Green-turned Democrat-turned Green

I posted this at onthewilderside as “A peek indside a caucus, and inside party politics: Tom Cleland” Many of the characters in this story are in the Green Party or were in the Green Party. -KW

Posted at Toms Stream blog and sent as an e-mail announcement from Tom Cleland:

Subject: I hereby resign from the DFL
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 4:35 AM

On Sunday I participated in my SD44 DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, the “Democratic Party”  in Minnesota] convention, seeing for myself once again that the Democratic Party is where progressive politics goes to die.

This year I caucused DFL as explained on my blog Feb. 2. At the time, the Greens did not have a strong candidate for Governor. After hearing all the callers to radio shows, disappointed with Obama, I thought it might be a good time to check back in with the Dems to see how they were coming along.

As an uncommitted delegate to my senate district, I was courted by the gubernatorial campaigns, getting phone calls in the days leading up to the convention, and at the convention I had a chance to speak with four of the candidates in person. I knew that the front-runners for governor were Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and State House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who at nine syllables, I am shortening to MAK. I already knew Rybak was bad, as documented extensively on this blog, but I wanted to confirm MAK’s position on the Twins stadium tax.

There were plenty of workers for the various campaigns, wearing the T-shirts of their respective candidates. I asked a young woman working for MAK about the stadium tax, and she said MAK was against it. This didn’t sound right, so I called Farheen Hakeem, who told me she personally protested outside MAK’s house in 2006, and that MAK opposed putting the stadium tax to a vote of the people in Hennepin County. Later in the day, I spoke with MAK, and asked her about it. She said it was because she was opposed to referendums in general. Well, I happened to know that a referendum was legally required by statute for this type of expenditure, because the people felt it was that important, and so I found MAK’s answer unacceptable.

When I spoke with John Marty about stadium taxes, he said he was the only candidate who is answering with a definite “No.” The other candidates are saying, “Not this year.”

Inside the auditorium, there were plenty of empty seats in the section assigned to my precinct. I selected a seat along the aisle, and filled out a ballot with 72 platform resolutions as I listened to and watched the proceedings, which at the outset were largely procedural, along with speeches from officials and candidates. After MAK spoke, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, in the aisle to my right, got down to my level and urged me to vote for Matt Entenza. I said I was concerned about Entenza’s wife’s ties to UnitedHealthcare. Ellison said she doesn’t work there anymore. I knew she worked for an environmental company now so I asked about Entenza’s position on cap and trade. Ellison didn’t know but he said Entenza supports green energy.

Later in the day, Rybak also greeted me from the aisle, shaking hands and saying, “I don’t think we’ve met.” I said I was Tom Cleland and had taken issue with him about police brutality on my blog. He said, “Sure,” and stepped back, which is what I would have done. Continuing the discussion could have caused a scene. For the record, while I have a much lower profile and don’t expect him to remember me, we have met in the past. In 2001 when he was first running for mayor, I met him and his wife, I think at a house party or fundraiser, not sure if I introduced myself by name. In 2003, when a coworker and I were canvassing for Greenpeace on Nicollet Mall, I recognized him walking with his bicycle and said hi. And in 2009, in the coat check line for the Blue State Ball, I said I was with the Green Party, and he said we need to do all we can to get Cam Gordon re-elected. (I didn’t have a problem with Rybak endorsing Gordon, just the other way around.)  I also attended his first inaugural ball, though I don’t think I spoke with him that night. So I suppose my opposition to Rybak has built up gradually over the years.

The other candidate I spoke with Sunday was Paul Thissen. While he said that he supported the referendum, he did vote for the stadium tax. Later, during the walking subcaucus process, I told one of his runners that’s all I need to know.

They only allotted four hours for the convention, and ended up running over. I volunteered for the Rules Committee and probably should have pushed for more time, but I got busy and only attended one committee meeting. If I had to do it over again I would have at least asked to modify the agenda.

They allotted a half-hour for debating resolutions, which was fine by me. But some delegates thought that was too much time, so they introduced a floor motion to skip it, which failed. It would have taken less time if they had simply left it as is. So they debated resolutions, and the high point for me was when a woman criticized Obama on nuclear power. I was also pleased they had a resolution on divestment from Israel, though two people spoke against it and I didn’t hear anyone in favor.

