Sowing the Seeds of the Future

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

I talked about this last night at our Green Party of New Jersey election night party. It’s the parable of the sower, from Matthew 13 in the Bible, one of many wise parables spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

This was the first time during my long, nine-month campaign for the U.S. Senate when I quoted from the Bible. It seemed appropriate, given everything that we experienced over those nine months.

We planted many seeds during this campaign, as was true for other Green Party efforts around the country. But not all of it took root.

The seed eaten by the birds can be likened to those many millions of potential voters who are so thoroughly alienated and turned off by our corporate-dominated, two-party system that they just don’t believe in the prospect of positive social change and stay home on election day.

The seed in rocky places is analagous to those concerned liberals and others who know that the Green Party is much preferable to the Democrats and Republicans but are so caught up in the “lesser evil” syndrome, so afraid of the rightist danger, that they continue to vote for pro-war and pro-corporate Democrats.

The thorns are the dominant mass media institutions which, with very few exceptions, are very practiced in the task of choking off any popular interest or respect for alternative party candidacies. Day after day, as election campaigns move toward election day, they repeat the constant siren song that democracy equals two parties only, that anything else is “fringey,” “unrealistic,” a silly diversion from the main match.

But despite all these obstacles, the Green Party and other independent candidacies succeeded in planting many more seeds in this election cycle, and over time, those new seeds will keep growing, joining with those of us who have broken through the soil. Just like the acorn that becomes an oak tree, our collective efforts will, over time, get us to an independent, progressive party that can clear away many of the birds, rocks and thorns that are having such a negative effect.

Why do I believe this?

I believe it based upon the personal interactions I had during the course of my campaign. I know, I have experienced, the very real interest in the Green Party and an alternative to two-party, politics as usual on the part of many, many people.

I believe it based upon the growth of the Green Party over the past several years. There were more than twice as many Green Party candidates for office nationally this year as there were two years ago.

I believe it based upon my understanding of history, the history of the Democratic and Republican parties that confirms their irredeemability, and the history of social movements. As Martin Luther King, Jr. used to say, “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

But those of us in the Green Party and the broader progressive third party movement need to take the time in the coming weeks for some honest reflection about yesterday’s election results and what they mean for our work in the coming months and years. There is no question but that our energy, our ideas, our hard work is very much needed following the Republican takeover of the Senate and the increase in the number of Republican seats in the House.

This Democratic Party defeat—one in which Green Party candidates, it must be noted, had virtually no role as far as “spoiling” the chances for Democrats—should open up possibilities for Greens to join with broader forces in the labor movement, the people of color movements, the women’s movement and other constituencies to fight the Republicans on a number of different fronts. This is critical work for Greens and independents, both from an immediate defensive standpoint and as far as the essential, longer-term objective of encouraging more political independence on the part of those popular movements.

Indeed, the election results yesterday, in the long run, could be of great political significance for the independent progressive movement.

The Democratic Party defeat was due to their internal division over the issue of war on Iraq and their inability to project a coherent and common vision regarding corporate crime, increasing unemployment, record mortgage defaults, rising tuition costs and other economic issues.

These issues will assume even greater prominence in the coming months and years.

The people need an alternative that fights against war, for economic and racial justice, against the assaults on our rights and liberties! We need a united, umbrella force, a broad front against war and economic and political repression, that can energize and expand our efforts in powerful ways.

We know we can’t depend on the Democratic Party to make this happen. Let’s take the initiative from below, as well as nationally, and get it together now. Let’s nurture the seeds; let’s multiply the sowers; let’s clear away the rocks and thorns and grow our crop of an active and powerful resistance movement.