[Marxism] 0-for-23: An Undeterred Green Party Candidate on His Long Losing Streak

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 19 12:27:38 MDT 2018

NY Times, Oct. 19, 2018

0-for-23: An Undeterred Green Party Candidate on His Long Losing Streak

Howie Hawkins, who is running for governor of New York, has run for an 
elective office 24 times. He has lost 23 times. Despite his losing 
record, he doesn’t get discouraged.

By Jesse McKinley

Howie Hawkins has a perfect record.

Mr. Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, has run for 
elective office 23 times and has never won. He has run for the House of 
Representatives and the Senate. He has run for Syracuse Common Council, 
Syracuse mayor and Syracuse auditor. He has run for state comptroller 
and Onondaga county executive. Two campaigns ended when he was kicked 
off the ballot.

He is undaunted: His current bid for governor of New York is his third 
for that office, and 24th overall.

Yet while his challenge to defeat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is similarly 
quixotic, Mr. Hawkins is nonetheless the most successful Green Party 
candidate for governor in state history, having received nearly 5 
percent — some 184,000 votes — in the 2014 general election. He received 
nearly 125,000 more votes than he had in 2010, and far more than 
previous candidates like the writer Malachy McCourt and the actor Al 
Lewis, of “Munsters” fame.

He was one of the founders of the national Green Party in 1984, and his 
résumé reads like a field guide to third parties: over the last four 
decades, Mr. Hawkins has been involved with the Peace and Freedom Party, 
the People’s Party, and the Citizens Party. As such, he is a 
quick-talking encyclopedia of progressive talking points, effortlessly 
outlining the core issues of Green politics: environmental care, 
economic and social justice, electoral reform and peace on Earth.

That many of those issues have made their way into Democratic Party 
platforms is no accident, he says. “I think Greens improve elections 
because we bring issues to the table that otherwise wouldn’t be 
discussed,” he said.

Mr. Hawkins, 65, also has the distinction of being the only candidate 
living near the poverty line. A longtime construction worker and a 
U.P.S. employee, he retired last year on a couple of small pensions 
totaling $1,260 a month. He is single, childless, and lives alone in a 
two-bedroom apartment in Syracuse. If he’s not elected governor, he says 
he’d like to pick up some holiday shifts with U.P.S., though he notes 
he’ll only make $10.40 an hour.

Until then, he’ll be campaigning, driving around the state in a used 
Hyundai. (He’s put about 25,000 miles on it during this race). Earlier 
this month, he spoke with The New York Times about his latest bid, his 
competition, and why third parties matter.

The following is an edited and condensed version of the conversation.

Q. You grew up in California, but you sound like you’re from the South. 
Where’s your accent from?

A. During World War II and immediately after, a lot of southern blacks 
and whites came up from Mississippi Delta to work at Hunters Point 
shipyard [in San Francisco]. So I speak like the kids I came up with. 
It’s just muscle memory now.

Q. What was your political upbringing? Were your parents third-party fans?

A. They were Midwestern Republicans: Stay out of stupid foreign wars, 
watch the public money, civil rights, and otherwise leave us alone. All 
of their descendants have left the Republican Party. I left in the ’60s, 
I think most of them left in the ’80s. Some became Perot and Nader 
followers, and some became Democrats and a few became Greens.

I was 12. My party was the Peace and Freedom Party. And when I was 14, 
turning 15, I’m telling adults you got to register in this party so 
people can vote against the war.

I was drafted in June 1972. I was 19. When my number came up, I enlisted 
in the Marine Corps, but they never ordered me to active duty. They knew 
about my antiwar activity before I went in the Marine Corps, they had a 
little file and they had little pictures of me at demonstrations. They 
said, ‘Why do you want to be a Marine?’ I said, ‘My draft number came up 
and you’re the best.’ That was my story and I stuck to it.

