Going Green

A while back, I wrote a piece about why I was leaving the Democratic Party.  In my final paragraph, I asked if there was “a third party out there that supports progressive/liberal values but does not resort to absolutes and child-like behavior (name-calling, bullying, gloating, etc.)”  Since that time I have read the State Platform of the Wisconsin Green Party; what follows are my thoughts about the Greens.

During the discussions I’ve had with friends and colleagues in the past about the Greens, one point in particular has been brought up fairly consistently- that they’re a bunch of “tree-hugging hippies” and that if they want to be taken seriously, they need to do something about that stereotype.  So it did not help matters when during the first line of the Preamble of the State Platform, the Greens state that “we must treat each other with love, respect and fairness…”  Even though I agreed, I wondered if it had to be stated right there, right away, as if they were flaunting being “touchy-feely.”  The more I thought about it, however, the more I respected their decision to be proud of their beliefs and to actually put those sentiments in writing.

As for the rest of the Preamble, two ideas stuck out to me- “building grassroots democracy” and giving the people of Wisconsin a party they can “believe in.”  They go further into grassroots democracy later in the platform, so for now I will focus on the second concept- a party in which my fellow Wisconsinites can believe.  I think that if more people read the Platform and thought about how it aims to correct many of the ills of today’s political system, they would believe in the Greens.  The problem that I see the Greens having here is not so much to do with their message as it is with spreading their message.  If one were to visit the WI Greens website, it becomes very clear that they could do more to spread their values.  The only social media that I found them using was Facebook; they do not have a Twitter account or other social media accounts.  I was blown away by this as it is fairly common in political communication to combine the use of various social media platforms to reach supporters, organize them, and mobilize them.  As for their use of Facebook, as of this writing (December 10, 2013), they have only one post for December, two for November, two for October, and two for September.  The website itself is easy to navigate and find the Constitution and Green Values; however, similar to Facebook, they have very limited updates.  If the Greens want Wisconsinites to believe in their message, they have to first spread the message.

Before I break down the Platform, I want to be clear- while I am very impressed with the Platform as a whole, I am only going to discuss a few of the points (there are, after all, 62 total points).

Ecological Wisdom

Under the section about agriculture, I like the idea of supporting farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) and protecting family farms.  I like going to the Dane County Farmers Market and the Northside (Madison) Farmers market every once in a while when our schedule permits.  Additionally, since I can’t garden to save my life and I want my children to eat local, fresh produce, I would like to see more opportunities to receive food from CSA farms.  What I would add to this section is to increase government support for Farm to School programs throughout Wisconsin.

In the energy section, I whole-heartedly support the stance of “building and promoting mass transit infrastructure for light rail, high-speed rail, commuter rail, as well as intra and intercommunity bicycling and walking trails.”  During my year stationed in South Korea and 2 1/2 years stationed in Germany, I did not own a car; instead I traveled via public transportation and it was wonderful.  In a previous post I linked to a page outlining the benefits of public transportation, and I think it would be worth doing so again.  Additionally, I’ve wondered for quite some time now what it would be like to connect our UW System cities and towns by rail.  As a bicyclist, I would also like to see more trails around the state that connect to each other to give people an awesome opportunity to see Wisconsin in a whole new way and to support commuting to work by bicycle.

Social and Economic Justice

The very first point in the section concerning economic justice calls for an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.  While I agree that workers in industries like the fast food industry should get paid more than minimum wage, I am concerned about the effect of an immediate increase up to $15/hour.  Would it be more prudent to perhaps raise it gradually over time to see the effects first?

As a member of the teachers’ union, I stand behind the Greens position for people to form unions and bargain collectively.  In point 28, the Greens continue by asserting that “the State should assist management in working more closely and cooperatively with unions.”  Again I agree, but I also believe that unions need to be prepared to compromise as well.  Unions have been vilified enough in this state, and I do not want to see that trend continue.

The Greens also support family leave legislation, but it is not clear what they mean by that.  I would like to see an increase in paid parental leave that puts Wisconsin, if not the United States on par with the rest of the Western, industrialized world.

Paid Parental Leave- US vs the World

In the final point under Economic Justice, the Greens emphasize “stronger ties with our Canadian neighbors.”  This makes perfect economic sense since Canada is our biggest market for exports- $7.61 billion in exports in 2012 (WI DATCP).  I would also like to see us add an increase in trade possibilities with the EU.  In the same point, the Greens promote fair trade over free trade with certain countries, and I agree with that, but we should make sure that fair trade does not end up being detrimental to our economy.

As a high school teacher, I like what the Greens have in the Platform, but since teaching is my livelihood, I do not want to necessarily get into how I would change the system at the moment.  I want to save that for a future post.

Grassroots Democracy

In the Preamble, the Greens call for building grassroots democracy, and in the explanatory paragraph for this section, they propose that “Democracy and self-governance are dependent on the public being fully informed and all (italics mine) political parties having access to the ballot and public debate and discourse.”  I have a tough time saying we live in a democracy when in our current two-party system, 49% of a population in a constituency could theoretically be unrepresented (in other words the person in office could represent the interests of the 51% who voted for them.)

The Greens’ push for proportional representation “for legislative offices on the municipal, county, and state levels” is an excellent idea.  People should not be “forced” to vote for the “lesser of two evils” on election day.  At the same time, third parties face an uphill battle due to the influence of money in politics; therefore, this will not be successful unless it goes hand-in-hand with campaign finance reform.  Having more than two parties in government should hopefully decrease the notion of a democratic deficit (that people do not feel truly represented) here in the US.  If the electorate knew that they could vote for whichever party they wanted to with the idea that it might gain seats, would that increase the percentage of those who vote?  Of course, if we adopt a proportional representation system, we would have to be prepared to allow for extremist parties (although I can’t see parties like Golden Dawn in Greece getting votes here in Wisconsin.)

Nonviolence

Out of the four pillars in the Platform, this is the section with which I am least acquainted.  I do agree with the Greens however, in opposing the death penalty and ensuring that white-collar crimes receive fair and equal punishment.

Conclusion

I am quite impressed with the Platform and would like to help the Greens spread their message; so, where do I go from here?  I’ve signed up on the website to volunteer and even offered to help with Twitter, but I haven’t heard back yet.

What do you think of their ideas?  Should we move to a proportional representation system?

Thanks for reading.

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