The stories you believe (or quite often the stories you tell yourself) dictate your reality. This is sometimes called “narrative.” Journalist Caitlin Johnstone has written on this topic a number of times, and I encourage you to give her a read. My own perspective on the topic came about through my own personal experience, and it changed many things in my life, including my political affiliation.
I started out in the 1980s as a Reagan Youth, influenced to a very large extent by my conservative family upbringing. Like many in their teens and twenties, attending college and being exposed to new ideas, concepts and people of other backgrounds broadened my outlook immensely, although it hadn’t really changed my politics at that point. As I grew into adulthood, I realized that my political affiliation, and how I looked at myself, didn’t reflect what I really felt inside. I also didn’t see most Republicans adhering to the words and ideals they spoke. I set aside an adherence to party and called myself an independent (and refrained from registering with a party). This went on for several years, and while my political and social attitude became more “liberal”, my frustration grew, in the sense that I felt I could exert some positive change in the world by joining with people of like mind, people who had the same goals and objectives. So, in the 1990s, I joined the Democratic Party, where I stayed for many, many years.
I felt really good about my choice, because there was a solid connection between what I thought was best for me, my family, my community and my country. And while I would occasionally encounter a fellow Democrat (or Democratic candidate) who appeared perhaps hypocritical or didn’t necessarily live out the ideals they espoused, I shrugged it off as simply human frailty. Nobody’s perfect, right? Trouble was, the closer I looked, the more frequently I seemed to find these ‘imperfections.”
And then it was 2008. At long last, there was a candidate who espoused truly progressive values. He was charismatic, young and seemingly cut from a different cloth. I was thrilled to cast my vote for Barack Obama. Despite all that I had seen and witnessed in all the years previous, perhaps this was it. I eagerly watched and waited as he proposed new efforts, new programs and goals . . . and by degrees over each ensuing year, my enthusiasm died. Our military interventions didn’t diminish, they grew. More wars, more drone bombings. He didn’t dismantle the national surveillance state and the “war on terror” started by George W. Bush – he consolidated and continued them. He continued the harsh anti-drug policies of his predecessors. His health care reform, “Obamacare”, had its roots in Romneycare. Despite the predatory lending and financial deregulation that led to the Great Recession, banks were bailed out, under the premise that they were “too big to fail” (and regardless of the fact that too big to fail = “too big to care”).
I had voted for a progressive, and ended up with a center-right Nixon. By the time 2016 had rolled around, I had pretty much given up on believing any politician who talked the talk could also walk the walk. And then Bernie Sanders showed up. His ideals matched my own, and better still, his ideals matched his actions. Up till this point in time, my political activism and involvement began and ended at the voting booth. But for Bernie, I ‘caucused’ (if you’re reading this outside of Nevada, well, that’s a weirdness exclusive to this state and a handful of others). The caucus was without exaggeration a train wreck, from which Hillary Clinton emerged. I attended the Clark County Democratic Convention as a Bernie delegate, where Sanders emerged victorious. In May of 2016, I attended the Nevada State Democratic Convention as a delegate, staying for the entire grueling 15 hours. It started with 64 of Sanders delegates being rejected by a board chosen by Clinton and continued with repeated ignoring of floor motions from his supporters and a refusal to accept any petitions to change the rules. Ultimately, Roberta Lange, the state party’s chair, and member of the national DNC Executive Committee subjectively called the results of a questionable voice vote, adjourned the meeting using a gavel and fled. It’s the first political meeting I’ve ever attended that concluded with a line of Metro police officers lining the stage.
I registered with the Green Party the very next morning. I refused to remain with a party that denied my voice.
There’s a lot more detail I could go into about my departure for the Democratic Party, about the Nevada Green Party, my involvement in it and the ongoing activities and events that followed in the months and years since 2016 that strengthened my resolve (look up “White Paper Solutions” and details about the Nevada League of Women Voters director Denise Gerdeswho participated in litigation adversarial to the Nevada Green Party during it’s ballot access efforts, and so much more).
But let’s get back to narrative. It’s important to create your own. My beliefs, about what it meant to be a Republican, a Democrat, and independent – much of it I gathered from the narrative that was provided by the parties themselves, the politicians and the media. My beliefs, about what it means to be Green, I have learned myself. The Green Party calls itself an activist party, and in the beginning I wasn’t quite sure that that meant. What I’ve since determined, to myself, is that it is an activist party because it has to be – it doesn’t accept corporate money. While money provides staffing, promotion, access and so much more – all the things that extend political influence and party success – it also influences and corrupts. The party has to be powered by people.
To quote Caitlin Johnstone, “the only real power in this world is the power to control the public narrative about what is going on.” Since you’ve taken the time to read this article, I am simply encouraging you to write your own narrative of what it means to be politically active, to be progressive. Write your own story.