As Bernie-mania dies down and his coalition dismantles itself under Biden’s already failing neoliberal presidency, many ex-Berners are wondering where their political home should be, and how to best build for change now that they’re more aware of the trickery and failures of the Democratic Party. While there are signs that some activists are already being co-opted by the party into weak neoliberal talking points, many others are looking at pursuing direct action of some kind or to continue in some flavor of electoral politics outside of the Democratic Party. Particularly for electoral work: where’s “home”?
One organization that has come up recently is the newly formed Movement for a People’s Party (“MPP”, or now named simply the People’s Party), which was created in late 2016 after Bernie Sanders’ first presidential run. The idea actually started as “Draft Bernie”, with the intent of getting him to run as an independent candidate for president in 2016 after he lost the primaries, and to start a new third party. When he declined, the name changed to MPP, again hoping to draft Bernie into leading the new party after the 2016 election. This never happened, and so MPP has been drifting since 2017 insisting it is building toward a new major party launch with or without Bernie. As of early 2021, it has yet to run a single candidate anywhere in the country, and even worse, held a “convention” on social media during the summer of 2020 where most speakers advocated voting for Biden and the Democrats until some hypothetical future year when MPP would actually have candidates. They claim to be recruiting candidates for Congress in 2022 but we shall see if that comes true; time is certainly beginning to run out for a brand new party to start getting the word out about its candidates.
A natural question comes up when discussing “third party” candidates: why the MPP, and make a whole new party? Or conversely: why not the Green Party? MPP leadership, particularly Nick Brana, have been dismissive of the Green Party in the past, and insist on the need for an entirely new party. So what’s the argument? MPP has actually documented at least some of the reasons it feels a new party must be created in an People’s Party’s FAQ section on its website, so I thought it would be interesting to look at their reasoning and respond. Is it convincing or not? You decide. Let’s next go bullet point by bullet point through the FAQ section entitled “Why Not The Greens?”.
Analyzing the FAQ
The very first point MPP brings up is:
A party’s name is its first impression and identity. It can lead people to see themselves reflected in the party and invite them to learn more, or it can convey that it is not for them. For an independent party to become a major party, people from all walks of life must be able to see themselves belonging to it from the start. That takes a party name and character that encompasses and invites everyone. “The People’s Party” is a statement in itself, that a political party must belong to the people, and that all are welcome. It also leads people to ask, “Who do the major parties belong to?”
So the very first argument they’re making for “Why the People’s Party?” is basically an argument of branding. They don’t like the name “Green” and think it has a “bad” first impression and identity. Two responses:
First, “The People” is a very vague statement. Trump’s supporters believe they are the “silent majority” that represent “The People”. Are you trying to be a right-wing leaning Trump party? In fact, several far-right parties in Europe are known as “People’s Party.” “People’s Party” is NOT a statement in itself and not a rallying cry in its own right; people will interpret who “the people” are in many different ways, some good but some not so good. It can and likely will cause confusion, discrediting their argument, ironically. Also, as pointed out by others, “People’s” often conjures images of authoritarian “socialist” regimes internationally, which is a funny mistake for an organization that is concerned about appearing too “socialistic”.
Secondly, regarding the allegedly bad impression and identity of the name “Green Party”, the next bullet point in the FAQ briefly expands on what they mean, so let’s read it first before I give the second part of the response.
The Green Party’s name unfortunately leads many to view it as a niche environmental party that sidelines other pressing issues, like the cost of health care, housing and education. That means that fewer people identify with it and take the time to learn more. Legally it cannot change its name without starting the party over.
There’s a number of assumptions here that are unaddressed in my view.
First, this argument ironically “sidelines” environmental issues by implying they shouldn’t receive high priority in the party messaging — a huge mistake in my view as climate change accelerates and climate scientists tell us we have less than a decade to take serious action to minimize the consequences of climate change. The youth expect climate action now. We should be lifting up environmental issues and connecting them to other societal issues right now (as Murray Bookchin famously wrote, all ecological problems are rooted in social problems), not running away from environmental issues. You know where else I hear dismissive attitudes about environmental issues? The Democratic Party, as it continues to support expansion of fossil fuels, fracking, and plastics across the US and especially in my home state of Pennsylvania and frame any opposition to fossil fuels as being “anti-jobs” or “out-of-touch”. MPP shouldn’t be parroting an implicitly anti-environmental corporate talking point.
