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December 1, 2012

Our November election: This Isn’t What Democracy Looks Like, by Robert W. McChesney

Robert W. McChesney, professor at the University of Illinois, has written in the Monthly Review magazine (available on line) a cogent analysis of the last election in context of the U.S. economic and political system which explains in part the problems that U.S. Greens have faced in proposing an alternative vision to the American people. Excerpted below (with permission of the publisher) are three paragraphs of McChesney’s article that summarize the relationship of the corrupted political system in the U.S. to the interests of the economic elites. Readers are urged to read the full article on the Monthly Review website: http://monthlyreview.org

This Isn’t Waht Democracy Looks Like, by Robert W. McChesney, Monthly Reivew November 2012, On the brink of the 2012 presidential election, and without considering that electoral contest itself, it is useful to comment on the state of U.S. democracy. The most striking lesson from contemporary U.S. election campaigns is how vast and growing the distance is between the rhetoric and pronouncements of the politicians and pundits and the actual deepening, immense, and largely ignored problems that afflict the people of the United States. The trillion dollars spent annually on militarism and war is off-limits to public review and debate.1 Likewise the corporate control of the economy, and the government itself, gets barely a nod. Stagnation, the class structure, growing poverty, and collapsing social services are mostly a given, except for the usual meaningless drivel candidates say to get votes. The billions spent (often by billionaires) on dubious and manipulative advertisements—rivaled for idiocy only by what remains of “news” media campaign coverage—serve primarily to insult the intelligence of sentient beings. Mainstream politics seem increasingly irrelevant to the real problems the nation faces; or, perhaps more accurately, mainstream politics is a major contributing factor to the real problems the nation faces.
…..
Depoliticization” is the term to describe this phenomenon; it means making political activity unattractive and unproductive for the bulk of the citizenry. This is, to varying degrees, an important and underappreciated issue for all democratic societies where there are pronounced economic inequalities. It moved to the fore when all the great battles over suffrage were won and there was universal adult suffrage. Scholars have pointed out that some, perhaps much, of the impetus for the creation of the field of “public relations” a century ago was to lessen popular understanding of and opposition to corporate power, and to discourage informed popular participation in politics. The idea was to “take the risk out of democracy” in a society where the majority of potential voters may not be sympathetic to the idea that government’s job was first and foremost to serve the needs of big business and the wealthy few.59 An omnipresent commercial culture that emphasizes consumption over civic values, and a lack of organized political power, go a long way toward greasing the wheels for depoliticization. Twentieth-century voting turnout among eligible adults in the United States has been low compared to much of the rest of the world and its own nineteenth-century standard. It has been a generally depoliticized society, even before Dollarocracy.

…..
The United States of the past generation is a classic example of a depoliticized society: most people know little or nothing about politics and are estranged from it except at a superficial level. Young people are constantly reminded it is not “cool” to be political, and the point of life is to take care of number one. The evidence suggests that most people, especially working-class and poor people, have no influence over politicians and policy, so to the extent people understand their real status they will lose incentive to participate. Regardless of which party wins it seems like nothing ever changes that much, at least for the better; elections are often fought over symbolic issues only loosely related to actual policies or actual political values. It is a game played by and for elites, where tangible issues of import can be in play. But it is a spectator event for others, who are seen by the elites as objects to be manipulated. http://monthlyreview.org/2012/11/01/this-isnt-what-democracy-looks-like

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November 19, 2012

Arlington Sun Gazette article: “GREEN PARTY GETS A BOOST FROM [Arlington] VOTERS, BUT CAN IT GO HIGHER?”

Arlington Sun Gazette, November 15, 2012 Political Notes……………….(part of a larger article)
http://www.sungazette.net/arlington/news/political-notes-edition/article_be320002-2d9c-11e2-90a8-001a4bcf887a.html

GREEN PARTY GETS A BOOST FROM VOTERS, BUT CAN IT GO HIGHER?
Green Party County Board candidate Audrey Clement wasn’t catapulted into office on Nov. 6, but her double-digit showing in the race did raise the bar for future Green candidates.

