Duck Dynasty, the Green Party, and Steady Statesmanship
by Brian Czech
I’ve never seen an episode of Duck Dynasty, and I’m not a member of the Green Party, at least not any more. But who hasn’t seen the news, and the Duck Dynasty reminds me why I left the Green Party. I’m not sure the Green Party will give a quack, but I do think anyone concerned with political strategy should.
Back in 2000 I was actually quite involved with the Greens. The Green Party of the United States was so desperate for qualified candidates that I was approached to run for office; for President of the United States no less! At last count, I had about six votes, not including my own. (I was still undecided.) Needless to say, we failed to git ‘er done.
Yet it wasn’t a complete waste of time, as we did manage to insert a plank calling for a steady state economy — stabilized population and per capita consumption, in simplest terms — which was a first not only for the Green Party but for any political party on the national scene. In fact, it may have been the first formal act of steady statesmanship in the United States.
But my experience with this effort ultimately caused me to flee the Green Party, because it was worse than like pulling teeth. It was like pulling teeth while dodging spitballs — hastily chewed ones — spit from the left and the right.
Which leads us to the Duck Dynasty and its “patriarch” Phil Robertson. With just a few words about you-know-what, this fella opened up a spitball free-for-all. Just think, a duck caller from the Louisiana swamp opened so many cans of worms that the worm population will double before it can be stuffed back into cans. Why there’s gay rights, civil rights, and the First Amendment for starters. Sure enough, politicians from Arkansas to Alaska are jockeying for position, trying to associate themselves with the baby (Innocent Baby Phil) while bailing out the bathwater (Adult Phil and the ZZ Top Shotgunners).
I suppose it all makes for unique entertainment — God knows every other form of entertainment has been beat to death in the country of America’s Got Talent. But for those who are serious about public policy and the prerequisite politics, all the newly escaped worms and the entertainment buzz is another big distraction, sapping the focus and wasting precious time.
Which leads us back to the Green Party. Have you ever wondered how the Green Party got its name? Back in the day when I signed up, I assumed “Green” meant or at least implied that this was a political party all about environmental protection and its obvious aspects such as wildlife conservation, clean air and water, and (by now) climate stability. For me, fresh out of my Ph.D. research, protecting the environment was rapidly becoming the most important endeavor of the 21st century. This was no tree hugger’s tiddlywinks either. A long hard look will clarify for most that a healthy, stable environment is the foundation of a sustainable, prosperous economy, which in turn is the lifeblood of national security and international stability.
So when I joined the Green Party, I did so because I assumed this would be the party with an undeniable, indefatigable focus on environmental protection. Furthermore, also because of my research plus lengthy experience in environmental management and civil service, I had realized that environmental protection was all about stabilizing the human presence on the planet including the United States. I had realized that environmental protection entailed the establishment of a steady state economy.
And really that’s common sense, no?
Can you imagine my chagrin as the Green Party turned out to know quite little about environmental matters, less yet about natural resource management, and next to nothing about steady state economics? Worse, there didn’t seem to be much focus at all on the environment. The knowledge, passion, and focus was instead meted out to issues that I’m only going to describe, euphemistically, as “off center.” In other words it was a party for the disaffected of all sorts.
Most of us can empathize with the underdog. But there is a time and a place for everything, and as they say, all in moderation.
If your favorite pastime is empathizing with underdogs and you’d like to join a whole team of them, then by all means you should join the Green Party, at least if it hasn’t changed much since 2000. Just don’t expect any political success. On one issue after another, the Green Party goes way to the end of the political spectrum, usually the “left” end in American parlance. It doesn’t take a highly imaginative sense of geometry to realize that such a strategy quickly boxes you into the tiniest corner of the political world. It’s political suicide.
Now I have no interest in running for office, but if I were running with the Green Party, we’d be adopting a new slogan: “First Things First.” Everyone would know what that meant, by virtue of the Green Party’s name. The slogan would be intended to convey a new-found sense of focus on environmental protection.
First things first — protect the environment and all the awesome potential of the United States can be achieved. Lose focus on the environment and the rug will be pulled from posterity’s future. It won’t matter if the grandkids are gay, duck hunters, or America’s Idol. They’re all gonna need clean air, clean water, a sustainable climate, healthy farms, forests and fisheries, and a bit of wild country for inspiration. They’ll all depend on what we do today for environmental protection.
First things first. Let the Huckabees and the Jindals and the Palins go picking up the worms let loose by Phil Robertson. Let the Charlie Sheens do their liberal lamenting and the A&E’s do their public relations dancing. Meanwhile, let Obamacare sap the energy of its ardent supporters and opponents alike. While you’re at it, let the NRA have at it with the police unions. None of those are dogs in your fight.
First things first. The Green Party is supposed to be about protecting the environment, and we need it. Democrats and Republicans aren’t doing it. Democrats tend to go with the “green growth” propaganda, claiming “there is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment,” while Republicans just say heck with the environment and “drill baby drill.” Both parties are so tight with Wall Street and pro-growth, neoclassical economics that we can never expect sustainable economic policy, and therefore environmental protection, from them.
