Translated from Romanian:
by Răzvan Sibii
I explained a year ago in a larger material the strange American electoral system in which two parties without paying members win all the important elections by practically blackmailing voters who would prefer a third party (“If you vote for the Greens, you get votes from Democrats and Republicans win! ”).
Green, Libertarian or independent politicians generally have two options:
To run for everything they can until the world gets to know them and, if not choose them, at least to listen to them. These people tend to reject the label of “politician”, preferring that of “activist” or “community organizer” (which was Obama immediately after college). They are usually oengists, trade unionists, heads of local associations, etc. To run in the Democratic or Republican primary elections (where the electoral battle between American politicians is really going on), to get their elbows right and dethrone the party’s long-running apparatchiks (as Trump did and, in to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders). Most end up integrating into one of the two big parties.
For this edition of the newsletter, I spoke with two outsider politicians who chose the first option a few decades ago and since then are running for everything they get in the way with the fervor of a missionary who glimpsed the Truth. Both ran for president of the United States last year, along with Trump and Biden – Howie Hawkins of the Green Party US and Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
From left to left
The Green Party was founded in 1984 by leaders of environmental organizations (including Howie Hawkins) and, like its European counterparts, is a left-wing party, with minority rights and social equity playing an important role in its ideological platform. Party leaders strongly criticize American capitalism in which some employees earn miserable wages, are not unionized, have no maternity leave and no decent health insurance, but do not accept the state communism they perceive as deeply anti -democratic. The Greens are considered the fourth largest American party, in terms of size and influence (after Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians), with more or less active organizations in each state.
The Party of Socialism and Liberation was founded in 2004 by a group of activists detached from the Workers’ Party, which in turn split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1959, and in 1938 The American Communist Party (Communist Party USA), which defined itself as Trotskyist and not Stalinist. However, unlike the Greens, these socialists do not hesitate to embrace the communist cause even now, speaking in terms of “revolution,” “working class”, “imperialism” and “self-determination”. They support the leaders of Cuba and Venezuela and have a good word to say about China, Syria and North Korea.
Gloria La Riva ran for the US vice presidency for the first time in 1984. She won 0.05% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. [Source: PSL presidential campaign]
Elections and activism
I started the dialogue with the two former presidential candidates by asking them what a so-called “tertiary” (ie non-parliamentary) party does when it is not engaged in electoral campaigns.
“Electoral policy is a small part of our business,” says La Riva. “Much of what we do is organizing work, at the neighborhood, state and country level. For example, this year we are fighting the danger of evicting millions of people from their homes because they can no longer pay their rent or mortgage. There is now a partial moratorium that keeps people in their homes, but when the end of the pandemic is declared, we will be dealing with a massive crisis. ”
Representing a more muscular party than La Riva’s PSL, environmentalist Howie Hawkins also deals with social and political issues. The second category also includes the battle that is being fought these days over the bill initiated by Democrats in the Chamber of Deputies known as HR1: The For the People Act. Although Progressives in the Democratic Party praise the bill for trying to limit corporate influence on elections and facilitate voting for as many segments of the population as possible, the Greens accuse Democrats of introducing a “poison pill” into the law. a presidential campaign will benefit from public funding only if the accumulation of money received from private individuals will be five times higher than it is now. Such a provision will dust off the Greens’ presidential campaign, which refuses donations from corporations and relies on small donations and public funding.
And because it’s still Democrats, they pose a greater danger to the Greens and the PSL than Republicans who have declared war on all left-wing political ideas. At least with the Republicans you know one and the other, that they don’t (hide) anymore. But Democrats sometimes talk nicely about social programs, ecology, anti-discrimination, etc., but Hawkins says they don’t even go to the end with these projects and sabotage the Greens who want to stand up to the electorate with such proposals. Democratic politicians and judges are doing their best to disqualify Green candidates or at least make it difficult for them to run in elections through all sorts of money-related conditions, polls or past polls.
Not even the presence in the Democratic Party of Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – two politicians often characterized as “radical leftists” – does not warm Hawkins’ Social Democrats. “Progressives in the Democratic Party do not have the leverage, they are captured. They do not have the possibility to threaten the Corporate Democrats that they are leaving for another strong left-wing party, ”says the Green president.
“The AOC has taken the Green New Deal from the Green Party. I ran on such a program for governor of New York in 2010. It had become the Greens’ main project. AOC and Markey took it over and diluted it: removed the provision that would have banned shale gas exploitation and the construction of fossil resource infrastructure, removed the military funding cuts needed to fund this project and moved the deadline for emissions 0 and 100% clean energy from 2030 to 2050,” continues Hawkins.
Howie Hawkins, the former Green President, has worked all his life in construction and for the courier company UPS. He won 0.2% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. [Source: Greens’ presidential campaign]
What’s the point of running?
In last year’s presidential election, Howie Hawkins was on the ballot in just 30 states, with 12 more allowing voters to write their names on the ballot if they wanted to. Gloria la Riva was present on the ballot in 15 states, with the possibility of being voted in another 13. America has 50 states, plus Washington, DC, and it is virtually impossible to win the presidency if you are not even eligible to vote in a quarter. between these jurisdictions.
Then why bother to run, especially if you make an effort with fundraising, signature collection, speeches, volunteers, and so on?
“For us, it was a way to talk to people about the pandemic, about the need for free health insurance for everyone. Our political project is non-stop work – in elections, on the streets, everywhere, ”says La Riva.
The Green candidate also has a similar view on the usefulness of running in elections. “If we don’t run in the elections, will we give up everything? We cannot give up, because climate change is a matter of life and death. The new nuclear arms race is a matter of life and death. Poverty is a matter of life and death,” says Hawkins, who has run unsuccessfully in at least 25 elections since 1993, including those for local councilor (3 times), mayor (once), governor (3 times). deputy (3 times), senator (once) and president of the USA (once).
Hawkins is aware that if the American electoral system remains unchanged, third parties have a tiny chance of being represented in state leadership (state parliament, governor) or at the federal level (Congress, president). For now, he hopes to adopt the preferential voting system (which I explained here), which would allow supporters to vote with the Greens and tick the Democrats in second place, thus ensuring that he does not divide the left-wing vote in favor of Republicans. But the future does not necessarily sound good from this point of view: last year, voters in the state of Massachusetts, one of the most progressive American states, opposed the adoption of the preferential voting system.
- 62% of Americans believe that the American political scene is in dire need of tertiary parties.
- Two informed opinions about the opportunity of a strong tertiary party from two New York Times commentators: Thomas Edsall and Bret Stephens.
- La Riva says Bernie Sanders’ relative success is due to the leftist wave that swept America with the Occupy movement in 2011. I wrote about Occupy, as well as its resemblances to the Dreamers, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter movements, in one edition past of this newsletter.
- In this editorial, Howie Hawkins complains that American leftists have abandoned their principles in the face of the danger of re-electing Trump as president.