While Clement’s 12.4-percent share of the vote was well below Democrat Libby Garvey (58.2 percent) and Republican Matt Wavro (28 percent), it roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have received in previous County Board races when both Democrats and Republicans were on the ballot.

The better-than-before results for the Greens lead to two questions: Who is voting for the party’s candidates, and can the Greens take that vote percentage higher?

Conventional wisdom suggests that, barring some anomaly in a given race, Democrats in Arlington usually can count on between 57 and 63 percent of the vote in general elections, with other parties splitting the rest.

Garvey’s victory was on the lower end of that spectrum, so some of Clement’s votes probably came from disaffected Democrats. But with Republicans held to less than 30 percent of the vote in the race, Greens also may have picked up votes there, too.

“Clearly, most of my votes came from independents rather than Democrats, as Libby Garvey actually increased her margin of victory by 9 percentage points over the March special election,” said Clement, who was making her third bid in 12 months for County Board.

“I believe most of my vote came from those who are unhappy with the status quo, specifically the county’s reckless and irresponsible capital-spending program. So the question is, why the independents didn’t vote for Wavro?”

Clement said. “I think the answer lies in the uneasiness of many voters over the lack of affordable housing, and their general agreement with me that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are addressing the issue adequately.”

While their candidates’ fortunes have been trending upward, challenges facing the Arlington Green Party include the lack of significant political infrastructure and lack of “bench strength” from which the party could draw future candidates.

The Arlington Green Party largely has focused its efforts on County Board races; when there have been no Republicans challenging Democratic County Board candidates, the Green Party has won up to 32 percent of the vote. The party occasionally has supported candidates for School Board and House of Delegates.

The national Green Party did have a presidential candidate on the ballot in Virginia, but Jill Stein received just 0.23 percent of the vote statewide and just 0.31 percent in Arlington. The vote for Stein in Arlington was about one-third the total received for Libertarian Gary Johnson, representing a party that doesn’t have a significant local presence in Northern Virginia.

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November 17, 2012

Stein gets about 8,000 votes statewide; Clement gets 9,400 votes in Arlington County race (12%), Galdo gets over 1,200 votes in 11th Congresssional district race

Thank you to all Virginia Greens who supported our three candidates on the ballot this year. I thank everyone who got signatures for the candidates to get on the ballot; for helping distribute campaign literature, and who gave of their own money and time to help them.

Jill Stein for President got about 8,000 votes (0.3%) statewide, fairly well distributed across the state with slightly more in the 8th, 11th and 1st Congressional Districts. Audrey Clement got 9,400 votes in Arlington County Board of Supervisors election or 12 percent of the total votes cast. Green Joe Galdo in his first campaign for office for the 11th Congressional seat in Fairfax area got about 1,200 votes.

Arlington Greens have had a Green candidate for county board for six years straight. Audrey got the highest percentage of the vote for any Green facing both a Republican and Democratic candidate. In 2009, the Green candidate got about 32 percent of the vote against only a Democratic candidate for County Board in Arlington.

Unfortunately, Jill Stein only got about 350 votes in Arlington County, despite Audrey’s excellent vote results. Many, many Green voters for local candidates showed they would NOT vote for our national Green presidential candidate.

Jill Stein got nearly three times the number of votes our 2008 Green candidate Cynthia McKiney received. Nationwide, Stein is expected to get over 1 million votes, the highest for any Green candidate since Ralph Nader in 2000. The Stein campaign did well and was organized, despite widespread media blackout and considering its lack of funding.

The two major parties spent a reported $2 billion directly for the presidential race, plus independent political campaign comittees funded largely by rich people and corporations spent probably another $2 billion. With about 135 million votes cast, the two major parties and their corporate allies spent about $35 per vote cast.

