Sunday, December 18, 2005

IDEA: Politics Matters

It's time.

You've been doing a lot of little green things for a while now, but lately you've have begun to wonder if its time to do something bigger.

Easy, but bigger.

There is a one-time change you can make that has the potential to affect how politicians from both parties deal with green issues. And its super simple to do.

I will not suggest that deciding to make this change is easy. The physical acts required to do this are nothing at all for most people, but getting to the point where we can act may still require overcoming years of investment in cherished stereotypes and self-image.

Here it is: Change your voter registration.

It doesn't matter if you vote Republican, Democrat, Decline to State, or something else, I want to gently urge you to register Green.

The act itself is simple: In California a couple of clicks, and in a few weeks a form arrives in the mail. If you have changed your mind by then, don't sign the form. Otherwise, sign it and mail it in and you are re-registered Green.

Simple. Easy. Green.

Why register Green? The California Green Party website says it best:

  • Registering Green is a way of 'voting' for the kind of world you want. Join a party which stands for your values, instead of one that is the 'lesser of evils' .
  • Registering Green makes a clear and effective political statement. The more people who register Green, the stronger the Green Party will be, and the more all parties will take green issues and green voters seriously.
  • Registering Green does not limit your voting options in the general election. Since you can vote for any candidate, choosing a party is really about what you believe in.

For all that, there are often decades of personal and family identification with a political party which may make it very hard to step away from your current registration. And of course there is the often strong sense of futility about registering in a third party -- one that is not currently one of the big winners in a national election.

But the interesting thing about registration, as noted, it does not affect who you can vote for: I Registered with a major party when I turned 18, but I pretty much never voted for any of that party's candidates based on simple party affiliation after that first election. It took 26 years for me to realize that my registration inertia gave comfort and support to candidates I would never support.

When I looked at the opposition party, I remembered why I had not bothered to switch previously. Although some of their candidates had personally impressed me, and I had voted for them enthusiastically, when I looked at the party platform I was hard pressed to see any real or effective effort to tackle issues that were important to me. Especially greenie issues.

Then I looked at the 10 Key Values of the the Green Party, and realized that they aptly described, in direct language and without the usual politician-speak, many of the things that I thought needed to be done.

The more I looked at the 10 Key Values, the more I realized the Green Party platform most perfectly encapsulated the hopeful-but-worried-and-frustrated view of politics I had begun to have.

So I re-registered as a Green.

Now I realized even as I registered that I was not interested in voting for some of the Green candidates, based on their personal qualifications or approach to governing. Others I have worked to elect and voted for when it seemed right.

But I feel that way about Democrat and Republican candidates too.

And especially in non-partisan local races I have been known to vote all over the unspoken party line to put a good candidate in office. But by leaving my registration in the back pocket of one major party or another, I was undercutting my own position as an advocate for sane, sustainable, human-centered, green governmental policies.

In California, many voters register without a party, as Decline to State. They often can't vote in a primary other than for their registered party, but they can vote for anyone and everything else -- every blessed proposition and every office.

But Decline to State suggests either an overwhelming interest in personal privacy or a non-specific disillusion with the two major parties, upon which no one can easily act. It does not say "I support stronger attention to personal responsibility and a greener, sustainable way of living." And that, I realized, was something the mainstream parties needed to hear.

Register Green -- Vote as You Will

The act of registration is a small step that has more import even than voting. By registering with one of the two major parties one gives the impression that a world that is a little more left or a little more right is okay; by registering Green you come down strongly on the side of diversity, personal freedom and a sustainable future, not left or right. Conservatives for conservation; progressives for progress; as Greens (capital G) both groups share the vision.

Consider it.

Register Green; vote your conscience.


Siel said...

But what about the opportunity one gets as a democrat to help pick, say, who'll run for prez in the party -- someone who might win, ya know?

Willing to be convinced here, but I'm the kind of gal who's much more likely to vote for Nader than to register green...

Roger, Gone Green said...

Amusingly, I didn't vote for Nader; I felt that for green folk the Bush Administration record was so abysmal (especially in California, which history I could recite but won't) that Kerry needed every vote he could get. A throw-away vote for Nader last election was not a good idea for Green or greenie values, in my personal estimation. I registered my green proclivities by registering Green, but I voted to try to avoid another four years of the Bush enviro policies.

Register Green, but Vote Your Conscience.

On the other hand, I worked hard for a Green school board candidate who won against a 28-year Republican incumbent last November in San Marino of all places!

Register Green, Vote Your Conscience.

