January 21st 2017 was a great day for the Ohio Green Party. Greens, DemExiters, and progressive independents from all over the state came together for the first full statewide meeting of the year. Attendees from Bowling Green all the way down to Cincinnati met in Columbus to discuss the growth of the party and a slate of candidates for the 2017-2018 elections.
More than forty people were packed into the private residence at any one time with the party’s diversity being clearly represented. The diversity wasn’t only present in demographics; various politics and philosophies abounded. Individuals identifying as socialists, eco-anarchists, liberals, left libertarians, and more had their voices heard. There was no shutting down of anyone. No-one was deemed too extreme or too moderate to be a part of any discussion, and all policy and campaign ideas were welcomed. The high level of inclusivity ensured that friends were made and regional networks created. Another high point was the very few criticisms of Donald Trump and the total absence of ad hominem attacks. The building was rife with positivity.
Opening remarks were provided by yours truly. Kirk Brampton I had the great fortune to be able to remind the audience that the Green Party is the only political party, the only one, to offer the big-picture remedies to contemporary issues. I outlined some of the problems we all currently face and explained the Green Party’s proposals for each. The first was single-payer healthcare as the only way to provide healthcare for all while ending the absolutely criminal system of families experiencing financial ruin because a loved one happened to become ill. Another was tuition-free education to lift millions out of crushing debt and remove one of the biggest barriers to pre-K and higher education. Other subjects included peace, environmental protections, and police demilitarization. Those who had never before been to a Greens’ event especially were thrilled to hear a party supporting such programs. It was also a pleasure to say that we are part of the only global political movement. Most democracies are home to a Green Party which shares many of our principles. It is thanks to those principles not being confined to a certain election cycle or location or even a section of society. They are part of our collective human experience.
Joe DeMare provided a presentation describing the Green Party’s structure, focusing on decentralization and localization. Joe, a tireless environmental campaigner, was the Ohio Green Party’s 2016 candidate for US Senate where he received an admirable 88,246 votes, a number made more remarkable when considering all minor party and independent candidates were running against the Clinton machine. There is a healthy number of existing county organizations, with at least three more in the works, and he shared advice on how to set up and grow a county party. Everybody was informed that there would be no restricting oversight of them. Each county organization could focus on its specific issues and would not be forced to follow a platform that did not serve the interests of its constituents. Control of the party is spread across geography and population, and political power resides close to home. It is a setup many voters can get behind.
The party also invested time in supporting the most marginalized sections of society. Anita Rios, a founding member of the Ohio Green Party and a beautiful public speaker, created a number of caucuses to allow specific groups to socialize and work on unique policy proposals. At the meeting, the women’s, black, lavender (LGBTQIA), youth, and disability caucuses met and gave the newest Greens another political home. There are currently plans for more, most specifically a Latinx caucus. Those groups will continue to reach out to their respective constituents and share their ideas and issues with the powers that be.
The meeting ended with an open-floor session where everyone was given the opportunity to ask any outstanding questions or to make final comments. The session was a fun and eye-opening experience with topics ranging from the necessary evil of fundraising to how to stay politically active between election seasons. Many of those in attendance were so energized, Yellow Brick Pizza (with its excellent selection of food and drinks) was half taken over by Ohio Greens who wished to continue their political discussions and experience more of the camaraderie offered by the Green Party.
Yes, there is work to be done but the Ohio Green party is less than a decade old and must overcome significant (and arbitrary) hurdles just to remain in existence. Thankfully, there is enough passion and energy to break down those barriers while at the same time continuing the necessary work for social justice. So the next time you hear someone say the Greens are only active every four years or they aren’t truly serious about creating lasting progress, please subtly roll your eyes and tell them the Green Party is here to stay. The party will run candidates every year (as it always has). It will speak out against injustice and take part in actions to fight back. It will provide a political home for anyone who has experienced bigotry or marginalization. But perhaps most importantly, Greens will never compromise their principles for the sake of winning elections. Political power and money are not the ultimate goals; peace and justice are.