Several college students lean in as Marnie Glickman, co-chairwoman of the national Green Party, briskly explains how to get strangers and friends to pony up for your politics.
Pitch the big-picture message. Don't take rejection personally. Hit up your family, roommates, hairdresser, whomever. They want to help you. Really they do.
The students, members of the campus arm of the Green Party, nibble on soy nuts, bananas and bagels as they scribble notes. They squirm, uneasy with the subject.
"If you don't create an opportunity for people to give you more, you're not gonna get it," snaps Glickman, fair hair pulled into a ponytail, cheeks flushed. "It's like, if you don't ask: You. Don't. Get."
Glickman knows about money. In less than a decade, this 32-year-old Lewis & Clark Law School student and former Democratic fund-raiser has helped collect more than $10 million for left-leaning candidates around the country, many of whom never had a shot at winning.
The list of underdogs includes Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who got 2.7 percent of the national vote for president in 2000 and 5 percent in Oregon.
Glickman fared better with two Democratic candidates in Oregon: Elizabeth Furse, who won a hotly contested seat in Congress in 1994, and Tom Bruggere, a political newcomer who narrowly lost the U.S. Senate race to Gordon Smith in 1996.
Now the Minnesota native is using her behind-the-scenes know-how to help the Green Party ramp up for the 2004 presidential election. It's not clear what role Greens will play as Democrats try to unseat George W. Bush, although some Democrats blamed Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000.
Glickman is more interested in grooming Greens to run for local office. That's the way to change the world, she says -- from the bottom up.
She wants profit-obsessed corporations to stop shoving junk food at children. She wants to rid the world of homophobia, racism and sexism. She wants taxpayers to pay for political campaigns so incumbents don't broker back-room deals in exchange for cash.
Fantasy? To some, you bet. But Glickman is determined to play by her rules and dismantle the status quo.
"Marnie recognizes the good you can get out of changing public policy is a heck of a lot better -- no offense intended -- than anything the Salvation Army is going to do," says Steve Novick, a Portland lawyer who also worked on Bruggere's campaign. "Marnie is a hard-nosed idealist."
Sense of humor with a conscience Glickman is also whip-smart, energetic and down-to-earth funny.
Friends and colleagues say Glickman is a hoot to watch. When she speaks, her blue eyes roll, widen or squinch shut. Sometimes she slows her words to EM-pha-size certain syllables. She's not afraid to pull goofy histrionics -- such as mimicking a dagger in her gut -- to stress a point.
"She has just a magnificent sense of humor," says her husband, Gary Ruskin. "In D.C., it's like existing in a cloud of endless hot air and self-importance, and she's not like that."
Ruskin, 38, and Glickman work out of their Southeast Portland bungalow. Her office is tidy, the walls pale green. "The Tao of Negotiation" is one of many books on the shelves.
Across the hall is Ruskin's office, where he runs Commercial Alert, a nonprofit group that fights commercialization, such as product placement on television shows without viewer knowledge. An aging medium-size mutt named Zoe pads between the rooms, trailing black fur on the hardwood floor.
The couple's television stays in the closet, except for emergencies. They don't drink pop, eat fast food or shop at the Gap. Glickman sticks to a meat-free diet and avoids genetically engineered food but says she's no "raw food nerd." News junkies, they're up at dawn to scour national newspapers in print and online.
Glickman moved to Portland on Election Day 1992 to rest up after the Clinton-Gore campaign. She fell in love with its size, beauty and social consciousness.
She later returned to Washington, D.C., to work as a deputy director at Emily's List, which bankrolls pro-choice Democratic women candidates. Glickman returned to Portland in 2001 to attend law school. She's not sure what she'll do with her degree.
A commitment to grass-roots access helped drive her away from the Democrats. The short-story explanation: Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Women's groups were backing him. It dawned on Glickman that she was sick of fighting Democrats who didn't wholeheartedly support affirmative action, gay rights and a woman's right to choose.
"The fact that most of the Democratic feminist leaders were contorting themselves to support Bill Clinton, I just knew something was really wrong with where I was and what team I was on," she says. "And there had to be other ways to be more productive in the world than to be a Democratic political operative."