Second, the issues listed — healthcare, housing, and education — are extremely important aspects of the Green Party’s Green New Deal. MPP leadership may or may not be aware that the Green Party created the Green New Deal about 15 years ago, and it has been part of the US Green Party messaging since about 2010. Jill Stein’s 2016 media attention got ideas like the Green New Deal and student debt forgiveness out to the general public (for which she was roundly attacked by the media and even many progressives, such as when John Oliver attempted to paint her as a crazy person that didn’t understand economics), which was then adopted by “Berniecrats” like AOC in 2018 after seeing how popular the ideas were. But it started with the Green Party raising ideas in 2016 and beforehand that were ignored or mocked by Democrats for years until the ideas took wildfire among the youth. It’s not that the Green name is “bad” so much as it takes time and effort for a progressive message to get a foothold in a corporate media stacked against you — and rebranding to a new party doesn’t address corporate media blackouts that will occur regardless what you name yourself if you go against corporate interests.
But returning to the concept of important issues like housing, Howie Hawkins, 2020 Green Party presidential candidate, released an extremely detailed vision and budget for the Green New Deal which puts a heavy emphasis on human economic rights including a right to affordable housing and tuition-free education through college. The plan also calls for single payer healthcare — often known as “Medicare for All” — not merely as the end goal, but as a transitional program on the way to a fully socialized national health service. The Green New Deal is very popular now particularly among the youth, so MPP has adopted the Green New Deal brand into their platform — but the GREEN New Deal ironically doesn’t resonate with the “People’s Party” brand as much as it does the GREEN Party. If we’re talking branding, who better to have a Green New Deal than the Green Party?
What this all points to is that the Green Party and its platform are exactly what MPP seems to be calling for. Rather than wasting energy reinventing the wheel, what we really need is more volunteers and resources to help better educate folks about the party, the Green New Deal, and why we need an independent grassroots mass movement for change. To the extent that folks don’t participate in the Green Party today: it is largely due to structural roadblocks, not because of any resistance to the Green Party itself. When I am organizing and petitioning, most folks I meet are excited about the Green Party… just unsure that it can win beyond local levels. This dismissive attitude only comes from Democratic Party activists, not from actual grassroots community members who greet us warmly and recognize we are in the struggle with them. What we need are more volunteers and fundraising and candidates to rack up more local wins and build the organization for larger victories; filing paperwork for a brand name change restarts that process rather than builds toward it.
Lastly: the thing about not being able to legally change it’s name is a red herring. I’m not so sure it’s even true, especially not at the local and state levels, but even if so: they haven’t proven that the name is worth building an entirely new legal infrastructure nationally just to change the name, rather than, again, putting that effort into public outreach and political education.
The Green Party also has to start over with ballot access petition collection in most states every four years. It’s another reason that we might as well start over with a fresh and energetic new party. Because it has so few resources — an annual budget of about $300,000 and about three full-time staff equivalents — the Green Party spends all its energy getting ballot access and then has little left to run its campaigns. This means it’s stuck on a ballot access treadmill: running candidates who get one or two percent just to maintain ballot access and getting a reputation of being marginal in the process. It has been stuck in this cycle for so long that it no longer fights to win, but just to survive. We need a bold, decisive, and captivating party that resolves to become the next major party in America and ushers in a 21st-century progressive era.
There’s some truth here about the difficulty of ballot access, but the MPP does not provide any description of how they will overcome the same systemic hurdles. Many of these problems are not intrinsic to the Green Party, but due to state election laws purposely lopsided against independent parties. For example, in many states, ballot access is maintained by running a presidential candidate. Some states like North Carolina will only give you ballot access if you already have ballot access in a majority of other states! How will MPP navigate those laws? Doesn’t say. It becomes complicated once you look at a national strategy beyond winning some local elections in one or two states (which by the way, Greens do often win local elections in many states).
