Featured image, Hawkins speaking at the People’s Climate March, New York City, Sept. 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of Colin D. Young.
Howie Hawkins Announces He Is Building An Exploratory Committee
By Kevin Zeese
This week, the New Republic published, Will the Democrats Kill the Green Party by Stealing Its Best Idea? The article asks: now that the Democrats are making the Green New Deal a central issue in the 2020 election cycle and they are becoming socialist, is there any need for the Green Party?
The article had an important announcement: Howie Hawkins said he is forming an exploratory committee to seek the nomination for president for the Green Party of the United States. This is major news for the Green Party and the national political debate.
In the article, Jill Stein, once again says she is not running. Her vice presidential running mate, Ajamu Baraka, who has a great deal of support in the party, has also decided not to run. If Hawkins decides to run, he immediately becomes the favorite for the nomination.
The Green Party Began Developing Green New Deal More Than A Decade Ago
The thesis of the New Republic article is laughable. The leadership of the Democratic Party has been working to kill the Green New Deal and they remain a Wall Street Party. At a CNN town hall meeting in 2017, Nancy Pelosi responded to a college student asking about the growing opposition to capitalism proclaiming, “We’re capitalists.” And, even a perceived left-wing leader of the Democratic Party, Elizabeth Warren says, “I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe In markets.”
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report describes Bernie Sanders as a “semantic” socialist whose program is derived almost wholly from Franklin Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights.” The Democratic Party is not going to put in place the radical transformation needed to solve the nation’s economic, racial and environmental crises or end never-ending wars. The party will continue to represent Wall Street, not the necessities of the people or planet. There is plenty of need for the Green Party; indeed, it must grow into a national force for our times.
The New Republic gives credit to the Green Party for being the source of the Green New Deal. In fact, the Global Greens formed a Green New Deal committee in 2007. The New Republic gives Howie Hawkins credit for being the first candidate to campaign on the Green New Deal in the United States when he ran for governor of New York.
Mark Dunlea, a Green from New York who has worked on Hawkins campaigns writes; “Howie Hawkins’ Green Party campaign for Governor in New York in 2010 was the first time a comprehensive Green New Deal agenda was promoted in the United States. It was based on a call for a Green New Deal in Europe developed a few years previously by the European Greens and others. The GND was a central focus of Jill Stein’s two Green Party presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2016.”
Rhode Island Green, Andrew Stewart describes how the Global Greens began working on the Green New Deal in 2006, forming a Green New Deal committee in 2007. In The Hill, Green Party co-chairs Gloria Mattera and Margaret Flowers wrote this month describing how the Democrat’s version has lots of room for improvement. They write, “The Green Party plan calls for the United States to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and is specific that renewable sources are wind, solar, tidal and geothermal, not gas, biomass or nuclear power.”
Hawkins, focusing on New York, has written that the country needs more than the Democrats are offering. We need a 100% renewable energy system by 2030, a halt to all new fossil fuel infrastructure and more.
Maryland Green and National Committee member Tim Willard responded to the New Republic hypothesis explaining, “Frankly, the Democrat’s appropriation of the Green New Deal demonstrates how devoid of ideas they are. After all the hoopla about electing socialist candidates, the only original plan they could come up with is a watered down version of ours! What the Democrats are proposing will not solve our problems. We still need a party promoting a genuinely radical vision for the future that faces up to the enormous challenges ahead of us.”
The Green New Deal idea being taken from the Green Party and watered down by the Democrats actually shows the need for the Green Party. Willard concludes, “Norman Thomas used to complain of the Democrats’ ‘pale pink’ version of socialism. What we have today is pale green at best. We should welcome a chance for a debate about what a real Green New Deal will require.”
It is worth noting that the other marquee issue of the Democrats, improved Medicare for all, was also brought into modern electoral politics by the Greens during Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential run. And, healthcare as a human right has been a plank in the Greens platform since that time. So, both of the Democrats top issues were put into the national political dialogue by the Green Party. Why? Because the Greens are a movement party that represents the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.
Hawkins Ready to Debate Dems on Economic, Racial and Environmental Justice
Hawkins is ready to debate the Democrats on the Green New Deal and many other issues. He continues the tradition of movement activists running in the Green Party. He became an activist early in his life when he saw how the Democratic Party mistreated the black people-organized Mississippi Freedom Democrats, co-chaired by sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer. When his draft number was called in 1972, Howie enlisted in the Marine Corps and continued to organize against the Vietnam War as part of GI resistance inside the military. He remains a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976 and a leader in the anti-apartheid divestment movement to end US corporate investment in the racist system of oppression and labor exploitation in South Africa.
Hawkins has run for governor three times, successfully protecting Green ballot access and making the Greens the third party in New York. He has received the highest vote total of any third party candidate in New York in a century. Hawkins was one of the founders of the Green Party and is a long time activist for worker rights and environmental protection and against racism and imperialism, which are fundamental in the party platform.
While the New Republic tries to argue that the “new Democratic Party” means there is no need for the Green Party, the author also points out the Greens see an opportunity to expose the Democrats by showing the differences between the two parties’ versions of the Green New Deal.
The article acknowledges that the Green Party version of the Green New Deal is more expansive and more detailed than the version introduced by AOC, writing, it is a “more aggressive, socialist reorganization of society.” They specifically note, “the Green Party’s plan calls for single-payer Medicare for All, tuition-free college, and ‘democratically run, publicly owned utilities.’ To pay for it, the Greens call for major progressive tax and financial reform, including a 90 percent tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers, and a reduction in military spending by 50 percent.” And, “Greens say their Green New Deal is the only version that’s going to reduce emissions to the degree scientists say is necessary to prevent climate catastrophe…”
The transformative role of the Green Party is shown in a plank it adopted in their platform two years ago that calls for “Ecological Economics” which calls for “an economic system that is based on a combination of private businesses, decentralized democratic cooperatives, publicly owned enterprises, and alternative economic structures. Collectively, this system puts human and ecological needs alongside profits to measure success and maintains accountability to communities.” The Green Party has become the first ecosocialist party in the United States, an economic system consistent with the Green New Deal.
Hawkins Campaign Will Build Greens From Bottom-Up
Hawkins has advocated that the duopoly system of two Wall Street-dominated parties cannot respond to the climate crisis or the urgent needs of workers who are struggling to live paycheck to paycheck in the midst of great inequality. Hawkins has written that the task is to build a left third party from the grassroots up writing, “Both corporate parties respond more to the economic elites that invest in them than in the people who vote for them. This leaves a political vacuum that an independent working-class party could fill—from the bottom up.”
In fact, the premise of the New Republic is false, the reality is that over the last two years the Democratic leadership has blocked progressives from moving the party to become a people’s party. Former top political organizer for the Sanders presidential campaign, Nick Brana, described the 2018 elections, not as a “Blue Wave” but a “corporate wave” because the Democratic Party has become more dominated by big business, militarism and more conservative. And, the party changed the rules to make it harder for Sen. Bernie Sanders to win the nomination.
The New Republic concludes writing, “The Greens’ history as a spoiler threat might keep the Democrats honest, ensuring they don’t nominate a moderate who won’t at least entertain Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Then again, leftist voters may be so motivated to remove Trump from office that they’d hold their noses and vote for, say, Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden.”
If the Democrats nominate Biden, Klobuchar or another corporate candidate, it will provide an even bigger opening for the Green Party to advance causes that voters demand, but big donor Democrats oppose.
Kevin Zeese is a member of the Maryland Green Party Coordinating Committee. He served as Press Secretary and Spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004 and was a Senior Advisor to the Jill Stein campaign in 2016.