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
Sitting with a front-page L.A. Timesstory about 450,000 people protesting in the streets of Italy against the war on Iraq, Erica expresses her feelings about her father and grandfather's party. "I guess it's just my duty to follow in their footsteps," she says, fingering the newspaper.
"We all grew up thinking, 'I want to make this world a better place.' And the Green Party allows for that. It doesn't want us to self-destruct. Like right now you see Democrats and Republicans voting to go to war. How are theyrepresenting us? People that voted the Democrats into office don't necessarily want to go to war. The Green platform is against violence, and I know that is against war. We wouldn't be bombing Iraq, not just this past year, but the past decade."
Erica also likes the Green Party's stance on health insurance. The Green Party currently stands alone among ballot-eligible parties in its call for universal health care through a single-payer system that eliminates the influence of big insurance companies.
"I guess for the first two years college students are covered by their parents' [insurance], and then all of a sudden they have to come up with the money for health insurance. How do you pay for that?How can you get sick? What if you get mono?Or a regular cold? I think students that don't come from extremely wealthy families can understand that that's a lot of money. Other countries, European countries, can afford to pay their citizens' health care. Why can't we? We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. California is like the fifth or sixthlargest economy in the world. I think that's what helped students be attracted to the Greens."
Erica, who is also a member of the AIDS Awareness Club and Students Against War and Violence at school, had been aware of the party and its platform for years. But it was when her father took her to a Ralph Nader Super Rally during the 2000 campaign that the then-14-year-old became politicized. "I guess that was the first time I really identified with the Greens, when I heard him speak," she says. "Being in that atmosphere, seeing college students there and being inspired. You can't go to a Dem-ocratic convention and see students, people that are like you."
WHEN JASON KIRKPATRICK WAS elected to his seat as city councilman for Arcata, California, in 1994, he was 26 and among the youngest Greens to have been elected to public office. He was the only Green on the five-member City Council. By 1996, two more Greens were elected, and Jason, then serving as vice mayor, made history when Arcata became the first U.S. city to have a Green city council majority.
Jason started his political trajectory on the campus of Santa Monica College, where he booked lectures. In 1991, he graduated from SMC and moved to Arcata to continue his political-science studies at Humboldt State University. There, Jason served as co-director of the Campus Greens Network, as student-body president and as the HSU rep to the California State Student Association, where he lobbied in D.C. and Sacramento on behalf of his fellow students.
During his years at Humboldt, he took three months off to travel and attend the first International Young Greens gathering in Stockholm. It was there that he encountered "young progressives, 21, 22 years of age, serving in political offices. These were folks with radical politics, not reformist liberals. Their actions impressed me. I thought, 'Wow, I bet I could do that if I was on the City Council in Arcata.'" Further motivated by having to work with "a weak and arrogant city councilor" back home, Jason figured, "If this dopey guy with no vision can get elected, certainly I could!" So he ran and won.
While in office, Jason's focus was 100 percent Green. He created a state park, brought creeks above ground, developed bike paths, supported soup kitchens and tried to redirect public funds toward community needs as opposed to "distant companies."
Jason, who earned a master's in globalization studies, now lives in Northern Ireland, where he has worked for many years with the Sustainable Northern Ireland Programme, which was formed to work with community groups and local government on sustainable-development issues. Soon he will move to Berlin to be with his girlfriend, a radical left-wing opera singer with a voice "that would melt your heart."
A member of the Republican National Committee when he was 18 ("I never voted for them once"), Jason plans on working with the Greens in Germany.
The 34-year-old, who claims to save 20 percent of his income by using his bike or public transportation instead of a car, envisions himself working in politics his entire life. "Why not?" he asks. "It's a lot more fun than doing jobs that some people do. Plusit actually has meaning."
Although Jason is proof that some folks can grow up within the party, it isn't easy to balance idealism with adult considerations. Ask Lynne Serpe, now 31, who has been working for the Greens since she was 23.
"I don't make a lot of money as a Green Party campaigner. My brother, who works for Morgan Stanley, and probably makes five times what I average in a year, tells me not to worry, because I'm helping save the world," says Lynne. "It's hard not to worry about money, especially now that I'm in my 30s. But whenever I think about the alternative, working a high-paying job for some faceless corporation, I know it's not for me."