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October 27, 2012

Voting Green in a Swing State–op editorial

Voting Green in a Swing State
By B. Sidney Smith (Page 1 of 4 pages)
OpEdNews Op Eds 10/26/2012 at 06:05:15
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Voting-Green-in-a-Swing-St-by-B-Sidney-Smith-121025-298.html

(Preface: This article isn’t really meant for everyone, so I might be able to save you some time. If you think climate change isn’t a serious electoral issue, this probably wasn’t written for you. If you think American presidents should conduct wars on their own authority and that it’s okay if they secretly assassinate whomever they (secretly) decide are bad people who might hurt us then you needn’t concern yourself with what follows. If you think the Bill of Rights of the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply when terrorism is involved, or that letting gays have civil rights should be decided on a state-by-state basis like slavery before the civil war, or that the health of the environment isn’t more important than economic growth, or that whistleblowers who expose governmental and corporate crimes should go to prison but that privileged lawbreakers shouldn’t, or that whether a candidate is electable should depend on how much she pleases wealthy donors–if any of these approximates your own take on the issues, please read no further. You’ll be bored. Honestly.)

I live in a purple part of the country (Virginia) and move in academic circles, so of course I know many, many people who will be voting for Obama. If that doesn’t strike you as funny, then you are the person I have written this for.

Of course it is impossible to know, but if I murdered Santa Claus in front of their children, the look on my Obama-voter friends’ faces could scarcely be much different than the look they get when I say I am voting for Jill Stein.

“But this is a swing state…you have to vote for Obama…what if Romney wins?!?”

The pain in their voices tugs at my sympathies; their fear is very real. I want to reassure them, but I was cured a few presidential elections ago. I won’t be drinking from that cup again.

At first they assume I don’t understand what’s at stake. They tell me about the Romney/Ryan agenda. They tell me about Obamacare. They tell me about DOMA and the Fair Pay Act. But the conversation wanes when I am not only unsurprised by the information but able to supply amplifications and corrections. I’ve read the (detailed summary of) the Affordable Care Act. I know about Romney’s probable agenda. I even know the age and bodily afflictions of key members of the Supreme Court. In short, I know what’s at stake.

This is awkward, and for some there is no plan B, but experienced partisans know where to take it next. There is something wrong with me. I’m a purist, a liberal elitist who won’t be satisfied, arrogantly “engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation.”1 I indulge in a “pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t.”2 I trade the common good for private conceit.

Fortunately my friends are mature people with trained minds, so for most it is enough to mention the ad hominem fallacy, to remind them that my personal faults–which I stipulate are legion–aren’t relevant to the validity or otherwise of my position in this debate. Usually we can agree to leave that brand of “discourse” to the professional bloviators.

So at last we come down to it. What are the arguments? There seem to be only two reasons for a progressive (you’re still reading, so I suppose that includes you) to vote for Obama. Either (1) you think Obama is not so bad, really, and has done a lot of good and could do more, or (2) Obama’s record makes you green about the gills, but the thought of Romney winning is intolerable.

Obama enthusiasts have by heart a widely-circulated3 list of his achievements: The Fair Pay Act, the auto bailout, legislation for credit card reform and hate crimes and student loans, some tax cuts, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, raising fuel efficiency standards, and ending the war in Iraq. Some also add killing bin Laden, the stimulus, and a new Start treaty with Russia. Everyone adds Obamacare.

Some of these really are achievements. The Fair Pay Act is a no-brainer, for one. Others are marginal. Credit card reform stopped some abuses but left millions imprisoned by usurious interest rates on their debt, with their homes and futures at the mercy of predatory lenders. If you are drowning it is definitely better to have fewer stones around your neck. You still drown though.

Editor’s Note–we generally only publish one page articles on Greens of Arlington; this is only page one of four pages; please go to website above for the remaining three pages.

