An Open Letter to the Grassroots Party

After the most recent election, a Minnesota-grown party candidate had some interesting things to say. In a letter to the editor:

Now we know how to win and diminish the votes of the two-party tyranny. We’ll be back to mess with you little Dutch boys. In the meantime, the cracks in the levee are widening, the flood is coming and the inevitable wave of Hemp for Victory will sweep away your injustices.

In a comment for the news:

Wright said that until marijuana is legalized, he will contemplate running again, and that one day it could make a difference.

“If I can take away another 30,000 or more votes, that’s gonna hurt them,” he said of the major parties. “That would really change things for these guys. They’re gonna want these votes, and to make me irrelevant they’d have to come out for legalization.”

So here’s the thing: No. And I say that as someone against continuing prohibition and someone who once voted for a Grassroots candidate. No.

Dear Minnesota Grassroots Party:

Your days as a political party are over, and you’ll get what you want much faster if you realize that. Well, frankly, you’re likely to get it soon anyway. Still, if you give up the pretense that you’re a political party, you have an opportunity to help make the change happen instead of turning into a sad historical footnote.

Why are you done as a political party? Weirdly enough, it’s because more voters than ever support your platform. Recent polls show that a large majority of Minnesotans favor the legalization of medical marijuana, and a substantial minority support legalization of recreational use. Other states are already making recreational use legal, which means that Minnesotans will lean that way shortly as a zombie apocalypse fails to materialize there.

Third-party candidates took note of that in this election. Independence Party candidates campaigned on legalization. Libertarian Party candidates campaigned on legalization. Our one statewide Green Party candidate campaigned on legalization. They found an issue where public sentiment didn’t match the offerings from the major parties, and they exploited the hell out of it.

This brings us to the other reason you’re doomed as a political party. You never were one. You were an advertising campaign. With one exception I can recall, you didn’t bother to field candidates who showed a broad knowledge of the responsibilities of the offices for which they ran, much less a substantial platform. You just put people on the ticket who, when researched by those few voters who do that for all candidates, explained why pot should be legal.

The Independence, Libertarian, and Green Party candidates, in contrast, put together a broad list of policy positions, not a long set of talking points on how legalizing marijuana would affect other issues. Legalization was on their lists, but it wasn’t the whole of the list for anyone except you.

Yes, you outpolled the Libertarian Party candidates. Don’t be too proud of the fact. Their candidates ran on nearly the same platforms as both the Republican candidates and Minnesota’s homegrown Libertarian party, Independence. They were picking up scraps, and they still nearly beat you.

For that matter, Dan Vacek, who ran under Legal Marijuana Now for his party instead of Grassroots as he did in prior years and who did no campaigning except on his personal Facebook page, outran you. His three-word platform and relative invisibility received more votes than the candidates you endorsed.

You’re never going to win a major election doing what you’re doing. You’re never even going to get the 5% of a statewide vote needed to attain major-party status again.

That’s okay. Really, it is. If you wanted to govern, you’d have the ideas required to fill out a platform. You don’t, because you don’t want that any more than we do. You just want to threaten major-party candidates.

The problem is that now that public opinion has turned, you can’t hope do that effectively either. When all your third-party candidates on the right and the left support legalization, they’re taking votes from both major parties. Not only that, but they’re splitting any presumed bloc voting on the issue by offering alternative candidates that fit both people’s stance on legalization and the rest of their political positions.

You, with no stance beyond “legalize it”, can’t promise a bloc of voters to either major party because you don’t know what your voters’ other political are. If you drop out, you can’t promise the DFL those votes won’t go to the Independence Party. You can’t promise the Republicans they won’t go to the Greens. Even as a wedge, you’re a wash.

It’s time for a decision.

Do you continue down your path of voter advertising sold as political party, or do you do the work it would take to achieve legalization? Do you pay the filing fees to continually run the same few people for offices they don’t want, or do you help people directly affected by prohibition make a case for legalization to their legislators? Do you keep making politically naïve campaign websites, or do you collect model legislation and make recommendations befitting existing Minnesota law? Do you make silly pronouncements impotently threatening lawmakers, or do you build the relationships with them that would give your legislation a chance?

