There have been changes since the following was written. While most of the general philosophy and approach to organizing are still valid, the Covid-19 crisis overshadows such traditional activities as:
Participating in Demonstrations;
Holding meetings, or attending the meetings of others;
Attending and directly haranguing City Hall.
This has forced us to develop new and creative ways of working and campaigning, using things llike tele- and video-conferencing. This is in some ways “cramping our style,” but freeing our selves from the constraints of geographical proximity.
One such development is that people can now apply for Active Membership online, rather than having to fill out the Active Membership Form by hand, then give it to your local Green Organizer, who must then fax it to the state party.
We expect that new innovations will be developed in the coming year, that may well give us better ways of doing things. Ways that may persist even after the crisis of the moment has passed. So again we ask:
Not everyone does. Many Greens are quite happy to be registered Green, and vote Green whenever there are Greens are on the ballot. That is fine. Others are willing to come to meetings, go to an occasional event, give a little money. Without such people, the Green Party would not exist. But this page is for those who want to take some level of personal responsibility for getting a local of the Green Party of Florida (GPFL) started. Or taking a small GPFL local and making it grow. Who want that local to have political impact, whether running candidates, promoting policies, fighting for issues that affect people’s lives, whether local or national or international. And are you willing to do some hard work to make that happen?
If any of that describes where you or your friends are at, then this page is for you.
Let’s start with some basics.
After you have made contact with the GPFL state organization, you must answer Question Number One: Do you want to start a local, and do you want to proceed to that step immediately. The GPFL bylaws offer two types of locals, County Parties, and Local Affiliates. The GPFL recommends Local Affilliates, as the County form of organization requires filings with your county’s Board of Elections, and may get into various legal entanglements and other filing issues. A local affiliate requires the following:
- Five members who have registered Green with the State of Florida (or are not able to register Green due to nationality, felony status, or age, AND have filled out a party Active Membership Form.
- Two co-chairs, and one treasurer, one secretary, or a single secretary-treasurer.
- An acceptable set of Bylaws, that “define your organization’s name, mission, membership, authority, accountability, etc.”
- Adherence to the party’s 10 Key Values.
- Meeting regularly with quorum.
The benefits of forming a local may seem obvious (see “Local Affiliation Checklist”):
- It gives you a degree of legitimacy. “Join our local,” as opposed to “Work with a small bunch of unaffiliated Greens.”
- It gives you voting rights on the Coordinating Council of the GPFL.
- You can participate on various GPFL Working Groups.
The downsides of immediately forming a recognized local tend to involve sustainability:
- Can you count on your elected officers to “stick with it”?
- Will your five or more members be able to meet regularly over the course of several months, or will some quickly drop away, leaving you with what could be an embarrassing “paper” organization, and your own demoralization?
You should make the determination for Question Number One in consultation with the state party.
However you choose to proceed, you should begin by contacting your local County Board of Elections (listed here). Their office should be your friend. They have basic election information, including offices coming up, ballot requirements, etc. And for $8.00, they can sell you a DVD with your county’s registered voters on it. Buy it. It has a voter list including address, legislative districts, precincts, etc. It also has phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Most of those are not listed (since the registration forms list them as “optional”), but those numbers and e-mails they do have will be an obvious starting point.
“But this is hard!”
Some are daunted when they start out with energy and confidence, and then find that “It isn’t easy being Green.” We don’t have expensive offices, or paid staff, or reams of polished literature. Our electoral campaigns tend to be shoestring, with maybe a few hundred dollars from the state organization’s coffers. People have had experience with Democratic Party operations, or their Democrat-loyal satellite organizations, which have all the trimmings at their disposal. Their money is measured in the thousands of dollars. Paid staff run everything, so that the party or NGO rank-and-file don’t have to be involved. In fact, the leadership would prefer that the rank-and-file NOT be involved.
People come to the Green Party with expectations that we are just like the other parties. Just Greener. It’s like a dash of cold water.
To make matters worse, we are excoriated at every turn for being “spoilers.” Costing “real progressives” their god-given right to represent us by taking away what is actually a growing percentage of the votes in the races which we enter.