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October 15, 2012

Jill Stein–responds to Washington Post question in video, Oct. 12, 2012

Washington Post: Jill Stein responds to five key debate questions
Posted by Jill Stein for President 1844.80pc on October 15, 2012 ·Brook Silva-Braga of the Washington Post asked Jill Stein for her responses to five key questions from the first presidential debate.

Watch the video of Jill Stein’s responses at the Washington Post.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/thefold/green-party-nominee-jill-stein/2012/10/12/b68c8f6a-14ac-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_video.html

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October 11, 2012

Green Party Issues Split Verdict on County Bonds, says Arlington Sun Gazette article

Green Party Issues Split Verdict on County Bonds
Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 5:00 am
http://www.sungazette.net/arlington/news/green-party-issues-split-verdict-on-county-bonds/article_505358f6-0f15-11e2-aeb3-0019bb2963f4.html

The Arlington Green Party has voted to support two of the four county bond referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot, to oppose one and to stay neutral on the fourth.

Meeting on Oct. 3, party members endorsed the $31.9 million bond for Metro and transportation, as well as the $28.3 million bond for community and neighborhood infrastructure.

But like the Arlington County Republican Committee several weeks before, the Green Party urged voters to reject the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond. Greens said their opposition was because the vast bulk of the bond funding would fund a “vanity water park” at Long Bridge Park.

Greens took no position on the $42.6 million school bond; party members split on whether the funds were the best way to address crowding issues.

“More must be done to open more schools and provide more classrooms, but the hasty School Board plans to build two new elementary schools next to existing schools, and to simply add more trailers or to build more classrooms at already overcrowded elementary schools, is ill-advised,” Arlington Green Party chairman John Reeder said in a statement.

County Republicans have endorsed all bonds except the park bond, and the Arlington County Democratic Committee has endorsed all four.

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October 5, 2012

Arlington Greens support bonds for Metro and transportation, and community infrastructure on the November 6 ballot in Arlington, but reject parks and recreation bond, and neutral on the school bond

Oct. 5, 2012

Arlington Green Party supports bonds for Metro and transportation, and community infrastructure on the November 6 ballot in Arlington, but rejects parks and recreation bond, and stays neutral on the school bond.

Arlington Greens voted at their October 3 meeting to urge Arlington voters to approve the $31.9 million bond for Metro and transportation, and the $28.3 million bond for community and neighborhood infrastructure. Greens urge Arliington voters to disapprove the $50.5 million bond for parks and recreation (most of which will go to build a vanity water park in Crystal City at the Long Bridge Park). Greens supported the two Virginia Constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

Arlington Greens stayed neutral on the $42.6 million school bond, and were divided as to whether the school board plan to spend these funds was a wise and sustainable way to reduce student overcrowding and at the same time improve student academic achievement.

Arlington Green chairman John Reeder said,” Arlington school enrollments are rising, and that more must be done to open more schools and provide more classrooms, but this hasty school board plans to build two new elementary schools next to existing schools, and to simply add more trailers or to build more classrooms at already overcrowded elementary schools is ill advised.

Green parent and activist Sandra Hernandez said, “the school board’s building plan is too costly and eliminates green space and recreation fields. “ She recommended that the board open up smaller, magnet and new elementary schools, at the Fairlington Community Center or the Madison Recreation Center, and even open a new performing arts and arts middle school at the Newseum building in Rosslyn, now used as a failing performing arts center at county expense.

Arlington Greens rejected the $50 million bond for recreation and parks as wasteful. AGP chairman John Reeder says the county does not need the proposed aquatics center with five pools because there already are three Olympic-sized public pools available at three Arlington high schools, and many private summer pools as well. The Long Bridge Park is remote, and inaccessible to most county residents, and aging parks and ball fields in other parts of the county should take precedence over building five vanity swimming pools. The county board has persistently neglected parks like Lubber Run Amphitheater in order to fund its pet vanity projects like the Long Bridge swimming pools and the money-losing Newseum in Rosslyn, Reeder said.

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