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This is How a Meaningful Third Party Movement Begins

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My criticism of most 3rd party political campaigns are well known. I see them, personified by the Nader campaigns, as quixotic attempts every four years to show left-wing anger with the Democratic Party but completely lacking any legitimate political strategy, movement-building skills, or long-term plans. They appear and disappear and nothing happens during the election off years. They don’t organize locally, they don’t try to challenge the Democratic Party on the city and county levels. Essentially, they are spasms of self-righteous anger that occasionally do enough damage to elect Republicans, which then makes life for the 99% much worse. Also, thanks for Iraq, Ralph.

But here is an alternative. Lorain County, Ohio is a Democratic dominated county. The split there is between unionists and centrist anti-union hacks. When the Democratic Party overturned a Project Labor Agreement that guaranteed union jobs, labor took matters into its own hands. The Central Labor Council ran its own set of candidates for City Council and won most of the races.

This isn’t a full-fledged third party movement. But it’s exactly how labor and third party activists should operate. You start on the local level, you organize, and you win. You then build from there. What the CLC will do going forward is unknown. But not only have they sent a message to the Democratic Party that they can win elections if the Party doesn’t fall in line behind labor, they have provided a guidebook for how those to the left of the Democratic Party can reject the party and still make a difference.

If only the Green Party activists and Nader defenders would learn from this.

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  • FMguru

    It’s also how the wingnuts took over the Republican party starting in the early 1960s. They organized and fought at the local level, taking over school boards and town councils and state party organizations, opportunistically picking off congressmen and state legislators, promoting like-minded judges for municipal and state courts, and building their power brick-by-brick until they had control of the whole thing.

    They tried to top-down it in 1964, got burned badly by the Goldwater landslide, and hunkered down to fight in the trenches. 16 years later, they were in power, and we’ve been dealing with ever since then.

    • DrDick

      This is exactly what I have been saying for years now. There is no fast track to changing the system. You have to start at the bottom and build up an organization over decades. The unwillingness to do this is why I cannot take the Greens seriously.

      • FMguru

        I remember reading about Greens actually doing the community organizing thing in the mid-late 1990s and making some progress in places like Boulder and Berkeley and slowly expanding their reach.

        And then the opportunity to run a celebrity spoiler campaign in 2000 came along and they jumped on it with both feet and welp so much for all that local organizing.

        • DocAmazing

          You might want to check into cities with Green mayors.

  • low-tech cyclist

    I’ve been saying for some time that progressives ought to start a “party within a party” – basically have an organization that would support the Dem nominee against the GOP nominee in all cases, but runs its own candidates in primaries anyplace where either (a) the winner of the Democratic nomination is pretty much guaranteed to win the general election, or (b) the winner of the Democratic nomination is pretty much guaranteed to *lose* the general election, so why not win a few converts while losing?

    • jefft452

      “or (b) the winner of the Democratic nomination is pretty much guaranteed to *lose* the general election, so why not win a few converts while losing?”

      Yes, Which is why criticizing the primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln was foolish
      She was doomed from the beginning, and her anti labor stance did nothing to help her

      It is one thing to be to the right of the median D voter nationwide is your state is also
      It is quite another to campaign on how you hate D voters as much as the R’s do

      • politicalfootball

        I agree with this, and will go further and say that even if the primary campaign damaged Lincoln – even if it risked causing her to be defeated – that’s the sort of risk that has to be taken.

        Republicans (and Democrats) like to say that Tea Partiers cost the GOP Harry Reid’s Senate seat, and they’re right. But the Tea Partiers understand that their priorities aren’t the same as those of the Establishment Republicans, and they acted accordingly.

        Sharron Angle’s nomination – like similar nominations – caused electoral defeat but struck terror into the hearts of elected Republicans everywhere. The Tea Party effectively replaced dozens or hundreds of representatives who weren’t on their side with a gang that deeply respected their political power.

        Reid’s election was a loss for the Republicans and did cost the Tea Party something, but overall, it was a big win for Tea Party policy priorities.

        • Random

          Reid’s election was most definitely not even kind of a win for Tea Party policy priorities (insofar as they even have distinct policy priorities from the ‘Establishment’ Republican Party in the first place).

          The Tea Party is a top-down billionaire-funded astroturf movement that failed so spectacularly to advance any agenda that the people who funded it have now pulled the plug on it. It won’t even exist by this time next year.

          • I think the tea party has done very well considering they are a minority and aren’t going to get everything they want.

