Green party members can disagree — imagine that!

Posted Sept. 22, 2009, at 6:16 p.m.

I love it when folks, especially major party politicos, realize that the Maine Green Independent Party is a real political party. It doesn’t seem to happen very often, and even if it happens more often than I think, these major party leaders try to keep their realization a secret so that their “aha” moment doesn’t inadvertently lend the Green party something valuable: credibility.

Last week I participated in a press conference in support of Question 2 on November’s ballot. It’s an initiative that will help folks buy more energy-efficient vehicles as well as take the boot off the necks of the working stiffs who have to struggle each year with their excise taxes.

What really struck me was how skeptical the media seemed about my “Greenness” and the greenness of the initiative.

I’ve got my Green party street cred, having twice run for Maine governor. In 1998 I had to run as an independent and then re-create the Green party by receiving more than 5 percent of the vote.

To this day I am the only woman in the history of Maine to establish a political party.

Then in 2004 I ran for U.S. vice president as the Green party nominee.

I’ve traveled the country discussing green issues — both the big G kind and the little g kind — and at times folks within my party disagreed with me. Imagine that! A political party with like-minded people disagreeing on individual issues.

Well, now it seems that the Democrats and Republicans — whose parties overflow with individual dissent — are surprised to hear that our party isn’t just a club. We don’t pinky swear allegiance and we don’t walk in lock step. We are a political unit that employs its Fourth Amendment right to assemble and pursues its interpretation of the Constitution and the other 26 amendments to it.

One amendment we are particularly fond of is the First Amendment, which is why we don’t stifle the speech of others, not even folks in our own party.

I think that’s a lesson that the major parties might want to take from us little guys. Then maybe the Republican talk show hosts wouldn’t say such hateful things about Sen. Olympia Snowe trying to find common ground on health care reform, and the Democrats would spend a little less time marginalizing Rep. John Conyers for his strong stand on the same issue.

But after last week’s press conference when I announced my support of a tax incentive to put more fuel-efficient cars on the road — a far more green approach than the billion-dollar “cash for clunkers” program that eliminated any opportunity to recycle the trade-in vehicle by forcing the automotive industry to destroy it — a columnist from a Portland area newspaper called me and told me that he expected me to surrender my Green party membership card.

Mind you, this guy isn’t a Green so I find it comical that he thinks he should speak for us. More importantly, he needed a civics lesson. Political parties don’t pick their membership and it’s impossible for them to eject members they don’t like. I bet it crossed the minds of a number of party luminaries to ask Sen. Larry Craig to exit the party after his embarrassing toe-tapping incident made him appear less than the model Republican.

But from the reaction to my supporting the halving of a regressive excise tax that hurts the little guy because I believe our officials should go after the folks who really ought to be paying our country’s bills — such as big pharma and the oil companies — you’d think I had been caught at the Pentagon tapping my toe under the stall of a cluster bomb salesman.

It turns out that Green candidate for governor Lynne Williams disagrees with me on Question 2. I’m delighted. I’m not just happy that Lynne will carry the mantle forward for my party, but I’m grateful that she has illustrated the most important quality you could want in a leader; she and I are capable of independent thought.

Regardless of our small differences, we Greens and all of Maine are lucky that Lynne continues to struggle against the dominant political parties on the important issues such as health care, education and the war.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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