In short, do you keep pretending to be the political party you so clearly aren’t, or do you do what it takes to make a difference in a world where your claimed goals are within reach? Do you choose irrelevancy or change?

I know which I’d go for.

P.S. Come get your supporters. They’re not helping you.

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An Open Letter to the Grassroots Party
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8 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Grassroots Party

  1. 1

    Stephanie, you seem to think that we are unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. Actually, I went door-to-door for a couple of DFL legislative candidates, and contributed money to no fewer than five DFL candidates, not with any expectation of a quid pro quo on cannabis issues, but because I thought their election or re-election in the best interests of the state & nation. That’s why unlike the IP and the Libertarians, we did not enter our explicitly pro-legalization candidates in the US Senate or Sec of State contests. And if someone takes the trouble to look at the link you label “your supporters,” they’ll find a coherent, reality-based, politically-sophisticated and historically-buttressed explanation of why we run candidates for office. If Minnesota had the ballot initiative process, that’s what we would use because it’s worked in so many states. But without the initiative, this is how we take our concerns about social, economic, and ecological justice to our fellow citizens. What’s wrong with that? You don’t agree with us, but one cannot expect everyone to think alike. And do you presume we even WANT major party status? In past elections we came within 1/10th of 1 percent of that qualification, but it brings its own perils. Look at how Jack Shepherd or Sharon Anderson choose to file in major party primaries, and while you may not think much of our candidates (whom you don’t know except perhaps for your veiled reference to Tim Davis), if anyone wants to use one of our ballot labels, they have to go to the people and collect signatures & addresses. That is a test of dedication which separates the doers from the talkers, and also gives us the chance to listen to a cross section of citizens, not just an internet echo chamber. I’m not at all upset at the idea that our parties–GLC and LMN–might put themselves out of business. That’s always been our purpose! That’s how third parties succeed, as I’ve already explained to you. But if our proposals are to be adopted or co-opted by professional politicians, we want the job done right, including an effective expungement, amnesty, or pardon for past and present victims of the racist-inspired and racially-discriminatory cannabis prohibition laws, and this should be done so as to preclude people from suffering post-conviction discrimination for the rest of their lives. Please let me know when the DFL/GOP legislature or the GOP congress picks that up; along with recognition of the right to grow one’s own weed for personal use; and then you can celebrate our obsolescence, OK? Meanwhile, check the records of campaign expenditures and see who got the best return on investment—votes per dollars spent. As for whether 3% of the votes in a year of record-low voter turnout is a little or a lot, it’s all how you look at it. The statewide GOP candidates got from 38% to 45% of the vote but they were just as NOT elected as the protest candidates. And in the previous two elections, a Senate seat and the Governor’s race both went into recounts because the two leading candidates were within 1/2 of 1% of each other. 3% looks significant next to that. Indeed, maybe the Libertarian vote in the Sec of State race tilted it to Steve Simon this year. I still think your hangup is due to having internalized the Anslinger-Hearst demonization of cannabis, so that your disdain for cannabis and your notion that its use is wicked or irresponsible, prevent you from seeing the catastrophic consequences of prohibition. I urge you please to read a copy of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” if you haven’t done so yet.

  2. 2

    Oliver Steinberg:

    I urge you please to read a copy of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” if you haven’t done so yet.

    And if you type ‘The New Jim Crow’ into the search panel on the left, you find this:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/03/19/manufacturing-criminality/

    Yes, she’s been familiar with the book in question for at least two and a half years now, as you might have known had you actually looked.

    Besides, it seems to me that the main point has little to do with legalization, and more to do with the fact that the Grassroots party campaigns on NOTHING ELSE. Which means that:
    A) once other third parties pick up on that, they’re not unique anymore, and
    B) the fact that they have no other real platform shows that they’d have no clue as to what to do if they ever actually got power, and nobody else knows what they would do.

