Green Imagination

Your Blog for Sharing Green Ideas.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Who do we want to vote for us?

Sorry for not posting in a few days. I've been pondering the paradox of grassroots democracy these past few days. Matt Gonzalez said something very interesting when he spoke at the BGP's nominating convention. He suggested Greens actually go after their opponents' voters rather than try to get draw new voters.

On the one hand, I really like his gall. This is politics in a somewhat unadulterated form. Gonzalez obviously has a lot of political capital in San Francisco and was able to mobilize a rather large electorate during his race. More power to him.

On the other hand, is this truly grassroots democracy? By going after a population that already votes, what are we doing to affect bottom-up democratic changes in our city, state, and country? Isn't grassroots democracy about mobilizing people in new ways, getting new people involved in politics and the larger society around them?

And herein lies the crux: Only about half the population that is eligible to vote actually exercises this right. While this should not surprise any of us, it does pose a challenge for us to define what we mean by grassroots democracy and exactly who we think we should be engaging. Let's face it, there's a certain portion of people who are eligible to vote but never will.

Get out the vote initiatives have been somewhat prevalent every election cycle for the past 15-20 years (at least that I can remember). This election cycle will hopefully draw out more voters than in the previous election; hopefully people will remember 2000's lessons that indeed every votes counts. Thanks to Bush's (mis)deeds, the electorate appears to be more charged and ready to move to keep him or boot him. Public relations practitioners call these people a "hot issue public," meaning that they are energized when a problem is in the news but their interest & enthusiasm fades once the news stops covering the issue.

While we might be able to locally catch a few rides into offices from this hot issue public, the question remains whether we can maintain their interest once the dust of national electoral politics settles.

Meanwhile, we need to identify and connect with like-minded individuals and voting blocs, people who are indeed truly Green and not only those hot issue publics who might swing in our direction. Sure, we might be able to capitalize on hot issue publics in the short-term, and maybe we should. However, true party growth (the goal of many of our campaigns) will come from finding like-minded voters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would argue that the most efficient way to get people to the polls is to get their vote to count. In a winner-take-all system, people's votes largely don't count. We need to get a system of proportional voting instituted. With proportional voting, people's votes WILL count and people will have an incentive to vote.

--Nathan B.
bahnathan at

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well this is the heart of the matter: for the Greens to become a real player (and not just a "spoiler") we have to get about half of the half who do not traditionally vote (poor people, people of color, young people, etc.) to vote for us. They WOULD vote for us if:
a. We ran high-profile canidates that looked like them (I am thinking of Randall Robinson, for example); and,
b. Did sufficient fundraising to allow for door-to-door, and face-to-face conversations.

Dave Goldsmith

9:02 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

IRV is fine, but what are some creative ways we could promote it?

Dave, do you think the Greens (in general) are becoming more "mainstream;" that is, the party's attracting more mainstream people? If so, then a "candidate that looks like them" would presumably be easier to find.

On another note, do you think anyone saw Matt Gonzalez as a "spoiler?"

1:46 PM  

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