A LOOK AT THE GREEN PARTY’S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

9 02 2020

There are seven people seeking the Green Party Presidential nomination in 2020. Their names are Sedinam Moyowasiza-Curry, Howie Hawkins, Dario Hunter, Dennis Lambert, David Rolde, Ian Schlakman and Chad Wilson. Sorry, Hillary, neither Jill Stein nor Tulsi Gabbard is among them, and, obviously, neither is Jesse Ventura. Not only that, none of these “big name” candidates could join the race at this point, because the nominating process has a long timeline, and the deadline for seeking the nomination has passed.

The links on the names I just mentioned lead to the candidates’ web pages. All but one of them has also responded to a questionnaire from the national Green Party, and the information I’m presenting you will be drawn from those sources. I’m going to go through the list alphabetically.

We’ll start with Ms. Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza- Curry, who is the only woman in the running. She doesn’t say much about herself on the questionnaire, but in a video interview mentions that she was born and raised in “South-Central,” the Los Angeles ghetto, and is the sixteenth of her father’s twenty children. She has been “a card-carrying member of The Green Party for eighteen years.” She, like many of the other candidates, is an embodiment of the party’s grass-roots organizing efforts.

Howie Hawkins‘ questionnaire bio states:

I became active in “The Movement” for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s as a teenager in the San Francisco Bay Area. Repelled by the racism and warmongering of both major parties, I committed to independent working-class politics for a democratic, socialist, and ecological society. Outside of electoral politics, I have been a constant organizer in peace, justice, union, and environmental campaigns. When my draft number was called in 1972, I enlisted in the Marine Corps while continuing to organize against the Vietnam War. After studying at Dartmouth College, I worked in construction in New England in the 1970s and 1980s. I was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976, active in the anti-apartheid movement, and helped develop worker and consumer cooperatives. I have continued organizing in Syracuse since 1991, where I worked as a Teamster unloading trucks at UPS until retiring in2018.

That’s quite an impressive history. One qualm I have about Hawkins is that, in some ways, he seems to buy in to the Russiagate fraud, as revealed in this video interview, in which he says he generally doesn’t trust the Russians and thinks the notorious Stein-Putin dinner table photo was a setup. Shortly after that interview, however, he clarified his position in an essay that begins:

The obsession with the Russiagate scandals has become a massive distraction from the life-or-death problems we face, from the climate crisis and the new nuclear arms race to the declining living standards and life expectancies of the working class and the assaults on the political and social rights of all Americans.

Meanwhile, two dominant Russiagate narratives fight it out, about an alleged Russian role in the release of the DNC emails, a pro-Trump social media campaign by Russian actors, and Trump campaign officials who invited and welcomed Russian support. The Democratic narrative says the Russians won the 2016 election for Trump. The Republican narrative says Russiagate is a hoax, a witch hunt, and a Deep State coup attempt against Trump.

The reality of Russiagate is that many allegations on both sides remain more speculation than documented fact. We may never have definitive answers to many Russiagate allegations. One thing is clear: the Russiagate obsession is an intramural brawl between factions of the ruling elites.

Greens should not get caught up in this distraction. We should focus on campaigning for real solutions to the social and environmental problems we face.

The narrative coming mainly from Democrats and the liberal wing of the corporate media blames Russia for the election of Trump. It sometimes adds fact-free assertions that Green Party candidate Jill Stein was somehow part of this Russian plot. This narrative is a distraction from how the Democrats and the liberal corporate media themselves contributed to Trump’s election. They need to look in the mirror to see who did it.

Although I don’t share his, shall we say, agnosticism on the question of Russian interference, elsewhere in the essay he makes it clear that he understands that the Russian “interventions” hyped by corporate media were, in fact, insignificant. In general, he is a well-informed and eloquent writer and speaker. The main drawback I see to running him as a candidate is that he is another older white guy in a race that seems full of older white guys of various political persuasions, and all the other Green Party candidates are young enough to be his children. On the other hand, this makes him far and away the most experienced candidate in the Green Party race, and it would be helpful to take advantage of his presence while he’s here.

