defending themselves against illegal armed aggression? We who have called ourselves progressives forever are still waiting to hear clear and unequivocal denunciations of U.S. policies in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, etc.  What radical proposals for electoral reform has any liberal proposed? Why was Lanie Guenier so unceremoniously dumped just for discussing it? What progressive Democrat is currently being raised to party leadership? Russ Feingold? John Conyer? I wish!  What liberal has supported and defended Cynthia McKinney or dared speak the name of Noam Chomsky? Huh? Huh? Huh?

    Posted by  on  12/16  at  03:16 PM
  16. I helped form our county Green Party and am currently the chair of it.Still,i found Medea’s article difficult to swallow for a lot of the reasons Michael points out.

    Posted by Ooty  on  08/14  at  02:16 AM

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