Finally, they got to the most interesting order of business, item 16 of 23, the election of state delegates and alternates. These people will choose the next DFL-endorsed candidate for governor. The DFL typically uses the walking subcaucus method, where people form groups based on combinations of candidates or issues to try to get like-minded people to represent them at the state convention. I believe it was something like 231 SD44 delegates electing 21 state delegates, requiring 11 local delegates to send 1 delegate to state.

On the overhead screen they displayed the procedure text, which said that people would step up to the microphones for a first round to simply announce the name of their subcaucus, and then for a second round to take 30 seconds to describe their subcaucus. This is as I had recalled it from years past. So I waited my turn, and announced the name of my subcaucus, “Uncommitted Ten Key Values.” There was no applause, perhaps because they don’t believe in them, but probably because they don’t know what they are. I then flashed a peace sign, which I think got a little more reaction. So everybody took turns announcing the subcaucus names, but they were running out of time so they passed a floor motion to skip the caucus descriptions! (This is not what I’ve been used to. In the Green Party, we have candidate speeches, then the members ask questions of each candidate, and then the members comment.) If I had been allowed to speak for 60 seconds, I would have said from memory what I had rehearsed:

“Hi, I’m Tom Cleland, and this subcaucus is Uncommitted Ten Key Values. The Key Values are Democracy, Ecology, Peace, Justice, Feminism, Diversity, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics, Global Responsibility, and Future Focus. These are borrowed from the Green Party. I was with the Green Party for ten years. As you may know, Greens can sometimes tip the balance. If they had run a candidate for U.S. Senate, Al Franken would not be elected today. I can say that Marty might be acceptable to Greens, but Greens are afraid that Marty might endorse Rybak, who is bad on police brutality, or Anderson Kelliher, who opposed putting the stadium tax to a vote of the people. We can all learn a lot from progressive point person Dave Bicking, I’m wearing his T-shirt. Let’s go, Uncommitted Ten Key Values!”

So we began our first walking process, I held up a sign listing the 10KV, and sadly, no one joined my subcaucus. However, I did have a chance to shout parts of my message to anyone within earshot in the noisy auditorium. A number of runners, both committed and uncommitted to candidates, asked me to join their groups. I said only if I could be the delegate (to state) and of course there was no deal. I also shared some of my talking points with them.

I waited until the second and final walking process, before ceremoniously walking over and joining the Marty subcaucus, led by Lena Katharine Gardner, who recruited me, and who spoke on behalf of Steve Kelley at my precinct caucus, before he dropped out. In the Marty subcaucus, I was pleased to see a couple other familiar faces, Jordan Kushner, also of my precinct, and Diane Steen-Hinderlie’s husband John. Diane is a fellow Green. We were able to get two delegates to state. My understanding is that usually the subcaucuses are supposed to each hold elections within their groups to determine the actual people who will go to state, and allow for some vetting to take place. But to make sure we would get the two delegates, Lena had to cut some deals, giving a delegate to the Tom Rukavina subcaucus, and an alternate to the “No Corporate Personhood” subcaucus. Between that and gender balance, with only two women expressing interest in traveling to state, people scattered and there was no vote. Instead, there was a tense discussion with the Rukavina people over what the deal was. A Rybak worker was standing nearby eavesdropping, so I took the opportunity to tell him about the police brutality videos on this blog. So here’s our delegation, I just hope everybody honors their agreement to vote for Marty by the second ballot at state:

Female delegate: Lena Katharine Gardner
Male delegate: Brian Rice (Rukavina)
Female alternate: Cathy Murphy
Male alternate: Noam Freshman (No Corporate Personhood)

I had some nice visits with members of the delegation. I got to talking with Noam, and said that what I’m looking for in a delegate is a willingness to walk out of the DFL convention. He asked why and I basically said to join the Green Party. He then brought out the old argument about Florida 2000 and I mentioned Lieberman and asked if he was asking us to ignore the issues. He said no and had to go register but I wish we could have kept talking. It may sound arrogant on my part, but I feel he was asking us to ignore the issues and vote a certain way because more people are less informed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think like Noam, and so we are stuck, and I’m afraid we will remain stuck until we face a crisis of unprecedented magnitude. I feel like I need to study survivalism or something.

