“Our country needs the Green Party now, because we are living in a failed state, one that is failing us on a multitude of life or death issues, such as the covid Pandemic, and systemic racism, which proves we’re not yet a multicultural democracy. Economic inequality is a life-and-death issue for people on the bottom of the income spectrum. The life or death of the entire planet is threatened by the climate emergency, and by the nuclear arms race.
So stated retired UPS worker Howie Hawkins on July 11, while accepting the presidential nomination of the Green Party of the United States before over 350 online delegates from 43 states. Hawkins had won on the first round with over 59% of the vote against the combined total of 4 other recognized contenders. Also acclaimed was Hawkins’ vice-presidential running mate Angela Walker, a fiery Black queer truck driver from South Carolina.
Hawkins, 67, is a co-founder of the Green Party, having worked as a community organizer, and as a logger. and has played leading roles in anti-war, anti-nuclear, and pro-worker movements since the 1960s. In the 17 years preceding his 2018 retirement, he was a Teamster working the red-eye shift, unloading trucks for UPS in Central New York. He has run for office 24 times in the State of New York, and in 2011, he received 48% of the vote in a Syracuse district councilor race. In 2014, he went head-to-head against Democratic Party Governor Andrew Cuomo and got a stunning 5% of that vote.
Angela Walker, 46, comes to the Green Party from the Socialist Party. She describes herself as “a Fred Hampton, Assata Shakur socialist,” harking back to two powerful leaders of the Black Panthers Party of the 1960’s. She was born and raised in Milwaukee, and left academia to become a bus driver for 14 years. As a lifelong activist, she played a role in 2011 in the protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on the state’s municipal unions. Angela joined the thousands of union workers and their supporters who occupied the Capitol building in protest. She went on to become the late Mimi Soltysik’s running mate in his 2016 Socialist Party run for president.
A new foundation for a new era.
The “gathering” was historic for having been held online, in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic making holding traditional large, face-to-face events so perilous.
The operation, organized on the fly, was technically challenging to both the GPUS and the various campaigns, as the party had never held such an online convention on a national level. To maintain election integrity, there were no proxies. All delegates had to pre-register, and then set up accounts on a software program called Loomio, for tallying the various votes. Then delegates had to check themselves in within a one-hour time window on the morning of the convention itself. They had to get it right on the first try, and they did.
The 43 participating states were the most states since the 2004 convention, a further demonstration that the party was on the upswing. With this momentum, and the nominations of the leading advocate of eco-socialism and the charismatic, passionate Walker, the party is poised to take the stage as a unified political force. It is in a position to professionalize and re-organize itself amid the country’s greatest political crisis in half a century. Hawkins and Walker now have the opportunity to put into practice the approach he wrote in Case for an Independent Working Class Party of bottom-up party-building, based on working closely with active affiliates that the state parties are accountable to. In addition:
“Crucially important in organizing from the bottom up, an independent left party must prioritize organizing Black people, Latinx, and other people of color. If not centrally involved, their particular concerns tend to be neglected. If not involved from the beginning of organizing, the barriers to later inclusion are difficult to overcome given the existing patterns of residential and social segregation and the long historical legacy of racism that yields suspicion and skepticism when a majority white organization attempts belatedly to include people of color.”
In his acceptance, Hawkins elaborated on five life-and-death issues:
- “The Covid pandemic has exposed for all to see how the two governing parties preside over a failed state. We are on pace to have a quarter of a million Covid deaths by the election. Trump has just given up. Covid won. Trump is a loser. Now Trump is running around like Typhoid Mary holding rallies without masks or social distancing that are making his own staff and supporters sick.”
- “We demand community control of the police. Police commissions selected by the people in the community with the power to hire and fire police chiefs, get the racists and sadists off the force, oversee police policies and budgets, and investigate and discipline officers for misconduct. … We need to reimagine public safety. The homeless don’t need a vagrancy charge from a cop. They need a home. … It is time to treat drug abuse as health problem, not a criminal problem.“We must end the war on drugs and mass incarceration. Defund the police and move a big share of their funding to needed social services. Defund the military. Invest in the jobs, housing, schools, health care, and public services that are needed in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Pass the Reparations for African-Americans Act (H.R. 40 and S. 1083).”
Economic Bill of Rights.
- “We will enact an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic despair. These economic human rights include the right to a living-wage job through a WPA-style jobs program; the right to a guaranteed income; the right to affordable housing by building 25 million new units of public housing; the right to quality health care by enacting Medicare for All; provide tuition-free public education from child care and pre-K through post-secondary college; and double Social Security benefits.”
- “The Green New Deal has been our signature issue since 2010. Climate meltdown is a life-or-death issue, a true existential crisis. It’s not just about heat waves and stronger storms. It’s about mass extinctions of entire species, ecosystem collapse, and agricultural collapse.“The Democrats have taken our slogan, but diluted the content, dropped our ban on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure. Joe Biden made clear he plans to continue fracking the hell out of the country. They dropped the deep cuts in military spending to fund the Green New Deal and phasing-out dirty, dangerous, uneconomical nuclear power. Our plan will convert not just power production but also transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and buildings – to clean energy and zero-to-negative emissions by 2030. We propose a crash program like what the United States did in World War II.”
Nuclear Arms Race.
- “The new nuclear arms race is another life-or-death issue that threatens to end it all in an instant. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock the closest it’s ever been to midnight. The US, Russia, and other nuclear powers are modernizing their nuclear forces. Strategic arms are becoming hypersonic, six times faster, which means we no longer have launch on warning. We will take peace initiatives: a 75% cut in military spending, withdrawal from the endless wars, pledge no first use of nuclear weapons, and disarm to a minimum credible deterrent. We will negotiate mutual and complete nuclear disarmament.”
“This country is being forced to confront its shadow, what has been hiding in the shadows, waiting to be seen, waiting to be acknowledged and healed. People may not have been ready for our message in 2012. They may not have been ready in 2016, but now, when so much has been stripped away by the coronavirus Pandemic, by the exposure of continued violence against black, indigenous and brown people, it has nowhere to hide.
“We are here to move the ineffective parties aside. We are not asking for the right to housing and Medicare for all. We are demanding these things. No one else is bringing the system of changes that we are proposing. We will not be pacified with were reform. The system must be overhauled and the Green Party is the party to do that.”
And oh yeah, there’s that “We have to get rid of Trump first” thing. Hawkins answers:
“Some people are saying we have to get rid of Trump, maybe we need to settle for Biden. So let’s take one example, the Pandemic. Well, just where the hell is Joe Biden? He lives within commuter distance of the White House press corps. He can command their attention. Biden should be holding news conferences and pounding away at what we need now — a program to test, trace, isolate, and suppress the virus, like most other organized countries around the world.
“Suppose you were a Bernie Sanders supporter. You want Medicare for all. You want tuition-free public college. If you vote for Joe Biden, you will get lost in the sauce because Joe Biden opposes both. Biden, the Great Mass Incarcerator, would ramp up the Cold War. He would tighten the screws on the starving children of Venezuela. So if you want your voice to be counted, you have to vote for the Green Party. Everybody knows what we stand for. Your voice will be heard.”
— Jeff Roby
July 16, 2020