            Part of the deeper problem here is that the American political system doesn’t treat third party-type factions very well, which means that a minority trying to achieve policy goals which cannot find a constituency in one of the two parties basically has to work in ways that are counterproductive to the party that is somewhat more in line with it. In other words, the tea party certainly has set back the Republicans in certain ways, but at the same time, they have probably obtained more as a matter of policy than they would have had they just stayed silent and gone along.

            The other thing to say about this is this really is the left’s choice. The worst part of these debates is the centrists who lecture the people on the extremes as to what they must do to achieve political power. If you are on the left or the right, the centrists are the people you are often trying to defeat in order to obtain a better social order. It’s a conversation that conventional supporters of one or the other parties basically have no business being in.

            • Random

              at the same time, they have probably obtained more as a matter of policy than they would have had they just stayed silent and gone along.

              What are these policy obtainments of which you speak? The Tea Party as an entity distinct from the larger Republican Party has accomplished precisely nothing in the policy sphere as of this writing, they’ve only cost the GOP elections.

              The worst part of these debates is the centrists who lecture the people on the extremes as to what they must do to achieve political power.

              By far a bigger problem is the extremists tend to think they represent a silent majority of the country (or in the case of the Democrats, a silent majority of the political party).

              It’s a conversation that conventional supporters of one or the other parties basically have no business being in.

              Free country last time I checked.

              • djw

                What are these policy obtainments of which you speak?

                I suppose shutting down the government for 17 days for no apparent reason is a policy.

          • politicalfootball

            Reid’s election was most definitely not even kind of a win for Tea Party policy

            Right. It was Angle’s nomination that was the win. And while that victory, and victories like it, were costly, they netted out to a big win for Tea Party policy preferences over the preferences of their two major enemies: Establishment Republicans and Democrats.

            It’s possible, as you say, that bug-fucking lunacy won’t lead to further tangible results, but as Dilan E. notes, bug-fucking lunacy is a hard sell under normal circumstances. The Tea Party has accomplished an enormous amount, in part because they understand the importance of major-party infrastructure.

            • Random

              they netted out to a big win for Tea Party policy preferences

              They most certainly did no such thing. Just establishing that they even have different policy preferences than the Establishment Republican party in the first place is a tall order in fact. Claiming that the GOP somehow changed its platform after 2010 is an even bigger one.

              The Tea Party has accomplished an enormous amount, in part because they understand the importance of major-party infrastructure.

              They have accomplished precisely squat in terms of policy changes to the GOP, which after November 2010 kept right on pursuing exactly the same policies they were pursuing prior to November of 2010 using the exact same tactics.

              The Tea Party was an astro-turf campaign funded by billionaires from 2009-2013. They helped ensure the Democrats would control the Senate for 4 years longer than they probably should have, then died off without accomplishing anything else.

              • PhedUp

                I don’t think it makes a difference whether you elect tea partiers or so called establishment republicans. The disagreement between the two is over tactics not substance.

    • Greg

      There’s an organization in Wisconsin that does exactly this called Wisconsin Progress.

    • Karen

      There are tons of state rep, county, and city races in Texas where the Republican is unopposed that would be ideal for this kind of challenge. Heck, the candidate might get free local press from just being odd. Also, while losing is very likely, it’s an absolute certainty if you don’t run.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Running in safe Republican seats has two other benefits:

        1. Republicans have to spend some resources (money, campaign-staff time, etc) on races they don’t otherwise have to.

        2. When there’s an opponent, if the Republican says something bug-fuck crazy enough to lose the seat, then there’s someone to lose it to. If there’s no Democrat at all, then the mad Republican wins anyway. Remember Ted Stevens losing Alaska to Mark Begich?

        There would be a third if it weren’t for the American fear of carpetbagging – fighting those sorts of seats is good experience; your candidates come out battle-hardened and more capable when they go for winnable seats.

  • NonyNony

    This is good – this is really good. This is something that has been needed in the Democratic party for a long time – real pushback from labor. (I’d like to see the Greens and others do the same thing, but they don’t have the power base in the party the way that labor does – in some parts of the country messing with the unions is still playing with fire and goddamn I’m glad to see those idiots up in Lorain County get their fingers burned by this).

    And, of course, the Democrats in Ohio refuse to learn:

    In an angry letter, Lorain County Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini called for Democratic union leaders to resign from their party posts as precinct captains.

