[First off, to correct a common misconception, the retreat was not a decision-making event. There was strategy discussion, but no strategic decisions. Secondly, this post goes into a lot of detail about internal Green Party debates. Sorry if it bores you.]
Part of the discussion in Sonoma focused on national Green Party dynamics, and how California fits into that. One of the things that makes me hopeful that the party will avoid a repeat of the bitter split that happened in 2004 is hearing from the national Political Director, Brent McMillan (above). He came out to the retreat from Washington, D.C., where he is working to make the 2008 Green primary and national convention smoother than last time. As McMillan pointed out, 2004 was the first contested primary for the Greens, and a lot of the convention rules were not clear. [This was exacerbated by the presence of multiple "favorite son" candidates, including Calif. primary winner Peter Camejo, who ostensibly supported Ralph Nader, but who did not directly control their delegates.]
So it is imperative to clarify rules about convention delegates ahead of time. One other thing that is being planned for this cycle is to gather pledges for donations to whomever wins the nomination in advance, so that their campaign can come out of the convention at full steam.
A related issue is how the votes will be apportioned at the national convention. This was a major source of contention in 2004, because the formula gives small states a disproportionate vote (similar to the electoral college). California, a big state that is also has one of the most active and successful Green Parties in the country, was particularly short-changed by this system. Some activists here have threatened to withhold our ballot line or even split our state party from the national over this issue.
On the national committee, a group has been working to develop a new apportionment plan that would be acceptable to those activists, but also to Green Parties in small states. This effort has been led in large part by Cat Woods, who was in Sonoma. In February, the proposal from the Delegate Apportionment Committee (DAC) failed by only two votes (70 Y, 38 N, with 72 needed to pass). The proposal, which will be brought back soon in a modified form, uses four criteria to determine how many seats each state will get: membership, campaign strength, state voting strength, and presidential voting strength. Each accredited state party would have a minimum of 2 seats and a maximum of 42 seats, with 200 total seats.
Even though I don't spend very much time thinking about the national, and I would not consider splitting off from it over this issue, it is very important that this proposal passes, for two reasons. First, the lack of fair representation has led to a serious split at the national level and also within the Calif. state Green Party. Second, this proposal will build the Green Party because it creates an incentive for activities that build the party, including expanding membership, electing candidates, and running strong statewide campaigns. After the next vote on this proposal (at the next state General Assembly meeting), California will decide how it wants to respond, and will come out united either way, I hope.