Hawkins is also very clear about what “democratic socialism” involves, saying

With all the talk about socialism among the new Democratic “socialists,” Greens should remind people that socialism is more than the social programs of New Deal liberalism. Socialism is economic democracy based on social ownership and democratic control of the major means of production. If ownership of the economy is not democratized, the concentrated economic power of the billionaire class will still translate into concentrated political power that can roll back social programs as well as peace and environmental policies. We need an Ecosocialist Green New Deal for sustainable production of a decent standard of living for all within ecological limits.

Hawkins is considered the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

Dario Hunter says of himself:

I’m a former environmental attorney, high school educator, K-8 educational administrator, anti-fracking activist and an advocate for Palestinian rights. I’ve fought governmental agencies in Ohio Supreme Court cases to assert the public’s right to know, winning settlements to provide public records.I have professional experience with single-payer healthcare, having worked on health law issues for a firm in Canada. I have lived in two countries that have single payer healthcare systems – Canada and ‘the State of Israel’ (i.e.Palestine). My legal specialties include labor and employment law, in which I have a Master of Laws (Wayne State Univ.) – an area of expertise well suited to asserting workers’ rights. In all, I have three law degrees in two countries.As a member of the Youngstown Ohio Board of Education, I have led in the effort to combat state takeovers and protect the public’s voice in public education.

Hunter is the only candidate in the running who has actually won an election. I’ll have more to say about that later.

Dennis Lambert is also from Ohio. Here’s his Green Party questionnaire bio:

I have worked for and with non-profit organizations for over thirty years. I have created networks of care for veterans by building collaborative groups to help veterans with a number of issues from homelessness to hunger and employment. I ran and planned events for the Boy Scouts from Derbies to designing and writing the manual for a Junior Leader Training course that ran for two years and trained nearly 40 youth in practical leadership skills .I built an artist’s cooperative that trained and provided artists with a place to sell their works. I worked with other non-profits and individuals in the community for the early planning stages for the Wild Ramp- a retail location in Huntington, WV for local food producers. I have trained non-profits on making and building networks of cooperation at the Brushy Fork Institute in Berea, KY.

David Rolde of Massachusetts responded to the question about “offices sought or held” with this comment:

I haven’t done much of this. I briefly explored running for State Rep and School Committee in 2004. The GPUS Presidential Nominee is not going to be selected and installed as President of the so-called “USA”. The role of the GPUS Presidential Nominee is to speak out for revolutionary change, not to show that she/he/they can carry out the duties of a colonial imperialist bureaucrat.

That remark, and other responses on his questionnaire, make it clear that he is more on the “fundi” side of the Green spectrum than, for example, Hawkins or Hunter. I think he has a point. Let’s face it–due to our exclusion from power, there are no Greens who, by conventional standards, would be considered “credible” candidates for US President–but then, our current President was pushed as the Republican nominee by the Democrats precisely because, in their eyes, he was clearly not a credible Presidential candidate.

Ian Schlakman hasn’t responded to the Green Party questionnaire, but has a comprehensive website, where he says this, and a lot more, about himself:

        Ian grew up on Long Island, NY, in a community built after World War 2 for soldiers returning from the war. The wartime economy built that community and many others across the United States. Ian graduated high school and began studies in political science in the New York public university system. Ian realized that learning to participate in traditional political systems could not help the children and grandchildren of Baby Boomers build a responsible and equitable economy. Ian left school and embarked on an entrepreneurial and organizational career.

Ian worked with technology visionaries before starting his own technology firm. He organized his business as a worker-owned cooperative and focused on providing technology access and support to inner-city students. In this venture he learned about the rapidly growing, capital-rich technology field and the importance of building new economic models to avoid centralizing wealth.

While growing his company, Ian saw the increasing demands for democratization in the workplace and in markets. He was a local organizer in the Occupy movement. As that movement developed, Ian saw the need to create permanent democratized economic systems. He helped organize alternative capital models such as a time bank and local alternative currencies that let people participate in local economies regardless of their ability to amass capital.

Schlakman has run, unsuccessfully, for the Baltimore City Council, the US House of Representatives, and Governor of Maryland.

Chad Wilson is our local candidate, a Tennessee native, who offers this by way of autobiography:

My father is Pentecostal preacher / evangelist. He’s a singer and recording artist. I grew up in the Church of God of Prophecy. I’ve been to countless church camps, revivals and services. This gave me some interesting insight into the religion world. My grandfather on my mothers side was from Arkansas. So I was able to get a sense of what the country was all about. I grew up in Nashville, TN and then at 25 moved to Miami, FL. The culture shock changed my life. As I was introduced to various Latin cultures I was given the opportunity to experience a world completely different from what I had known.I do music myself. Starting with gospel then to rock but I was involved in the Miami Hip Hop scene. I would go around doing hooks for different rappers in the city. This was only one side of Miami that I was able to experience. After my 5-6 years there I then moved to Atlanta for a year. I worked on music there and was able to see a side of the city most don’t get the opportunity to. Since then I’ve been back in Tennessee. I moved to a small county outside of Nashville though for the purpose of bringing energy and life to the Country. I want to invite outside culture to experience the country in a country setting.

If you have heard him speak, as I have, you will know that he brings his father’s evangelical fervor to his Green values, combining it with the sometimes R-rated language of hip-hop.

As I pointed out, only one of these candidates has ever held any elected office–and yet here they are, running for President. Are they all suffering from delusions of grandeur? Shouldn’t they be trying to be county supervisors, or mayors, or state representatives, or that sort of thing, as a basis on which to build their Presidential aspirations?

No, they are not suffering from delusions of grandeur, and yes, at a practical level, their time would be better spent running for office at a much lower level, where they might actually make a good enough personal connection with enough voters to actually win an election. I think that all of them are aware that their role is essentially that of a sacrificial lamb–somebody who will play the part and take the heat and make the Green Party look appealing, but who has no chance of winning, and who, no matter how many voters abstain, will be blamed if the Democrats lose, as they seem set on doing.

To understand why these candidates, and The Green Party, are participating in this charade, you have to understand the US political system for what it is–a monopoly, in the classic capitalist sense. Both our dominant political parties are capitalist, and while they go through their own charade–of opposing each other–when they only differ over social issues that appeal to one voter demographic or another, while both are fully supportive of US militarism/imperialism, and fully supportive of the US’s corporate capitalist oligarchy.

One way monopolies protect themselves from competition is by creating “barriers to entry” to whatever market they dominate, barriers difficult enough to overcome so that nobody can compete with them. With automobiles and soft drinks, for example, it’s advertising and distribution networks. In the retail market, it’s the ability to sustain lower-than-cost prices in a local market in order to undersell a local competitor and drive her out of business.

In politics, it’s a combination of difficult  and/or expensive ballot access requirements and corporate-controlled mass media that will ignore or belittle any competition to the two corporate parties. Thus, new political parties must spend a prohibitive amount of time gathering signatures, raising money, and mounting statewide and national campaigns, instead of doing the local organizing that would build a party with statewise or nationwide appeal. I talked about this in the previous segment, but I don’t think it can be overemphasized. Those who criticize us Greens for not organizing locally, without recognizing that we are the victims of laws intended to make it difficult for us to focus on local organizing, are either ignorant or hypocritical. If they are genuinely concerned about “Greens costing Democrats the election,” they should work to make ballot access easier for new parties and work to include ranked choice voting and proportional representation in the US system of governance, and quit displaying the arrogance, intellectual dishonesty, and sense of entitlement that have alienated about two-thirds of American voters from the Democratic Party–that’s the slightly more than a quarter who are Republicans, plus the more-or-less 40% who don’t vote.

This seems like a good time for a shout-out to Ranked Choice Tennessee, which has recently broadened its focus to working on all the electoral issues that have combined to give Tennessee one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country–did you know that our reputation as an “overwhelmingly red state” is based on the votes of about 20% our citizens–because the state’s voter turnout rate runs around 30%?  Let me put that another way–20% of Tennesseans vote Republican, 10% vote Democratic, and 70% don’t vote. What’s wrong with this picture? Here’s to breaking the Democrat-Republican duopoly and giving the other 70% of Tennesseans a reason to show up at the polls.

So….those are our candidates, and why they’re running, and why we’re having to pretend that The Green Party could elect a President when it holds no national or even statewide offices in this country. I hope I’ve helped you understand some of America’s most common political delusions.

Music: Brother Martin and the Intangibles, “(If You’re A) Green Party Figure


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