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What’s the Green Scoop on Political Parties

Keith Pille

For better or worse, the American political system is rooted very strongly in the tradition of a two-party system. Many “green” advocates are left to wonder whether their best course of action is to work within one of the two major parties, the Republicans and Democrats, which are considered by some to too entrenched and established to effect radical change; or to cast their lot with a smaller, more environmentally focused party, such as the Greens, whose message may not reach a wide enough audience to make a large difference.This debate continues in the sniping between supporters of Al Gore and of Ralph Nader in the aftermath of the Presidential Election of 2000.

Of the two major parties, the Democrats are often perceived as the more environmentally conscious, but it’s important to remember that political parties are nothing more than collections of people who are interested in producing the same kinds of political change. Thus, the basic orientation of a political party can be altered by changing the desires of the members of that party. For example, within the past two decades, the Republican Party has become more concerned with social morality and “family values” as conservative Christians have become one of the most active factions in the party. There is nothing to stop the “greening” of one of the major parties, provided that a large number of dedicated, vocal activists were willing to put in the time to shift the party’s message. If two million Republicans suddenly decided that they cared about “green” issues, the party would have no choice but to cater to their wishes.

Minnesota has a well-deserved reputation for political activism and progressivism. Love him or hate him, Jesse Ventura is one of two non-major-party Governors in the United States. The Democratic Party branch in Minnesota is actually called the Democratic Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, reflecting a merger over 60 years ago with a homegrown populist party. Our State Legislature boasts representation from three parties, the DFL, the Republicans, and the Independence Party.

When considering getting involved politically, it’s important to remember the old adage that all politics are local. Many people focus on national politics and politicians, forgetting that many of the most crucial environmental and quality-of-life issues are decided at the local, county, and state level instead of national. This means that people go to the polls knowing clearly who they want to vote for in Presidential and Congressional races, but with no clue who they should support in the City and County offices that are going to affect how their city grows or takes care of waste or educates their children.

Keeping all of this in mind, here are capsule descriptions of some Minnesota political parties:

Republican Party of Minnesota

At their inception, the Republicans were actually the radical progressive party, advocating the abolition of slavery. Later, Republican icon Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the National Park system and in promoting a conservationist way of thought. More recently, though, the Republicans have become known as generally the less “green” of the two major parties, with their support of industry and dislike of regulation.

Republicans Support:

  • Reduction of Federal government, in favor of increased power for state and local governments.
  • Reduction of “government regulations and red tape” on businesses.
  • Forcing pollution cleanup costs on those responsible for the pollution.

Republicans Oppose:

  • The Kyoto Global Warming Treaty
  • Legislation placing statewide moratorium on large-scale livestock feedlots.
  • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ ecosystem management approach to natural resource stewardship.

Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party

As mentioned above, Minnesota’s version of the Democratic Party is actually a combination of the traditional Democratic Party and a Depression-era populist party. However, the DFL is functionally just another state chapter of the Democratic Party. The Democrats seek a balance between environmental protection and economic well-being.

Democrats Support:

  • Strong Federal and State regulation of businesses and pollutors.
  • Federal and State farm subsidies
  • Creation of high-speed rail links between metropolitan areas

Democrats Oppose:

  • “Manipulative corporate tax shelters”
  • Taxation on internet and e-commerce business
  • Unplanned, “out-of-control” urban growth and sprawl

Green Party of Minnesota

The Green Party centers its attention on issues of environmental quality and social justice. They stress “harmony with the natural order” in human life, and base their political operations on the principle of “direct, grassroots democracy.”

Greens Support:

  • Gradual elimination of polluting and non-renewable sources of electrical power
  • Emphasis on recycling and waste reduction
  • Civic development reducing peoples’ dependence on the automobile

Greens Oppose:

  • Large-scale and/or “factory” farming
  • “Domination of economic life by corporate and government oligarchies”
  • Use of hormones, antibiotics, or genetically-modified organisms in agriculture

Independence Party of Minnesota

This newly-created party came into existence upon Jesse Ventura’s departure from the Reform Party. The Independence Party does not have an official platform, leaving its members to declare their own positions on issues. As such, it is difficult to provide a list of things supported or opposed by the Independence party. However, the Governor and other Independence Party leaders generally claim that they represent a middle, more moderate position between the “extremely liberal” Democrats and the “extremely conservative” Republicans.

It is important to let your House and Senate representatives know how you feel about issues that are important to you. You can make a difference with your letters, calls or emails. The following is a list of Minnesota House and Senate representatives:

The following is a list of Minnesota House and Senate representatives:

 

Senator Paul Wellstone

136 Hart Senate Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20510-2303

202-224-5641

Email: senator@wellstone.senate.gov

 

Senator Mark Dayton

SR-346

Russell Senate Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20510

202-224-3244

http://dayton.senate.gov/webform.html

 

Representative Gil Gutknecht (1st District)

425 Cannon House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-2472

Email: gil@hr.house.gov

 

Representative Mark Kennedy (2nd District)

1415 Longworth House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-2331

Email: mark.kennedy@mail.house.gov

 

Representative Jim Ramstad (3rd District)

103 Cannon House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-2871

Email: mn03@hr.house.gov

 

Representative Betty McCollum (4th District)

1029 Longworth House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-6631

Email: betty.mccollum@mail.house.gov

 

Representative Martin Olav Sabo (5th District)

2336 Rayburn House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-4755

Email: msabo@hr.house.gov

 

Representative Bill Luther (6th District)

117 Cannon House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-2271

Email: tellbill@hr.house.gov

 

Representative Collin Peterson (7th District)

2159 Rayburn House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-2165

Email: tocollin@hr.house.gov

 

Representative James Oberstar (8th District)

2366 Rayburn House Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20515

202-225-6211

Email: oberstar@hr.house.gov

Read Up

Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail, Hunter S. Thompson, 1972

Do I Stand Alone?, Jesse Ventura

Act Locally
Democratic Farmer-Labor Party of MN
www.dfl.org/
352 Wacouta Street
St. Paul, MN 651-293-1200

Green Party of Minnesota
www.mngreens.org/
P.O. Box 582931
Minneapolis, MN 612-871-4585

Republican Party of Minnesota
www.mngop.com/
480 Cedar St., Suite 560
St. Paul, MN 651-222-0022

What You Can Do

  • If you haven’t done so, join a political party and become active. Attend party meetings and caucuses. Speak up. 
  • Write, call, or email your elected representatives and let them know what you think about issues. Also send letters to the editor of your local newspaper. This is a great way to bring issues and opinions into the public consciousness. 
  • Volunteer for someone’s campaign. 
  • Run for office. Any office. A City Council member can do more than you’d think.
Political Parties

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