And therein lies our answer.
We are at a historical tipping-point. The Democratic Party and its satellite organizations are crumbling. Moving ever more towards the right. Abandoning its long-loyal constituencies. Becoming branded as “losers.” Why? Because they are controlled by the corporations, and corporate America — which could once “afford” to throw minimum benefits to at least some poor and working people while still financing their ever-expanding wars — is moving fast to the Right. They calculate that they can stop affording things like Medicare for All and retirement benefits for our people, because the American people have nowhere else to go.
Enter the Green Party
We can now step into that vacuum.
Progressive forces come in all shapes and sizes, constituency organizations, unions, issue groups, etc. But these progressive forces are not an electoral party, as much as they need one.
We are that party!
So if you ever watch a boxing match, one thing you often see is a fighter putting on an insane grin after getting their head smashed, or their ribs crushed, as their blood drips onto the canvas. Show no pain. A smart boxer knows from experience that you are feeling your own pain much worse than it APPEARS your opponent is feeling theirs. So they fight on.
Building a Green Party local therefore requires starting with small numbers, growing slowly but steadily, ever consolidating, making small but solid moves until your force approaches critical mass — a size where you actually become a contender.
That day will come.
Whether you have the pieces in places to seek immediate affiliation, are planning to work towards that goal, or have just gotten your new local officially affiliated, you still have to start building Green Power. Regardless of whether you are an official affiliate with official bylaws, you need some rules of organizing.
Rule Number One: to be a minimum effective force, you need at least three people. This is arbitrary, to be sure. But go with it. Single individuals may indeed be capable of feats of heroism, but for the relatively normal people who are to become Green organizers, think of three. Apart from practical matters, that is the number that can give the emotional and political support to sustain people over an extended period of time.
If there is only one of you, the task is to find the other two.
If there are only two of you, the task is to find the one other. This brings us to further rules.
Rule Number Two: If you say you are going to do something, then do it.
Rule Number Three: If you can’t do something you have said you are going to do, then let those others involved with you that you can’t, and then they can at least deal with it.
Rule Number Four: Communicate. Answer e-mails, phone calls, and any other communications promptly. We are talking small numbers at this point. Good communications is the number one critical “force multiplier.”
Rule Number Five: Do something as a group at least once a week. Do what? You name it.
There was an old maxim from the organizing drives of the 1930’s that is still of relevance:
Organize yourselves (or yourself, if that is the case).
Organize the organizers.
Organize the masses.
At this stage, what you seek, affiliated or not, an Organizing Committee. Organizing other organizers does not preclude broader agitation, and doing outreach is indeed one way to find other organizers. But the cruel fact is that if your core group pulls together 50 people, and there are no more organizers among them, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SUSTAIN THAT 50.
Work the registration list.
Get that DVD of registered voters from the Board of Elections. Do you have Microsoft Excel? Do you have a friend who has it? Pop it in your computer open it up, and get those e-mails and phone numbers. If you lack the computer skills for this, find a friend, neighbor or acquaintance to set you up. But get it done.
Draft an e-mail. Send it out to however many people you have addresses for (it may be a few dozen, it may be 100, whatever). You can send to non-Green friends and acquaintances if you wish, but be very careful. You want positive energy, you don’t want to have a fight over whether a 3rd party is a betrayal of the working class and all else that is holy. Announce what you are doing, mentioning some issues that may be of interest to you, or to your neighborhood, invite people to some kind of get-together, whether at your home or a nearby fast-food joint.
Write yourself a phone rap, and call those numbers, along the lines above. Here you can feel people out for whether they are possibilities. The last thing you want to be doing is to be “pulling teeth.”
Hold that gathering. Do not be dismayed if no one shows up. The registered voter lists have a lot of names of people who dropped the Green Party years ago but never bothered to change their registration. People are busy. People don’t like to answer their phones. E-mails are treated as spam.
If people do show up, be honest. They will look around, wonder where everybody is. You have to convey what is conveyed in the “But this is hard” section above. Ask people for their ideas. But one of the worst things you can do is ask people for their ideas, and then sit back as though you were some kind of neutral. One of the jobs of the organizer is to take people’s ideas and develop them further, mesh different ideas into some kind of cohesive whole. Don’t domineer, but don’t forget that as organizer, you are at this stage also a leader.
