Saturday, February 04, 2012

Marcy Winograd Leaves The Democratic Party-- Or Did The Democratic Party Leave Progressives?


In 2010 Nick Ruiz ran as a Green Party write-in candidate in a central Florida district with a reactionary Democratic incumbent, Suzanne Kosmas, and an insane teabagger challenger, Sandy Adams. Nick didn't really expect to win but he very much wanted to make sure that progressive ideas were inserted into the conversation and that the election wouldn't just be about two candidates fighting for ownership of right-wing ideas positions. As often happens when there's a DINO and a real Republican both advocating conservatism, the Republican won. Nick immediately switched party registration and is running again-- as a Democrat. He hasn't changed a word of his platform or his grassroots approach, of course. But this time voters in Seminole County will get a choice between a reactionary vision and a progressive vision-- unless the DCCC decides to put up a rich conservative candidate of their own, as they often do when grassroots progressives like Nick run in winnable districts.

Here in Los Angeles, Marcy Winograd has been an icon of those same kinds of values and principles... and tactics. She announced this week that she's moving in the opposite direction though. A former Democratic Party activist and congressional candidate, she's re-registered as a Green Party member. She explained what's she's doing in a post at the California Progress Report, part of which is reproduced below:
After the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, with its codification of imprisonment without charge or trial, I could no longer register voters for the Democratic Party – even with the hope of involving new registrants in the California Democratic Party’s popular Progressive Caucus. If I could not ask someone to join the Democratic Party, I could not in good conscience stay in the party, even as an insurgent writing resolutions and platform planks to end our wars for oil.

Unfortunately, too many corporate Democrats, beholden to big-money donors or to a jobs sector dependent on militarism, vote for perpetual war and the surveillance state, replete with secret wiretaps, black hole prisons, and targeted assassinations. Far too many who are fearful or bought by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee vote for legislation that relegates Palestinians to second-class citizenship and threatens to take our country to the brink of an unthinkable war on Iran. 

President Obama, despite his eloquence and initial popularity, has continued, and in some cases, expanded Republican Party policies under George Bush by escalating drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; hiring deregulators from predatory banks to craft economic policy; repeatedly putting Social Security cuts on the table; lifting a 20-year moratorium on new nuclear power plants; signing NDAA legislation that eviscerates due process; increasing U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids and arrests of undocumented workers.

As the US empire crashes on the shores of rapacious greed, as power shifts from the federal to the local level, the Green Party can play a crucial role in creating and promoting local economies, worker or consumer-owned cooperatives, model municipal policy and participatory democracy. The time is ripe for municipal federalism with its emphasis on cities sharing expertise, policies, and strategies for community building in a sustainable world. 

I want to be part of that movement to create a post-empire future that rejects perpetual war, addictive consumerism and vulture capitalism to embrace a life-affirming vision of sustainability with measurable goals for energy, water and food independence.

As more people struggle financially and the cost of energy and optional travel increases, Americans will stay closer to home to invest and recreate more intensely in their communities and neighborhoods. Our challenge in the age of withering empire is to set a new economic course that helps us invest our resources in ourselves, rather than multinational companies that extract our wealth and labor for the 1%. 

While running Greens for federal office may help to register new Greens, to attract young people to the Party, the Greens’ resources – economic and grassroots-- are best used at the local level where the Party has experienced the most success in the United States. In 2011, 8 out of 12 California Green Party members running for local office got elected. 
In Richmond, California, the working class city’s Green Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, representing more than 100,000 residents, took on Chevron, resulting in a 115-million dollar pollution settlement, enacted a waiver on residential solar power fee installation; and spearheaded one of the nation’s toughest anti-foreclosure ordinances that exacts a $1,000 a day fine on banks who fail to maintain foreclosed property. McLaughlin was one of several Green Mayors to publicly oppose the dirty tar sands project, signing on to a letter to President Obama urging him to reject, as he recently announced, the XL pipeline that would carry the dirtiest crude from Canada across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico.