So at this point in history, Green Party, as you contemplate the New Year, and despite all prior shortcomings, it looks like you’re still the only game in town for providing a significant alternative to politics as usual. It remains up to you to focus on environmental protection. Regarding all those cans of worms, the default response of the Green Party ought to be adopting a central position so that environmental protection can come to the forefront as a decisive issue for the voters.
First things first! Time’s a wasting as green turns to brown, shade by shade. Forget about Ol’ Phil, metaphor for political distraction. Keep your focus on protecting the environment and saving the green space, and even the duck hunters down in Louisiana might vote for you.
Interesting post. I’m very surprised to hear the US Green Party don’t focus on the environment, so much so that I’m not entirely convinced you’re not exaggerating a lot. I’m not surprised they didn’t know about steady state economics though, as I’ve never come across anyone that knows about it and I know a lot of environmentalists. It’s still right at the fringe of the fringe, but hopefully not for long.
I think it’s a mockery of democracy that the US just has two main parties to chose from, which both agree on key things like economic growth at any cost.
Tegan, let me assure you, I’m not exaggerating. Frankly I was shocked. I’ve heard from others with similar experiences, too.
But don’t forget we’re talking about the Green Party of the United States, and most of my experience was in the national dialog, such as at the party convention in DC. I think the Green parties of other nations are more focused on environmental protection – several of them have endorsed the CASSE position on economic growth, by the way – and many Greens in the US are active in local environmental matters.
In any event, the lesson here is as much for steady statesmanship as for the Green Party; success entails disciplined focus and extremely cautious side-taking on other issues. I believe this is especially the case when the issue is nascent to the polity at large. Once the steady state economy is significantly mainstreamed, steady statesmanship will perhaps develop an identity among various political packages (most broadly speaking in the US, Republican and Democrat).
Brian, thanks for sharing your experience with GP. I would support you as an independent Pres, at least this will bring some long overdue attention to steady state econ in the mainstream. The gp link below does refer to steady state econ (in section B):
but this is nowhere to be seen in the communication of the candidates with the public (http://www.greenshadowcabinet.us/).
“I think the Green parties of other nations are more focused on environmental protection – several of them have endorsed the CASSE position on economic growth.”
Could you name a few countries where green parties officially endorse Steady State? It would provide useful information to me, as I am active within the German Greens and currently working to get a more realistic position on the feasability of further economic growth into the party program. With their idea of a “Green New Deal”, German Greens are so far seen by many growth-critical environmentalists in Germany as more on the green-growth path – but things can change.
Regarding your first things first strategy: debates like this have most probably shaken every single nations green party. Putting environmental issues at the front is a no-brainer, hard to believe, the US-Greens aren’t doing that. But there are important reasons, why agents of political change can not leave aside other issues besides hard-core environmental protection: first, steady state and pro-environment change in general require sociatal issues to change as well – reduction of working hours and the internalization of costs / real prices will change cost structures for many and therefore have to be dampened by some sort of redistribution. Second, agenda-setting in media-centred democracies inquires other issues to be dealt with by political parties than just their main goals. Noboby votes for a single-issue party. When first things first means, putting important (green) issues to the front of political work without ignoring the rest, I agree. But leaving aside social change that some might call liberal/left-wing, will neither fulfill the necessary conditions for change nor meet up the standards of the steady state economy.
The Green Party of England and Wales has endorsed the CASSE position on economic growth and thereby supports the establishment of a steady state economy. A couple of other Green Party units endorsing the CASSE position are also noted there. And as I recall, the Green Party of Ontario (Canada) includes the steady state economy in its platform.
I think all Green parties should be calling for a steady state economy in their nations and/or for steady statesmanship in international diplomacy. See my latest book (Supply Shock) about steady statesmanship.
I concur about Green parties having to deal with other than environmental issues. My suggestion was to avoid constant left-turning and the political suicide that redounds to. For example, we in the interests of environmental protection and the steady state economy would tend to be more aligned with “fiscal conservatives” (at least on the fiscal front) than with “Keynesian liberals” bent on stimulus spending.
Another principle should be to focus on environmental protection and then, with other issues, prioritize them in order of their connection to environmental protection and steady state economics. The examples of issues you mentioned are actually quite high in the program of steady statesmanship (see not only Supply Shock but also Enough Is Enough by Dietz and O’Neill).
Daniel writes: “Could you name a few countries where green parties officially endorse Steady State?”
The Canada Green Party Platform refers to steady state a couple times: in section 1.5: “Balanced Budget, Debt Reduction,” says “Greens favour a steady economy,” while Part 3: “Preserving and Restoring the Environment,” says “We need to correct the perception that economic success is dependent on growth and build understanding of the benefits of a steady-state economy…”
The entire document is available here: