Howie Hawkins’ nomination as the Green Party candidate for president is a tremendous opportunity for the American left. It’s true that the Green Party is not a solidly working-class, fundamentally anti-capitalist organizing machine ready to lead a full-scale proletarian (electoral) revolution. The party is centered around the issue of climate change and recruits anyone committed to that cause, and it is thus vulnerable to the influence of some of the big money interests which plague the two major parties.
But Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, are workers running on a platform based around the Green New Deal, a package of legislation championed by progressive Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). The Green Party has, due to the candidates’ successes, officially adopted the label of “eco-socialist.” Medicare for All, defunding the police, nationalizing key sectors of the economy, promoting worker cooperatives and eliminating the power of the military-industrial complex are all central to their vision. They don’t expect to defeat Trump and Biden, nor do they have any doubts that they will be ridiculed, accused of spoiling the election, or cast aside once more as a perennial joke. Nevertheless, Hawkins and Walker know how important their platform is for our nation’s wellbeing and our planet’s continued existence.
The Greens have set an ambitious goal for this election: one million votes for socialism. Not a million votes for Howie and Angela, not a million votes for the Green Party and not a million votes against Trump and Biden. They want to prove that socialism is popular, that young people are fed up with neoliberal capitalism and that we will not stand for the continued exploitation and immiseration of working people that Democrats and Republicans guarantee.
A million votes for socialism in this election would undoubtedly be a major victory for the left. It would demonstrate to the entire political spectrum that there is a significant contingent that will not continue to throw its support behind the major parties just because they claim a duopoly on electoral politics. It would finally make clear to the Democrats that progressives will no longer kowtow to their candidates and platform as Schumer, Pelosi and the Democratic establishment continue to pay lip service to social and economic justice, all while enabling Republicans’ dangerous and disgusting pro-business agenda at the behest of their big money donors.
None can deny that defeating Trump in this election is of tantamount importance, and voting for Biden in crucial swing states is a moral imperative. But most of the country lives in states where their vote for Trump or Biden is completely meaningless; in solid blue states, voting for the Republicans yields pretty much no political gain. The Greens lack such political clout. In my home state of New York, over a million people could have voted third party in 2016 and Hillary Clinton still would have carried all 29 of our electoral votes. So, Ohioans and Floridians, please vote for Joe Biden. New Yorkers, Alabamians, Oregonians, Montanans and Mainers (who adopted a sane election system with ranked-choice): I implore you to cast your vote in favor of socialism.
Our electoral college, gerrymandered congressional districts and pervasive dogma about the inevitability of the two major parties all but ensure that third-party candidates will be unable to win important positions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leverage our broken political system to prove that socialists are only getting stronger.
In voting for socialism in 2020, we can invigorate an existing third party, chip away at the American mindset that third parties are entirely frivolous and force the Democratic establishment into adopting a more progressive platform. In many states, ballot access for third parties depends (among other factors) directly on vote share. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has sought to make it more difficult for third parties to compete in his state, and further attacks are certainly forthcoming. Even if the Greens in their current form aren’t the ideal socialist party we’d eventually hope to see, they are undoubtedly better than the Democrats. The Democrats’ only value is that they are better than Trump. If we want to break the hold of big business on American politics and remake our country in a fairer, freer image, we must make it acceptable for a candidate and party to be unapologetically anti-capitalist. Protecting and promoting political organizations other than the two major parties is itself a vital step towards a just society.
While Trump’s defeat is the short-term goal, we must recognize that a whole new fight (hopefully) starts with Joe Biden’s inauguration. Biden and the Democrats will continue to ensure skyrocketing inequality, the gross mistreatment of migrants, environmental degradation, the deaths of innocent civilians overseas and the subjugation of people of color to a white supremacist system.
There will be a massive political fight ahead of us whether Trump or Biden emerges as the victor in this election. We must prove that there is an alternative to the Republicans’ blatant fascistic tendencies and the Democrats’ free-market capitalism with a (slightly) more human face. The Greens recognize that they can serve a monumental purpose in this election despite their nonexistent chances of taking the White House this year. We can achieve A Million Votes for Socialism.
The Bowdoin Orient