In the city of Fairfax in Marin County, Green Mayor Pam Hartwell-Herrero and a majority Green city council has banned intrusive Smart Meters, and authored successful ballot initiatives to ban plastic bags and the cultivation of genetically modified organisms. Fairfax is the third California city to have a Green majority on its town council, joining Sebastopol in Sonoma County from 2000 to 2008 and Arcata in Humboldt County, which had the world's first Green majority on any legislative body between 1996 and 1998 and then again from 2000 to 2002. 

...Rather than running candidates for every state and federal office, Greens can invest their energy in campaigning for local non-partisan offices, in electing Greens to neighborhood councils  and city councils; union leadership positions, pension and credit union boards, associated student bodies – and to movement-building and media messaging that injects and accentuates a Green anti-consumerist pro-sustainability vision into the economic discourse.

Though our emphasis should be local, our scope global as we solidify relationships with Green Party members across the world. Let us hold the Greens from Europe to Africa close to our hearts as we reject nationalism-- its attendant racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating-– and embrace global citizenry  and planetary-caretaking.

Let us look to the German Green Party, the first to enjoy national prominence and the catalyst behind Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022. Encouraged by the German Greens, we must challenge billions in U.S. federal subsidies for new nuclear power plants and demand plant closures from California to New York. With a void in leadership in the U.S. anti-nuclear movement, the Green Party can play a key role in re-invoking the moratorium lifted under the Obama administration.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greens have launched a Green New Deal (GND) aimed at “reducing inequalities within and between societies, and reconciling our lifestyles-- the way we live, produce and consume-- with the physical limits of our planet” through progressive taxation, tax incentives for green initiatives, and new economic indicators beyond the Gross Domestic Product. For example, in Vienna, Austria, a GND initiative built “bike city”-– a housing project that includes bike rental and maintenance, a compressed air station, 300 bicycle parking spaces, and extra large elevators for bike transport.

Let us build a new American landscape of bike cities, urban gardens, municipal credit unions, barter economies, and city-owned utilities with Greens organizing a new power-sharing worker-member-owner paradigm a la the Mondragon Cooperatives Cooperation in northern Spain. Based in Basque region, the Mondragon is a federation of worker cooperatives employing 84,000 people in four critical sectors: finance; industry; retail; knowledge.

Electorally, I envision a fusion approach-– whereby Greens support progressive Democrats, just as Los Angeles Green Party members recommended my candidacy when I challenged war profiteer Jane Harman for Congress, and just as Green Party activists in northern California support PDA’s Norman Solomon to fill retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s seat. 

Endorsing progressive Democrats-- a la Congress Members Kucinich, Lee, Grijalva-– on the national level-– and Assemblyman Bill Monning and Senator Fran Pavley on the California state legislative level-– makes sense until the Green Party is ready and able to successfully elect statewide and federal candidates of its own, either because the Party has exponentially multiplied its current voter registration, estimated at 300,000 in the nation; 110,000 in California, or because enough cities like Oakland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Portland have instituted instant run-off or ranked-choice voting to increase the likelihood that voters will not simply cast their ballots for pre-ordained winners or lessers-of-evil but instead choose a candidate who truly represents their vision of peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability. 

Ranked choice voting must be a strategic priority for the Green Party in the U.S., with Greens in every leadership position-– be it a partisan office or a non-partisan environmental organization-- introducing ranked-choice voting into their respective organization. Strategically, Greens might organize a coalition of third parties-– Greens, Peace and Freedom, Libertarians, and the well-funded centrist Americans Elect – to institute proportional representation through state ballot initiatives for ranked choice voting.

Such initiatives would appeal to voters who want to save budget-starved states, counties or cities millions of dollars wasted on run-off elections.

In the meantime, until widespread adoption of ranked choice voting, the Green Party might leverage its power by becoming a fusion party, regardless of state laws like the one in California that prohibit candidates from becoming the nominee of more than one party. On the grassroots level, endorsing Democratic Party candidates active in Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) would address the “spoiler” charge and position Greens as a swing voting constituency, much as a swing state can decide a Presidential election.

