Two of our black congresscritters, David Scott and Sanford Bishop were among the six in the black caucus to vote for full funding of the latest Pentagon war budget. Other black statewide officials brag of their own roles in pushing two-strikes. Kasim Reed, the black Democrat who's currently mayor of Atlanta ran billing himself as a "civil rights lawyer" but omitted the qualification that he's a plaintiff's lawyer, mouthpiece for the corporations who violate your civil rights. Back when he was a state senator, Reed justified his bill to nail a 5 year prison sentence on anybody seeking a job with a false social security number as a measure to "protect the jobs and living standards" of black Georgia families.
These elected Democrats don't represent the views of most Democratic voters, who in Georgia are overwhelmingly black and well to their left. But they get vast amounts of campaign cash from corporations, real estate interests, military contractors and so on. Though Rev. Lowery and some others are dear friends and respected elders, the traditional civil rights organizations have also been captured by corporate donors. Neither they nor labor are any use at all in challenging any elected Democrat.
Primarying these corporate Democrats has many disadvantages, some of which I've discussed elsewhere. The most telling for me are that
no news coverage on political issues makes getting people's attention in primary seasons much harder work than it ought to be
once the primary season is over, you have to flog the vote out for a slate of corporate Dems who often despise your entire community.
So I'm throwing in my lot with the Green Party in Georgia. The Green Party is a federation of state parties, so the national party's problems and conflicts are a distant rumor. They might be relevant, but if we can't build a strong state party here, we can't be much help in addressing those. The state party here, when I joined a few months ago, amounted to a dilapidated bus parked by the side of the road with the keys and title under the seat.
Political organizing being a team sport, the first thing is to assemble a core group whose judgement and instincts you trust, and who have the needed skills and commitment. Then you settle a plan. Here's ours.
We believe a big chunck of the potential electorate is well to the political left of both parties and the corporate media. These people rarely get to hear their issues even directly acknowledged, let alone advanced by Democrats, and often see them explicitly opposed by Republicans. Many are what the consultants call "frequent voter" types, and many more are the parts of the Democratic base that are only activated sporadically, as in two years ago. For a Green Party, these people are our low-hanging fruit. If we can't make major gains among them, we might as well go home.
In Georgia the most solidly Democratic areas are black constituencies, which are easy to find because the state is 26% black. They're in big city and suburban Atlanta, medium sized cities like Macon, Albany, Columbus, and Augusta, and in the rural counties of central and south Georgia, and the coastal areas like Savannah and Brunswick. These then, are the places we aim to achieve maximum density, from which we'll spread out to other areas.
I took the time yesterday to read the stuff some commenters suggested by Rayne, including the lefty roadmap. I found Rayne's stuff sensible and knowledgeable, in the way people trained in the corporate and nonprofit worlds understand these terms. But I found it light when it came to understanding of the issues that deeply motivate people. Messaging and web pages don't move people just cause you put them out there. Folks don't read your newsletters or come to your meetings if you're not saying anything they consider important or relevant. People are politically moved in big numbers when you connect with their lives and their aspirations, and when your politics help them address the difference between the lives they actually live and the ones they aspire to. So while the kind of attention to technical detail Rayne preaches in her roadmap is good and mostly necessary stuff, it gets you nowhere without a connection to the issues.
Black mass incarceration is a central issue.
For a Green Party to take root and grow in what are presumed Democratic strongholds, it has to go straight to the places Democratic voters wish their elected officials and candidates would go, and say what they wish those candidates and officials would say. Our Green party has to put the failed social policy of mass black imprisonment front and center, and has to call it exactly that. It has to connect the wars and bailouts with the unavailability of funds for schools and jobs and local infrastructure, and resolutely oppose privatization and corporate privilege. We have to give them a Green Party that does what want, but can never get from a Democratic party.
Organizing doesn't start on the net. It starts with personal contacts throughout the state.
The first thing our state Green party is doing is financing a series of four and five day organizing team trips around the state to make personal contact with activists and their networks in town and cities already in motion on some of these issues. Before the year is out our away team will have spent eight or twelve days on the road visiting activists in two dozen counties, and we will continue that into the spring of 2011.
Bringing those contacts with us back to Atlanta will put us in good enough standing with the proficient organizers among metro Atlanta's local activist nexus, those entities that actually can fill rooms full of people six to eight times a year, and the second tier ones that fill rooms twice or three times a year, so they won't feel bashful about sharing their capacity with us instead of local Democrats, or holding themselves aloof from elections altogether.
By February we'll be calling public meetings in six or twelve places around the state outside Atlanta on mass incarceration, helping service local outreach efforts and hooking them together, doing a lot of the technical stuff that Rayne's roadmap proposes. And early spring is the time to look for candidates for municipal office, to run in November 2011. Municipal elections are low-turnout, low pressure affairs, and make for good introductions to campaigning.
Candidate recruitment for Georgia Greens has some specific problems. Repub and Democratic candidates get all kinds of ego and social reinforcement. Green candidates face the possibility of economic retaliation. I know of two cases in which the private practices of lawyers were devastated. We had a couple possible candidates last year who, when we explained the history of economic retaliation against Georgia Green candidates in the 1990s, backed out. Can't say I blamed them. In your early 40s, a college teacher with no tenure and small children? You might not want to do this. But somebody has to....
By early spring we can bring outside speakers in to tour the state. Cynthia McKinney is well thought of here despite the hateful media campaigns against her. She lost her seat because she and her crew were poor organizers, not because people disagreed with her politics. David Cobb, the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2004, wants to come here too.
We expect to have a statewide meeting in the summer, perhaps along with a weekend boot camp for candidates and their key campaign folks. And by early 2012 we expect to have candidates around the state, and in metro Atlanta for state rep seats, with people knocking on doors, engaging neighbors around the state on mass black incarceration, on privatization, against the imperial wars, against the nukes in poor black Burke County GA, and so on. We expect to lose more races than we win for a long while, but to tap into something deeper, a tradition of struggle that is older than we are, and that will sustain our organization and its activists after we're gone.
If this is going to be another Reagan-era winter in America, like Gil Scott Herron called the 1980s, we'll grow slowly but we'll keep growing just the same. And the next time the cycle turns to one of those spots, like the sixties, when exponential growth of the movement is possible, we'll be on its cutting edge. Watch out for us.