MPP also identifies that one of the largest issues with the Green Party is not enough money and “energy” to run strong campaigns while keeping ballot access. So how will MPP raise more money and get more volunteers? How will MPP recruit stronger campaigns? (which usually requires having the money to pay campaign staff; many Green campaigns are entirely volunteer and grassroots due to the lack of money; if MPP wants to change that, it needs to talk about how it’s going to consistently bring in more money without turning to corporate funding). And crucially, how will MPP prevent having its resources and volunteers drained off to support Democrats once the Democratic Party starts screaming about Republicans and Trump again? These are all issues for sure, but MPP provides no details on what it would do differently from the Green Party, and of course we can’t even speculate on effectiveness of any strategy if they don’t give one.
It’s a bit ironic they’re complaining about the Green Party spending “all its energy getting ballot access” when forming a new national political party literally means spending all its energy and legal resources on getting ballot access in the 50 states independent from the Greens or any other movement. Keep in mind, MPP leadership has not said they’re focusing on a particular state or elected office, but that they intend to pursue a presidential candidate and down-ballot in 2024, which will require a 50-state plan like the Green Party does. So what exactly is MPP doing differently here?
Before moving to the next part of this section of the FAQ, I want to jump down to the FAQ’s section on how MPP will get ballot access to look at this related statement:
The Green and Libertarian parties collect hundreds of thousands of signatures every four years for presidential ballot access. They do so with far fewer volunteers and resources than would be available with a coalition of unions and progressive groups.
MPP makes a huge assumption here that Greens do not have, and are not interested in or working toward, a coalition of unions and progressive groups helping with ballot access — and conversely, that MPP will magically have such a coalition.
In 2020, Green presidential candidate Howie Hawkins made it a point to try to build such a coalition. The Socialist Party, Solidarity, and other groups joined in endorsing Hawkins and helping with ballot access and campaigning. Other groups, which not making formal endorsements, also made statements of support to at least vote Hawkins in 2020. It is just plain incorrect that Greens do not seek out a coalition. It just ends up a lot harder to do in practice than folks realize.
Historically this has been true essentially since the world wars and FDR’s New Deal coalition. As a result of the New Deal, many unions and labor organizations became captured by the Democratic Party, and to this day most are still deeply entrenched in the Democratic Party. Some are more skeptical of the Democrats, but without assurances a new party will easily win, they will continue backing Democrats out of fear of angering Democrats by openly supporting challengers. It’s almost a political bystander effect; everyone thinks “I can’t do it, but surely someone else will!” but then no one does and so nothing happens. Folks will be interested, but very few existing unions and organizations are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the actual hard work of party building. This is not speculation, but the real effects of past attempts to create various incarnations of a People’s Party or Labor Party since the 1960s. The most recent attempt, the Labor Party of the 1990s, was founded specifically on the idea of bringing together unions to form a new party, and had the backing of many large unions across the country. However, the party quickly collapsed because it couldn’t find any candidates to support — no matter what district it looked at, at least one of its member unions would object saying “Oh no we can’t run a Labor candidate there, that would anger the local Democrat that represents us and would be bad for our workers!” Without candidates and too afraid to really challenge the Democrats anywhere, the party faded from history rather quickly. Any attempt at creating a new party from union support needs to consider and address this, but MPP does not give any indication it is aware of the history or has a serious strategy to address union “shyness” toward independent politics.
In the early days of the Green Party, attempts were made at courting labor and unions, with similar results to the Labor Party attempt. While the Labor Party quickly disappeared, the Green Party has remained. In some sense, the Green Party has shown ability to have much greater staying power than all of the attempts at a People’s Party or Labor Party in the past. What’s the difference? Well, it’s hard to say without more detailed data and analysis, but ironically one of reasons seems to be something MPP actually complains about: the “green” branding itself! Since the 1960s, environmental concerns have grown and are an important issue that hits across class — working class, middle class, even the rich, are all affected by poor water and air quality, and as such part of the Green Party’s staying power might be related to its ability to form cross-class coalitions for environmental issues, which can then be used as a jumping off point to educate and radicalize environmentalists toward the important social changes that need to occur to address those environmental issues. Again, the Green message is about the intersection of ecological and social issues, recognizing that the two are intertwined and cannot be separated — and since no other party in history, even Labor or People’s, has made such a direct connection, it’s pretty clear this is part of the reason Green Party has survived where others have not. MPP must therefore not only show how it’s strategy differs from past attempts at a Labor Party, but must also show it has a broad enough message to build coalitions and have staying power.