You are correct, however, on one point:You wouldn't get to choose the Dem nominee (assuming you were a Dem). But if you are serious about your greenie identity/lifestyle, then you would probably vote for a Dem in the primary that is not moderate enough to win the General election anyway.

As a Green, you can trust the majority of the moderate "what-me-recycle?" Dem/Rep crowd to pick someone who might win the General Election for that party, and, if you feel you must (as I have from time to time) you can vote for as the lesser of those two evils. Or maybe like my school board member, a Green candidate will emerge that can win.

And do bear in mind that all real politics is local; it is the local politicos who affect your daily drive, the frightening lack of trees in West LA at Pico & Robertson, the car-dominated culture, etc.

Suppose you are a candidate for LA City Council or for State Senate that wants to run in the imaginary 1451st Senate District: You pull the voter registration data. You see 48% Dem, 32% Rep 15% decline to state and a total of 5% points of various others (Green, Libertarian, etc.) This is a typical SoCal generic neighborhood.

If you are a Dem, you go to the middle; you need some moderates, or some of those unknown DTS folks. Voluntary recycling, but no low-waste packaging requirements. Living wage requirements for government purchases? Too radical. Plastic grocery bag tax? Squelch Mom & Pop businesses, never happen. Car free zones served by electric shuttles every 5 -10 minutes? Suicide. Similarly, a Republican would have to be very moderate, but not at all in the vein of a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. Again with the voluntary only recycle, etc.

Now suppose you have 38% Dem, 28% Republican, 12% Green, 8% DTS, and 4% Other. Hmmm. You need that 12% and then some, no matter who you are; since there is a block of Green party-identified voters, maybe you educate yourself on the 10 Key Values; you find out Green voters believe in both "ecology" and social and economic justice. These become important topics in the election debate. You are emboldened in your proposals and legislative agenda. As a progressive Dem candidate you’ve always wanted to do recycling right, but didn’t know if people would support it.

As Green issues get picked up as policy and part of the local debate, they begin to be familiar to people, and make more sense to more people. Some register, some notice when the News talks about the influence of Green ideas in the campaign. Pretty soon, the 10 Key Values seem so common place it is not remarkable to have a viable Dem / Rep / Green candidate running a real three-way race, with the winner taking notice of the 12 or maybe now 20 or 30% Green registration.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

Coffee, politicians. Same, same.

Register Green and send a CLEAR message about how you will be judging any candidate. Vote for the BEST candidate.

Register Green, Vote Your Conscience.

(Hey, you asked.)

lauren said...

You make quite a convincing argument. You really have me thinking here!

Roger, Gone Green said...

The hardest part in some ways is giving up the mainstream identity we have established for ourselves, and overcoming the idea that we would be labeling ourselves as some kind of eco-political freak . . . like using a reusable hemp coffee filter doesn't already do that (rofl). . .

Andrea Rusin said...

I'm convinced by your arguments. But we don't register with party affiliation in Illinois. I've actually voted in the Republican primary -to keep an absolute maniac who among other things referred to NPR as National Pinko Radio off the ballot. Want to get on some crazy-ass mailing lists? Vote in the Republican primary. I'll never do that again!

madgeneral said...

I like your ideas, Roger. It's hard to argue, having seen a couple campaigns hobble by where environmentally intelligent democratic candidates (Gore, Kerry) have chosen to avoid addressing environmental issues in a meaningful way, that the democratic party establishment is taking green voters and their passions much to heart.

Now Gore and Kerry would probably say that talking about solar power doesn't get the talking heads the ratings they need -- it just doesn't exist in Wolf Blitzer's world of stale political intrigue -- and thus, they don't bring it up because it won't get air and, in a campaign, where time and soaring redundancy are of the utmost essence, it is, at best, the eleventh or twelfth issue of greatest importance to the moderate American masses. So it's, "I'm John Kerry -- reporting for duty!" or "Help is on the Way!" Yeeeeeee-haaaaahhhhhh!

Your recommendation sounds like a great way to snap the democrats out of the "Friends with John McCain" race for the rightward- shifting center they've been running.

WattHead said...

You've got a great point Roger. I initially registered as a Green upon turning 18 and then switched my registration to Dems to vote in the primary before the 2004 election. Haven't got around to switching back to Greens yet but it's about time. Thanks for the reminder.

It is frustrating not to be able to vote in the primaries but like you said, I end up supporting such liberal candidates (i.e. Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 primary) that likely wont get elected anyway that it probably doesnt matter much. Besides, you can always switch parties before every presidential election every four years like I did and then switch back... a bit of a hastle but then you get best of both worlds.

Nice post Roger. Cheers...