Paige Richardson, a Democratic political consultant who hired an inexperienced Glickman for the Furse campaign, understands why she jumped. "The Democrats were much more mainstream, and she was tired of waiting for us to boldly stand up for the things Marnie believes in."
Glickman doesn't recall feeling particularly outraged growing up in Golden Valley, outside Minneapolis. Her father, Ed Glickman, represented plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits against corporations. Her mother, Francie Glickman, is a psychologist who rallied for equal rights for women.
Ed Glickman says his oldest daughter always was driven to learn. One night, he recalls, he walked past Marnie's room and found her with a book. "I said, 'It's time to go to bed now.' And she said, 'I'm reading the encyclopedia, and I'm only on the letter C, and I have many books to go.' She must have been 8, 9 or 10."
Marnie Glickman attributes the inspiration for her career interest in politics to the late Paul Wellstone, a progressive Democrat and political science professor who unseated a U.S. senator in Minnesota in 1990.
"He brought home the idea to me that you can hold onto your values and who you are and be in politics and win," Glickman says. "I sort of thought, if he can do it, I can do it, too."
Martial art hones abilities On a recent Tuesday, Glickman is not pondering political parties. She's dressed in loose white pants and shirt, a green sash around her waist, glasses off.
She beckons the other students closer, to show them how to disarm an attacker. Glickman steps aside, parries the weapon, steps up to the attacker, and trips him from behind. He falls. Boom! She fake punches him. Boom!
They mimic her.
"Good! Cross. Beautiful! Knee on the ribs. Attack the Adam's apple," she says, clapping her hands. "Now, take the weapon away."
Glickman started training in poekoelan tjimindie tulen, a feminist-minded Indonesian martial art, when working for Furse. The art has taught Glickman as much about politics as the lessons she learned through her mentors and high-stakes campaign stints: Stay calm. Think on your feet. Prepare a plan.
Her startup skills will be crucial to building the national Greens.
Specifically, Glickman needs the party to hash out a budget, which could end up topping $1 million. Donor solicitation letters have to be coordinated and mailed. She is determined to increase the number of Greens elected to local office.
Nationally, roughly 180 Greens hold city, county and other local seats in 26 states. The goal is to run 1,000 candidates in 2004, double the number in 2002.
Oregon is not an active state for Greens like Wisconsin or New Jersey , but the party has won eight spots in places such as Westfir, Salem and Portland. Party registration has doubled from the 2000 election and stands at nearly 15,000, making Greens the fourth-largest political group in the state, with about 200 fewer members than the Libertarian Party.
"People expected us to have a burst of energy and then fade away," says Jeff Cropp, co-chairman of the Portland-area Greens. "As we develop and bring more people like Marnie in, we'll have more credibility and staying power."
Neel Pender, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon, says he's glad Greens are active, but he doubts the party will get the momentum it had in 2000.
"A lot of progressives, whether they were left-leaning Democrats or Greens, have learned some very hard lessons in the last three years about the practical negative consequences of foolish idealism," Pender says.
Glickman is not dismayed by her mission.
After all, she once raised $850,000 for a Chicago congressional candidate who, as expected, was trounced in the primary. Donors forked over dollars to support a good cause, no matter the outcome of the race.
"I try to hold everything lightly. I think tearing out your hair is exasperation, and holding it lightly is keeping things in perspective. I definitely do not feel exasperated," she says.
"I would tear my hair out," she adds, "if I was still a Democrat."
Grew up in: Golden Valley, Minn.
Occupation: Elected in June as one of five volunteer heads of the Green Party of the United States
Education: Georgetown University, bachelor's degree in government; will receive her law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in spring
Family: In June, married Gary Ruskin, 38, co-founder and executive director of Commercial Alert, a national nonprofit group opposed to commercialization
Career highlights: Finance director for part of Ralph Nader's campaign for president in 2000; member of four-person management team at Emily's List that raised $20 million for pro-choice Democratic women candidates for the 1998 election cycle; fund-raising consultant for U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore.; finance director for former Rep. Elizabeth Furse, D-Ore.; national advance staff member with the Clinton-Gore 1992 campaign
Loves to: Read, garden, cook, practice poekoelan tjimindie tulen, an Indonesian martial art
Eagerly awaiting: The third book of a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook