Albany – Howie Hawkins, the recent Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that the Green Party will build upon its 5 percent vote by organizing and advocating with the mostly working-class majority that is not voting.
70 percent of eligible voters did not vote in the November 4 election.
"We will continue beating the drums for justice. Our policy demands speak to the needs and values of the working-class majority that is not voting. Grassroots organizing in working-class communities and speaking up for a Green New Deal for New York will be our focus going forward," Hawkins said, speaking at a new conference in Albany on Thursday.
Hawkins noted that the Greens were the only party on the ballot that made significant gains from 2010 despite the record low turnout. The Green vote tripled and its percentage quadrupled. While the Republicans roughly equaled their 2010 vote, Cuomo and the Democrats lost nearly a million votes.
"That million joins another six million voters – primarily working-class people – who are so disgusted at the two major parties that they have given up on voting. The path to an electoral majority for the Green Party is enlisting alienated working class non-voters in the fight for social, economic, and environmental justice," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that 5 percent established the Greens as the voice of a sizeable independent left in New York politics. The Green vote was the biggest vote for an independent left gubernatorial ticket since the Socialist candidates of 1918 and 1920, who received 5.7 and 5.6 percent respectively.
Polling suggested that the Greens were on the verge of a double-digit vote. Hawkins attributed the fall off on election day to last minute lesser-evil voting by Democrats.
"10 percent or more might have given pause to the plans of Cuomo and his Republican allies in the Senate to go ahead with fracking, another austerity budget, and renewed attacks on public schools and teachers. The Greens are going to fight their plans. We may not beat them in the next legislative session, but we will establish the grounds on which we will contest the 2016 legislative elections," Hawkins said.
Noting that the Teachout vote in the Democratic primary was about the same as the Green vote in the general election and that the Working Families Party vote was down only about 20 percent in the context of a 30 percent down turn in turnout, Hawkins said, "It is disappointing that so many liberals decided to protest Cuomo's agenda by voting for Cuomo on the WFP line. What were they thinking? They only strengthened Cuomo's mandate. They affirmed his conservative four-year record and his political alliance with the Senate Republicans. If they had voted for the Green ticket, the only progressive choice on the ballot, Cuomo would have received a demoralizing plurality instead of majority approval for his agenda. The Greens would have passed the Conservatives to take the third line on ballots."
Hawkins said that he figured that about half of the Green gubernatorial vote was cast by independent left voters and half by dissenting Democrats. He bases that conclusion on the fact that the vote for the down-ticket statewide Green candidates, Theresa Portelli for Comptroller and Ramon Jimenez for Attorney General, was about half the vote received by the Green gubernatorial ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones.
"Unlike a majority of Democratic and Republican votes that are cast automatically every election by habitual party-line voters, the Green vote was a deliberate conscious vote for a new politics. The Greens now have a core of about 100,000 people committed to an independent left. That is big enough to encourage activists and provide a critical mass for organizing and further growth," Hawkins said.
"We plan to organize at the grassroots with these voters," Hawkins said. "We hope to expand the party's support by being an ongoing presence in local communities, including in local elections in 2015"
Hawkins dismissed recent statements by Democratic commentators that the Greens new support will help to elect Republicans by siphoning off Democratic votes in upcoming elections.
"Most of our voters wouldn't be voting at all if the Greens weren't on the ballot. The Greens expand the electorate. In any case, the Democrats don't represent our views. They don't own our votes. We won't be silenced. If these Democrats are really worried about the spoiler problem, they should join us in promoting the solution: proportional representation in legislatures and instant runoff voting for executive offices," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the Greens would continue organizing for a $15 minimum wage, which would give nearly 40 percent of New York wage workers a raise. Cuomo favors a hike in the minimum wage to $10.10, which Hawkins said is still a sub-poverty wage.
"We will run against Assembly Democrats in 2016 who don't vote for a ban on fracking and single-payer healthcare, or who don't force the leadership to put them up for a vote," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that two of the biggest battles the Greens will engage in the next legislative session will be fighting back against promises Governor Cuomo made in the closing days of the campaign. One Cuomo promise was "to break ... the only remaining public monopoly," referring to public schools and teachers unions, by promoting charter schools, private school tuition tax credits, and a new round of teacher evaluations based on Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing. The other Cuomo promise was to keep state spending and revenue sharing flat while demanding that fiscally-strapped local governments cut spending in order to lower property taxes.
"Progressive tax reform and revenue sharing to fully fund the schools and local governments will be our response to the bipartisan austerity we expect from the Cuomo/Republican/IDC alliance," Hawkins said.
As for his own future plans, Hawkins said, "All I know is that in the coming months I will be meeting with our campaign supporters around the state to help local organizing and I will be speaking out on the issues before the legislature. Whether I am a candidate in the future is up to the Green Party membership. I will play any role they want me to."