If you find even one person who is willing to come back and engage in some activity, then your gathering has been a success.
You will have few resources when starting out. The most important undeveloped resource is in fact yourself. There are a few things you can do that will make you a more effective organizer. That don’t cost money.
Learn your local government, whether county, city or neighborhood. City Hall and the Board of Elections can be helpful. Making acquaintances, if not friends, in those offices is a gift that will keep on giving for years. Hit the internet. Hard. You may likely know some of this, but:
Who are your elected officials?
What offices are up for grabs in the coming year?
What are the ballot access requirements?
What Congressional District are you in?
State House and Senate districts?
What are the demographics for cities and counties?
Write this stuff down. One key concept an organizer must learn is the difference between individual knowledge, and collective knowledge. You need to ensure that what you know, your Green colleagues also know or have ready access to. Then:
What are the issues in your area, particularly what may be Green issues?
What are the progressive organizations in your area?
What are the community organizations in your area?
What areas are organizer-accessible, i.e., places open to the public (downtown? supermarkets and malls? Beaches?) with enough foot traffic to make flier distribution worthwhile?
This is where you can get particularly creative. The 10 Key Values are a starting point, and you should know them. But other groups have similar values, such as DSA, or the Sanders campaign, even the movement in general. Given that our values are in fact so widespread, you have to answer why people should join the Green Party in particular.
But how do the 10 key values and the GPFL Platform apply locally? What do you want to focus on?
One example: Grassroots Democracy. In 2015, working with Tampa Bay Fight for 15, the group had staged a series of successful demonstrations and strike actions. But what next? They had been relying on the various Democratic Party groups almost exclusively. They were about to turn Fight for 15 into the Hillary Clinton Get Out the Vote operation. We argued that what we needed was to extend the Fight for 15 organizing directly into the Black community, and had in fact petitioned for the 15 minimum successfully. We were thus supported the cause, and had at the same time staked out a radical stance that differentiated us from the Democratic Party. It gained us credibility that served us in the long run.
Another example: Ecological Wisdom and Social Justice. In engaging the St. Petersburg Sewage Disaster, we met with environmentalists and effectively connected the sewage issue with Gentrification, enhancing our presence.
The GPFL platform runs about 40 pages. You should read it. The fact that Reparations for the Black Community is one of our platform points was a significant factor in our ability to develop a long-term relationship with the Uhuru anti-gentrification organization.
Now is when the above Rule Number Five: “Do something as a group at least once a week” comes into play.
Our “Gang of 3” can knock on doors, try to register voters, pass out flyers for meetings, etc.
At least as important in developing the Green Party at every level is not simply a matter of gaining members on paper, or electing candidates, or winning other kinds of victories. Given that we are small, such victories are few and far between. But becoming a political force is not so simple. Or so hard.
Building political alliances is essential. Our group of 3 should be going out regularly. Are there groups that are politically compatible, and welcoming of our help? Work with them. Not just show up at a demonstration, or go to a meeting. Work with them on a regular basis. Three people doing regular volunteer work is — in these hard times — a significant force. But be clear who we are, and what we stand for, and how our goals at least overlap. Make friends. Build credibility.
One warning. Do not let your local become just a clearing house for everybody else’s group. We are an electoral party, and our willingness to engage the political superstructure distinguishes us from the more strictly issue-oriented groups.
That engagement can take the form of actually running for office. Or supporting the runs of compatible INDEPENDENT allies. Or even raising the issues about our elected officials and their complicity in any number of issues. Which county commissioners are the big backers of gentrification plans? Who is responsible for the crumbling of a city’s water system? Or taking big money from polluters?
Not the end, but the beginning …
Do the above, and you will grow. You are not alone. You are part of a growing party, growing in numbers, growing in reputation, growing in effectiveness (see our latest election results).
There are events breaking on the international, national and local scenes that are forcing people to re-examine their old political loyalties, their old assumptions. Choices will have to be made. So above all, one principle stands above all others: