By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Most Americans don't have any idea what it would be like to have not just the candidates, but people elected, look like the country," says CVD's Caleb Kleppner. "The big story is that people are shifting out of the Democrats and Republicans. I think that there is growing dissatisfaction, even disgust, with the two majors, so all kinds of people are looking for alternatives. You see this reflected in the rising number of people who aren't affiliated with any party and with the rising number of people affiliated with the Greens. The niche of the Green Party is traditional liberals who feel betrayed by the Democrats. At the same time, there are a lot of conservatives that don't feel the Republicans are advancing their agenda . . . two parties just aren't enough."
"People call the Greens spoilers, because they think we took votes away from Al Gore," says Shawn, who, along with some 50,000 other concerned citizens, attended the October 26 anti-war protest in San Francisco. "It's important to think that the Greens are challenging this two-party system that has been entrenched and impenetrable. For a long time the Democrats have been the only alternative. But more and more they accept money from the larger corporations and enact legislation that hurts minority people, underprivileged people and the environment just as much as the Republicans."
An interesting thing is occurring in the political lives of some former '60s radicals. The Democratic Party that they have long aligned themselves with is now perceived by some, including their children, as being as reactionary and out of touch as the Republican Party they resisted when they were young. While the baby boomers were paying bills, putting their kids through college and driving SUVs, their party moved from left to center.
"It was a gradual process," says Green Party poster boy Ralph Nader from his home in Washington, D.C. "It really turned bad in the 1980s when Tony Coelho, then in charge of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, urged them [the Democrats] to take money from the big corporations. Before that they would get more money from the labor unions. [The Greens] are filling the gap that corporate Democrats once filled before they became corporatized."
After an hour or so of canvassing the neighborhood, Alex came upon a woman who was examining her roses. Sally (not her real name) is a lawyer who lived in Berkeley for many years after she graduated from UC Berkeley. She now lives in Santa Monica with her family. Sally invited Alex in to see her garden and they struck up a conversation. Within moments, she learned from Alex that her 19-year-old son, "Mark," a student at UC Santa Cruz, who is also interested in law, is a registered Green. "Good for him," she said with a smile of surprise. Sally and her husband are still Democrats. Soon, though, the liberal lawyer was reminiscing about her Berkeley years during the politically volatile '70s.
That radical era has a hold over young Greens like Shawn as well. "I'm charged by the ideals that were out in the '60s and early '70s," he says, sipping his first-ever chai latte. "That just seemed like a time when things were happening, when young people were directly involved in confronting the government on what they thought were injustices. It seems like until the whole September 11, and the events that took place then, we were sort of drifting in a period of idleness and prosperity and not really questioning anything."
Like many people his age, Shawn is still discovering who he is. "I'm a person who is interested in so many different things, music, theater, politics. But there are so few unexplored territories in the world." Shawn recently took "an enormously freeing, spontaneous" drive up to Big Sur, and is inspired by such artists as Jim Morrison, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.
"I think for a while I was a bit wary of politics. It seemed ephemeral," he explains. "But I think the political environment of the time has a direct influence on social and creative movements. From Vietnam to the French Commune in the 1870s, times of intense political war and such have produced some of the greatest minds, greatest works."
THE GREEN PARTY ROSE OUT OF THE MIRED POLItics of the Cold War. In 1979, a number of progressive local parties in Germany called "alternative lists" unified and began calling themselves "The Greens" (all parties in Germany are associated with a color). The German Greens opposed the deployment of U.S. nuclear missiles in West Germany and called for the abolishment of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Prior to that, though, parties with similar progressive tenets were popping up throughout the world. In 1972, following the Club of Rome's publication of The Limits of Growth, an influential book on sustainability, Tasmanians formed the United Tasmanian Group, New Zealanders started the Values Party, and U.K. activists, the Peoples Party. In 1981, a Flemish bike-advocacy group, with the Flemish acronym AGALEV, which means "living differently," successfully ran candidates for its national Parliament. That party soon became the Green Party of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking area of northern Belgium.