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Green Progress Requires Proportional Representation

Green Progress Requires Proportional Representation

November 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Elections & Candidates, Featured

Post-Election Statement, November 9, 2012

Gary Swing, Green Party Candidate for Progress, CD1, Colorado

Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign was remarkably transparent in advancing the planned agenda for his second term as War Criminal In-Chief. Obama’s campaign boldly announced their slogan: “FORWARD.” Some people myopically viewed this as one word, rather than observing it with the proper perspective. In 2008, Obama supporters dutifully voted “For-War-A”(Afghanistan), “For-War-B” (Iraq), and “For-War-C” (Libya). In 2012, they enthusiastically voted “For-War-D” (Iran, Syria?)

Every election year we hear the same nonsense about “voting for the lesser of two evils.” Despite the spirited chants of “We Are the 99%,” 99% of American voters continue to embrace the greater evils: perpetual wars of aggression, imperialism, authoritarianism, and environmental devastation. This is the shared agenda of the two corporate parties. Yet we still hear the same tired old arguments that have never been valid: that voting your conscience is a wasted vote; that a vote for a Green Party candidate is a vote for the Republican, and so on. Voting Green can’t “spoil” elections that are already rotten to the core. If you vote for candidates who don’t represent your values, then you are wasting your vote.

The Democrats and Republicans design the election system to keep themselves in power and shut out any meaningful opposition from start to finish. The fundamental flaws in their antiquated system could easily be fixed. These issues remain because the system as it stands serves the interests of the elite and powerful.

Gary Swing & Jill Stein

Let’s get one thing straight: Green Party candidates don’t “take votes away” from Democrats. Democrats take votes away from Greens. When was the last time you heard someone say: “I’d love to vote for Obama, but he doesn’t have a chance, so I’ll vote for Jill Stein instead?” A legitimate election system would enable voters to cast their ballots for the candidates they prefer without the fear of “helping to elect” the candidates they like least. Modern voting systems used by most democratic countries allow voters to cast effective, meaningful votes to secure fair, proportional representation for the parties or candidates that they prefer.

Green Party candidates have been running for partisan office in the United States since 1988 and in Colorado since 1994. The Green Party has elected members of parliament in dozens of countries with party list forms of proportional representation. In the United States, about 135 Green Party members held local, mostly non-partisan elected offices as we headed into the 2012 election. These are citizens elected to offices like school boards and town councils, and who happen to be registered Green. Very few of these successful candidates appeared on the ballot with the designation “Green Party.” Twenty-four years of running Green Party campaigns under the winner-take-all voting system has brought us to the level of success and public recognition that we enjoy today. “The Green Party? What’s that?” “Jill Stein? Who’s he?”

2012 Green Candidate for U.S. Vice President Cheri Honkala & Gary Swing

The reality is that we face a near total media blackout of any alternative to the increasingly fascist political establishment that dominates the U.S. The Green Party is invisible in the United States. We won’t make real progress unless we change the voting system. We are yelling into the wind to a deaf and blind audience, begging for the opportunity to help rearrange a few deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship has already struck the iceberg, and it’s sinking fast, but the band is still playing the same tune.

The big issue today is survival. Human overpopulation and over-consumption have brought us to the brink of economic collapse and ecological catastrophes on an unprecedented scale.

A short-term supply of cheap, abundant fossil fuels has temporarily enabled human population to overshoot the long-term carrying capacity of the planet. The world’s human population has grown dramatically from one billion in 1804 to two billion in 1927 and seven billion in 2011. In 2010, the World Wildlife Foundation’s “Living Planet Report” estimated that human ecological impact exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity by 50%.

About 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States, but the US accounts for 25% of global consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. If the average person on Earth consumed as much as the average American, the Earth could not support a population of more than 1.5 billion people.

A recent study by MIT revisiting the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” study concluded that if we continue to follow the path of “business as usual,” the global economy will collapse and the world’s human population will start to decline precipitously by 2030.

Global warming is happening today as a result of human industrial activity, yet the Democrats and Republicans are acting together to accelerate this ecological catastrophe with new oil pipelines, coal burning, fracking, and tar sands exploitation. Mass extinction of species is taking place at an alarming rate. Topsoil is being depleted. Agricultural production is diminishing as nearly a billion people face chronic malnutrition and lack access to safe drinking water.

We need a radical and rapid transition to an environmentally sustainable way of life. We’re running out of time. The message of the Green Party is one that desperately needs to be heard, understood, and adopted.

Green politics, if it is to truly offer an alternative, is about speaking truth to power and standing up for what you believe is right, regardless of the expected outcome, even if you know that you can’t win. The truth is we don’t have much power under the existing political system. Electing a handful of citizens who happen to be Green Party members to small, rural school boards and town councils is a good start, but no more than that.

The winner-take-all voting system ensures that business as usual continues unchallenged, securing short-term profits while guaranteeing long-term catastrophes. If we believe that the message of the Green Party is important; if we think the Green Party should continue to exist; if we want the Green Party to win and gain real political power, then changing the voting system is a necessary and urgent first step towards making the Green Party a viable political entity.

We need to enact citizen initiatives to elect legislators by a system of true proportional representation, using party lists. Political parties should be represented in legislatures in proportion to their share of the vote. We need a truly representational voting system for electing legislators, like the method used to elect Australia’s Senate (not semi-proportional voting plans, winner-take-all voting systems such as instant runoff, or approval voting). If we intend to create a strong, effective Green Party that impacts public policy at all levels in the United States, we need to make implementing proportional representation a top priority.

 Denver Green Party members Gary Swing, Aaron Ney and Ryan Jones with Jill Stein

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Comments

2 Responses to “Green Progress Requires Proportional Representation”
  1. David Cary says:

    Proportional representation is a prerequisite for a legitimate representative democracy. Greens recognize that more than most. Like a lot of other things, change is often best started locally. Work at implementing proportional representation on city councils and school boards using multi-winner ranked choice voting. Minneapolis and Cambridge, MA are already using it.

  2. Jesse Kumin says:

    “We won’t make real progress unless we change the voting system.” – Agreed. I wrote a guest editorial published 11/3/2013 in the Boulder Daily Camera: http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_24436600/guest-opinion-democracy-takes-hit-at-large-voting#idc-cover outlining the very same issue and asking Boulder voters to vote against PLAN-Boulder County (PBC). See the comments below the editorial for the paragraphs the Daily Camera editor decided to censor.

    PBC is an elitist group of 300 or so people, 1/3rd of 1% of Boulder’s population, that has completely dominated city and county politics for over three decades. They use At Large voting and other tools to keep themselves in power.

    Boulder is the low hanging fruit on the Front Range. Our political system is corrupt. We have a relatively well educated voter population receptive to change, open to new ideas (usually). The status quo is hard to change though. Entrenched powers use their power to entrench themselves further, certainly true with PBC. I suggest that it would make a good target for electoral reform for the Green Party. When I explain Ranked Choice Voting to people here they’re receptive. Concentrate the greatest force possible on the point where it will bring the most likely and visible results. If Boulder were to go to Ranked Choice, it would be a visible example for other Front Range cities where most Coloradans live.

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