Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is there no left in Oakland?

Is there no left in Oakland? 

I have a new found on line friend who wrote a blog saying that there is no Left in Oakland.  

Unfortunately I have to agree that there is no effective left alternative political movement yet in Oakland, but it is not for lack of trying by the Oakland Greens. 

I disagree that there are no alternatives, we Greens are offering an alternative. 

Green Party activists know full well that we are only part of the left movement in the US and in Oakland that is no different.  We have been constantly and consistently reaching out to other parts of the movement seeking some kind of alliance. 

We have been calling this kind of alliance / movement "progressive" but at this point the word is becoming meaningless, especially in Oakland.

“Left” is probably a better word because there is a better public idea of what it means. Add to that the Green commitment not to take big campaign contributions and the message to the public is very damn clear. 

Not ones to sit on our hands, we Greens have participated full tilt in local politics. 

Twice we joined the coalition to back Wilson Riles for Mayor when he was still a Democrat. 

After that Wilson joined the Greens and sat on the Alameda Green Party County Council for years. 

The campaign for Larry Shoup for Council, District 1 was a major step forward in local organizing.  Larry is still a local Green and has been offering advice and help to candidates ever since. 

Back when she was a Green and a progressive Rebecca Kaplan ran for council as a Green. 

She also helped produce a serious policy document with Wilson giving options for our city. 
When Amy Allison, also a Green, ran for District 2 we all but suspended the local Green Party  and all active Greens were pointed to her  campaign. 

Then no movement building happened to turn those campaigns into a social movement or anything like a city level political party.  A city level political party is common in democratic countries (into whose number I do not include this nation)  

In the 2008 elections, what you could call the Dellums midterm, no real alternative candidates stepped forward and the Greens were a bit tapped out.               

So then I personally ran for Mayor in 2010.  Frankly I almost did not do it, but when I got on stage for the first debate at the Unitarian Church, Wilson came over to me afterward and asked me to stay in the race, if only to speak truth to power at these events.  I also met my wife there. 2010 ended up being a good year for me. 

During the 2010 race we reached out and asked others to run with us and put up candidates for other seats up for a vote.  In any Oakland race that is about 9 positions between council, school board, mayor, city auditor and city attorney.  We also published some position papers on crime and the environment and picked up a lot of the ideas of earlier campaigns and put them back in there. 

We did not build a coalition, but we did put some new energy into the Greens and changed some of the conversation.  We also got a lot more votes than anyone expected.  Every time I hear people talking about using civilian employees in the police department, I feel that I am hearing the legacy of that campaign. 

Then Occupy happened.  Most Greens put their time into this mass movement and we did very little "as Greens" other than to try to stop the police violence. 

The Greens came back in 2012 and ran 3 candidates.  Me for District 1, Theresa Anderson for Council at Large and Randy Menjivar for Peralta School Trustee.  Vicente Cruz was on deck for school board, but he had to move away from a roommate from hell and ended up living in a different district.  We did pretty well.  Probably about 7% on average. 

Before we started, we invited all the progressives and leftists we could to a meeting at Humanist Hall.  The invitation was extended to form an "Oakland Progressive Alliance".  We heard a lot of encouraging words, but no other group stepped forward to present candidates. 

Now in 2014 we Greens are putting the same proposal forward.  Many of us attended Siegel Campaign meetings and I spoke bluntly at the first one that without some kind of movement all we have is a campaign that will dissolve on Election Day.  Again we heard a lot of encouraging words, but no action.  One of Dan's followers had the absurd proposal that somehow a progressive alliance was one thing and political campaigns were not part of that. 

Not to be deterred we invited Peace and Freedom, International Socialists and Dan Siegel himself to a Green Sunday where I put forward a series of proposed political points that we could build some kind of coalition around. 

The Greens have one candidate, Jason Anderson for Mayor, so far, as our contribution to the political soup this election.  We hope to have more and we will keep reaching out to others. 

Why bother? 

Because without a movement, nothing works.  

We have already elected a Dan Siegel, his name was Ron Dellums.  The most progressive people in town "drafted" Ron and ended up ever so disappointed.  Ask yourself.  Was the Dellums mayorship a time when progressive, people friendly politics came into City Hall?  Did things move forward for Oakland?  Did they even change?

The Dellums election of a good liberal hero and then hoping somehow a grass roots movement will kind of spring up afterwards has been tried so many times in US history that we should all just plain know better by now.  Most of the people drafting Ron should have known better then. 

Richmond would not be where it is today without the Richmond Progressive Alliance.  Look to Jackson, Seattle and other cities in the US that have been electing alternative, people-before-profits candidates and putting forward alternative proposals, and they all have one thing in common:

That one thing in common is grass roots movements based on active citizens.

In Richmond it took them a good seven elections to get to where they are today.
No gimmicks, no star candidates, just old fashioned community work.  
They built something real and have the results to show for it.

The Oakland Greens, like all Greens, will continue to reach out, look to make common cause with others, present candidates free from money ball politics and propose people centered city policies.

It is the right thing to do.



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