Angela Walker is the Green Party vice-presidential candidate for 2020. She and presidential candidate Howie Hawkins clinched the party’s nomination on June 21 after winning enough primary contests to secure the nod on the first ballot.
On June 24, I met with Ms. Walker via Zoom for an in-depth interview on topics including her family and religious background, the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare, labor unions, policing, prisons, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Democratic Party, and what it means to vote Green.
What follows is the full text of our interview, which I transcribed from the Zoom recording. I’ve included background information on the questions in the questions themselves, but if you want learn more, Ms. Walker’s candidate profile and the campaign platform are good places to start.
“I believe that there is divinity”
KS – I found a passing reference to the influence that your grandmother’s political radicalism and activism has had on your public life but couldn’t find any details. Can you tell me about her and how she inspired you?
AW – She continues to inspire me. My grandmother is a devout Christian, which I am not. She is someone who has always practiced socialism without calling it socialism – centering kindness, compassion, cooperation, and fairness.
Everybody has a say. Everyone should be respected. Money is not the end-all, be-all. Our ideas of success are what we choose them to be. Moving in the world as a person of integrity and kindness is more important than being someone who has a lot of material success.
KS – How else has your family history shaped your political worldview?
AW – It’s the same thing. My mom was a hippie. She was! She never would have defined herself that way, but she was a hippie. You share what you have, if others need it. There was never a question.
There were children that we were playing with, kids around the house. At dinner time, everybody got fed, regardless of whether the kids were going home late or not. If there’s a child there at Christmas time, everybody gets something, even if you weren’t prepared for that child to be there. I was always taught, you take care of everybody around you.
KS – Growing up in Milwaukee, were you involved in a local religious community? Were you brought up in a tradition?
AW – As a child, yes. I was raised in the Church of God in Christ, which a lot of people understand as Holiness or Pentecostal.
KS – Do you feel that your religious experiences helped shape your political outlook?
AW – I know that they did, and not always in a positive way. Ha!
I think that having that grounding in an understanding of how to relate to the divine has been very helpful throughout my life, and it is definitely helpful now.
KS – Since so much of what you have said publicly seems parallel to what has long been discussed in womanist and liberation theologies, I’m curious if you’ve ever engaged with writing or writers in those areas.
AW – As far as womanism – Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, of course. Kimberlé Crenshaw, bell hooks, Audre Lorde. I could go on, but yes.
KS – I’ve seen some language of yours that seems very much like liberation theology.
AW – The last church that I attended regularly, they practice liberation theology, which is why I went.
KS – Your candidate profile states that you fiercely advocate for the rights of “the Earth itself.” What forms does this work take?
AW – In my own personal life, I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat dairy. I’m phasing honey out. I’ve always used honey as a medicine, until I realized that this really does… bees make honey because they need it, not because they want us to have it. So, reworking the way that I do that.
I am actually practicing a furniture-free minimalism. I believe that moving through the world with less things frees you up to – and this is just for me. It was something that I like. I’m already a minimalist. I don’t believe in having a lot of stuff. I feel like it weighs you down, and it changes what your priorities in life are.
Making sure that I recycle. Making sure that I am mindful of the amount of packaging that the things I buy come in. How they’re manufactured. Are they ethical? Making sure that I’m not using things that are tested on animals or have animal ingredients in them.
Treading this Earth as lightly as possible. I believe that she is very much a sentient entity and deserves our respect and our care.
KS – Have you interacted with members of Earth-centered religions such as the various modern forms of Paganism, Druidry, Wicca, and Heathenry?
AW – Yes! I used to think of myself as an Earth Witch. I mean, I am a Capricorn, so there’s that. I do follow… if you were to ask me, I’m a Heathen.
I do believe in Source. I believe that there is divinity that had a hand in creation, and I believe that that divinity lives in all living things, including non-human life and most definitely in the planet herself. I do believe that.
And I believe also that it is a responsibility of being someone who is granted time on this planet. We are supposed to truly be good stewards of her.
KS – We’re now several months into the coronavirus pandemic, and things are getting worse in the United States. Last Wednesday, we saw the highest daily total of new cases with over 36,000 recorded nationally on that one day alone. On Friday, Florida reported a new record of nearly 9,000 new cases in a single day.
What do we need to change to make real progress and save lives?
AW – This country has to take this pandemic seriously. People have to understand that this virus is unpredictable. It is long-lasting, and it is not hard to share it.
I think that for so long we’ve had this idea of I’m free to do what I want, and it’s not incumbent on me to worry about my neighbor. Well, it actually is. This is something that is airborne. Something as simple as covering your face – it’s not that complicated. Keep your hands clean. Keep a distance.
I understand that – particularly with it being summer – people want to feel like they’re having some sort of normalcy and that the ground under their feet is not unstable. But we have to be comfortable with the fact that this is exactly what it is. There is no stable. There is no normal.
Everything that we thought we understood – those things are shifting, and we’re going to have to ride with that, but being safe and being mindful and genuinely caring enough about our neighbor to make sure we’re not infecting them with something horrible.
KS – As the pandemic rages on, the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down all of the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – including protections for people with preexisting conditions. How do we make health care equitable in the U.S.?
AW – Do you want my honest opinion? Under capitalism, we’re not going to do that. It is not going to happen under the current system, because they have no incentive to do that.
The fact that the front-runner for the Democratic Party, their front-runner for the presidency, has said that he does not support the very measure that people most want to have, which is Medicare for All – I think that’s extremely telling. For a whole lot of people, this is the one big demand that they’re making: this is what we need, and we needed it decades ago.
The concept of a Medicare for All as a community controlled national health service – which is in our platform – these things are being done in other countries. This is not new to them. It’s only impossible to us.
I would like to be optimistic, that no matter who is occupying the White House, folks in government, that this would be something that they would do, but they have no incentive to do it and are showing no inclination to do it. So I don’t have any faith in them.
KS – You majored in history at University of North Florida. Do you think that the United States is at a critical inflection point in its history right now?
AW – Oh, yes. Oh, yes! And I also believe in the law of karma. We, as human beings moving through the journey that’s life, your soul is presented with lessons that you need to learn and, if you do not do that, you’ll see that lesson again. Maybe it won’t show up the same way, but it’s going to come back. I think we’re having that sort of moment as a country.
We had an opportunity during Reconstruction, post-enslavement, where we could have treated everyone equitably – formerly enslaved people, indigenous people, and poor white folks. We could have leveled the playing field and said everyone living in this country deserves a chance to thrive and be okay and made decisions and legislation that supported that. We didn’t do it.
We had an opportunity post-World War II where we could have said let’s treat people equitably. Let’s make sure that everyone has access to living-wage work. Let’s make sure that there is a health system in place for people. Let’s make sure that everybody’s okay. We didn’t do that.
We’re here again. We have an opportunity right now when a whole lot of people are waking up. I really believe that it is because this pandemic is happening, and because it has been mishandled, and the death toll has been so absolutely unbelievable, and the suffering coming from the fact that this has been mishandled.
I think that a lot of people’s hearts have been softened to a lot of other issues because of this. Things that they were able to just kind of shrug off or ignore previously, they’re feeling it now.
So I think right now at the intersection of pandemic, of the resulting economic hardships that are coming from that, with people being very aware of climate change, with the Arctic being a hundred degrees the other day, and also continuing state violence against black, brown, and indigenous people – I think that a lot of folks are awake to things they weren’t before, and I will be interested in seeing how we go forward.
“We take care of each other”
KS – You’ve described yourself as “a Fred Hampton, Assata Shakur socialist,” citing two figures who loom large in the history of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army in the 1960s and 1970s. What about the intersection of Hampton and Shakur with socialism speaks loudest to our current cultural moment?
AW – When this pandemic first hit and people were not able to go buy PPE [personal protective equipment], people were freaking out. There were unhoused people who weren’t being taking care of. Who were the people that got in the streets and did that, and started up mutual aid, and said the government is not handling this, is not taking care of the people? The people took care of the people.
I believe that, at the end of the day, that is the thing that will always save us. We take care of each other. We take care of ourselves. As long as we have a government that is insensitive to the needs of the people, we’re going to have to.
The [Black] Panthers, of course, have a tradition of feeding babies, making sure babies had breakfast, and providing medical testing and things in the community that people needed, because we weren’t receiving those services from the people who really are supposed to… are supported by our tax dollars. We’re entitled to these things. It’s a very direct way of taking care of one another, and that is the tradition that I draw from.