    They’re useful as a protest vote, but little else, and their usefulness as a protest vote is lessened by the fact that most of the other third parties have jumped on the same bandwagon. So they’ve been pretty much doomed by their own success at making this an issue.

    (Writing from Canada, where legalization is an official party plank of one of the four major parties, and decriminalization part of the platform for two of the others.)

  3. 3

    Thanks for the tip! It is unlikely that I, not conversant with computers, would think to explore back into the blog archives for a reference to Prof. Alexander’s work, but if for over 2 years this had been in the blogger’s consciousness [p. 233: “Marijuana ought to be legalized (and perhaps other drugs as well)”], then my question is the old W.M.T. query, “What are you going to do about it?”
    Here is a human rights issue of crisis proportions–literally, a NEW JIM CROW, and what is the political response from our blogger and her loyal friends? Express contempt for those who use the political system to express dissent against the NEW JIM CROW? You seem to totally disregard my careful explanation for the guerrilla-style political efforts we have mounted, indeed without any sufficient organization and depending on a corporal’s guard of determined activists–but at least we are TRYING to be heard, and trying to turn the attention of the public, news media, and professional politicians to this human rights crisis.
    Instead of derogatory blog denunciations, why not give us credit for seeing this whole galaxy of issues in its true character? I could show you our first printed campaign flyers from 1986 (almost 30 years ago!) pointing out the racist origins and impact of the so-called “war on drugs.” If we don’t have an adequate website, help us construct one. If we haven’t got candidates who please you, send us some who would. If you want to end the NEW JIM CROW, build up, don’t tear down, the voices speaking against it.
    Again, for those who write whereof they know not: The platform of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party is the Bill of Rights. The campaign issues are not the same as the platform. Our campaign issues are valid. You may deride our candidate’s advocacy of hemp-fueled biomass gasification as a transitional energy policy, or his advocacy of single-payer health care insurance, or of educational reform . . . or you may be ignorant of this—but not because we weren’t trying.
    The accusation that’s made boils down to the fact that our candidates, and that includes Dan Vacek for Atty General, whom we campaigned for, were too outspoken in advocating legalized cannabis—and yet legalization would be the first step, and the key step to depriving the mass-incarceration machine and the prison pipeline of the single greatest source of its victims. And someone must say so or it won’t come to pass!
    Each time Stephanie’s opinion is repeated that we couldn’t govern competently if elected, she ignores my repeated explanation that we aren’t fantasists, that we realize in fact we won’t get elected, and we are fulfilling the historic purpose of third parties to “test drive” controversial ideas.
    Suppose one of our folks was unexpectedly elected—he or she would appoint a deputy to handle the technical and administrative tasks, and the competency issue becomes moot. Republicans DO get nominated and even elected who are less qualified than we are. So much for that indictment.
    As for the other minor parties adopting the issue–that’s exactly what we want to happen. The only way the Libertarians successfully petitioned to get a statewide slate on the ballot was by conspicuously displaying NORML’s Legalize Marijuana placards while they petitioned.
    But in the campaign, they lumped cannabis legalization in with legal fireworks and Sunday liquor–they downplayed it. Well, the New Jim Crow isn’t based on fireworks arrests and sunday liquor raids. Likewise the Independence Party–they put legalization in their platform but much less into their messaging. And Andy Dawkins, whose campaign I contributed to and collaborated with, hasn’t got the Greens all the way out of their cannabis closet even yet. Look at the Sunflower and see where their priorities are. But it’s step-by-step. In the AG’s race, the lesson is clearest. The most clear-cut advocacy of legal “marijuana” easily secures the most votes.
    If Greens, Libertarians, or others want to attract votes–and I suppose they do!–then they might follow our lead even more than before. Pretty soon the corporate parties will have serious cause for alarm. That’s ALL that Chris Wright’s letter to the editor explains . . . so where’s your beef, Stephanie? Here’s mine:
    Human rights and civil rights were issues here in 2012, with the marriage and voter suppression referendums. The drug war is also a human rights issue, and deserves as passionate a campaign.
    Why denounce us for linking cannabis prohibition to topics like public safety, agricultural prosperity, tax revenues, civil liberties, racial discrimination? Maybe we can elevate the interests of self-indulgent contemporary stoners to realize that there are deeper dimensions than simply self-interest, in the cause of cannabis reform.
    Don’t you want us to educate your fellow citizens? It was OUR campaign literature and advertising that denounced racial disparities in cannabis arrests in Minnesota– no one else’s. At the last NORML meeting, I was told that “white people don’t want to hear that; surveys show that whites are OK with arresting blacks, so it’s not the right message.” To me, that kind of evasion is unacceptable. I’ll tell the truth whether white people want to hear it or not.
    I’ll also listen to all people and if they convince me with logic and facts that what I think is true really ain’t so, then I’ll change my mind. Is it too much to expect the same of other folks? Sadly, it often is.
    All the objections posted by Stephanie Zvan and her Canadian-based friend are answered and refuted by what I’ve written in this and previous posts.
    I appreciate the opportunity to post my viewpoints; I apologize for my prolixity–another relic from the pre-digital era, and while I know I cannot convince or persuade those who are determined to disagree once they have committed themselves, I think an objective reader will come to see the validity of my responses.