    Yup – that’s what you need to do. Make it even easier for them to splinter off and form a local third party. Why with that kind of forward thinking maybe they can guarantee John Kasich another term in the governor’s mansion and a Republican controlled legislature in the next election! Heck of a job, guys.

    I like how the above sentence follow on after this paragraph:

    The Lorain central labor council is a wide federation, including unions both in and out of the AFL-CIO. A local immigrant rights organization is slated to affiliate, and a student-labor group at nearby Oberlin College will be brought on board, too. Over the years the council has often fought alongside community forces—including defeating a Walmart coming in, working against racist attacks, and working for minority hiring.

    Sounds to me like if you want “Better Democrats” in Lorain you’re gonna want to vote for the Independent Labor Party. I should see if they’re looking to branch out further south here (though our Dems are usually pretty good – better than the idjits you often get from the Cleveland area at least).

    • jefft452

      “In an angry letter, Lorain County Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini called for Democratic union leaders to resign from their party posts as precinct captains”

      Tony Giardini can go piss up a rope
      If the sole member of the Conn for Liberman party can campaign for John McCain and still get a committee chair from the Democratic majority then the CLC and support their own candidates and still be precinct captains

      • NonyNony

        Especially if this is accurate:

        Most of the anti-labor incumbents delayed filing their candidacy papers in order to prevent any challenges in this year’s Democratic primary. So the labor council decided to run its own slate of two dozen candidates, mostly union members, for city council seats in the towns of Lorain, Amherst, Avon, and Avon Lake.

        I’d bet that if there had been an honest to Grod primary, more incumbents would have won and they wouldn’t be looking at this splinter group at all.

        Another group of shortsighted Ohio Dems. Color me surprised.

        • Steve LaBonne

          Ohio Dems make me sick. I live in Medina. Redistricting put our asshole teabagger congresscritter, Jim Renacci (a Medina resident), in the same district with Betty Sutton, who represented much of Lorain County for years. My wife runs a candidate forum each year at the public library in Wadsworth (southeastern Medina County). So did Sutton show up to introduce herself to voters in the part of the district new to her, where people had no idea who she was? Why no, she didn’t. My wife couldn’t get past the lowest-level munchkin in her office when she called to issue the invitation. Sheer laziness and incompetence, typical of incumbents who have never had to run a competitive race. Of couse Renacci trounced her.

          • I was in Wooster when Renacci was first elected. Ugh.

          • Rigby Reardon

            Florida Dems are worse. I know that may sound hard to believe, but it’s true.

        • Crunchy Frog

          Good to see the quote mention Oberlin. I went there but haven’t visited for a very long time, however there is a unique relationship between the college – if ever there was a “professional left” it is there – and the deeply working class county where the college resides. The relationship hasn’t always been positive or successful, but when the two groups have worked together good things have happened, and this might be a template for use elsewhere.

          Someone else mentioned Wisconsin Progress. I’ll bet there is a similar dynamic there.

          • Gregor Sansa

            Another Obie here; class of ’98.

  • politicalfootball

    The post (and the comments to date) are all dead-on. The objection to Nader was never about support for Democrats; it was about support for liberal policy. Show me a Nader who moves policy leftward, as they are doing in Lorain County, and I’ll vote for him.

  • Gary K

    For what it’s worth, Oberlin College is in Lorain County, just south of one of the municipalities (Amherst) in which the labor council ran its own slate. If you have any friends there, you may want to alert them about these developments.

  • Yes. One thing that gets down my sleeve about these attempts is the sheer whininess and laziness. They deserve the presidency because they want it and asking them to prove they deserve it is met with angry, disdainful cries about elitism.

  • Greg

    It sounds like it’s not really a third party, but rather a second party in an area where the Democrats can be the conservative party.

  • Joe Bob

    Another example is support of the post: Ross Perot’s Reform Party. I’m in Minnesota, where Perot’s party took hold and gave us Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura in 1998. After the national Reform Party blew up, Ventura joined the Independence Party, which later spawned the Minnesota Independence Party – a totally distinct entity.

    The Reform Party was more successful than most third parties in that it actually found success at the level of a statewide office. That said, in the past 15 years, precisely 1 Independence Party candidate has run as an IP candidate for state legislative office and won. Even that one barely counts because she ran in a GOP primary, lost, then ran in the general as IP. Otherwise, grassroots development of IP candidates has been almost non-existent.

    Separately, the Green Party in Minnesota was able to accomplish some bottom up organizing and get two candidates elected to the Minneapolis City Council in the mid-00s. That was nice while it lasted but when ward redistricting rolled around the Democratic Party redrew those wards to take the Greens out of contention.