KS – You’ve been employed as a full-time school bus driver and have worked as a dump truck driver since 2017. How has your work life given you a different perspective on the American condition than the candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties?
AW – I think it’s because – and I can speak for Howie [Hawkins] with this, too – we both are workers. I think that being someone who has to be concerned about the fact that your healthcare is linked or your access to healthcare is linked to your employment. I’ve gone long periods with no health insurance, where I had to fall back, and I was grateful that Planned Parenthood exists, because that’s where I went. Those things are very real for me.
Also having to mind how you spend and things like that. With my work, climate change – with this these shifts where we’re having a lot more rain in times when we don’t normally see it – that means I don’t work, and so I have to I have to figure that out.
In a nutshell, it just boils down to being a working class person and knowing what working class people go through, because this is your life. It’s not someplace where you’re slumming, and then you’re just going to move up. This is my life.
KS – You were part of protests demanding a Florida ballot recount in the 2000 election. In his role as president of the Senate, Al Gore famously gaveled into silence multiple African-American members of the House of Representatives who objected to the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida, and he was fully willing to step aside and let George W. Bush take the presidency.
Looking back, what do you think was going on there?
AW – There was a lot of chicanery there. You remember that, at the time, Jeb Bush was the governor of the state, and Katherine Harris was the campaign manager for W.’s campaign, and she also had a position with the state that she should have stepped down from, because there was a clear conflict of interest.
When Gore conceded, I was so insulted and so angry. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people who went to Tallahassee to simply say recount our votes. I remember when I voted, they used those punch cards. I punched my ballot so hard, I was afraid that I ripped it. I was! You know, you pull the little chad off the back of it.
You [Gore] stepped aside and basically told the opposition that… You sold us out! It made me wonder about the way that the system works and what we’re really dealing with.
KS – When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker began his assault on unions in 2011, you joined the protestors in Madison as a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 and were afterward appointed the local’s Legislative Director.
During his first campaign for president, Barack Obama said, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes, and I will walk that picket line with you as President of the United States.” As president, he did not join the union members in Wisconsin when they were under direct assault by the governor.
How would you evaluate the Democratic Party’s relationship with labor unions in the United States?
AW – Just thinking about the fact that most unions funnel their membership – and the unions I’m thinking of, the ones that I worked with, transit, teachers, the nurses, public service workers – they all funnel their efforts, their money, and their energy into the Democratic Party and getting Democratic people elected, and we don’t hold them accountable.
People did ask individually, “Yo, President Obama! You said you’d put on your comfortable shoes and come walk with us. Where you at?” There were people that questioned that, but overwhelmingly, I think we take it as a given that, okay, yeah, these folks say this, but we really don’t have to hold them to account. And that’s problematic.
I think that it points to the larger problem of the Democrats taking the votes of certain sectors of the population for granted – being union workers, being black people, being women, and being Latinx folks – that they take us for granted. It happens because we’ve allowed it.
We are going to have to really think, or folks who are supportive of the Democratic Party are going to have to think about how they’re going to hold them accountable. I have some questions for big labor myself.
KS – How are you working to strengthen communication between labor unions and the Green Party?
AW – I am a pro-labor person, and living in South Carolina, you already know what my situation is, as far as that goes. This is a right-to-work state, it’s an at-will state. I think their former governor, Nikki Haley, made the statement that “even the word union is unwelcome here.” Ha! So you know what the lay of the land is.
I personally am building with the Green Party… I want us to have a good, strong relationship with labor, and I also want labor to step back – and I’ve said this for years – step back and take a look at itself and how it is working.
When you and I were talking a little bit earlier about opportunities in our history in this country where things could have pivoted, labor is one of those situations. Labor formed out of socialists and communists and folks that [were saying] everybody deserves a living wage, and an eight-hour workday, and good working conditions, and things like that.
And then they became gatekeepers. Certain people aren’t entitled to that. This is only for this group of people. This group of people gets excluded.
It’s time for labor to go back to its socialist, communist roots – and, this time, every worker gets in, and no one gets left out. There’s this hierarchy of what you do, and fast food workers, because of what they do, don’t deserve a union. No, they absolutely do.
