The following is an excerpt:
Hawkins knows he will not be the next president of the United States. But he is running anyway as the nominee of the US Green Party for a simple reason: He believes neither major political party has real solutions to what ails the country and the planet.
“When we go to fight on climate issues or affordable housing issues or for universal health care,” Hawkins told DW, “we’re fighting the Democrats as much as the Republicans.”
The Democratic Party has fought to keep the Green Party off the ballot in several states, and was successful in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. DW contacted the Democratic National Committee for comment, but did not receive a response.
“The historic role of third parties in the United States is to bring issues to the fore that are not being addressed,” said Hawkins. “It’s an old tradition going back to the Liberty Party, which put the question of slavery into the elections back in the 1840s.”
One issue that Hawkins hopes to press the Democrats on is urgent climate action. “Trump calls climate change a hoax,” he said. “But the Biden climate plan acts as if it’s a hoax.”
Hawkins is considered by many to be the first US politician to include a Green New Deal in his platform when he ran for governor of New York in 2010. That piece of legislation, which would create a federally funded jobs program to wean the country off fossil fuels, is now championed by the left wing of the Democratic Party.
“The things we’re proposing are popular with the American people,” said Hawkins. He pointed to government-funded universal health care and the Green New Deal, two policy proposals supported by a majority of Americans. “So it’s just a problem in our electoral system.”
Tied down by a two-party system
The Green Party of the United States was built on the model of the German Green Party, which inspired environmentalists around the world by winning seats in the federal parliament in 1983. But while the German Greens now have 67 seats in parliament, the US Green Party still has no national representation.
Hawkins blames that not on voters or his party, but on the US electoral system. “It’s a winner-take-all, two-party system,” he said. “It’s in the political culture.”
Nothing in the US Constitution prescribes a limit on the number of political parties. But because candidates must only receive a plurality of votes — more than any other candidate in the race — this deters candidates from competing with each other if their platforms are similar.
Drutman argues that the system is outdated. “The US is a very old democracy, and in 1787, there weren’t a lot of voting systems around,” Drutman told DW. “A lot of the modern systems of proportional representation were invented in the mid to late 19th century, even in the early 20th century, and a lot of countries adopted them. But in the US, things kind of just stayed the same.”
Drutman believes the two-party system is detrimental to a modern democracy. “Given the large diversity of the United States and the way in which politics has organized around cultural and social identity issues, [the two-party system] has created a very toxic, polarized environment in the United States.”
A multiparty America?
Hawkins believes the US won’t become a multiparty democracy until the electoral system is reformed. The Green Party has advocated for proportional representation in the US Congress, much like the German parliamentary model. It has also called for ranked-choice voting for single-seat elections.
In the meantime, the Green Party is focusing on running candidates in cities, counties and states where they actually do have a chance to win. He points out that the Republicans used this strategy to create their party in the 1850s.
“They built it from the bottom up,” said Hawkins. “And that’s what we’ve got to do.”