Failed Politics and Another Perspective

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

With the current government shutdown, many here in the U.S. have adopted the cynical view of politics as practiced here. Of course, even before this latest brouhaha, many had chosen not to participate – 2012 voter turnout for eligible voters dropped from 62.3% in 2008 to 57.5%.

GOP supporters say it is the Democrats fault, and of course the Democratic Party supporters say Republicans are to blame. Our system is designed (rigged?) to favor two parties in a winner take all system. Many third party efforts have been launched over our history, but none have managed to elect any significant number to legislative branches to have much effect.

The US Congress currently has only two members who are not members of either party –independent  Senators Bernie Sanders (VT)  and Angus King (ME). The Libertarian Party and theGreen Party are the two most active parties over the past two decades. If we had proportional representation, each would have garnered enough votes nationally to have 3-4 members each in the House today. Not enough to sway many votes, but at least voices not constrained by major party allegiances.

Petra Kelly, in her posthumously published, Thinking Green: Essays on Environmentalism, Feminism, and NonViolence (1994), suggests reasons why the German Greens lost their seats in the German Bundestag – internal fighting. But while she bemoaned that loss at the time of her death (21 years ago this month), she held high hopes for the U.S.

There can be only one answer concerning when to start Green Politics at every electoral level in the United States: right now. because of the need for a low-energy future; because the earth’s remaining rainforests are being destroyed to meet the interest on debt payments from poor to rich countries: because over 20 million Americans do not have enough to eat; because we must divert funds from military spending in order to solve terminal environmental, economic, and social problems; because human rights and civil liberties cannot be matters of political expediency; because we must replace consumption with conservation as society’s driving force; because we can no longer ignore or neglect the years of warning signals telling us that we have come face to face with the natural limits of what we can take from the earth; because the earth has no emerge4ncy exit; because we can no longer sit by and watch Western governments be driven by endless expansion of consumption and by the futile goal of economic growth at any cost — for these and countless other desperate reasons, we must present Green alternatives on the U.S. A. (Thinking Green (1994) p.131).

Two decades after her untimely death at the age of 44, Kelly’s insights ring even more true today (or at least there is more evidence available to support her thesis as stated here). Kelly’s insights into the decline of her own German Green party in the late 1980s would be worth politicians of all stripes to consider. Kelly saw the Green Party as an anti-party party.

The term anti-party party has frequently been misunderstood. To me the term denotes a party capable of choosing between morality and power, that uses creative civil disobedience to combat every form of repression, that combines audacious imagination with efficient working methods, and that recognizes the link between world peace and the peace within every individual. Anti-party parties do not exercise power in the old authoritarian ways. They try to use power in ways that help people achieve self-determination in their own lives. (pp. 126-7)

When maintaining power becomes more important than doing what is right, we all lose. Unfortunately in a society obsessed with winning is everything, we get a system designed to favor winners, instead of everyone we share this amazing planet with.

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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