My intention with the Green Party is that we are embracing labor, and also calling labor on its gatekeeping, and making sure that’s something that does not continue.
KS – In 2014, you ran for Milwaukee County Sheriff against Democratic incumbent and notorious Trump booster David Clarke and won twenty percent of the vote. Given the massive nationwide problems with violence from city police departments, what changes do you think need to be made around the nation at the county level?
AW – The whole point of my platform – and it also is reflected in our platform for our campaign – if you want to look at crime, let’s start addressing poverty and the way that systemic racism has deprived communities of access to the things that they basically need.
How can we shift that? Are we providing wrap-around services for communities and for families and not locking people up for things that they don’t need to be locked up for? I think that goes into the bigger discussion that’s happening around the country of what it means to defund the police, and that’s exactly what we’re calling for.
KS – Back in 2006, the FBI issued a bulletin titled “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement.” Fourteen years later, we’re watching one video after another of white police officers spouting racist rhetoric and murdering black people, even when they clearly know they’re being recorded.
With law enforcement so deeply compromised nationwide, how do we turn this around?
AW – You’re going to have to root them out. That’s part of the community-controlled piece. There are provisions with police forces, once you downsize police forces, that they are only called to – what is it, five percent of the things that police are called to are violent crimes?
So you’re not sending police in a situation like with Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. You don’t send a cop to pull somebody who’s asleep in the line at Wendy’s. You don’t send a police officer for that.
Once you downsize police budgets, you can start looking at who’s doing the policing based on what your needs are, what we’re asking them to do. They have to understand that it’s not a free-for-all and that people who have made racist statements, are part of racist organizations – this is not a job you can have. It’s just not. And they need to understand that.
KS – You’ve called for restorative justice as an alternative to mass incarceration. I’ve argued the issue from a theological standpoint, for example when the religion editor of The Atlantic asked if I feel that it’s my “job” to directly engage with white nationalists on the extreme-right fringe of my religion. I said to her:
I don’t believe in Christian forgiveness. I believe that we are our deeds and that evil deeds must be set right. If someone was a practicing member of a racist and anti-Semitic hate group for twenty-five years, it’s not enough to go to prison. Incarceration is something forced upon the individual by secular authority. Let that person work to make good for their hate by spending the next quarter-century volunteering for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP. Then, and only then, we can start a discussion about raising a horn to the gods together.
So I’m interested in how you envision the workings of a restorative justice system that is more positively impactful than the punitive and deeply racist one that we have now.
AW – It’s going to take a very long time to get to that point. What you just said about your view on it – that’s exactly how I feel.
Of course, there are some things that you cannot do transformatively. If someone causes a certain level of harm, and we have to accept it that there are people in our society that hunt other people as prey and are not safe around people. There are some things you can’t fix.
We would have to be able to address that, but in situations where… I’m thinking of certain types of assault and things like that, without retraumatizing the survivor of that, how we would make that happen. I think that it’s possible. I think we’d have to go into that and really go case by case.
I think the most low-hanging fruit for transformative justice are things like theft, something where somebody was not physically harmed. You can make amends, if you were a young person who was poor and hungry, and you robbed someone, but you didn’t kill them. You didn’t beat them up. I think there’s ways to make amends for that. We can bring those parties together and figure things out.
I think it gets a little dicier and a lot more painful when you’re talking about something where somebody is deeply, deeply harmed. We’re talking murder, assault, sexual assault, things like that. I think we would have to work out a whole other way, because you don’t want retraumatize the people who are survivors of that, just to make sure that someone else is getting a chance to receive absolution. So we’d have to figure that out.
“The first time in my entire life that I felt completely free”
KS – While working as Community Campaigns Coordinator for Wisconsin Jobs Now in 2015 and 2016, you focused on fighting the privatization of public schools. What do you consider the core problems caused by privatization?
AW – The defunding of our public schools. The fact that young people don’t have access to art teachers. They don’t have access to music programs. They can’t even have their own school buildings to themselves with this whole idea of co-location, where you’re putting two schools in one, which is something we’ve had happen in Milwaukee, and we fought it. You’re literally sucking the bone marrow out of the school system, and it isn’t fair.
