I don't remember exactly when or how or why I decided to join this Meetup, even though I joined just within the past few weeks. Mostly I was attracted by the fact that some influential Progressives among them were organizing the protest march on the evening of Inauguration Day (i.e., tomorrow night) from City Hall to the Mickey Leland Federal Building.
Last night, about 50 people gathered upstairs at Midtown B&G for the HAP meeting, Kayleen and I among them. We stayed for about an hour of the scheduled 90 minutes. Jere Locke of Texas Drought Project updated those assembled on local efforts to educate civic leaders on climate change, as well as actions involving civil disobedience. Jere is very knowledgeable on these and related topics. However, he had given multiple presentations yesterday before he arrived at the meeting, was a bit worn out, and was not in top form.
For Kayleen and me, the major disappointment was not Jere's presentation, but the small number of Progressive hands that went up when he asked questions like, "Who here is familiar with Bill McKibben and 350.org?" This is not trivial information: While McKibben himself is not the ideal spokesperson on climate issues, his little organization has spawned the largest single-day worldwide environmentalist demonstrations in history.
Major Disappoint Number 2
Next, a youngish gent in a suit sans cravat introduced himself as a current Democratic precinct chair in Midtown and a candidate for the chairmanship of the Harris County Democratic Party. Sorry, I seem to have forgotten his name. Something Miller?
UPDATE: His name is Johnathan Miller, and he's currently occupying the chair in Precinct 32.
Positioning himself as a progressive candidate, he did not articulate any progressive positions on issues (because when you're in a roomful of Progressives, everybody is supposed to know what those positions are anyway). He ticked off multiple strategies for making Harris County bluer, mostly by improving HCDP's organizational tools and structure. Among other problems, he cited:
- the number of precincts with no precinct chair, making up approximately half of the thousand-plus precincts in the county
- the glaring lack of communication between existing precinct chairs and regular Democratic voters, caused in part by
- the horribly outdated and inaccurate contact listings that the county party continues to distribute
- the difficulty involved even in finding the name and phone number of your precinct chair on the HCDP website (Update: Start here)
- the lack of any meaningful training or even a procedure manual for precinct chairs, unlike what they have in other metropolitan counties in Texas.
We left before the gent finished his campaign pitch.
The Wall Against Which We Beat Our Heads
By "true Progressive" and "truly progressive," I do not refer to the pro-business Democrats who run things in Houston, who talk a good line on social issues but still bed down with banks, energy companies, real estate developers, and other avatars of Big Capital. These nice folks in Houston Area Progressives believe that they can take over the Democratic Party, wrest it from the clutches of the donor class and make it the Party of the People that it once was or could have become. I quit beating my head against that particular wall 20 years ago.
It would be too easy to respond, "But Dave, you've been doing the Green Party thing all these years, and you still don't get Greens elected, even to the state legislature. Hell, you're still trying to break the magical 5% barrier when the Democrats bother to field a candidate. Even little-known Democratic candidates who barely campaign, like Grady Yarbrough, can get 30% or better just because they run as Democrats."
True, it seems ridiculous when Greens go ga-ga over their candidates polling at a whopping 3% in four-way races. But long-haul Greens know that this is a stunning improvement over past elections, when we were lucky to crack 1% statewide. Green Parties still don't solicit or accept contributions from corporations or labor unions, so their resources are limited. But thanks to historically unpopular nominees from the major parties, more voters at least know that the Green Party exists and something about its platform.
In 2016, the backlash against Progressive and Green candidates from the establishment Democrats, and from their shills in mass media and social media, meant that Greens from Jill Stein to city and county races were pedaling uphill and into the wind on an empty stomach. Why did the Democrats go to such lengths to thwart the Greens? Because the Democratic establishment sees the Green Party and its candidates as a legitimate threat to its survival as the default choice for liberal and progressive voters, apparently a bigger threat than the Republicans.
As long as the Democratic Party embraces neo-liberal policies, I will enjoy being part of that threat.
I will probably attend more meetings of Houston Area Progressives, and I will take opportunities to tell attendees that the Green Party welcomes them. At a gathering of Greens, there's never a need to ask, "Are you a progressive Green or a corporate Green?"