Green Party presumptive nominee Howie Hawkins says even progressive Democrats such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have watered down policies espoused by his party and predicts former Vice President Joe Biden (D) has an open lane to the White House in 2020.
That’s why, he says, liberals that support the Green Party platform – especially in states guaranteed to go Democratic by wide margins – will feel more comfortable this year giving him their vote.
Hawkins, who clinched his party’s nomination Saturday night told The Hill that he rejects the idea that Sanders and other prominent progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have pushed the Democratic Party to the left in recent years.
“I don’t think they have [pushed the Democrats to the left],” Hawkins said. “Except on the ‘Medicare for all’ question, but Biden’s opposed to it.”
“I don’t see a change in the balance of forces. I see a higher profile because of Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign,” Hawkins continued. “But now he’s backing Biden. And he even compromised on Medicare for all.”
Hawkins pointed to a recent interview with Sanders and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, during which the Vermont senator, who made Medicare for all a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, suggested that Joe Biden could move instead to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 55, as evidence that even the most progressive Democrats were being pulled to the center by prevailing forces in the party.
“See, that’s what happens. You know, we like to say you go into the Democratic Party to change it, but the Democratic party changes you,” Hawkins told The Hill.
“I think there’s some room for growth [in the Democratic Party]. If Jamaal Bowman replaces [Rep.] Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), that would be an advance,” he said.
“But it’s gonna be change at the margins. And from the Green Party perspective, we need fundamental change,” Hawkins added. “The progressive program as articulated by Bernie Sanders, even though he didn’t run from the democratic socialist label, it was really New Deal liberalism.”
Hawkins has called for more drastic measures on several fronts. His version of the Green New Deal would “decarbonize” the U.S. economy by 2030, as opposed to 2050 under Sanders’s plan, and he has also embraced the party’s support of reparations for Black Americans.
“Bernie wouldn’t touch reparations. He was pretty tone-deaf on racial justice questions. He did a little bit on criminal justice reform but I don’t think he could speak to that so well,” Hawkins said.
“But I think the biggest issue is foreign and military policy. I’ve been saying that the new nuclear arms race should be a top campaign issue,” he said. “The last bilateral treaty between the United States and Russia on strategic arms expires next February 5. And there are no negotiations going on. And none of the Democrats, except [former Sen.] Mike Gravel (D-Ala.) when he was in, even talked about it.”
Despite his qualms with the platforms pushed respectively by Biden and Sanders, the retired Teamster told The Hill that he sees an open path to the White House for Democrats this year. The former vice president is currently polling 13 points higher than the president in a Reuters-Ipsos poll tracking the 2020 race.
But there are some Democrats who still blame the Green Party for pulling votes from 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and handing Trump the White House, and many on the left say defeating Trump is the paramount concern in 2020.
“I think Trump is toast. Trump is a loser!” Hawkins said. “He gave up on the coronavirus. Look at the last week. The generals said ‘go to hell,’ the Supreme Court ruled against him four different ways, the judges are slapping down his attorney general, [William] Barr, his poll numbers are sinking.”
“I think his base is eroding. The poll numbers show that. Which creates a different kind of the dynamic [than] ‘anybody but Trump,’” he continued. “I think particularly in a state like New York, where it’s not even going to be close, a lot of people are going to use their vote to say what they’re for. And I’m encouraging people not to waste your vote on what you don’t want.”