The campaign activity I enjoy most is local meetings with Greens and other interested people, and meeting random people on the street petitioning for ballot access. After the World Health Organization announced the COVID-19 world pandemic on March 11, I completed my last scheduled events in the Midwest and flew back to Syracuse on March 16. It has only been two weeks, but that already feels like another era now. I miss seeing you all on the campaign trail.
It’s strange calling the time before the coronavirus lockdown the “good old days.” I was railing against the two-capitalist-party system’s utter failure to provide solutions to the pressing life-or-death problems we face: the accelerating climate crisis, the growing economic inequality that is lowering working-class life expectancies, and the apocalyptic new nuclear arms race that no other presidential candidate is making a top campaign issue or even mentioning. The coronavirus health and economic crises only magnify these problems.
The time before the coronavirus lockdown were indeed the good old days compared to what we now face. Massive sickness and death from COVID-19 is baked into the US because our power elite preferred to line their own pockets with public subsidies for profit-driven health insurance and pharmaceuticals instead of a more cost-effective universal public system of Medicare for All. The economic crisis is unprecedented. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis predicts a 30% unemployment rate this spring that will hit the young and people of color the hardest. That Fed projection is consistent with the 25-30% drop in production that Wall Street investment banks are forecasting.
These prognostications are for an economic depression much faster and deeper than the Great Depression of 1929 to 1940. Our ecosocialist Green New Deal is imperative now as much to build an economic recovery as a climate-safe production system.
It is hard to predict now how long it will be before we are able to meet face-to-face again to discuss public affairs and how we can advance real solutions. In the meantime, we are thrown back into the 19th century when presidential candidates conducted “front porch” campaigns where newspaper reporters would come to the homes of the candidates to get their message of the day.
It was a progressive third-party candidate who broke that mold. James Weaver of the Greenback-Labor Party in 1880 (and of the People’s Party in 1892) was the first presidential candidate to barnstorm around the country to meet the voters where they lived. He courageously toured the South speaking to integrated audiences in defiance of and in the face of violent threats from the explicitly white-supremacist vigilantes and state governments that had seized power by force from the Reconstruction governments of the 1870s. The Greenback-Labor Party campaigned to restore the voting rights of black people who had been driven from the polls in the South by violence and, increasingly, by new discriminatory voting laws. Its platform plank calling for Greenbacks as public money to be issued by the government, instead of banks, is a monetary reform that our Green Party has revived in our time. A Green historian, Mark Lause, wrote the definitive book on this inspiring campaign, The Civil War’s Last Campaign: James B. Weaver, the Greenback-Labor Party & the Politics of Race & Section. It makes for great reading while quarantined.
As a third-party challenge to the corporate political duopoly, Greens today, like the Greenbackers back then, don’t have the big commercial media calling on us every day for our comments. The mainstream media mostly traffics in official source journalism, getting statements from Democratic and Republican leaders and then endlessly rehashing them with the usual official-source talking heads on cable news and talk radio. Greens are not considered official sources. Grassroots face-to-face campaigning by our candidates and their supporters is where we have a level playing field.
One thing the Greenbackers had was their own movement newspapers published by their farmer’s alliances and labor unions. Our 21st century equivalent is social media. So I have been on a podcast or video show every day for the last week. We are emailing regular news releases and statements to the political reporters around the country. That is the way the rest of this campaign is likely to be conducted.
I am not giving up on mainstream media as a hopeless cause. With the demise of Bernie Sanders’ prospects for the Democratic nomination, a number of mainstream news organizations have run stories on my campaign in the last couple of weeks, including the Daily Beast, NY Post, Yahoo News, and The Economist. Of course, their news hook is that we may spoil the election for Biden. My answer, of course, is that we will improve the election. We are advancing real solutions that have broad support and won’t even be raised if we don’t run, like a ranked-choice national popular vote for president that would end the spoiler problem. We are running out of time on the climate, inequality, and the new nuclear arms race. Real solutions can’t wait.
The pictures here are a reminder of the good old times—and the better days ahead after the coronavirus quarantines are over. I want to thank all the local Greens who made these meetings happen.
We still need you. We need you on the phones and social media talking up our campaign and platform. We need you in the fight to get state governments to put the Green Party on the ballot when we cannot go out on the streets to collect signatures for ballot access petitions. We need you to maintain and build our state Green parties so we are ready to use our ballot lines to build the Green Party into a major party from the bottom up by electing thousands of Greens to local, state, and then congressional offices as we go into the 2020s. We need to keep working together to rescue our future.