Looking toward the 2013 local elections, discussion of certain general principles is in order. IMO, Green Party efforts detached from the mass movement–from labor & environmental activism in particular–would consign us to petty-bourgeois irrelevance.
Sit at home, let MSM persuade us there is no mass movement, all that’s left is to beg favors from the establishment, seek to “influence” Democrats over corporate cocktails. That, my friends, is a lobby, not a party. Want to play that game, better get ourselves a Super-PAC, hunh?
That is not to say the movement is without confusion & contradictions per political mobilization. Austin Occupier Kit O’Connell reflected on FireDogLake after the Nov election, beginning with a clip from Russia Today who, like the FBI, seem to regard movement electoral activity in Texas as important:
Tuned Out Hippies?
Since the Occupy movement began, many have attempted to position the group in opposition to electoral politics. Occupy in its purest form is nonpartisan, and since the beginning of the movement this has been a source of criticism.
If we want to really make a difference, we were told time and again, we should organize similarly to the Tea Party and begin to field candidates for office. When occupiers protested Mitt Romney or other hyper-conservative politicians, they’d be accused of being in bed with Barack Obama. If the movement protested neo-liberals like Obama, we were accused of being traitors to all that was good in the world because we obviously wanted Romney to win (Carnacing is not limited to blogs). Most of all, occupiers got accused of being disconnected from what their critics perceive to be real politics — we were lazy hippies who didn’t understand how the world works and worst of all we don’t vote.
Occupy and many allied activist groups stand in opposition to the idea that electoral politics should be the focus of American political engagement. It is especially opposed to the idea that just voting out one plutocrat and replacing him with a new one will fix our problems — even if that new plutocrat is a woman, from a racial minority, or practices an alternative religion or sexuality. Its ranks are full of activists who supported Obama with hours of hard work in the run-up to the 2008 election, only to “wake the eff up” over the succeeding years and realize real change doesn’t come from far-away leaders.
It’s my experience that occupiers are far more engaged with mainstream politics than mainstream America, which for the most part unthinkingly abstains from participating at all. While the average American simply does not vote, the question of whether to vote and how was an important concern to OWS. Members of Occupy Chicago spent hours in a heated debate over whether it was ethical to burn voter registration cards as a form of protest. Occupiers created street theater around the election: Occupy Chicago members took coffins to the Obama headquarters and launched Revs4Romney. On election day, Occupy the Stage in New Orleans protested the fact that Louisiana is one of eight states which disallow write-in candidates for President by performing a puppet show about the 2-party system at a polling place then accepting symbolic write-in votes (I voted via Twitter for Vermin Supreme). Occupiers held public debate-watching parties, helped Anonymous trend the hashtag #StopNDAA and livetweeted the elections.
Occupy groups also became closely involved in local issues at multiple elections since last September. Here in Austin, one Occupier made an unsuccessful bid for city council, while others became involved in the successful bid to make the city council itself more accountable. Austin will change from one of the country’s only completely at-large city councils to one where each council member represents part of the city. The Occupy AISD working group fought new in-district charter schools by, in part, helping to unseat charter-supporter Sam Guzman. His replacement, Dr. Rev. Jayme Mathias, will be the first openly gay member of Austin’s school board. One of the Gulf Port 7, Ronnie Garza, is featured in the video at the top of this post. Another, Remington Alessi, ran for sheriff as a Green Party candidate. San Antonio’s Meghan Owen took 1.5% of the vote for the Greens in a bid to unseat NDAA-supporting Democrat Representative Lloyd Doggett.
Of course, many see Elizabeth Warren as a massive win for the goals of Occupy Wall Street.
An Ethical Dilemma At the Voting Booth
The larger struggle over the meaning and effectiveness of our democratic system was reflected in the personal choices of Occupiers I spoke with while writing this story. Many expressed support for Dr. Jill Stein — she won my vote the moment I saw her and running-mate Cheri Honkala in person at Occupy Wall Street on September 17, 2012. Occupier Liberty Herbert voted for Stein but expressed half-serious concern over whether her recent arrest at the Tarsands Blockade was a way of pandering to activists. “It’s great to know I’m finally a demographic,” she told me with a laugh.