Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Colorado Green Party needs to do some housekeeping

Imagine if a state's Democratic or Republican party chair refused to support the national party's presidential and vice presidential candidates, and did so quite vocally. Well, in this case the party might be different, but the incident has occurred. A co-chair of the Colorado Green Party, Dave Chandler, has made it be known through his blog that Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are not worthy of his support and by extension not worthy of Green Party members in Colorado. The ostensible reason is McKinney's willingness to embrace the support of other arguably more radical organizations. My guess is that the real reason is McKinney and Clemente speaking at an anti-DNC event hosted by a rival organization, Recreate 68, rather than the one organized by T.A.R.D. (h/t Benjamin Whitmer for the more apt acronym) after practically being ordered not to by various members of the Colorado Green Party brass. T.A.R.D.'s DNC activities seem to include a bbq event wherein hobnobbing with Democratic party members will be on the agenda.

So here is most of the text of Chandler's missive:
I am the co-chair of the Green Party of Colorado, but I am not supporting Cynthia McKinney for President.

Colorado Green Party candidates this year are exceptional and I support them whole heartily: Bob Kinsey for U.S. Senate; Art Goodtimes for San Miguel County Commissioner; Scott Zulauf for Jefferson County Commissioner; Jerry Lacy for Custer County Commissioner; Joe Calhoun for Congress-CD 2; and Tony D'Lallo for State House District 34.

There have been internal Green Party controversies involving the Green Party of Colorado and the McKinney presidential campaign that have raised very serious concerns for me -- structurally the McKinney campaign is disorganized, uncommunicative, and there have been incidents of a dismissive attitude towards state and local Green Party groups. These failings in operation are seriously at odds with the Ten Key Values that make the Green Party distinctively different from the major political parties.

There are more importantly real issue oriented reasons why I believe the nomination of McKinney and her vice presidential pick, Rosa Clemente, was a mistake by the national convention of the Green Party of the United States.

In politics and running for office, one cannot stop other groups or organizations from expressing support or opposition to your candidacy or cause. In this Republic where free speech is enshrined as our first freedom in the Bill of Rights, people and groups have a right to say what they think and believe. However, one also has the right to choose with whom one decides to associate.

The Cynthia McKinney campaign cannot stop the Workers International League from endorsing her ... but McKinney has decided to embrace that recommendation and publish it on her web site. This is also true of the Workers World Party.

Here are the links:

Workers International League: "your candidacy is the best choice for working people"

WorkersWorld: Cynthia is a Militant Voice for Peace

This is plainly and simply unacceptable to me.

I believe that there are indeed politically and socially disaffected and alienated Americans who should be reached out to and encouraged to participate in our democratic process -- the two afore mentioned groups, however, are not part of the 'oppressed' or 'forgotten'.

My goal has always been that the Green Party could become in time a major principled, progressive mainstream political party in the United States of America. The commitment of Greens to a more inclusive democracy, to a broader, pluralistic Republic, to politics free from the taint of big special interest money makes the Green Party uniquely different from the Democrats. The Green Party's commitment to non-violence and rejection of militarism and nationalism as an organizing principle for the country makes us radically preferable to the Republicans.

Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, however, appear to be moving the Green Party I believe in, in a very different direction. To put in glibly, but honestly -- I don't know what a 'hip hop' political party is.

Furthermore, even passing references to violent revolution are anathema to me. This is NOT Green, it is uncivil, and for a vice presidential candidate, Ms. Clemente does not seem to know the difference between radical, reactionary, and being gratuitously inflammatory...
What I find attractive about McKinney's campaign so far as it goes is that she and Clemente have the potential to broaden the appeal of the Greens beyond that party's usual white, middle-class base. In that regard, I am certain that I'm not alone. Unfortunately, that very broadening of the party seems a bit threatening to some of the party brass. Just to go to one of the later sentences in Chandler's missive, "I don't know what a 'hip-hop' political party is," I'd wonder if he even bothered to ask. Surely it wouldn't have been too difficult, and if nothing else would be much closer to the value of "respect for diversity" than his admittedly glib remark - which came across as dismissive. I also wonder if the contention that the characterization of the Workers International League and Workers World as not part of the "oppressed" or "forgotten" is more than a little disingenuous. Whatever one might say about Marxist organizations within the confines of the US empire, they make an effort to reach out to the oppressed and forgotten in a way that others have often refused. Maybe there's a reason why M1 of dead prez would feel represented by McKinney/Clemente, and maybe, just maybe, moving the Greens in a "different direction" will reap benefits such as more votes come election time. More of the same hasn't exactly worked.

As I mentioned at Whitmer's blog, The Try-Works, there is something else rather disturbing about the Colorado Greens' co-chair:
Chandler also has a history of supporting some pretty right-wing efforts targeting undocumented immigrants, as well as using right-wing rhetoric, albeit of a “populist” variety in discussing undocumented immigrants.
Given that the ten principles that the Greens like to promote include nonviolence and social justice, we should question the wisdom of supporting initiatives that would further harass the most vulnerable residents of our communities, as well as the apparent hostility towards those crossing the border even while paying some lip service to targeting the execs who exploit undocumented migrants (somehow I wouldn't count on ICE to do any of that). I've mentioned before that our politicians, pundits, and activists have too narrowly focused their discussion on violence and nonviolence on the individual interpersonal level, rather than broadening their concerns to organizational and structural violence. Both of these latter forms of violence are inherent in the ballot initiative in Colorado that would require police to impound cars of unlicensed drivers, to the extent that "it is a thinly-veiled effort to target illegal immigrants, who are not legally allowed to hold a driver's license." Similarly, trying to dissuade people from Mexico and Central America from cross the border in the name of presumably propping up US laborers' wages - in effect telling these fellow human beings to starve as NAFTA and CAFTA continue to do their damage - does nothing to prevent the on-going structural violence inherent in those so-called treaties and arguable serves only to exacerbate an already inhumane set of circumstances.

To my friends who make up the Sanctuarysphere, I would simply observe that the Colorado Greens may not be allies in our struggle, at least under the current leadership. Although this might seem a bit harsh, I do think that Colorado's Greens need to clean house and remove goons like Chandler from positions of power, if they harbor any hopes of being a genuine opposition party/organization rather than as a clique for predominantly white, upper-middle-class hippie wannabes.

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