The SD44 delegate count was:

Rybak 8
Anderson Kelliher 5
Marty 2
Thissen 1
Uncommitted 5

Before I left I told DFL superdelegate Eric Margolis that I was going to reactivate my Green Party membership. He asked why and I said I was appalled that Rybak got 8 delegates. He said I inadvertently helped them get another delegate by triggering the second walking phase. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just one more reason to quit the DFL. I know that Lena cut that second deal with the personhood people during the second phase. Not sure how we would have done if we had relied on rounding after Phase One.

On the way out, I saw more Rybak workers and told them about the brutality videos on my blog. I wish someone would make a TV commercial out of them.

DFL rules state that to caucus with them, you cannot be an active member of another political party. So I was an inactive member of the Green Party. I did not caucus Green, and I did not post to the GP listservs. I was very critical of the 5CD Green Party in January when many of the members would not sign a pledge to vote against Obama in 2012. Since then, however, there have been some positive developments, including a 5CDGP press release opposing the reappointment of MPD Chief Dolan, and Green Council Member Cam Gordon voting against Dolan March 3 and March 12. While I now wish to reactivate my membership in the 5CD Green Party, I may identify more closely as a friend of the newly-formed SD61 Green Party, which has a higher proportion who have signed the pledge.

My choice for governor? I want to take a closer look at Richard Klatte. If the Greens don’t endorse him, I might write in Al Flowers or Ken Pentel. Or John Marty, but only if he does not endorse the DFL nominee.

Tom Cleland
Golden Valley

16 thoughts on “Green-turned Democrat-turned Green

  1. Green Party fan

    Greatly enjoyed this Green Party post…Thanks..

    And a heartfelt welcome back to the Green Party..

    Bring all your friends to the Green Party..

    Get on the ballot as a Green Party candidate here and now…

    And all your friends, relatives, country folk, city folk, suburbans too…into the Green Party now…

  2. Green Party fan

    From our hard working friends at Green Party Watch tonight…

    Green Party in

    Green Party
    March for Immigration Reform in Washington DC, Sunday 3/21
    Posted by Dave Schwab at March 17th, 2010

    Many Greens are planning to march against US wars in Washington DC on 3/20/10, but not all may be aware that a march for immigration reform is planned for the very next day in DC. Participants in Sunday’s March for America will be marching for “Immigration reform for new American families and economic justice for all American families”. The marchers would surely be glad to discover that there’s already a national political party that shares their values. In other words, the March for America is an opportunity for outreach that Greens shouldn’t miss.

  3. Green Party fan

    Green Party Watch also reports.

    Huffington Post coverage of Rich Whitney’s budget proposals
    March 17th, 2010 by Dave Schwab · No Comments
    Thanks to Huffington Post Chicago for covering Rich Whitney, Illinois Green Party candidate for governor. In an article entitled “Rich Whitney, Green Party Governor Candidate, Announces Budget Proposals”, HuffPo Chicago compares Whitney’s comprehensive plan to turn the budget deficit into a surplus with Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed education cuts and Republican Bill Brady’s lack of a plan. You can read the full article at the Huffington Post.

  4. Green Party fan

    The News Herald is reporting on Green Party candidates in Ohio tonight.

    Could Green Party activists, or Libertarians, take over the Ohio government in Columbus and many offices in D.C. after November ballot choices are made?

    Libertarians will run for seven out of eight statewide offices. The Constitution Party and Green Party will run here and there.

    A Rasmussen Report says such third-party candidates are getting national attention. As its survey said last December:

    “Democrats are attracting 36 percent of the vote. The Green Party candidates picked up 23 percent, and Republicans finished third at 18 percent. Another 22 percent were undecided.

  5. Green Party fan

    Green Party soars….

    Picks Green Party presidential nominee

    Uribe-Aligned Parties Win in Colombian Legislative Vote

    Candidates from four parties in President Álvaro Uribe’s conservative coalition had a strong showing in the March 14 legislative election, winning 66 of 102 Senate seats, reports the Hemispheric Brief blog. In particular, the Partido de la U won 27 seats, giving that party’s presidential candidate, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, a boost. La Silla Vacia, in a 10-point examination of Sunday’s election, reports on surprisingly high voter support for the Green Party, which likely won more votes than the Liberal Party. Ex-Mayor of Bogota Antanas Mockus won the Green Party’s presidential-candidate primary, also held Sunday.

  6. Green Party fan

    Green Party winning support of Nobel Prize winnng writer, and former President…

    Havel endorses Greens
    ?TK | 17 March 2010
    Prague, March 16 (CTK) – Former president Vaclav Havel, along with other tens of Czech intellectuals, supported the Green Party (SZ) as the sole real political alternative that does not disdain civic society yesterday, ten weeks ahead of the elections.

