by Asher Platts
Welcome all to the Maine Green Independent Party's 30th anniversary!
It warms my heart to see so many familiar faces gathering to celebrate the 30th anniversary the Green Party in the United States. While 30 years may seem like a long time, especially where I am 31 years old.
It may also seem a long time for those here who did the heavy lifting of forming the Green Party starting back in 1984, but really in the arc of history, the Green Party is still a very young, as organizations go. We have only had ballot status since 1998-- so as far as the Government is concerned, we've only existed for 16 years. (And I look forwards to celebrating our 20th anniversary of ballot status with you all in 2018).
We are pioneers. We are pioneers of political philosophy in action. We are pioneers of a new way of relating to the earth and to one another in a political context. We have moved beyond simply speaking truth to power, (which as Richard Wolff says, leaves you with the truth, and them with the power), we have moved beyond holding demonstrations to beg that power does as we ask. We have moved beyond all of that to demand power. We demand that everybody gets a seat at the table.
While as an organization we are very young, our membership, age-wise, is now very diverse, with the Father of the Maine Green Party, John Rensenbrink in his 80s, and myself, the Chair of the Party only just recently turned 31.
We are now entering an age where there are members of the Green Party who have been registered as Green since they were 18 years old, and have never been anything but. For our founders, there was a period of 14 years of this party's history where being a registered Green was not even an option. For many today, it's unquestioned and accepted that the Green Party exists as an option.
And I strongly believe that the way forwards for this party, is to look towards youth.
It was youth who were present in large numbers at occupy encampments all around the United States...
It is the youth who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s seeing Democrats and Republicans alike bust unions, sign NAFTA, send our manufacturing jobs overseas, and destroy the American Middle class.
It was Youth who grew up during the Exxon Valdez disaster, the Chernobyl disaster, the Gulf of Mexico spill, and countless coal mine collapses.
And it is Youth who will be inheriting an earth, which thanks to Capitalism and Climate Change, may no longer support human civilization when they get to retirement age.
Well let's be real here-- when I get to be retirement age.
It is youth who are leading the charge against the economic quackery of Austerity with the US Uncut movement, and more recently the #UMaineFuture movement, who at USM just recently saved their professors from being laid off while administrators get pay raises.
It was youth who led the charge in the Occupy movement, and came up with that brilliant framing of the 99% vs the 1%.
While the Democrats and Republicans, firmly entrenched in the system of corporate funded political puppetry have delivered to us crisis after crisis, people are ready for an organization that actually has their interests at heart.
And that should be us.
It has to be us, because we are the only political party that cannot be bought by corporate money-- because we refuse to take it. Our political conventions are not sponsored by the defense industry, or the banking industry, or the chemical industry, or the nuclear power industry, the coal industry, or the oil industry.
Now in the past this has been somewhat of a weakness. We have not had as much money as we perhaps would like to get our message out. And even to this day, many people in the state of Maine do not even know that we exist. (and there are plenty of people in both the Democratic and Republican party who wish that we didn't exist, but that's another story, which perhaps Pat LaMarche or John Rensenbrink can talk more about).
But I want to be real with you here. While we are celebrating our 30th anniversary, we have not arrived at some great peak where now we can stop working.
Who here does a lot of hiking? You'll enjoy this metaphor. You how when you're hiking, you see what you think is the peak, and you're hiking and hiking and hiking all day long, look up to the peak, and then you get to what you think is the top, and you're like, “Ha! I've arrived!” But then you look around and where you are is actually just a little shoulder on the ridge of the mountain, and the actual peak is much further up, and it turns out that you're not even half-way there yet? Has this happened to anybody else?
That's where we are right now. We've only crested a shoulder, the mountain's true peak is still further still.
Despite being around for 30 years, we're still not ready to be there for our fellow citizens in the way we should be. In the way that we need to be. In the way we MUST be.
Since we are still such a young organization, and since we still have so many growing pains, despite the fact that we make up 4% (and growing) of the population statewide, we are not organized in a serious way that we can tackle entrenched power head on.
There are now 37,000 registered Greens around the State of Maine. You can clap more, that's a big deal, we should celebrate that.
But how many local chapters of the Green Party are there running candidates for city council, school board, State House, and State Senate? Who here is a chair of a local group?
How many local groups are there doing their political science homework so that they can help their candidates get into office to create the change that we need to? How many local groups are there moving beyond simply doing trash cleanups, or holding signs, to creating political power?
Who here has participated in a Green Party voter registration drive? It makes me happy to see so many hands.
Who here is going to participate in a Green Party voter registration drive when you get home? I'd like to see more hands than that. Every single one of you should have their hand raised.
Look around the room. You owe it to everybody in this room to get organized.
You owe it to the 37,000 people who have registered as Greens.
You owe it to the future generations who may not have a planet worth living on.
You owe it to yourself! Some of the most rewarding experiences I've had in my life have been while doing organization for the Green Party!
While in a housing project, I met an older woman who had never registered to vote. It was quite clear to her that neither party cared about her as a poor person. I didn't need to explain to her my platform. She pitched my platform to me assuming that I never would have thought of these things-- taxing the rich, single payer healthcare, legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage, fully funding our State College system so that it was tuition free... And after talking with her for 15 minutes, she registered to vote for the first time in her life at 65 years old, and she registered as a member of the Green Party.
Now speaking of pioneers-- how many people have run for office as a Green? Please stand up.
How many are running for office right now? Let me tell you something-- I'm lucky to be in Portland Maine where there is a small cadre of people who have done this before. We have people running in areas where we have NEVER RUN GREEN PARTY CANDIDATES BEFORE.
Who here is running in an area where there is no active local Green Party? Please stand up. These people deserve a round of applause! They are pioneers, laying the groundwork for future local chapters of the Green Party, future Green Party mayors and city councilors, future local groups that can help us get candidates on the ballot for US Congress and Governor. Everybody look around the room, and find these people and talk with them when you get the chance. We need to be supporting them! Find out what they need help with see how you can help. Isn't that something we believe in as Greens? Helping people?
And to make sure that we don't have people running in areas without local groups, we need every single one of you here today, to go back to your home towns and organize local chapters of the Green Party. We need to to engage in voter registration drives, and get the registered Greens up from 4% today to 15% in four years.
One way that you can help with that, is you will notice that at your seat at the dinner table, there are envelopes with the Maine Greens logo on them. In addition to people power, we also need to pay for supplies, and people's time-- we cannot afford to let activism be something that only rich people with free time can do as a hobby. We need to be thinking about how our struggle to transform the system can meet people's needs in the short term, especially since so many of our hardest working activists are poor people themselves, we need to make it possible for them to live while they do the work of improving the life of their brothers and sisters. So please consider giving today. And even more important than one-time donations, we need you to make donating to the Green Party a regular habit, so that we know how much we can budget for on a month-to-month basis. Please consider becoming a sustaining donor, by making your donation a sustaining donation.
In exchange for becoming a sustaining donor, you will get an annual newsletter from the Maine Green Independent Party keeping you up to date on all what's happening in the State of Maine in regards to all things Green Party. You will also, depending on what level you choose to donate at, get one of these sweet pinback buttons, and a t-shirt, which you can proudly wear and and let people know that we still exist, despite 30 years of attempts by the corporate-run government to make us disappear.
So while we today will look at where we've been, let's keep our eyes on the future as well, a future in which the Green Party is a political force, free of corporate money, infused with the power of the people, a force that must be contended with, because we are actively winning victories towards that just, green future that we all deserve.