  • L2P

    If only the Green Party activists and Nader defenders would learn from this.

    What CAN they learn from this?

    I know they pay lip service to the living wage and social justice. I know they theoretically support universal education and health care. But when it comes down to it, every Green Party activist I’ve ever met will pay attention to those issues until OH GOD THE DOLPHINS! STOP TUNA FISHING! and STOP THE PRESSES, OBAMA IS USING DRONES! They just, fundamentally, don’t seem to care about local politics.

    It’s like a microcosm of everything that’s problematic with liberal politics. Gung ho for big picture issues, presidential and national (or statewide, sometimes) battles, and generation-changing fixes. Terrible on day-in, day-out slogging for marginal improvements.

    An example. If the Green Party wanted to, it could easily take over Los Angeles politics. We have 20 or so neighborhood councils that are elected with, like, 300 votes each, and are actually required to weigh in on a lot of issues. They are DOMINATED by the Democratic Party because no one else bothers to even run or vote in the elections. Where’s the Green Party? Nowhere. In Los Angeles, a place where the Greens are pretty popular and actually, you know, exist.

    Man, I’d like to be able to support the Greens. But it’ll never happen.

    • What they can learn is exactly what you suggest. Go take over Los Angeles. But of course they won’t for the problems you suggest.

    • LeeEsq

      Revolutions are very sexy but unsurprisingly a lot of radicals get bored and frustrated at the minutiae of everyday politics because it isn’t hot enough. Its why the current incarnation of the GOP can not govern.

      • The radicals should all be encouraged to go to Congo and if they survive then Bolivia. ;-)

    • Tyto

      I’m not convinced the Neighborhood Councils are as easy as you suggest. You’re correct that very small voting pools, and even smaller turnout, mean you don’t need many votes to get a seat, but the voters who really care about those things tend, in many areas, to be older, more little-“c” conservative, and less prone to making the kinds of decisions that progressive progress (sorry–couldn’t think of anything better right now) in L.A. would really require.

      Also, the recent (~ten years) influx of State legislators looking for Council and other citywide seats has really marginalized the “citizen politicians” by bringing truly big money into any race of local significance.

      There is definitely opportunity, but it will be a very, very long process.

    • Karen

      Green Party tale: back in the early 90’s I was a precinct chair for the Travis County Dems. There was a town meeting to discuss a highway project in the Barton Springs watershed area, which is both a fragile ecosystem and where most of the population growth is. The residents are mostly suburban types, moderate in habits and opinions, but sympathetic to a genuine appeal to environmental protection if it were delivered reasonably. The Green Party guy shows up to give his speech unbathed, in dirty cutoffs and T-shirt, and carrying a skin drum. A drum. He reeked, in the most literal sense, of smug disapproval of the rest of us and gave a speech exactly like you’d expect. The highway project was approved almost unanimously. Had he taken even tiny little steps of compromise, like leaving the damn drum at home and taking a shower, we would have listened.

      • This is awesome. In fact I think it could be at least a major sub-plot if not the actual plot in an interesting novel.

        • Karen

          Good idea!

        • Karen

          And I didn’t even include the part about how he thought I was the Republican, even with the donkey name tag. Apparently Real True Progressives never wear business clothing. (I had on a navy blue linen dress and blue pumps.)

  • JRoth

    I’ve been thinking along these lines for years. I live in Pittsburgh, a Democratic town*, and all too many local pols are Dems in name only, but they win primaries because there’s no flag for progressive opponents to raise against them. That is, there’s no clear, recognizable way for a primary opponent to communicate to voters, “This guy is effectively a Republican, you should vote for me instead.”

    One thing Yglesias is right about is that municipal elections should be nonpartisan, or rather that the parties shouldn’t be Dem and GOP. The Constitution inadvertently enforces a 2 party system nationally, but there’s no reason local elections should be limited that way. As it is, low information voters who would never vote for Romney end up voting for business-friendly non-progressives because they’re nominal Democrats.

    *In the recent mayoral election – won by a good, progressive Dem – the GOP candidate was a Orthodox Jewish survivalist who, a month before the election, sold his house and moved to Israel (for work, I believe), all the while insisting he was still a candidate. He got like 5,000 votes.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Besides pushing the party to the left, initiatives like this might also restore some basic competence, at appealing to voters and winning election, in a party organization that has rotted away in insular self-satisfaction. Which is certainly the case with the pathetic Ohio Democratic Party as a whole. (Its uselessness has probably already handed John Kasich an easy road to re-election, which makes me want to puke.)

