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Thank You, Congratulations, and What's Next
Congratulations to all of us for achieving our baseline goal in this election – retaining the Green Party ballot line statewide for the next four years.
Thank you to all of you who leafleted, phone banked, text banked, organized events, donated, and voted for the cause.
We live to fight another day. Between the collapse of the climate and the living standards of working-class New York, we have to keep fighting.
Our vote was down from 2014, from 184,000 to about 100,000, even though the statewide voter turnout increased from 3.9 million to 5.8 million. We received similar vote numbers for our presidential ticket and U.S. Senate candidate in 2016. About 100,000 has been our core statewide vote in the Trump era.
If we had maintained the 5% share we received in 2014, we would have ended up with about 300,000 votes and leaped over the Conservative Party to third place on the ballot. As it was, we were about 10,000 votes behind Cuomo on the Working Families line and about 5,000 ahead of the Libertarians, for fifth place on the ballot for the next four years.
Cuomo’s vote was up by 1.3 million. After he won the Democratic primary, he claimed that the progressive challenge was “not even a ripple.” His primary challengers, Cynthia Nixon and the Working Families Party, then affirmed that judgement by endorsing Cuomo. Unfortunately, liberal groups endorsed Cuomo and most socialist groups gave him a free ride by doing nothing. In his general election victory speech, Cuomo boasted that he was the “pragmatic progressive” who “gets things done.”
Cuomo is now going to be even more insufferably arrogant in dismissing those to his left while doing his big donors' bidding. He will use conservative suburban Democrats against liberal city Democrats in the same way he used the IDC. He will use them to block single-payer health care, underfund public schools, increase charter schools, limit rent reforms, and flood the state with fracked-gas power plants.
The dayafter the election, Cuomo laid out his agenda. He wants some liberal social reforms like the DREAM Act and the Reproductive Health Act, which are long overdue but won’t cost his donors anything. His socially liberal, fiscally conservative centrism was echoed by the incoming Democratic Leader of the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who said, “This scary narrative about tax-and-spend Democrats will not pertain to us.”
The Democrats now control all levers of state government. But off their leaders’ agenda are reforms that require taxing the 1% – who now take home 33% of all income in the state – to fund single-payer health care, 100% clean energy by 2030, high-poverty school districts, affordable public housing, and the unfunded mandates and revenue-sharing our fiscally-stressed local governments need to provide decent services while cutting sky-high property taxes.
The Green Party state committee will be meeting in January to set our priorities for the coming period. In the meantime, here are my first thoughts.
We should focus on organizing, not just mobilizing for events that others call. We need to organize campaigns for our demands between elections, not just during them. We should organize study groups and public forums for political education so we are smarter about the social problems and the power structures we face. We should introduce new people to the Greens with these kinds of activities instead of tedious business meetings.
We need to greatly expand the paid-membership base of our county organizations through one-on-one recruiting. The dues are split between the state party and your county party. We need the funds to pay for field organizers and for county party activities. No one will fund us but us. If we won’t pay dues to support the cause, we are not serious about the cause.
We should prioritize youth recruitment, making our activities open to them, listening to them, and supporting them. I recently spoke to Participation in Government classes that are required for graduation at high schools in Buffalo. I was struck that the most common question these students asked was, “How do I get involved in politics?” Many young people want to make a difference, but no party is helping them to participate. The Greens should be.
We should also focus on organizing the working-class people who are alienated from voting because they don’t believe either major party cares about them. Non-voters are the biggest bloc of voters in the state. Whether it is people of color in the cities or white people in rural communities, no political party is systematically talking to them at the grassroots, one on one. If the Greens are going to win major elections, these people will be a big part of the base.
As for campaigns around our policy demands, I suggest four statewide priorities:
Publicly-Funded Universal Health Care
The NY Health Act for universal single-payer health care in New York State has passed the Assembly five times. It was one vote short of passage in the Senate before the Democratic takeover in this election. We can’t count on the Democrats to enact it without a strong push.
100% Clean Energy by 2030
We need to get the climate and environmental movements to focus on passing the NY Off Fossil Fuels Act (NY OFF) with the same intensity they focused on getting the ban on fracking after we raised that demand in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The majority of Democrats are now backing the Climate and Community Protection Act, which codifies Cuomo’s energy policy of flooding New York with fracked gas and postponing 100% clean energy until 2050 when it is too late for the climate. Greens should play a leading role in promoting this bill.
“Clean Money” Public Campaign Finance and Debates
Cuomo once again drowned out all opposition with his $50 million from pay-to-play campaign contributors. He dictated the terms of debates to the corporate media, who acted like servile state media for the two-party state. The Green statewide candidates were ignored or marginalized in their news narratives. The corporate media, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and Spectrum, have given Cuomo $850,000 for his gubernatorial campaigns and have received tens of millions in subsidies, tax breaks, and regulator favors in return. Talk about pay-to-play and conflicts of interest!
The “Clean Money” full public campaign finance model we advocate solves the problem of privatized elections and debates. Every candidate who qualifies gets an equal public grant to run their campaign on clean public money and no dirty private money. Maine and Arizona have adopted this system. My fellow Teamster and the Green candidate for Governor of Arizona, Angel Torres, debated his Democratic and Republican opponents this year in an official debate sponsored by the Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
A bill for Clean Money public campaign financing was introduced in the state legislature every session from the mid 1990s to the 2013-2014 session, after which it was dropped in favor of a bill for a matching funds system of partial public campaign financing, which adds add a little public money on top of the old dominant pile of private money. We need to find sponsors for a new Clean Money bill.
Ranked-Choice Voting for Proportional Representation
This reform seems to have a lot energy behind it from Greens I’ve heard from since the election. In ranked-choice voting (RCV), the voter ranks their choices in order of preference. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
For single-seat executive offices, it removes the problem of “lesser evil” voting where many progressives will vote for the lesser evil Democrats to stop the greater evil Republicans even though their first preference is for the Greens.
For legislative bodies, it replaces single-member plurality-winner districts with multi-member districts where each party gets a fair share of representation in proportion to the votes their party’s candidates receive.
We can probably find a legislative sponsor in the state legislature to raise this reform statewide, but I think we will need to win this in local governments first in order to make it viable demand for the state. New York City used to have RCV for proportional representation. It resulted in 5 to 7 parties represented on the city council in every two-year term between 1937 and 1947. It was enacted by the voters in a charter change referendum introduced by the city council. We can do this in our own towns, cities, and counties.
3. Local Elections
Greens will never be taken seriously for statewide office until we have a much larger cohort of locally elected officials, especially in the bigger cities. That will change voter psychology in races for the state legislature and Congress – if Greens are in town, city, and council offices, why not state and federal legislative offices?
We have had small numbers of Greens in New York elected to town boards, school boards, small city councils, and as village mayors for many years. We need to take this to the next level. Every county party should be looking to local races in the next few years where we can run competitive races for town boards, school boards, city councils, and county legislatures. It is better to run strong in selective races than to put up lots of token candidates who do not run serious campaigns. Voters won’t take us seriously unless we take our own campaigns seriously.
As long as Trump is president, it is going to be tough for Greens. Many people will vote for any damn Democrat on the ballot just to repudiate Trump. But the Democrats don’t have real solutions for the climate crisis or the working-class majority who cannot afford what is commonly considered a middle-class life. Real solutions can’t wait.
I will be unable to do much between November 13 and January 4 when I’m working 12-hour shifts, 13 days on, 1 day off, at the Post Office during the holiday season rush. After that, I will be back in action.
Until then, know that you have my gratitude for your support during this campaign and in the days to come. Connect with local Greens nearest to you and discuss how to act on our priorities.