Friday, August 04, 2006

The Green Party: Are They Sucker MCs?

The wise and powerful Señor Sponge over at Minvolved kindly pointed my attention to this article over at the TPM Muckraker. If you’re too busy to check it out on your own, the article’s lead can serve as a pity executive summary: “Every single contributor to the Pennsylvania Green Party Senate candidate is actually a conservative–except for the candidate himself.”. Now maybe, just maybe, all these donors have experienced an overnight political epiphany and have become converts to the cause of pacifism, economic/social justice, and renewable fuels. I suspect, however, that the truth is both simple and more depressing: the Republicans, desperate to keep not-very-good Senator Santorum in office, have resorted to the age-old game of dirty pool. As a Democrat, I sort of wish the Green Party would stop being an accomplice in these hijinks. Oh, I know the spiel by heart now: in a democracy, people should be free to choose the candidates that best represent their point of view and the lesser of two evils is still evil and both parties are a vested interest in the status quo and isn’t it a shame that our system is so corrupt that our only option is between two pro-corporate empty suits? I’ve heard a few dozen times by now and I agree with most of it. The problem remains: when Greens vote their consciences, they abet Republican dominance.

Please don’t jump on me. I’m no great lover of the Democratic Party. A few people who I greatly respect are lifelong Greens. I support large swaths of the Green Party platform. I resent the milquetoast moderation and poll-directed pandering of the Democrats. The Democrats are not very inspiring. They’re a difficult to love bunch of politicians. Yet I always vote for them and encourage others to do the same. Why? Because I’m a pervert who gets his sick out of hanging out with a bunch of wishy-washy chronic losers? Because I have a crush on Nancy Pelosi? Because I can’t read and so ballots are confusing for me? Well, all that may be true, but the main reason is that I feel that, even in its debased current state, the Democratic Party is still the best hope for American liberalism. That might be a scary thing for a liberal to consider, but there doesn’t seem to be any other contenders out there.

Like I said, I respect the Green Party, but I don’t like their preference for idealism over pragmatism and I can’t abide their habit of treating their positions as the only virtuous ones. It’s been my experience that too many of them prefer to Mau-Mau their opponents on the left as insufficiently leftist, using our old burden “liberal guilt” as a cudgel to whack those who won’t follow them all the way down their utopian road. That tendency has alienated me from them, I’m afraid. Now, when I hear that someone’s a Green, I gird myself for a lecture on how the two-party system is ushering in the apocalypse, the government is covering up the truth about 9/11, or whatever peak oil factoid they learned that week. Even when I agree with them, it annoys me. Part of the trouble is probably my own intolerance (and I have absolutely no tolerance for 9/11 conspiracy theories, by the way), but I also think the Greens could go further by emphasizing their optimism, enthusiasm and grassroots strength rather than their fire-and-brimstone hairshirt radicalism.

Of course, maybe that’s bad advice for me to give. I’ll be frank. I don’t want the Greens to “go further” in anything, really. I want them to be absorbed by the Democrats. Often, I think it would be far preferable if there was, instead of a “Green Party”, a “Green Caucus” within the Democrats. The Greens would benefit from their larger party’s money, experience and infrastructure, while the Democrats would be revived by an infusion of youthful energy and activist spirit. It wouldn’t be the smoothest of marriages, I’m sure. It would involve the Greens folding themselves into a system that they, with some justification, hold in contempt. The Democrats, for their part, would have to lose some of this “We’re the Democrats! We’re the party of everything to everyone!” business, which will ultimately be a good thing, since it’s kept them in the electoral doghouse, but which will be strenuously resisted by the Official Washington Consultant caste that have done so well running my party into the ground. I believe, however, that the ones most threatened by this arrangement would be the Republicans, who probably could not last long against a broad-based coalition of moderate liberals to leftists. Then, when the Republican Party is diminished to a point at which they have to behave responsibly or disappear, the Greens and the Democrats can divorce and get back to bickering. With any luck, it would be a very different political scene then, one where it might be possible to "vote your conscience" without enabling your ideological opponents.

But perhaps this is just my own form of utopianism. The Democrats are not very good at holding together the disparate, warring interest groups that make up their base. The Democrats are not very good at the “party discipline” thing. This is actually part of what makes me a proud Democrat. The Democratic Party usually doesn’t come off as a movement, it comes off as an interminable and aggravating argument. It won’t save the world. It won’t take up swords on behalf of some fundamentalist notion of purity and good. It doesn’t offer some sort of heroic personal transformation. It’s just there, nominally-liberal and seldom exciting. I like that. I’ve been around long enough to be suspicious of any political entity that promises the moon.