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Traditional ladder to electoral success is questioned

In this issue:

Matt Gonzalez Elected President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War in Iraq: The Council on Foreign Relations
Greens explore running anti-war candidates: Panel examines incumbents' records
It's time to vote Green
Editorial: Greens look at the presidency; no easy answers
Traditional ladder to electoral success is questioned
Unlikely Candidate, pt. II
Nader: Roots of a green champion
Excellent health care, coming soon to California
The Land is Our Mother: Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement
Letters to the Editor
News Clips
Political change happens: Minnesota, former Soviet Union serve as examples of abrupt, unexpected shifts

by Forrest Hill

Greens often argue that a Green candidate should run for—and win—lower office, like school board or city council, before seeking higher office. While this builds name-recognition it also sets a limit on party growth. For example, if Assembly candidates should first be County Supervisors, we would wait six years or more before anyone is qualified to run for partisan office in this state. The question is, can we afford to wait that long?

Consider the Minnesota model, where in the past decade voters elected to high political office two individuals with little political experience. Paul Wellstone, US Senator, and Jesse Ventura, Governor, had never held office before, were heavy underdogs, ran grassroots campaigns, and won precisely because voters were fed up with the politics as usual crowd. When people become completely disenfranchised, a large shift in the political landscape can occur, even when that shift is not predicted by political pundits.

Large-scale changes in governance happen at critical points in history, when the prevailing ideology no longer works—or is no longer believed in. The issue of slavery led to a presidential victory for a new party, the Republicans, headed by a first time office holder, Abraham Lincoln. The corruption of the CCCP led to the abrupt disintegration of the Soviet Union. Today, the destruction of the environment, and the continuing wars required to prop up global capitalism, will catalyze the Green revolution.

The times demand that we run candidates for partisan offices even if they have little experience as office holders. We need to find people who are qualified leaders, can articulate the Green message, know how to run a political campaign, and can learn the job of being a legislator.

When Lincoln ran against Douglas for Senator, he lost the election, but in debating with Douglas, he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President. Today we must begin to make our platform known to a wider audience and running partisan races is one of the best vehicles for accomplishing that mission.

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