By Ted Glick
Future Hope column
July 19th, 2020
With Mafioso Don misleading big-time, tragically, on the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with all his other severe liabilities as a political leader and a human being, Joe Biden is now ahead by about 10 percentage points when you average the polls. A new one just out by ABC and the Washington Post has him ahead by 15 points. Right now, it’s looking bad for the Trumpublicans and good for Biden and the Democrats. But the election isn’t for another three and a half months, and there’s a lot that could happen to change that. Anyone who thinks that this is all sewed up for Biden really needs to study history and think again.
Howie Hawkins, nominated a week ago by the Green Party to be their Presidential candidate, is one such person. In an article on June 23rd on The Hill website, Hawkins is quoted as saying, “’The risk of a Trump presidency is sinking fast,’ Hawkins said on Hill.TV’s ‘Rising.’ ‘His polls are sinking; I’m not so worried about Trump now.’”
Based on this Hill.TV interview and other statements, it is clear that Hawkins is following the same approach strategically that the Green Party has been using for 20 years: say that the Democrats and Republicans are the same but then primarily work to weaken the Democrat, in this case Biden.
So the Green Party wants progressives not to be “so worried about Trump now.” What we need to worry about, they are saying, is how Biden is not Bernie, he has been on the wrong side of a number of important issues, etc., What we need to be doing is voting for Hawkins as a way of strengthening the Green Party, getting it on the ballot in as many states as possible, pushing what Hawkins sees as the inevitable winner, Biden, to the left. Don’t worry about Trump.
This approach hasn’t worked well for them over the years. I remember in 2004 the GP Presidential candidate, David Cobb, accepting the GP nomination in Milwaukee and in his speech he referenced the 230 or so GP members who were in elected office around the country. Hawkins, in something he wrote this January, reported that there are now 130 GP members in elected office. That’s a 45% drop, not exactly a sign of a growing party.
Why has the GP been shrinking? I think a lot of it has to do with their electoral strategy, particularly as far as Presidential elections. They act as if progressive voters shouldn’t care whether it’s Trump or Biden, or Trump or Clinton. Jill Stein literally said throughout her campaign in 2016 that Clinton and Trump are “equally terrible,” while primarily attacking Clinton. This is not a way to attract progressive people who get it on the problems with the dominant forces in the Democratic Party but who don’t want the Republicans to be in power in the White House or anywhere else.
There are a couple of alternative approaches that the GP could be taking. One would be to realize that they have shrunk as they’ve continued to keep running someone for President every four years. They could decide to stop doing so for a while and instead really focus on building up their strength and their electoral victories locally. Given those “from 230 to 130” numbers, this sure seems like a sensible course to me.
The other approach would be to run a campaign which acknowledges that there are very good reasons why the vast majority of progressives want to be sure that Trump is removed from office. Acknowledging that publicly, the GP Presidential campaign could openly say that for people in the battleground states, like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada, those who like what the GP stands for should assess things in October as far as what the polls are saying and let their conscience be their guide as to whom they vote for.
Unfortunately, since this idea has been raised internally within the GP since 2004-05, including by me when I was a member, and it has been decisively rejected, I have no hope this is going to happen this year, although there’s still time, Howie, to make a course correction.
What’s the alternative to the GP? We’ve been seeing it since 2015, with Independent Bernie Sanders’ two campaigns for President within the Democratic Party primaries, as well as the development of Our Revolution, groups like Justice Democrats, AOC’s organized efforts to elect progressive Dems, and more.
The fact is that history over the last five years has made it clear that the path to a strong, mass-based, independent progressive alternative runs in part through the Democratic Party, by building up the strength of the Left within it and pressuring, and sometimes working tactically with, establishment Democrats for a strong progressive agenda. This can only be successful, though, if at the same time the Bernie/AOC/Ilhan Omar/other- progressive-Dem groups, and other progressives, are consciously working to strengthen issue-, labor- and community-based groups and movements as a powerful, independent, electoral and non-electoral force.
This, not the Green Party strategy, is the path to fundamental, systemic change, social transformation, and the political and cultural revolution that is so urgently needed.
Ted Glick is the author of the forthcoming Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in Catholic Left Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.