by Tom Ethier
Over the weekend of June 23-25 I was privileged to be part of the nine member Connecticut delegation to the Association of State Green Parties' (ASGP), first national convention that was held in Denver, CO. The ASGP now consists of 29 state organizations that comprise a national Green presence. The purpose of the convention was to officially nominate a candidate for the 2000 presidential election and to ratify the party's platform.
On Friday evening June 23 after a welcoming reception, Winona LaDuke, who was to be officially endorsed as vice-presidential candidate later that weekend, greeted an enthusiastic audience. LaDuke, a Native American activist from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, has long been active in Indian and environmental issues. At the age of 18 she spoke before the United Nations on the rights of indigenous people and in the 1980s was named the most prominent Native American activist by several magazines. She is a Harvard graduate and has written extensively on environmental and native issues including at least two books. In 1995 Time Magazine nominated LaDuke as one of "50 Leaders for the Future."
The convention started officially on Saturday morning with a presentation from the credentials committee. This committee admits state Green parties to the ASGP and on Saturday admitted the states of Florida, Delaware and Texas. The new Texas Green Party is off to a sensational organizational start. They collected 74,000 signatures in 75 days to secure ballot access for the Green's in Texas this fall. Following the credentials committee were three hours of debate and approval of the Green Party platform. Our platform, which has evolved over the last four years, is a work in progress. I encourage all to view the ratified document at www.gp.org.
For the rest of the day we were treated to series of speakers beginning with African American Professor of History and Political Science at Columbia University, Manning Marable. Professor Marable, who spoke in Hartford last fall in support of Green Party Hartford City Council candidate Elizabeth Horton-Sheff, spoke passionately about the crisis of the working poor; reminding the audience that "poverty knows no color." He left us with a rarely cited quote from Martin Luther King Jr.; "the moral arch of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Other featured speakers on Saturday included lesbian activist and author Ann Northrup, Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe Director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, Texas activist and author Jim Hightower and several Greens from around the world. The Green Party has affiliates in most countries and is part of the ruling coalition in Germany. Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of many books on the medical hazards of nuclear power and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility closed the day.
On Sunday morning, Medea Benjamin, Green Party candidate for US Senate in California and founder of Global Exchange, one of the important contributors to last years World Trade Organization (WTO) protests, lead off the day. She talked about the growing power of socially responsible advocacy groups and their ability to effect change in the behavior of multi-national corporations. She pointed out the particular success of Students Against Sweatshops. Following Medea, several Green candidates and current office holders talked about their ideas, dreams, hopes and victories. The Connecticut delegation was particularly proud when Elizabeth Horton-Sheff, who won election to the Hartford City Council last fall, shared her experiences with citizen's councils as a way to advance democratic participation.
Other keynote speakers that afternoon included John Anderson, 1980 Independent Presidential candidate and current President of the Center for Voting and Democracy and labor leader Tony Mazzocchi who gave a ringing endorsement for universal single-payer health care. Don Torgerson, press secretary of the American Reform Party, announced their official endorsement of the Green Party Presidential nominee and their intention to campaign with Greens on behalf of Ralph Nader. The afternoon was capped off by the official roll call vote of the state delegates in which Ralph Nader won 290 to 10, and the acceptance speech by Mr. Nader.
There are three themes that emerge from the Green's convention. The first is that the party is fully in support of the rising "Blue-Green" coalition that is developing out of the WTO protests in Seattle last November and the anti International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in Washington DC earlier this year. The alliance between labor and environmental groups provides a powerful counterweight to unfettered corporate control of all aspects of daily life including our government. It is instructive to note that it is so-called "free trade" that the coalition opposes, not "fair trade." These are not the protectionist measures trumpeted by Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan. Fair trade means we support international labor and environmental standards.
A second theme is the idea that Green Party values and positions are majoritarian; majorities around the country embrace them. An overwhelming number of people support action to ensure clean air and water and a healthy environment. They also support a single-payer universal health plan that provides health care for all.
The last theme that was evident at the convention is that ordinary people are seizing the day and demanding change. The Green Party is made up of citizens from all age groups and various backgrounds. They all share a common concern of taking the country back from its arrest by the special interests that put the needs of the privileged few before ordinary working Americans. With these themes outlining the green movement and Ralph Nader's campaign for the presidency, it is indeed, "easy being green."
Tom Ethier is Co-Chair of The Connecticut Green Party and an ASGP 2000 delegate.