  • Patricia Lil

    I have my problems with the Greens but I think the implicit criticism of them (Nader campaign) is unwarranted. Organizing for local races is mostly what they do. There are currently 129 Green officeholders according to their website. What they certainly don’t do is run someone for president every four years and otherwise disappear.

    • Please.

      Yes, they run a few local campaigns–and that’s great. I hope they do a lot more of it. There are a few people in the Greens who are committed to real party building. But the vast majority of energy in that movement happens every 4 years and the entirety of running a presidential candidate is a complete and total waste of time.

      • Patricia Lil

        All I can say is that certainly is not true in my local area. They are very active locally all the time. My criticism is that they run too many local candidates. I think they should focus their energy and funds more.

      • Erin

        Erik, I won’t disagree with you, and it’s an internal fight we have all the time. I’m on the side of start small, build slowly, but I’m forever up against folks who still believe in the Glorious People’s Revolution, and I don’t mean that in a tongue-in-cheek way. We’re stuck with a lot of old Leninists who I just can’t understand. So, we do what we can.

  • Random

    I think you meant to say “this is how a meaningful signal to party leadership is sent”.

    • Aren’t they the same thing? Either the party gets the message and adjusts its behavior, or they don’t and you start shoring up your own apparatus so you’re prepared when you do fully break off.

      • Random

        Either the party gets the message and adjusts its behavior, or they don’t and you start shoring up your own apparatus so you’re prepared when you do fully break off.

        Either the party gets the message, or your message doesn’t have enough electoral support to justify a third party in the first place. There just isn’t any end-game that results in an actual third party here.

        • But I mean, is it that ironclad? If the Dem leadership there is so committed to this particular position that they end up losing a bunch of safe seats, is that not evidence they’re perhaps underestimating support for that position? Can’t they just be wrong?

          • Random

            Let’s see…

            The younger of the two parties has been around for 150 years now, the other one is even older than that.

            The country has experienced dramatic changes in every single aspect of life since then.

            Both political parties experienced dramatic changes in platform and philosophy since then.

            But neither political party has splintered off into a third party in all that time (Bull Moose doesn’t count!)

            Yeah, I’d say its a safe bet that they aren’t going to up and splinter into another party just because of a disagreement over a relatively minor labor issue.

            • Is it relatively minor?

              • Random

                Relative to the larger political sphere it’s a pretty small disagreement, yes.

                Relative to the sweep of history that took place for the last 200 years (during which the Democratic Party has continued to exist without splintering into a third party) it’s not even a blip.

  • Larry

    The Greens and/or Naderites just prove that there are indeed pointy-headed liberals out there.

  • To me the most interesting part of the story is at the end:

    “In an angry letter, Lorain County Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini called for Democratic union leaders to resign from their party posts as precinct captains.”

    Seriously? Their answer to a grassroots revolt is to try an purge these guys from the Party? How do party leaders get chosen there to begin with?

    • Davis X. Machina

      Mass. Democrat here.

      How do party leaders get chosen there to begin with?

      Longevity. Seniority. Part-time employment. Jobs where it’s easy to do a week’s work in two days. Nepotism. No one else wants it.

      And the occasional Mike Dukakis type. Occasionally..

    • NonyNony

      Their answer to a grassroots revolt is to try an purge these guys from the Party?

      yup – that’s the Ohio Democratic Party in a nutshell. Shortsighted and full of jokers who put their own personal needs first.

      How do party leaders get chosen there to begin with?

      From what I’ve been able to tell – connections. It’s all about the connections. Just like everything else in this country, who you know tends to be more important than what you know or how you apply it.

  • jon

    Bingo. The Green Party generally doesn’t do the day to day local organizing that is essential to winning elections, and getting political action on any subject. Rallying to get votes for a charismatic presidential candidate every four years, on a platform that is mainly about moral posturing, is not how you win elections, get political power, or build an enduring organization.

    European Greens have done a far better job of building an enduring party organization, developing local talent, running for public office at all levels, and having platforms that respond to the myriad of voters daily concerns, as well as the hot button moral topics. They try to demonstrate competence and capability to governs, and they try to deliver constituent services and advance their agenda when elected. If defeated, they don’t just go away.