The innovation that charter schools are looked towards… this is something we’re capable of doing in our own public schools. You don’t have to privatize the school. Something happens when you take a public entity out of public hands, and then these folks – what we’ve seen in Milwaukee – they don’t have to answer to anybody, and they don’t.
It’s pulling hen’s teeth, and you have to… There was a school that me and a couple of other members of an organization that we were working with snuck into the building and photographed what the conditions were. The fact that there were no teachers, that these students who were seniors were looking at not getting the tests that they need to graduate, and they were angry. They were breaking windows. It was bad.
It’s inherently unfair to do that to young people. You’re kneecapping, basically, the school system, and then saying look at how you’re underperforming. You’re defunding them. Of course, they can’t do what they need to do.
KS – Separate is inherently unequal.
AW – Yes.
KS – On a related subject, how has privatization of prisons affected the justice system?
AW – There is no justice. You and I both know that for-profit prisons are only profitable when they’re full, so you see things that used to be misdemeanors, things that people… I don’t want to say nonviolent or victimless. I think we mess up a lot with that.
Certain levels of crime are not things that people need to be incarcerated for. You don’t need to lock people up because they had a quarter ounce of weed on them. You don’t need to be locking people up for sex work. You don’t need to be locking people up because they stole bread from the store because they were hungry, or they were houseless. We need to not criminalize houselessness.
Those things, but they’re all things that you can get locked up for, because prisons are making money off of you. They’re also farming your labor out to big corporations who are also making money off of you, and you’re not seeing any of it. It’s obscene, at the very least.
For-profit prisons are something that, in our campaign, absolutely would be done away with. You’re literally using people as chattel. It’s a loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment.
KS – While running for Milwaukee County Sheriff, you promised to invoke a local ordinance allowing the Sheriff’s Office to refuse participation in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweeps against immigrants and undocumented workers. What can be done now at the national level to make immigration policy equitable and humane?
AW – For us, as far as our campaign, we believe in open borders. What that would look like for us… I’m thinking about what we would do versus what is currently happening.
I know that a judge just decided that children who are being held need to be released by ICE, but my question to them is released to whom? Where are their families? Do you have their families? Are there people that you’re farming them out to? I want them released. They never should have been detained. But at the same time, what are the safeguards to make sure these young people are safe and with the people that they’re supposed to be with?
We believe in open borders and immediate family reunification, wherever possible, and the provision of wraparound services to people who have been detained – a lot of people in ICE facilities are looking at COVID infection – and making sure that they would be treated under Medicare for All, and things like that.
As far as the current government, there is… cruelty wins the day with them. I want them to declare open borders. I want them to end all ICE detentions, and do immediate family reunification, and make sure that people who have been detained are safe and are healthy, and that we’re not sending people back to the situations that they fled from. I want those things to happen, but I do not have any faith that the current government will do those things.
KS – You were a leader in the Occupy movement, both in Occupy Milwaukee and Occupy the Hood. What do you think the Black Lives Matter movement can learn from how Occupy played out?
AW – I think the major thing that the movement for black lives has got – and they’ve got it down – is that it’s decentralized. They understand implicitly that there is no figurehead. We all know the three women who founded the movement, but as far as the movement for black lives itself, you can’t point at any one person and say that’s this leader. They discourage people from being demagogues. I think that’s one thing that they’ve learned, that this is decentralized and that the power is in the hands of the people.
There’s a policy document that they have that is absolutely magnificent, and one of the beautiful things about it is that it is something that can be customized to whatever town, city, village, what have you, that it’s applied to without changing the integrity of what it is you’re trying to do with it. I think that that’s something that they definitely did, they’re doing extremely well with.
KS – Where do you see the Black Lives Matter movement headed in terms of goals and impact?
AW – I think we’re just seeing the beginning. In 2016, we saw the formation of the movement for black lives and getting together with them… I was at the first convening that they held in Cleveland in 2015, and I can honestly say that that experience was the first time in my entire life that I felt completely free, just like a free person. Those three days, I was just simply a free person, and it was beautiful.