    The group, formed in support of the Greens, was organised by Jan Ruml, former interior minister and former leader of the now marginal Freedom Union, who recently joined the party.

    Havel recalled that he has supported the Green Party for a long time.

    Havel knew Green Party founder Petra Kelly long before the fall of Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall. Petra Kelly and the Green Party were key leaders in the velvet revolutions focus on nonviolence…a fundamental Green Party value…

  7. Michael Cavlan RN

    I know Tom Cleeland. In fact Tom and I work on issues together, specifically on the issue of police brutality in Minneapolis and St Paul.

    That’s about all I really have to say on this subject.

  8. Kimberly Wilder

    Everyone knows different stuff about internet connections and web-sites. But, of note: The more comments a site has the better. It makes it look “alive” and gains it more authority.

    So, we don’t need people to slap up stupid stuff or anything. But, a few meaningful comments with content ain’t a bad thing…

    Thanks for the sharing.


  9. Ross

    Kimberly, it’s just that it pushes other comments off the recent comment list. It’s not that I don’t appreciate GPF’s news updates, of course.

  10. Tom Degan

    Are corporations really persons?

    Do corporations think?

    Do corporations weep?

    Do corporations fall in love?

    Do corporations grieve when a loved one dies as a result of a lack of adequate health care?

    Do corporations have loved ones?

    Are corporations even capable of loving?

    Do corporations sometimes lose sleep at night worrying about disease, violence, destruction, and the suffering of their fellow human beings?

    Do corporations feel your pain?

    Can a corporation run for public office?

    Is a corporation capable of having a sense of humor? Is it capable of laughing at itself? (EXAMPLE: “So these two corporations walk into a bar….”)

    If a corporation ever committed an unspeakable crime against the American people, could IT be sent to federal prison? (Note the operative word here: “It”)

    Can a corporation register to vote?

    We all know that corporations have made a shit-load of cash throughout our history by profiting on the unspeakable tragedy of war. But has a corporation ever given its life for its country?

    Is a corporation capable of raising a child?

    Does a corporation have a conscience? Does it feel remorse after it has done something really bad?

    Has a corporation ever been killed in an accident as the result of a design flaw in the automobile it was driving?

    Has a corporation ever written a novel or a dramatic play or a song that inspired millions?

    Has a corporation ever risked its life by climbing a ladder to save a child from a burning house?

    Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or a Tony? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or a Polk or Peabody Award? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

    Has a corporation ever performed Schubert’s Ave Maria?

    Has a corporation ever been shot and killed by someone who was using an illegal and unregistered gun?

    Has a corporation ever paused to reflect upon the simple beauty of an autumn sunset or a brilliant winter moon rising on the horizon?

    If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there are no corporations there to hear it?

    Should corporations kiss on the first date?

    Could a corporation resolve to dedicate its life to being an artist? Or a musician? Or an opera singer? Or a Catholic priest? Or a rabbi? Or a Doctor? Or a Dentist? Or a sheet metal worker? Or a gourmet chef? Or a short-order cook? Or a magician? Or a nurse? Or a trapeze artist? Or an author? Or an editor? Or a Thrift Shop owner? Or a EMT worker? Or a book binder? Or a Hardware Store clerk? Or a funeral director? Or a sanitation worker? Or an actor? Or a comedian? Or a glass blower? Or a chamber maid? Or a film director? Or a newspaper reporter? Or a deep sea fisherman? Or a farmer? Or a piano tuner? Or a jeweler? Or a janitor? Or a nun? Or a Trappist Monk? Or a poet? Or a pilgrim? Or a bar tender? Or a used car salesman? Or a brick layer? Or a mayor? Or a soothsayer? Or a Hall-of-Fame football player? Or a soldier? Or a sailor? Or a butcher? Or a baker? Or a candlestick maker?

    Could a corporation choose to opt out of all the above and merely become a bum? Living life on the road, hopping freight trains and roasting mickeys in the woods?

    I realize that this is pure theological speculation on my part but the question is just screaming to be posed: When corporations die, do they go to Heaven?

    Our lives – yours and mine – have more worth than any goddamned corporation. To say that the Supreme Court made a awful decision last January is an understatement. Not only is it an obscene ruling, it is an insult to our humanity.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

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