As the 20 or so people who came to the Dwight Hall Library last Wednesday night recounted their reasons for becoming involved in the newly formed Yale Green Party, a pattern began to emerge in their responses.
Though some of the undergraduates said they became interested in the Greens as a result of the group’s well-known environmental stance, many voiced dissatisfaction with big party politics.
“I think what [is motivating Yale students] is a feeling that government in general is not doing enough to advance a progressive agenda,” said Rachel Wasser ’04, one of the Yale party’s founders. “It’s a concern with corruption and where the money comes from.”
Wasser became interested in the national Green Party during Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign, and along with Andrew Kroon ’04 and Victor Edgerton EPH ’03, among others, resolved to found a Yale chapter.
“Unfortunately, what got us interested was that there were a lot of Yale students to help out [with Nader’s campaign], but they weren’t organized,” she said.
Wasser said the new chapter will serve primarily as a conduit for Yale students to get involved with an already thriving New Haven Green Party. Joyce Chen ’01 was elected Ward 2 alderwoman in last fall’s election, while Ward 9 Alderman John Halle successfully defended his seat.
Joining the Republicans on the board as an equal minority party, the Greens now are represented on all board committees. Chen said this allows the neighborhoods she represents, primarily inhabited by poor blacks and Latinos, to have a voice in local government.
“Before, [these residents] were represented by people who just needed the endorsement,” Chen said. “There was no competition and no accountability.”
Chen echoed the sentiments of many Yale Greens when she said the party seeks to be more responsive to the interests of its constituents. She added that the Green Party does not accept corporate contributions.
“New Haven is infamous for its level of corruption,” she said. “Money is unaccounted for and ends up in the back pockets of the well-connected.”
Wasser said other party issues dispel the idea that it is only concerned with the environment. She said that she believes this platform, which includes an economic bill of rights, a program for human rights and social justice, and an emphasis on accountability, will appeal to Yale students.
Wasser said the response to the party’s formation has been positive despite the fact that the national Green Party was criticized by Democrats after the 2000 election. The Democrats complained that the Green Party had split the liberal voting block. Wasser dismissed this claim and said the Green Party has a platform separate from Democrats, important in a city dominated by one party.
But Samantha Jay ’04, the president of the Yale College Democrats, said the line between Democrats and Greens is somewhat blurry.
“The Democrats, especially in New Haven, are incredibly progressive and idealistic, but in a pragmatic way,” she said. “We’re trying to work toward achievable goals and then set our sights on higher ones.”
She added, though, that she supported the formation of a new Yale political party.
“It’s a great thing more students are taking an interest in local politics,” she said. “[The Democrats and the Greens] have similar goals.”
But Wasser and many Greens remain unconvinced that the platforms of the two parties are interchangeable.
“Getting involved in the Green Party is not working outside the system; it’s working to improve the system,” Wasser said. “I think you should vote for someone who you agree with instead of changing your goals.”