  4. 4

    You know, it would be easier to convince other people to read your lengthy diatribes if you showed much indication of actually reading what you’re responding to.

    You ask:

    Don’t you want us to educate your fellow citizens?

    To quote from the original article here:

    In short, do you keep pretending to be the political party you so clearly aren’t, or do you do what it takes to make a difference in a world where your claimed goals are within reach? Do you choose irrelevancy or change?

    Nowhere does Stephanie say that she doesn’t think you should be educating citizens. Nowhere does she say the War on (some) Drugs isn’t a problem. Notice she even says she previously voted for the Grassroots Party.

    The whole POINT of this article (as I read it, anyway) is that the Grassroots Party SHOULD continue education… but NOT AS A POLITICAL PARTY. The problem isn’t the message, the problem is that the forum where you are trying to push your message is no longer a useful one to you because other better-organized people are now camping out in the space you’ve helped open up.

    Instead:

    Do you continue down your path of voter advertising sold as political party, or do you do the work it would take to achieve legalization? Do you pay the filing fees to continually run the same few people for offices they don’t want, or do you help people directly affected by prohibition make a case for legalization to their legislators? Do you keep making politically naïve campaign websites, or do you collect model legislation and make recommendations befitting existing Minnesota law? Do you make silly pronouncements impotently threatening lawmakers, or do you build the relationships with them that would give your legislation a chance?

    Basically, forget about being a Political Party, and focus more on being a Political Action Committee, where you’re more likely to be able to continue making a difference.

  5. 5

    Here is a human rights issue of crisis proportions–literally…

    Just throw it on the pile with all the others, and we’ll get to it. Oh wait, guess what — at least one of the two major parties is already at least starting to get to the rest of them, which puts them way ahead of you in the usefulness department.

    Seriously, Obama and the Democrats may not be addressing other human rights issues as well as we want — but are you really addressing them at all?

    Suppose one of our folks was unexpectedly elected—he or she would appoint a deputy to handle the technical and administrative tasks, and the competency issue becomes moot.

    In other words, you guys don’t give a shit about any other issues — including all those other HUMAN-RIGHTS ISSUES — so you’ll just appoint someone to deal with them in a manner you won’t even bother so describe, and probably never took any time to read up on. You wankers are even less serious than the LaRouchies.