Let’s resume looking at the “Why Not Greens?” section of the FAQ, which actually extends this discussion coalition building.
MPP’s mission is different from existing independent parties. We’re building a coalition of community organizations, student groups, unions, progressive groups, and others that can unite for a major new party. Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans want a major new party but are not enthused by existing independent parties.
This statement is pretty audacious, implying MPP is “different from existing parties” because it is somehow the first group ever to consider “building a coalition”. This statement is clearly wrong, in light of our earlier discussion — and is so wrong that the MPP authors must be either very ignorant of working class history or deliberately misleading (or perhaps even a bit of both).
As stated above, the Green Party has been working to build a coalition for years, and in 2020 actually had a growing coalition of leftist parties and organizations come together to support Hawkins for president. Curiously, despite talk about building a coalition, MPP was absent from that coalition effort, saying it wanted to stay neutral in 2020 and focus on the future. Why? (They weren’t even that neutral, considering most of their “convention” speakers in the summer of 2020 pleaded with viewers to vote Biden; pretty much only Chris Hedges advocated a vote for the Green Party in 2020, and there’s rumors he threatened to pull out of the event if they didn’t let him publicly endorse the Greens.) And not because MPP wasn’t invited! Hawkins and Green Party members, as well as members from many other lefitst parties and organizations such as the Socialist Party USA and even DSA, reached out to MPP about how we could work together and form a broader electoral coalition. These talks broke down, with every organization saying roughly the same story: that MPP wasn’t interested in coalition talks unless it could be the “leader” and set the agenda. MPP leadership didn’t want to approach coalition in a democratic way as a coalition of equals, but wanted everyone to essentially abandon their grassroots organizations to put all effort under the MPP banner. It’s hard to imagine how such an attitude would bring in folks to a coalition rather than become off-putting very quickly. And frankly, this sort of attitude and behavior is part of worrisome accusations about a general lack of transparency, democracy, and accountability in the national MPP organization, including “purges” of volunteers that ask too many questions.
The Democratic Party has become so entrenched that many unions and non-profit organizations do not see any alternative. In fact non-profits are not supposed to interfere in elections; but they can ask currently sitting elected officials to address their membership on topics relevant to their advocacy work. In practice this means non-profits give far more time to Democrats — in particular, incumbents — than challengers, especially Green challengers. Greens want to form coalitions with all sorts of groups but in practice this isn’t so easy to actually make happen, and MPP gives no details on what they’d do differently to overcome this hurdle.
Based on the history, the Green Party is actually the most successful independent party since the Socialist Party of the early 1900s a hundred years ago, which further asks the question: why not try to build more momentum with the Greens, the most successful modern independent party, rather than start from scratch?
More than a hundred years of social science show that when progress stalls, it takes new parties and movements to shake things up and win. Left parties have existed for several decades in Europe and Latin America, but it wasn’t until a new generation of left parties came about in the last five years that they broke-through. The same happened in our country’s history. Abolitionist parties like the Free Soil Party and Liberty Party had existed for many years before the Republican Party, but it took a new party to finally breakthrough.
The working class of the countries, and even earlier US history, was significantly more organized than it is today. There’s a bit of luck for sure, the “lightning” that helps galvanize a “breakthrough”, but you’ve also gotta be prepared to seize on it with an organization ready to act. Those new generations of leftist parties didn’t come out of nowhere, but out of long-term organizing efforts. MPP does not share any ideas here on how to organize the working class in a way to prepare for such a breakthrough moment.
Furthermore, the Republican Party grew rapidly in part because of the collapse of the Whigs. Had the Whigs not been facing turmoil, perhaps the Republicans would not have been successful. It’s hard to say, but just extra emphasis that this comment seems to miss the point that communities must be organized and ready for the lightning strike moment to take advantage on a huge scale. Until then, we must build ground-up from the grassroots, and MPP seems to have no additional ideas on what local organizing and action looks like apart from national electoralism.
It might seem intuitive to think that small parties that have been around for decades could grow and be more successful, but history indicates that it takes fresh new parties to captivate public imagination and succeed. New parties innovate, are more in sync with the historical moment, are technologically savvy, and inspire a sense of great possibility. They also come about at the right political moment, when the public is ready for a mass break with the establishment. They are free of the baggage of longstanding smaller parties, which come to be viewed as marginal and stale. Historically, longstanding small parties serve the role of inspiring and paving the way for new larger break-through parties.
