Recently I sat down with Larry Sanders, brother of Bernie Sanders, veteran social care worker and academic on the subject, and long-time progressive and Green Party member. In part four of our talk, we talked about the effect of Brexit on UK politics, and the Green Party's position on it.
A friend of mine whom I worked with on two of his campaigns, I was keen to hear his opinion on several key issues.
In part five, we talk about the future of the Green Party in the UK, the growth of progressivism in the US since 2016, and we close with thoughts on Bernie's 2020 campaign.
Once more, my comments are tabbed for clarity.
The Future of the Green Party in the UK
P: What do you think is next for the Green Party as a whole? I think that there’s probably a lot of people in this country, perhaps from the older generations, who kind of see the Green Party as almost still a remnant of the ‘Hippy Movement’. That even though green policies are really important, that they just focus on a fringe of environmental policies.
But obviously they have, not just sensible, but advanced, modern, and extremely popular policies on a wide range of issues. That when you remove the party labels from them and describe them to people, they are wildly popular.
Do you see the party therefore trying to make an effort to rebrand itself in that way, as not just ‘green’ and about the environment, but making people aware that it’s an allround progressive party, and really living up to that model?
L: Well, I think we’re in a very difficult position in this country. Around Europe, Green Parties are doing extremely well. Partly it’s just a measure of the fact that social democratic parties have destroyed themselves. In the same ways that the Democratic Party in America, by colluding with the ownership of the country, and stopping, weakening their socialist wings and so on. Britain has escaped that by the peculiar circumstance of the Labour Party made a ‘mistake’ in how it elected its leader, and left it open for a different kind of leadership.
Otherwise, if the Labour Party had been led by the Blairites, it also would have been in desperate straights, I think.
So there are reasons, generalisable reasons why Green Parties were doing well - the combinations of their attractiveness to young people, having been right on the environmental issue for 30 years, while all the other parties have hedged. And of growing importance of the social justice movement. But I’m not an expert - and each Green Party in each country has developed differently, for obvious reasons. So, whether they’re very good for their country or not, in general they’re on the good side, and how good, I don’t know.
But in this country we’re hampered by first past the post of course. And while we drift upwards in the number of councillors we’ve got, we still haven’t made anything like a breakthrough.
[Will there be] something in the disasters that are happening and are likely to carry on for a while, with the whole Brexit business, [that will affect change]? If some kind of Brexit carries on, the economy will suffer, and in a suffering economy, some times political change happens. Will it be possible for the Green Party to succeed, I really don’t know. There’s an awful lot against us.
The basic answer is it’s still long haul for the Green Party. I still think we play a very important role. I think that on average, the Green Party membership and leadership elected people are much better than the average within the Labour Party, but whether or not that that will be enough, given the media, given the first past the post, to make a breakthrough? I don’t really know.
P: Very interesting. And I hope they can make a surge, certainly. So, I just want to quickly go back to a couple things.
The second half of this piece, and the end of my talk with Larry, was featured at the end of part one as I mentioned in that article, as it was a very nice fit for it there. But as it's the end mine and Larry's discussion, I repeat it here, too.
The Next Phase
P: This point in history, kind of like the end of a big Hollywood movie.
P: Something like Star Wars of The Lord Of The Rings.
Where, we’ve got a crisis and if we don’t solve the crisis, it’ll be our utter destruction.
Climate Change is literally the apocalypse of organised human life. Things like nuclear war and other terrible conflicts are on the rise in likelihood. And again, we’ve got literally about a decade here -11 years before Climate Change is past the point of no return. Problems like that have a narrow clock on the window in which to solve them.
But if we do solve them, the type of massive structural change and scientific advancement, and change in human kindness toward each other and within society as a whole will mean it will enable so many other enormous changes, that either we go to utter destruction, or we move to like a Star Trek like utopia.
P: Within my lifetime and the next generation’s lifetime. So it really is one extreme or the other right now. So it’s a real fascinating point in human history.
L: Yes. I think you’re right. You better do it right! It’s your fault -your generation if it doesn’t work.
P: [Laughs] We’ll do you all proud, we won’t let you guys down!
P: None of us will, I think this generation is ready for a fight, is ready to make a difference.
And that leads me to the sort of last two things I want to ask then. Talking about this generation and things, quickly going back to America and back to your brother.
Like i said, a whole progressive movement has kicked off in America cause of what his campaign showed was possible. Do you think that Bernie was surprised and pleased with the scale of how much ordinary people took that up, and do you think he’s pleased with where it is now?
L: Well, I don’t know the answer even to those questions. About whether he was surprised - when Bernard announced that he was gonna run, said he was going to run, I immediately thought “Yes. This is going to work. He may not win, there’s a chance he’ll win. But he’ll change it all.”
And I have proof of that because somebody - an American TV thing came to interview me a couple of weeks after, and I said that. I’m on tape, I’ve got it on tape. Probably been wiped away by now.
But if I saw that, I think Bernard knew the possibilities even better. Not the certainties though, obviously. So the fact that it happened, I’m sure pleased him. Whether it surprised him, I don’t know.
He certainly wasn't certain that it was going to take off.
P: Do you think Bernie’s pleased with how rapidly progressivism has spread, and how much young people are picking up the torch?
L: Oh yes, yes, he’s very pleased with what’s happened. He’s perfectly aware that we’re not there, wherever there is, yet.
And I think the reason he’s running now is that because it’s not clear - if it was clear, I think he’d be very happy to support somebody else, who ran with similar policies.
But that hasn’t happened, and that hasn’t happened because the great victory hasn’t been won, yet. So, a lot of people understand more than they did, particularly among young people, but the power, the control of media, a little less controlled with social media, but even social media is not completely insusceptible to power and money. So, we’re back to the point before. It’s up in the air.
But there is now a possibility for a victory that didn’t exist.
P: And, my last question is, what kind of effort we can expect from Bernie? He campaigned hard before and he ignited so much energy - do you think he’ll be really energetic, and happy to run, and give it his all again this time?
L: Bernard is capable of the most astonishing hard work, as I said before. The most astonishing self-discipline. So he will do it. He will do what he can. As forcefully as he can.
The question of success is probably in other people’s hands.
P: Do you think he’s going to give it -
L: I think he will give it 100%.
And I think it’ll be a good show.
P: I think it’ll be a hell of a show.
Yeah, well - Feel The Bern!
P: Well, thanks very much Larry, I appreciate it as always.
L: Thank you for coming.