[In 2015 and 2016,] we saw formation, people getting an idea of where they wanted to go with things and getting people together to envision what a future for black people on this stolen land that we live on, how that could be. I think now where the movement is heading is building power in a very concrete way for black folks in this country to make ourselves safe and healthy, and thrive instead of survive.
“We’re exercising our agency”
KS – In the 2016 election, you were the vice-presidential candidate of the Socialist Party USA. Why are you running as a Green this time?
AW – I think there’s a natural… before I even get into that, I was the running mate of Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik. He transitioned today, and I want to lift him up as a comrade and a dear friend. My heart is broken, so I want to lift that up.
There is a natural synergy between the understanding that the Socialists have that we need democratic control and community-based control of the entities that touch our lives the most and the understanding that the resources that we are drawing from are Earth-based, and we need to respect her, and we need to not abuse her resources, not exploit her resources, and not exploit the non-human life on this planet.
So for me there’s a natural synergy there, and so, when Howie approached me about being his running mate, it just made sense to me.
KS – How did the experience of observing Jill Stein’s presidential run in 2016 inform your approach to running for vice president this year?
AW – I admire Dr. Stein’s courage and Ajamu Baraka’s courage in standing up. We take a lot of criticism on the left and as third party, because there is so much really justified fear. People don’t want to retain the individual who is currently occupying the Oval Office. There’s a lot of fear around that administration. People are ready to speak up, and they don’t want to entertain anyone that they think is going to be a threat to what they’re trying to accomplish.
But, at the same time, they have to admit that their needs and the things that they’re asking for are not being offered by the people that are supposed to be representing them. I think that it takes a lot of bravery to throw yourself out here, which I was never planning to do again.
It takes a lot of bravery to stand up and say, “You know what? This is what we believe in. Maybe you weren’t ready to hear it in 2016, but y’all are definitely ready to hear it now, and we are here to have that discussion and to push that narrative.”
KS – Green Party candidates are not included in televised presidential debates, and mainstream media doesn’t cover their campaigns in any meaningful way. How can you get around this wall of indifference and hostility to reach a broad base of voters?
AW – We’ve been doing a lot of things on social media and speaking to non-mainstream folks who want to get the message out. Yes, we need the mainstream coverage, and I think Howie is doing a lot to break through to that. But for me, the demographic that I want most to reach are the people who are not necessarily watching MSNBC, who may read your website, or who may listen to a smaller black or Latinx podcast. Those are the people that I want to hear about us.
Howie has been talking to Australian, international media, and whatnot. If you won’t cover us here, somebody is going to cover us until you wake up and cover us. We’ll talk to anybody who is genuinely interested in finding out what we’re doing and wants to share the information about us.
KS – I’ll admit that I got a bit teary when Sharice Davids, Deb Haaland, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib were all elected to the House of Representatives together. Do you think that generational turnover and increased inclusiveness can fundamentally change the Democratic Party and move it meaningfully leftward, or is the ship too big to be turned from its course?
AW – That’s a really good question. The folks that you named are people that, as a person, I have a lot of respect for. But I also understand that, as long as the Democratic Party’s aims are capitalist – which they are – no, we’re not going to see any fundamental systemic change, because it is not in the Democratic Party’s interests to do that.
We could have had Medicare for All decades ago. They chose not to embrace that. There’s a whole list of things that I could name off that the Democratic Party could have pushed, that people were asking for, and that they chose not to embrace.
The very fact that you had a Democratic front-runner like Bernie Sanders, who was someone a lot of people were very enthusiastic about. Why would you not run him? It made no sense to me. Just thinking strategically, why would you do that? And then you give people Biden? Joe Biden, really? This is the best y’all can come up with? I mean, it’s insulting. It makes no logical sense.
Just thinking of the Democratic Party itself and its goals, the Democratic Party is not about systemic change. It is not about true representation of the people. As much as I love the Squad, I also know that, at the end of the day, the only things that they will be able to do are make token reforms. They will not make systemic changes, because they won’t be allowed to do it.
KS – Democrats on social media are all atwitter over the possibility of Joe Biden picking a black woman as a running mate. The same voters discarded the Democratic Party’s historically diverse presidential primary field and rejected African-American, Mexican-American, Samoan-American, Taiwanese-American, Hindu, Jewish, female, and gay candidates in favor of the elderly, white, straight, Christian man.
On the other hand, every Green Party presidential ticket has included a woman in the president or vice-president spot, including a woman of mixed Native American and Jewish heritage, a woman of mixed Native American and Finnish ancestry, and a Jewish woman who was descended on both sides from immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Russia. The 2008 ticket had an African-American woman for president and an Afro-Puerto Rican woman for vice-president.
What can Democrats learn from Greens in terms of consolidating support for diverse candidates at the national level?
AW – They need to mean what they say. If this is what you wanted, then y’all need to stand on that. This is not who they put up to support. Why would you funnel people to Joe Biden?
Even with Bernie Sanders being who he was, and having the support that he had, and having as diverse – which I will give him – as far as his staff, to have him hand things over to someone he knows is not going to operate in that way. It didn’t make any sense to me.
If the Democratic Party were truly about diversity and inclusion, it would be reflected in the people that they are actually pushing for.
Joe Biden knew that Stacey Abrams of Georgia was somebody that a whole lot of people were very, very, very – particularly black women – and the way that black women have supported the Democratic Party in this country is legendary. When we show up, you win the election. He has to know that.
So for him to bring the very woman that people were most excited about having as his running mate on national TV, and then humiliate her, sent a message to me as a black woman, that you really feel like you can literally wipe your feet on us, and because you’re not the other gentleman – and I say that loosely, because he’s not a gentleman in any sense of the word. I’m trying to be diplomatic here.
Because you’re not him, you can take our vote for granted. You can basically tell us, we don’t matter that much. What he did with that interview, it was very painful to watch.
I don’t think the Democratic Party has any credibility, as far as running for president and vice-president. They don’t have any credibility with me, when it comes to true inclusion and true diversity.
KS – Many Democrats are still publicly furious with Jill Stein, blaming her for Donald Trump’s victory despite the fact that she won only 1% of votes nationwide and only won over 2% in Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont. They insist that a vote for the Green candidate is a vote for Trump, that voting Green is a marker of extreme white privilege that condemns people of color to more suffering under this administration.
How do you respond to this common attitude among self-declared liberals, progressives, and allies?
AW – Ha! First off, there’s the implication that people of color don’t know what’s best for us. When we choose to vote third party, it’s because we feel like that’s what’s aligned with what we believe in.
“You’re going to be condemned to suffer more than in…” We’ve been suffering anyway. Things that we’re seeing now did not happen in a vacuum. This did not just come out of the sky and fall. This has been decades in the making.
If someone who is a person of color chooses to vote for a third party, we’re exercising our agency to do that. Or to run for a third party. We’re exercising a lot of agency in doing that.
Thinking about what you said about… that [it’s] an example of white privilege. Not everybody supporting a third party is white. I’m sorry!
What I’m hearing most from, and hearing socialism being named by, are young black and brown people. They are talking about it. They are ready for another option. One of those being my twenty-seven-year-old daughter, and my sister, who’s thirtysomething.
This is not some idea that white people foisted on us. We know what we need, and we know who’s going to give it to us versus who’s not.
As far as people being angry at Jill Stein – and I’ve heard that – she didn’t cost anybody the election.
First off, the Democrats keep throwing unpalatable, unelectable candidates at people. Hillary Clinton was amazingly problematic among groups of color and young people. Very problematic! Why would you push this person who was completely out of touch with working class folks, completely out of touch with young people, definitely out of touch with black people. Why would you force this on the electorate? We didn’t ask for her! So that’s the Democrats own problem.
Number two, to say that we cost the Democrats the election implies that everybody who voted Green would have voted Democrat, and that’s not true. Most of those folks would have stayed home. And I’m hearing that about this election, this year, too – that if y’all were not running, I would not be voting.
So we’re attracting [voters among the] 10 million people who are real nebulous with whether they’re thinking about voting, or folks that are not sure. There’s a whole lot of folks that will stay home on Election Day. Because we are running, and they know that they have another option, people are ready to show up.
For people who are angry about that, I get it. But at the same time, the only people who are responsible for that individual currently occupying the White House, the fact that he’s there, are the people who elected him. No one else.
KS – Okay, that was my four pages of single-spaced questions. Thank you!
AW – Thank you! This was an absolute pleasure. It was a pleasure.
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