April 17, 2024

Building the Party

Guest Opinion
By Douglas P. Marsh | March 2, 2024

In a recent opinion column, small business ownership expert Mary Keyes Rogers adeptly diagnoses several problems in our United States political systems. She homes in particularly on our country’s two major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, and elected leaders, referring to some iconic household names: John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Hunter Biden, and George Santos

Rogers wisely recognizes, too, that our two-party system is not going away any time soon, no matter how divorced both of the parties have become from the will of the people. A third party cannot coexist with the other two major parties under our country’s predominant election rules (see Duverger’s Law) and this system carries the inertia of our nation’s entire history to this point.

Relatedly, she recites Pew research that around a third of Americans hold negative views of both major parties. Yet more to this point, we know that more than half of eligible voters regularly do not vote in any given U.S. election.

Keen to problems, Rogers is not so certain on solutions. At one moment she encourages us to atomize, for each of us to form “the Party of Peter or Patty.” We can skip primaries, she says, and “support candidates with positions on policies that address problems” in the general election. A bit later, though, Rogers foresees that we will “tune out of political conversation altogether,” but calls this “good for our collective mental health.”

What to do?

The answers to our problems are neither tuning out nor searching in vain for Democrats and Republicans to represent us. Instead, we must all become active and engaged members of a mass political party in which we represent our own interests and concerns. The major parties have stopped listening or speaking to us, so we have to listen and speak all the more with each other!

The latest Gallup polls indicate that 41 percent of us are already politically independent. 28 percent of us identify as Democrats and another 28 percent as Republicans. But how many of us are organizing or attending party meetings, or campaigning for a candidate or a referendum measure? What is political party membership? What could it be? What should it be?

We do not want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars funding war and genocide abroad. We need funds to repair our roads and bridges and to develop sustainable energy infrastructure. We need universal access to drinkable water, nutritious food, and stable shelter, or the spaces and means necessary to procure and produce our own. We need affordable, single-payer healthcare.

We’re locked into a two-party system, but they need not be the Republican and Democratic parties. These organizations have become self-serving and unresponsive to the will of the people. Historically and theoretically, another party can rise to power, despite the thoroughly corrupted condition of elections in our country. So how could a critical mass of people activate, mobilize, and decide together that enough is enough?

One vehicle and contender, among larger alternatives to the major parties, is the Green Party of the United States (GPUS). Since its founding in the 1980s it has been a party for environmental conservation and social and economic justice. Through the 1990s, the party’s platform took shape, and in the 2000s it emerged onto the national stage and spread to all 50 states.

In more recent years, GPUS members have updated the party platform to address the most pressing issues of our day in ways that are completely different to Democratic and Republican party strategies. And by adhering to grassroots democracy and decentralization as key values, the organization remains responsive and adaptive to the demands of a diverse and dynamic membership.

Meanwhile, the party has continued to solidify its widespread ballot access using a network of dedicated activists, most working as volunteers. Joining and getting active with the Green Party is easy (and free, in Michigan). Greens run independent, grassroots campaigns of all sorts at all levels and typically avoid corporate donors. The ideological commitments the party expects of members are clear, concise, and understandable, articulated as four pillars and 10 key values (see gp.org/platform).

Even as a massive group of people organized around our most basic demands, we can’t outspend the major parties on media and outreach (or anything else). Nor should we want or try to. If enough of us take the steps required to get our names on ballots, and at every opportunity support and vote for exclusively fellow members of our party, one that grows rapidly but organically from the core interests and concerns we share, we can forge a new path forward together.

But only as an independent, united, mass political party of common people.

Douglas P. Marsh is a journalist born in and then exiled from Traverse City because he couldn’t afford the rents. He visits family and friends often and has written for the Record-Eagle, Elk Rapids News, St. Ignace News, Industrial Worker, and more.

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