    My local Greens aren’t really trying to win elections. They come out of the woodwork a few months before elections and run a couple of lackluster candidates for top of the ticket races. They have no real platform, they don’t show an ability to manage much of anything, they don’t even try to register voters, and they act like Florida Republicans when they don’t sweep the races.

    BTW, Gore coughed up the election all on his own. He and his team have never been held to account for their colossal errors. Nader was a rounding error and a convenient scapegoat.

    • Gregor Sansa

      There’s plenty of blame to go around.

      (And I say that as someone who voted for Nader, albeit in a safe state. I’m not ashamed of doing that, but Nader certainly should be ashamed of not bowing out of the swing states.)

      • Jordan

        I think there is a pretty good distinction to be made, in general, between individual voters who choose Greens and Green party candidacies or activists or party decisions.

        It the latter that deserve the vast majority of the blame in almost all cases.

    • IM

      European Greens have done a far better job of building an enduring party organization, developing local talent, running for public office at all levels, and having platforms that respond to the myriad of voters daily concerns, as well as the hot button moral topics.

      True. But proportional representation tends to lower the threshold to enter politics.

  • GoDeep

    Given the recent pension “reform” in IL, I’m curious to see if a similar strategy might emerge in IL. Tho I’m doubtful.

  • I think you can see this occurring in Seattle to some degree. I don’t know a huge amount about socialist alternative, but Kshama Sawant’s win for city council is a huge example of this occurring. They also ran a campaign for city council in Minneapolis which came within 300 votes of winning. Also: one thing many news articles about Kshama Sawant don’t mention is that she ran for an AT-LARGE position in Seattle, which means a constituency of 600,000. This was nearly equivalent to a congressional campaign, albeit with lower turnout.

    In any case, I see Seattle as a model for other cities and heavily liberal areas. Like Erik said, push on the local level, win city council races, and soon you’ll see more HUGE stuff like this occurring:
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/wage-war/Content?oid=18332873
    If $15 an hour is attained in a major US city, its a huge victory for the left-wing, and a third party candidate (Sawant) will have played a huge role.

  • Anna in PDX

    I think the Working Families Party in Oregon has done a lot in this vein but then I remember that they have not convinced me to join them as an actual party member because I am still staying a Democrat. I do support their policy initiatives.

  • mb

    …completely lacking any legitimate political strategy, movement-building skills, or long-term plans.

    I take your point RE: 3rd parties and agree wholeheartedly. I consider the current Supreme Court, the “Nader Court” and wish there was a hell for him to burn in. However, the above quote sounds depressingly like the Democratic Party as it stands now. I wish daily for a better, if not different, party.

  • Bob G

    I’ve been involved in the Los Angeles neighborhood council system since 2001, and I understand that it is easy to get elected to one of them because there are lots of them (95 total) and they have lots of board seats, and only a few voters. All of this is true, but it has nothing to do with city elections. There are 15 city council seats in a city of 4 million people, which means that each seat represents a little over a quarter of a million people. That means that running for the city council is expensive and laborious, essentially equivalent to running for a congressional seat in some places or for the state legislature in others. The pay is also very high, attracting termed out state legislators. Running for mayor is hugely expensive and attracts all the usual special interest money.

    In brief, the Green Party has about as much chance of taking over Los Angeles as it has of taking over Iowa. Not going to happen.

    The other point is that city administrations have to balance their budgets, so in a depressed economy, the most liberal elected officials end up cutting budgets and making those difficult choices that political candidates love to talk about. In practice, they keep public safety (police and fire) fully funded, cut back on everything else, defer basic maintenance, and use whatever smoke and mirrors they can find. The alternative is municipal bankruptcy, so there isn’t much choice.

    As the pundits point out, the parliamentary systems hold an election and then create a winning coalition. We have to create the winning coalition and then win the election. The Democrats figured this out finally, and much as I disagree with some of their positions, the progressive caucus within the Democratic Party is doing what the Green Party cannot, which is to bring some of their positions into the congressional deliberation.

    By the way, the route to gaining a party position involves three things: loyalty, loyalty, and loyalty. Those of us who like to have some semblance of intellectual integrity (ie: not supporting obvious crooks and thieves) tire of the game and opt out after a while. Organized labor has a somewhat privileged position in the party because in a state like California, the Democratic Party is answerable to labor rather than the other way around.

    If labor would decide to take a stand for all of the non-unionized retail workers and fast food workers and even cubicle dwellers, and would back their position up with secondary actions (ie: break the law), they could create the situation that the occupy movement tried to achieve.

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