November 9, 2010

Defending the Green Party

Monday, November 08, 2010

Defending the Green

From Eric Zorn's Chicago Tribune Column: Change of Subject
Political Science professor William P. Kreml of DePaul University writes to take issue with my view [Eric Zorn's] of the Green Party's performance in the recent election:

I believe I was the largest contributor to the Rich Whitney campaign. I contributed to, and raised money for, the MSNBC television ads that ran from September 20th through November 1st. I also appeared in the ads. Rich [Whitney for Governor] ran as a Green and Eric Zorn of the Tribune has seen fit to castigate the Greens as a party that has contributed little to the public well being. I differ.

A large number of Green Party members are former Democrats. We left for various reasons but I think I capture the core of them when I ask Mr. Zorn to look at the Federal Election Commission contribution reports of recent years and find that, increasingly, the Democratic and Republican Parties are receiving money from the same corporations. The Greens take no money from any corporation. We, like most of the rest of the world, believe that America’s banks, insurance companies, and Wall Street corporations caused the world wide recession.

Why would a political party not want to take money from the corporations? Please recall that our great country was founded as a middle class nation, thus following the admonitions of Aristotle in The Politics, that both political stability and economic justice was best secured within that large body of a population that did reasonably well and thus voluntarily legitimated the existing political order. That middle class ideal was realized in America in the early nineteenth century, and again in the early twentieth century, by having two political parties that differed along the various iterations of the original Hamiltonian/Jeffersonian Divide, balancing the public and the private sectors, as well as tempering the tendency towards exorbitant wealth and wrenching poverty.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, largely as a result of the Industrial Revolution’s full flowering, and in the latter half, or least one-third, of the twentieth century, when the opposition of the principal parties became far more suspect, both instability and economic injustice reared its head. To return to the Democrats, I ask if there is not a correlation between the beginnings of deregulation under Jimmy Carter (remember the Civil Aeronautics Board?) and the ghastly Clintonian oxymoron of “self-regulation” with the year by year dispersions of income and wealth, along with the increase of both economic instability and governmental debt that have occurred under Republicans and Democrats since the mid-1970s. I think there is.

In short, I suggest there is a correlation between a) the former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan’s admission that “there was something missing in the model” (Greenspan having been reappointed by Clinton after his Reagan appointment) b) Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s “I never knew the private sector could go so haywire,” c) former Democratic National Party chair and chair of the Senate Finance Committee Chris Dodd’s VIP home loan with Angelo Mozilo and Countrywide Financial, and d) Senator Joe Lieberman’s quashing of Security and Exchange Commission chair Arthur Leavitt’s 1990s investigation into the insurance industry, and the mess we are in. As good conservatives properly teach, actions have consequences. There are reasons for why our country is enduring the most significant decline relative to other countries in our over two hundred year history.

I ask Mr. Zorn to examine three more things. First, a look at open source CIA Fact Book material reveals that virtually all of the nations of Europe, as well as democratic countries like Australia and Canada, have multi-party political systems. Even with smaller and in almost all cases more homogeneous populations, these countries feel a need for a broader range of political views than a country that has hindered third party entrance into the political arena with high ballot access percentage requirements. Illinois requires a 5% minimum, one of the highest percentages in the nation. A rigidly two party system is semi-democratic, at best; better than North Korea, Cuba, etc. for sure, but not as good as other democracies.

Secondly, I ask Mr. Zorn to examine the history of at least some of the third parties in America. Did not the Liberty Party lead to the Free Soil Party that became part of the Republican Party under Abraham Lincoln?

Did not the Populist Party merge with the Democrats and advance the progressive policies that righted some of the inequities of late nineteenth century America?

And, finally, Mr. Zorn, what of our region, the Upper Midwest, that imported the economic and political balances of Scandinavian, German, Czech, Slovak, and Alsatian peoples into the American mainstream, guaranteeing minimal economic protections to the citizenry? The Greens, the world’s largest political organization with ninety-two national parties, have a different history, and ideology, than that of Democrats like Rep. Melissa Bean. That is why 6.500 Americans voted for the Green candidate for Congress.

Perhaps the Democrats will learn something from this.

From Eric Zorn: My response: As I wrote before, there is precious little evidence that winning or losing candidates have ever taken much notice after the fact of the positions taken by single-digit opponents. But even if they did in this case, what would taking "notice" look like? What positions could Bean have taken that would have won those Green voters and yet not cost her with those who did vote for her?

As I've written before, I'm not opposed to third parties, independent candidacies, fresh ideas in politics or anything else that smacks of rigidity in political thought. But neither am I in favor of futility or symbolism when it comes time to vote in close elections.

I'm in favor of casting votes that stand to make an immediate difference.

I will ask here what I asked in a comment thread: If it were up to you and you alone and you could choose Melissa Bean, Joe Walsh or abstention, thus ceding the choice of U.S. Rep. for the 8th district to someone else, which would you choose?

This hypothetical turned out to be closer to real than we could have known, and those who voted Green for all practical purposes abstained.