Innovation could certainly bring renewed interest, but MPP does not offer an ideas on what sort of innovation it brings to the table. Certainly, its platform is a slightly more progressive Democratic Party platform (mostly taken verbatim from the Sanders campaign), but nothing particularly new for people who have given up on voting. A more strongly socialist identity and platform could help energize folks that have given up on bourgeois politics, but the MPP has been pretty clear it does not want to be a “socialistic” party. As I mentioned above, while MPP talks about being “more in sync with the historical moment”, the Green Party and its Green New Deal that puts a heavy emphasis on climate change while addressing economic issues is wildly in sync with the historical moment we’re reaching as the youth become politically active adults during the final decade possibly to keep global warming below 2 degrees C. This is reason to think the Green Party’s best days are ahead of it, not behind it, and that MPP itself was a “fad” that is dying out as the historical Bernie moment itself burns out.
The one thing MPP leaders seem to talk about is social media. True, MPP has a good social media presence especially compared to its membership size, and the Green Party can absolutely do a better job with social media than it has. However social media can be extremely deceiving; it is easy to get lost in “bubbles”, not realizing that the vast majority of the US population has no idea what is happening on Twitter. We want to be careful our message is truly resonating with people — average people outside of typical political organizing circles — and not merely reflecting back from the echo chamber.
I must be cautious: this isn’t to say social media doesn’t have an important role in modern communication, particularly when social media needs to not only inform about current events, but engage in political education for the mass public — something hard to do when you’ve based your party around a particular presidential run and not a deeper analysis of society, such as the Green Party has in its eco-socialist roots. But social media alone is NOT a replacement for the hard personal one-to-one organizing that must occur in communities across the US. Green Party members and leaders are regularly in communities and leading activist organizations, protests, marches, etc.; more must be done, of course, but many Greens are known for getting on the picket line side-by-side with workers and the oppressed. Does MPP have plans to organize more than the Greens? If not, social media will not be enough.
As the organizer Jane McAlevey says, “There is no shortcut to power”. It takes hard organizing work, which takes time and energy.
Lastly, regarding “baggage,” this is a somewhat fair point — but MPP does not provide an answer. The Green Party has existed for roughly 20 years now; a little longer than that in a few states that were the early organizers, and a little younger than that in some states that only more recently started organizing. However, it has existed on the national stage long enough that it has somewhat of a reputation. On the one hand, there is a good reputation; folks recognize us when we’re out campaigning, wave, excitedly sign our petitions, and wish us good luck. They recognize the Green “brand” as standing for good things. On the other hand is the “baggage”. This comes from two main sources: internal and external.
Internally, the history of the Green Party is complex and spans decades, and is actually the story of trying to create a coalition movement under a single banner, of the type MPP talks about; it is the story of eco-socialists, liberals, and even a handful of conservative-ish folks, coming together to form a new party committed to ecology and human rights. As one might imagine, these factions butt heads and clash, and sometimes the ideological battles spill over into the public. Some visible cracks in this include the 2002–2004 debate over what to do about Nader (in essence, the “Safe States” strategy debate pitched by the liberal wing of the party that ironically allowed the “spoiler” tag to stick even more because of the implicit acceptance of the tag), and recent history of problematic leadership in several states (looking at you, Georgia transphobes). While there are undoubtedly problems, some of which stemming from the imperfect setup of the national party during the coalition negotiation phase, overall the party remains a very grassroots democratic party, free of corporate influence or party elite. Nearly everyone is a volunteer, the structure and process tend to favor egalitarianism while attempting to create equity for underrepresented groups (via national caucuses, that work differently from caucuses in other orgs), and new members can get involved in the decision making and fix things. Overall, the organization can be fixed democratically because of its commitment to values and process. Ultimately, it is grassroots democracy at work, and democracy is messy — especially in our society where we are not encouraged to think for ourselves or develop the interpersonal skills for democracy. We’re all learning together. Any new organization that in particular seeks to build a coalition would run into very similar growing pains and problems, and so it is important for MPP to speak out about how it might do its structure differently to avoid or compensate for such issues. However, MPP does not currently operate under any form of bylaws, nor have I heard much discussion of it, leaving MPP likely to repeat the mistakes of the Greens, if not make worse mistakes, while Greens are learning from their decades of experience in how to build and manage grassroots organizations.
