Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Greening of the US Political Scene

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Greening of the US Political Scene

Article excerpt

WHEN I started out with the Monitor nearly 20 years ago, I covered Boston City Hall. One of my most thoughtful acquaintances there was a man who had worked for a United States senator from California. Then he narrowed his focus when he joined the staff of a congressman before coming back East to an even smaller constituency.

His political career seemed to have been a series of retrograde steps - from dealing with affairs of national and international consequence in the largest state in the most powerful country in the world to figuring out how to provide public services in an old medium-sized city. But he had sought out each change. The more he worked in government, he said, the more he believed that the biggest challenges - and the biggest opportunities for affecting positive change - were at the grass-roots level.

Meanwhile, of course, political participation in the United States has gotten worse and worse.

Barely half of Americans vote at all. The rest are turned off by all the special-interest money, the slick media tactics, and the failure to deal with the toughest issues. They seem to have concluded that voting only encourages the rascals. The move to limit terms of office is just one symptom of the problem.

Campaign reform would help. But more important may be greater grass-roots involvement with local races and issues, a renewed opportunity to take hold of and wield political power.

This may already be happening more than most observers realize. For all the talk about voter apathy, a recent study by the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, finds that "Americans do participate in public life in many ways, and with great intensity of purpose." Based on a series of focus groups around the country, the report concludes that "beyond the dark, threatening clouds of politics as usual, we find citizens engaged on a daily basis in the solving of public problems."

This is the impetus behind the "Green" movement in this country, and it's reason enough to be glad that Greens are achieving ballot status - most recently in California.

Greens are best known for environmentalism - fighting nuclear-power plants and that sort of thing. …

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