An Open Letter to Rocky Anderson

Dear Mr. Anderson,

I was both encouraged and concerned when I learned that you were planning to run for President of the United States.  Your voice in our national discussion has been indispensible, both during the Bush administration decrying the myriad abuses of power and both before and during the Obama administration when you admonished the Democrats for either actively or passively allowing those same abuses to continue. You’ve proved yourself to be a man of profound integrity, bravery and competence and know you would make a fine president.

However, I was dismayed to learn that you will be seeking the presidency under a newly created party. I humbly ask that you reconsider and run as the nominee of the Green party. Creating a new party is a terrible, counterproductive and downright dangerous idea.

At best, it is needlessly challenging. The Green Party lines up with your views on virtually every issue. The Green Party not only agrees with the stances you have taken but would be uniquely privileged to have a candidate who has actively fought for progressive values. You have not merely passively and tepidly supported but, as a lawyer and mayor, boldly fought for citizens’ privacy, safety from police brutality, strong ethics laws, a healthy and livable planet, equal rights for the LGBT community and a livable wage. While the Greens do languish in relative obscurity due to limited media attention and the absence of corporate bribery, we have managed to establish a small but devoted network of volunteers and elected officials and hold ballot access in states that equal 243 electoral votes. Not running as a Green would mean forgoing existing support and stand as a slight to fellow citizens who are obviously your ideological allies.

At worst, however, running with new party would divide the left when we most need unity. 2012 could be a great opportunity for us. Obama has proved himself to be spineless, unprincipled and deeply ineffective, while the Republicans drift further and further into total madness. Those of us who desperately wish to see an America that protects its most vulnerable, works towards a clean environment and doesn’t engage in global imperialism have been forced to work outside the two party system. In 2012 we need a single leader, backed by a single party to articulate this dream and the frustration of those who share it to the country. In 2000, Nader had a positive impact on our democracy by finally challenging the corruption and hypocrisy of the Republicans and Democrats. However, in the later election cycles he created needless acrimony, redundancy and confusion by running as an independent against a Green with essentially the same platform. By not running as a Green you risk creating the exact same scenario: Two candidates with Green values, but only one formally representing the Greens, running for the same job.

Moreover, running outside the Green Party overlooks a key failing that 3rd party candidates for president too frequently make. The presidency is one elected job among thousands in America. The bids of both Nader and Perot overlooked this fact. They worked singularly to get themselves elected but neglected to put any energy into growing the parties they represented. Despite generating support and enthusiasm they were little more then flashes in a pan because they failed to build a movement beyond themselves. For political change to occur it needs to come from movements, not a messiah.  An effective movement needs more than just one charismatic leader but a legion of like-minded candidates, organizers, advocates and volunteers all working towards the same goal. It needs cohesion and patience that extends beyond 1 or 2 election cycles. Awareness and support needs to slowly be cultivated amongst voters. State parties need to build an experienced base of volunteers (or if funds allow, employees). Races need to be won at the local and state level, proving to the public and media that the party is viable and can effectively govern once elected. The Green Party has abided by this “tortoise” instead of hare strategy for years.

Having a national presidential campaign is essential because it can uniquely broadcast the party’s message to the whole country and attract media visibility.  However, it is equally essential that presidential campaigns work in tandem it’s party’s other campaigns for lower offices. All the support a presidential campaign gets is irrelevant if it loses without representing a party. The struggle to positively change America is a marathon. I’m afraid that starting a new party to facilitate you bid would be tantamount to sprinting, leaving you and your supporters exhausted and stranded.

I humbly and deeply ask you to reconsider.


Who I am

I am the president of a Green party chapter at a small liberal arts college. I feel strongly that America urgently needs major structural change and that the two-party system we have now is hopelessly incapable of providing it. I want to work hard both at my school and wherever I am in life to help build the Green party and in turn help create a more just, sustainable and sane world. I’m going to write my thoughts on what strategies the Green party should employ to attain its goals,  as well as what the goals themselves should be.

O.W.S and the politics of class perception.

I tracked down an article I read in the nation a few years back that really stuck with me and seems to hold a special relevance with the rise of OWS:

I was skeptical at first that these protesters were really accomplishing much and to a certain extent, I still feel the same way. I’ve been down to the Baltimore occupy protest and what I saw could generously be referred to as floundering. The turnout seemed to consist of about 10 people holding up signs, 5 people in a REALLY obnoxious drum circle, a few teenagers rave dancing and an odd smattering of what people who were almost certainly homeless. I felt instantly aggravated being there. I wanted to stand up on a soapbox, pull out a megaphone and scream out “There are two Green party candidates who are busy actually DOING SOMETHING you retarded hippie bastards! Fucking drumming isn’t solving anything. We live in a democracy; you change the system by electing people you agree with not by sleeping in a tent. Join the Green party and get cracking you FUCKING MORONS.”

My feelings about OWS has become more nuanced over time, however. It’s becoming clear that OWS has had a meaningful and necessary impact the quality of our national discourse. Earlier in the year the national conversation was focused on the deficit. Both parties essentially agreed that budget cuts were absolutely essentially to curbing an urgent debt crisis, with a handful of intelligent liberals like Paul Krugman squeaking meekly about the inherent illogic and cruelty of our national direction.

OWS has taken often abstract concepts of income inequality and structural unfairness and pushed them to the front of the publics mind. Pointing at statists is never enough to build public support and momentum; people need images, stories and feelings to accompany a reality to actually make it real. As this Nation article from the very beginning of this financial disaster and recession points out, the outrage at the big banks was rather muted because the class divide wasn’t as clearly and infuriatingly demarcated as it was in the during the gilded age, even though inequality and corruption was as pronounced then as it is to day. The excesses of the rich aren’t as ostentatiously pronounced and much of the upper middle class can envision themselves as being close in standing to the truly opulent.

“the elite of the first Gilded Age dressed as royalty at the Martins’ costume ball because they were consciously trying to project themselves as an upper class in a nominally republican, egalitarian society. Our elite, though obviously not afraid to spend on a grand scale, often affect a “just folks” presentation. So, though Schwarzman has his personal chef prepare him stone crabs that cost $400 apiece for a casual Saturday lunch, he hired the profoundly middlebrow Rod Stewart to croon at his birthday party. And though Schwarzman is usually photographed in a business suit, and occasionally in formalwear, many of his Wall Street colleagues prefer open-necked shirts and khakis as their work clothes. Class conflict was a lot more open, on both sides of the divide, a century ago”

Due to the media attention given to OWS, we see now a face to the 1%. McDonalds applications are thrown at protesters, images surface of mock homeless parties being thrown at big financial institutions, the rightwing opinion machine is lead in to the trap of having to deride the protesters as shiftless moochers conducting class warfare, inevitably making them come across as bitter and mean spirited, ultimately reinforcing the narrative OWS is forwarding. The public’s perception of the rich might not seem obviously politically relevant but it serves as the foundation for the self-defeating voting behaviors of the working and middle classes. If people feel as though they are one big break away from joining the 1% they are going to be more reluctant making taxes more progressive. If the rich aren’t ostensibly obvious with their wealth and disproportionate political power it is harder to convince the average voter that action needs to be taken.

The public’s conceptualization of the financial sector used to be anonymous, soulless bureaucracies that carelessly, not maliciously triggered a meltdown. We are now shifting to see these bankers as people who are aware of the havoc they are wreaking but by Darwinian or Randian justifications are blithely indifferent to the consequences of there actions.

I know its small and silly but I think this college humor video really summed up the positive impact of OWS:
The absurd image of stereotypical and cartoonish rich WASP-y gentry being displayed on a site that is totally non-partisan and rarely political confirmed that the understanding of fundamental unfairness in our democracy was no longer limited to the left but had become a given reality in our public consciousness. The cartoon constitutes the reality in the American mind and the grotesque oversimplification paradoxically constitutes success. We don’t need the public at large to be aware of the merits of a tax on financial transactions or to understand the precise danger of an unregulated derivatives market. As long as the public senses intuitively that they are being screwed, the political landscape has been improved for the better.

At a certain point the effectiveness of the occupation is going to have peeked. It is amazing to me that they have continued to attract media attention for as long as it has. At that point I would like to see the occupiers transition to working to grow the only anti-Wall Street party. It doesn’t matter how much the public’s perception has changed as long if it can’t be translated in to meaningful electoral success and then that success translated it to meaningful legislation. However, it is undeniable that these protests have made the ground for Green party growth much more fertile.