A Rebuttal to Don

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Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about the state of the local Green Party, drawing attention to their endorsement of John Cranley for Mayor in the upcoming elections. In a response, Don Rucknagel, co-chair of the Green Party, called the piece and uniformed attack.

Throughout his reponse, Don suggests that my presumed lack of knowledge of current economic realities in the city cloud my view of the election. I’ll let that assumption stand, because I am not overly concerned with being forced to prove something I never claimed to have knowledge of in the first piece, since that wasn’t the intention. I think it’s important to first say that my piece was less about the actual endorsements than it was about party politics, which is why I talked at length about Kshama Sawant and her campaign for Seattle council, running on the Socialist Alternative ticket. My original piece was not meant to be an attack on Gwen Marshall, but rather, what I perceived to be a local manifestation of the shortfall in the way that the party has functioned nationally since I have been politically aware.

Never-the-less, I will take on key point in Don’s response that, I think, illustrates that the Greens see this election as a zero sum game, like they have for so many elections before.

Don writes,

“In choosing this list of candidates, the Green Party is most concerned about the financial future of Cincinnati if the City goes bankrupt we could lose our parks and other physical assets as well as lose all city funded programs that matter to us.”

That may certainly be the case. I am not generally excited about this list of candidates for any of the high ranking positions, though some certainly have perspectives on this or that given policy that sound good to me. But this strategy reflects a serious lack of examination of candidates positions, especially for a party that purports to be progressive.

What is most striking to me about Don’s response is that his arguments exists solely in the economic realm, and sound uncomfortably similar (if not directly out of the hand book) of right wing groups like COAST, supporting John Cranley and a number of council candidates (seemingly only) for their opposition to the streetcar and only for financial reasons. Here the Greens make a mistake. There are left wing critiques to the streetcar and other current policies. But by taking a page out of COAST’s book, the Green Party again shows how limiting pragmatism is for our movement.

For example, is Don aware of John Cranley’s role in the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine? During his time on Council a decade ago, Cranley orchestrated the Housing Impaction Ordinance, which is the most direct attack on affordable housing in the downtown area, and has led to the loss of countless units of affordable housing, as market rate apartments and owner-occupied spaces replace them, all in the name of “deconcentrating poverty.”

More to the point of losing “programs that matter to us,” is Don aware of Cranley’s flirtation with mayoral control of public schools? Cranley, who sends his children to private school, has hinted at an interest in increasing mayoral influence over education as well as redoubling the intervention of private companies into curriculum. In places like New York and Chicago, this has lead to the end of democratically elected school boards, a boon for charter schools and testing companies and only leads us further down the path of the kind of privatization he rightly fears.

I don’t deny that Qualls’ interests in the mayorship are self-serving, but, being good cynics like we are, Don mustn’t feign as though he expects Cranley’s intentions to be any different.

I oppose the streetcar not simply because it’s a bad economic decision, but because it’s racist. Because it plays into the hand of 3CDC and other developers who want to make inroads in the area north of Liberty street that is just waiting to be filled with whites (and displace blacks) like the work that has been done in the southern portion. I reject it because it’s clearly intended to be a bourgeois bus, meant to attract those who are too good for lowly buses, and to turn away the poorer users of conventional public transit.

My point is that Don’s economic reasons to be for or opposed to a given candidate are not enough. They ignore realities about racial and class dynamics that are at least as important as discussions about the city’s debt. There are ways to address these issues holistically, perhaps with a discussion about wealth distribution among racial lines, and what’s at stake for working class people if the city can’t solve its financial problems. But those issues are ignored for a vulgar economic analysis that only pays lip service to an unenumerated list of “city funded programs that matter to us.”

A recent gallup poll suggests that 60% of Americans want a new party, and the proportions are even higher in youthful strata. But, at least locally, the Green party continues to play petty political games instead of doing what the left actually needs: the building of a serious, informed movement that wants to change things and not simply settle with the perennially dreadful choices we are given. A movement that can attract those 60% who want a third way.

The third way is activism, it is a rejection of petty pragmatism, and the building of a movement that not only has a harsh opposition to the democrats and republicans, but to the system itself.