Let the Greens be wooed; let every candidate running for city, state, or federal office feel compelled to address the priorities of the Green Party, and let our party learn the lessons of the Swedes and Norwegians who successfully challenged the 1% by building strong coalition governments and coalition movements behind those coalition governments.

While it’s true that California Democratic Party delegates can be stripped of their delegate status for endorsing Greens in elections, there is nothing stopping non-delegates active in PDA from participating in a blue-green coalition that endorses and works to elect local Greens. In fact, that should be the call to action, watering the Green seeds for the next generation.

In LA County, where there are 23,000 registered Greens, and over 900,000 Declined to States, the Party will participate in an aggressive voter registration campaign before the November 2012 election when a Green Party Presidential candidate, perhaps  pioneering environmental health advocate Dr. Jill Stein,  will likely enjoy ballot status in at least 17 states, including the largest state, California, with its 55 electoral votes, and swing states Ohio, Florida and Colorado. Other Green Party ballot access states or districts include Arkansas, Arizona, DC, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Though Green Party strengths lies in bottom-up organizing, running a Presidential candidate can provide a strategic stage for the left to critique and challenge the status quo, while attracting “millennials” or younger voters to a party platform that refuses all corporate contributions, supports single-payer health care, advocates zero-waste, calls for a tax on the rich, and opposes not only pre-emptive wars for empire, but weapons sales to other countries.

With strategic planning and a shift in focus, those newly registered Greens can rock the world of monopoly capitalism with a sturdy footing in city soil and municipal radicalism. I will proudly stand with them.

Losing Marcy Winigrad is a huge loss for the California Democratic Party, though, happily not for California progressives.

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At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcy Winograd’s departure raises an important question: Why can’t Blue America support her if she runs for another House term as a Green? And for that matter, why can’t Blue America support any and all progressive candidates, instead of just those progressives who happen to be Democrats?

I agree that it’s important to support progressives in Democratic primaries. We need to do to the Democratic Party what the wingnuts have done to the GOP – that is, take it over.

But how do you advance that goal by sitting out a general election after the DCCC has used all its resources – not only money from big donors, but also campaigning and fundraising by conservative and establishment Dems – to install a Blue Dog on the November ballot in a district where there is any progressive alternative (a Green or whatever) on the ballot?

Supporting a third party candidate may indeed throw a race to the GOP, but how is that any worse than electing a DINO who will vote with the Republicans 90 percent of the time? And why not support a third party progressive in cases where it’s obvious that the Republican will win anyway?

It would far better for the future of the progressive cause if Blue America would undercut all DINO’s by sometimes supporting third party candidates who share our values, if not our party registration!

At 8:31 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

We do support independent progressives. Last week we wrote about Dr. Steve Porter-- like Marcy an ex-Democratic candidate for Congress-- who is now running as an independent. Unfortunately, ActBlue doesn't accept contributions for independents. We've requested that they change their policy. I invited Dr. Porter to be part of a panel discussion at Net Roots Nation in June (in Rhode Island) and he said he would attend.

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our need to belong. The only thing dumber than being in a political party is belonging to a church. Dumb and dummer.

Priest and politician the mafia of the soul.

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Mudge said...

As a Green, I can say for certain that Marcy is welcome among us, and very much belongs with us. This comes along with Roseanne Barr running for our presidential nomination, which is not as silly as it might sound. I wrote a little about this here:

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous PopeRatzo said...

I'm an FDR-, Big D-, Democrat. I vote for Democrats because numbers matter. National numbers.

And it's more important to defeat Republicans than getting any particular individual into office.

I appreciate what Ms Winograd is trying to do, but you don't "take over" a party by leaving it. You take over a party by getting in the face of anyone who has power in the party and scaring them until they poop their pants.

There's a reason "progressives" keep getting beaten down, and it's not because they are not right about the issues.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger stripey7 said...

The strategic orientation she describes seems very well-reasoned. People can pursue it with a variety of party affiliations. I personally have changed my party affiliation from Green to Democrat to Republican and back, depending on where it appeared I could do the most good at a given time.


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