Externally, the “baggage” in the party comes from the Democratic Party and corporate-backed media that does everything in its power to discredit the party (or any legitimate people’s movement for leftist change, really). This includes a number of actions, but primarily negative press. “Spoiler” attacks abound during election years, and Green candidates are often painted as “crazy” or “weird” (and not that the occasional weird person doesn’t exist, but usually the media is purposely stretching or misrepresenting statement or policy, a difficult anyone has when trying to explain both the flaws of todays system and the solutions in 30 second soundbytes during “debates”). Elitism rears its heard as the media and party elites laugh at Green candidates for supposedly not understanding economics or law or whatever as well as they do; often Greens know the details better than anyone else, but since details can be complex, it’s both hard to discuss and easy for the establishment to skirt around by simply saying “I have a degree from Harvard, while this Green candidate doesn’t.” One particularly egregious action is when the Democratic Party writes convoluted, unfair ballot access laws, then sues Green Party candidates off the ballot — then, after the Democrats kick Greens off the ballot, the Democrats laugh via the media about how those Greens “don’t know what they’re doing and can’t even get on the ballot in all states” knowing full well part of their reason is their own undemocratic actions. Talk about gaslighting! The point here is that the media does what it can to discredit the party and put baggage on the party, and while it does exist, they will throw baggage on top of any perceived threat to the system. If MPP begins running candidates seriously, it will become a new target for destruction, facing very similar attacks and accusations and quickly grow its own “baggage”. Since it is unlikely MPP will run so many candidates to completely take Congress and the presidency in its first run, future elections will face similar “spoiler” accusations. It is unavoidable. Instead, independents must decide how they will deal with media attacks. Do you confront it head on? Do you try to ignore and hope folks don’t take it seriously? It’s not an easy question, but I have not seen MPP discuss how it might handle such accusations at all. A new party such as MPP must be prepared for such “baggage” which can really only be countered with political education efforts and being directly involved in communities — voters won’t fall for propaganda if they know you personally and can tell in an instant that the media is lying. The “baggage” only sticks when we’re not out in our communities enough. Greens are often in communities, but not always and not nationwide; it’s something to build for, and new members can help with. But again, MPP has not expressed any concern for media attacks, which is in itself concerning — how can you be an independent party and not be preparing? It is yet again magical thinking, that MPP is separate from Greens just because of the name.
So to sum up: MPP is lacking an organizing strategy in communities to build power, lacking a strategy on how to address issues of internal democracy, and lacking a strategy on how to counteract the effects of a corporate media that will viciously attack as soon as they start becoming a real threat. Green responses to these issues have not been perfect, but that is somewhat the nature of any democratic movement — there have been attempts, successes and failures, and responses, and there is much to learn from the past for new Greens to get involved with and keep building on.
We bring professional political and organizational knowledge and skills from having worked on Democratic Party campaigns before setting out to build a major new people’s party. We also have the networks to bring over others who remain in the establishment parties. The early Republican Party succeeded because it drew over a large number of former Whig voters, elected officials, party officials. Having recently come from the Democratic Party helps us understand, communicate, and bring over other people and groups from the Democratic Party. It also gives us the personal connections to bring over elected officials and professional campaigners to help set up the party and run winning campaigns.
MPP has essentially existed since 2017. Despite all the bragging about connections: how many organizations have joined the MPP “coalition”? How many elected officials have seriously declared their support? The only person MPP has floated that I’ve seen is Nina Turner, who has honestly been pretty aloof about MPP. She spent the MPP convention defending the decision to vote for Biden against Trump. She’s now running as a Democrat for Congress and has in every interview or speech I’ve seen stumped for Democrats, and Democrats like AOC are welcoming her into the party. I’ve not heard a word about MPP from Turner, even though MPP used its mailing list to promote Turner as if she were their own candidate. So who exactly are they “bringing over”? If Turner isn’t publicly declaring her intent to only use the Democrats as a ballot line, and then immediately leave to join MPP upon being elected, then I fail to see the point here. MPP appears to already be giving up some of its independence from Democrats because they like Turner — but then, who else will they make exceptions for? How far will that go? How will they respond when these people abandon MPP for better committee seats in the Democratic Party? There’s no clear answers to any of this from MPP.