Q. So how and when did you go Green?

A. I had been involved in Clamshell Alliance. We occupied the Seabrook 
nuclear power plant site. We got 1,414 people arrested. That kind of put 
the antinuclear movement on the map. We had people come from all over 
the country and it’s right after the Vietnam War movement — a lot of 
activists looking for something to do. A woman named Charlene Spretnak 
and a physicist named Fritjof Capra wrote a book called “Green 
Politics,” which really didn’t capture the German Greens — it was kind 
of her new-age take on it — but then people said you’ve got to start a 
party. So they invited people and I was one of the people who got 
invited. That was in St. Paul, Minn., in August 1984.

Q. You first ran for office in 1993, for Syracuse Common Council. Why 
did you run?

A. The Syracuse Green Party chapter already existed when I got to 
Syracuse in 1991. In 1993, it decided it was time to run in local 
elections. They figured their work on the issues they were concerned 
about in the city was being taken for granted by the elected officials, 
who gave them lip service but no action.

So they asked me to run for councilor-at-large. Then every year, the 
local Greens would ask me to run again. Running every year was never a 
plan, it just evolved.

Q. And you’ve run 23 times total and you’ve never won.

A. No. I came close: 48 percent for one City Council race in 2011. And 
the vote keeps growing.

Q. Does losing get you down?

A. No, you can be in the minority but when you’re out there talking to 
people you’re persuading, you’re getting positive response from a lot of 
people. So I don’t get discouraged. Wherever we are, I say, ‘What’s the 
next best move?”

Q. Let’s say you broke the streak. What would a Hawkins administration 
look like?

A. I would sign the single-payer bill. I would really push the 
Legislature to adopt the New-York off-fossil-fuels bill, which is for 
100 percent clean energy by 2030. And I would push for a more 
progressive tax system. The top one percent in the state’s share of 
income has gone from 12 percent in 1980 to 31 percent today. That’s $375 
billion going to 90,000 taxpayers. If they paid 10 percent more than 
would be $37.5 billion for the state budget. And we need that.

Q. A lot of what the Greens are talking about for a long time — income 
inequality, for example — has recently become fashionable in the 
Democratic Party. Is that annoying?

A. That’s been the historic role of third parties in this country. The 
Liberty Party put the slavery issue on the public agenda. Greenback 
Labor and the People’s Party put the whole money question, during the 
post Civil War Gilded Age, and the issue of monopolies. And the 
Socialists put the social insurance programs that F.D.R. eventually 
adopted on the public agenda. So what did we put on? In New York, it was 
a Green mayor and deputy mayor that were doing gay marriages until 
Spitzer got an injunction on them. That was 2004. And seven years later, 
Cuomo is saying, ‘I did it!’ The $15 minimum wage: We haven’t got there 
yet but Cuomo wants to say he did it.

Q. What do you think of the governor’s job performance?

A. He moves to the socially liberal positions when the polls move there, 
like gay marriage. He never leads on any of those. This is the most 
segregated state in the country in housing, and schools, in our cities. 
He’s never said a peep about that. So I don’t think he’s a leader on the 
social issues, although when pushed, he’ll take a liberal position. On 
the economics, I still see the same Cuomo that ran in 2010: freeze 
public salaries, get a new pension tier, cap on taxes. I think that’s 
because he’s funded by a lot of people on Wall Street, and big real 
estate. They don’t want their taxes raised. And I haven’t heard any new 
initiatives. I mean, what’s he going to do? His agenda is basically 
cleaning up the stuff that the State Senate blocked. Maybe the Dream 
Act, getting that Women’s Reproductive Health Act passed, get Roe v. 
Wade in the penal code? Which are good reforms but it’s not like he’s 
really been out front really pushing them.

Q. Do you like life as a candidate?

A. Well, its better than unloading freight at UPS. Which I don't even 
mind doing; it’s just the long hours. This is more fun. I like talking 
about public policy. I like talking to people. There are frustrations, 
you know: I think we've earned better attention than we're getting. But 
I guess you could say I enjoy it.

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