  6. 6

    More name-calling and insults, which win no arguments. As for LaRouche, who was one of the key figures in re-launching the war on drugs under Reagan, I’ve been aware of and combating his nefarious efforts since the 1970’s when his minions sought to infiltrate the union I belonged to. I alerted the St. Paul newspaper to LaRouche maneuvers here in the 1984 election; and would cheerfully share my file with anyone seriously needing to deal with them.
    Now, it seems you don’t bother to read what I have already posted, explaining the historic importance of 3rd-party efforts (recall the Minn Farmer-Labor Party and Floyd B. Olson, among others.) Nor what I described about our selective role in Minn elections; deliberately sidestepping the US Senate and Sec of State contests this year; nor about my personal efforts including donating to no fewer than five DFL candidates’ campaigns this year.
    Invective is your response to my invitation for a constructive dialogue, and to say “you guys don’t give a shit about any other issues” is not merely vulgar, it is factually incorrect, as our candidate’s positions on health care reform, educational policy, and global warming were reported, though you may have missed it, in Capitol Report newspaper on Oct. 8. I submit facts, you ignore them and indulge in blanket denunciation.
    Really, what are you so annoyed about? You must realize that there is room in the political process for a diversity of points of view and of emphasis on various issues.
    I ask in return, what about the problems of prohibition are you unwilling to acknowledge and recognize, simply because you have internalized the thought that “marijuana” is evil, or frivolous, or both? Abrogation of civil liberties–OK as long as it’s done in the name of drug suppression? Mass incarceration, ditto? Harrassment and profiling of African-American, Latino, and Native citizens as “drug suspects,” ditto? Militarization of police forces, ditto? Subsidizing murderous cartels and trigger-happy street gangs, as an acceptable price to pay for unenforceable puritanical legislation—that’s OK? Denying useful therapeutic remedies to sick, suffering, and dying people, in order to keep others from “getting high”—is that logical and just? All this scratches the surface of the systemic injustice which I describe as a human rights crisis. None of these are separable–they OUGHT to be “tossed together into a pile,” along with those numerous other infringements and oppressions you do acknowledge, because it’s all part of the same problem . . . the encroachment by the powerful few upon the rights of the ordinary citizens.
    I am directed by an inner voice called conscience, to devote what abilities I have to protesting the injustices that others prefer to ignore. A lot of personal freedom issues appeal to the media or the establishment “left”—I find I have a copy of “Atheist Voices” autographed by Stephanie Zvan—yet your virulent response to my reasoned comments merely confirms that no one has a monopoly on political myopia, and justifies my decision to champion the victims of the racist drug war, who are human beings and fellow citizens as far as I can see, and whose rights cannot be denied without, to some extent, impairing yours and mine.

  7. 7

    More name-calling and insults, which win no arguments.

    Pretending you’ve only seen name-calling and insults, when evidence to the contrary is clearly visible, doesn’t win any arguments either. Neither does lecturing people about what wins arguments.

    Now, it seems you don’t bother to read what I have already posted, explaining the historic importance of 3rd-party efforts (recall the Minn Farmer-Labor Party and Floyd B. Olson, among others.)

    Not all third-party efforts are important. Yours, which pretends legalization of weed is the ONLY issue worth talking about, is just a bad insulting joke.

    I ask in return, what about the problems of prohibition are you unwilling to acknowledge and recognize, simply because you have internalized the thought that “marijuana” is evil, or frivolous, or both?

    Like I said earlier, misrepresenting what other people say, when the original text of what they said is still visible for all to see, doesn’t win any arguments.

  8. 8

    Hunh, and I thought this guy gave up after my responses earlier.

    Yeah, Oliver here seems to have entirely internalized ‘people are attacking me for bad reasons’, and thus assumes any criticism is the same sort of attack for the same bad reasons, despite explicit descriptions otherwise. It’s the same sort of persecution complex and doubling-down we see elsewhere, though admittedly with at least an initial grain of truth to build around. But that means that constructive criticism is entirely lost on him, and he’s helping to drive away people who otherwise agree with him ideologically but think the direction should be fine-tuned.

    No wonder the original article ended with ‘P.S. Come get your supporters. They’re not helping you.’ They really aren’t.

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