Without any big names committed to independent politics, you’re in the exact same spot as the Green Party — a grassroots organization of more or less “amateurs” (doesn’t mean folks aren’t talented and amazing organizers, just none of us do it for a living like many Democratic Party campaign staff). Running grassroots campaigns as independents is vastly different from running primary campaigns as Democrats for many reasons, and so past experience within “the machine” isn’t necessarily the help that MPP is painting it as. In fact, it may even be a hindrance in some situations — organizers stuck on standard primary campaign practices will fall flat on their faces when running as an independent struggling for donations, media airtime, and more. It takes a very different mindset to win — one focused on deep organizing and convincing people to join your campaign and movement, and not merely “voter turnout” as Democrats tend to focus on. A different set of tactics is needed to win long-term support for change rather than one-off voter turnout.
So yet again, what is MPP’s plan to do more than the Green Party has done? If there is no plan, then again, why not add your energy to the Green Party to help it overcome structural hurdles?
Reading MPP’s list of presumably the “best” reasons to start a new party rather than join the Green Party, I am left very unimpressed. There is very little in the way of serious strategy and discussion of historical challenges and failures, and no reason to think MPP would do better than the Green Party at overcoming these challenges. It seems to be a party almost entirely running of the fumes of the Bernie campaign, hoping for a bit of a “Whig Party Collapses” lightning-in-a-bottle sort of luck. In short, whatever momentum and luck they may have had coming out of the Bernie campaign seems to be drying up.
Of course no one can say for sure how history will turn out, the social revolution may or may not come not in the form of MPP or Green Party or anything else we know today — or even something totally new. However, there is little reason to believe MPP is in the right place at the right time. Instead of waiting for breakout luck, the only rational response to me seems to be building local parties from the grassroots, building community involvement starting with mutual aid and rising up to successful electoral challenges at the local then the state level before even starting to think about serious national action or elections. There are many ways the Greens could improve their organizing and strategy toward this goal, but MPP is not offering anything substantial apart from what Greens are already doing — and actually a lot of assumptions more likely to fail than what the Greens are doing. If there is any lightning strike moment in the near future, it will almost certainly be movements coalescing around the growing effects of climate change — a moment more suited for a Green Party that has always emphasized ecological issues, not a vaguely-defined People’s Party that considers ecological issues too “niche.” We might as well save our energy and continue building the Green Party and Green movement rather than reinventing a less round wheel.
Of course much of this has been talk about electoralism, which I in general want to caution against relying on too much. I don’t accept the calls from some radical socialists and anarchists that electoralism is worthless or a waste of time; I think there is some value in reaching the public and engaging in popular political education via the use of electoralism. And at the local levels, there is real possibility of enacting local ordinances that can directly challenge the state’s authority; local levels are in many ways the only “legitimate” use of electoral politics since municipalities alone have the ability to be directly democratic and have any chance of challenging the supremacy of the state and global neoliberal capitalism. So firstly, let’s emphasize the need to move away from the spectacle of national elections and focus on local elections, building local coalitions up to federations of local coalitions for larger, more united action in the future. Secondly, let’s not lose sight of all the non-electoral work that can and should be done: mutual aid chief among them, to build our own sense of community power as we help and teach each other and build dual power institutions. Thirdly, and related to the first two: we must learn how to do democracy, how to self-govern with direct democracy and federations instead of relying on an “elite” — elected or otherwise — to make the decisions for us. The system will never teach us how to overthrow it; we have to learn and teach ourselves, mistakes are expected, so we must not give in to perfectionism and self-doubt as long as we are always working to learn and improve.
The Green Party needs to do much more of all of this, but at least historically has been involved in direct actions, stuck with radical democracy and independent from corporate power, and focused on local elections; MPP has not, to my knowledge, encouraged members to do anything other than electoralism, and seems focused entirely on the spectacle of national elections like Congress rather than local offices. As such, I believe in a few years time, MPP will have disappeared into history, while Greens will still be here. If you want to see Greens bigger than today though, please get involved today; don’t get distracted by MPP’s shallow analysis and goals.