At the outset, I’ll say for full disclosure that I was involved with the composition of this video and am active in Green Party politics on the national level.
Before I explain why I think Howie Hawkins is an interesting development on the political landscape, let me point out a few things about his political party.
I’m not naively delusional, the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is a bit of a shit-show. In all honesty, it really isn’t a solitary and unified national body with state-level branches that subsume themselves to the direction and will of the national leadership, as is the case with the Democrats, Republicans, or many other third parties like the Libertarians or the Communists. Instead it is actually a federation of around 50 individual state-level parties, each with a wide variety of membership rules and business bylaws, that act independent of (and many times oblivious of) what other state parties are doing. There’s been times when Greens from Massachusetts have actually gotten into a bit of a pissing match with me over their desire to do things in Rhode Island that were in direct contradiction of my own organizational efforts.
Furthermore, the party has been schismed for almost 20 years by an unbridgeable chasm between liberals who wish to see the Green Party become a caucus of the Democratic Party and socialists who want to see it become an opposition party in the tradition of Eugene V. Debs. Many of its longtime liberal members want to perpetuate territorial squabbles with those to their left and stage turf wars over what amounts to a sandbox of political terrain, charging at the windmills so they dominate the direction of newsletters that no one reads and email lists that are nuisances to any sane progressive with the misfortune to be subscribed to them.
In a never-ending cycle of contradictory behavior, liberal Greens have internalized the notion they are to blame for the election of George W. Bush and so claim independence of the duopoly while perpetually deferring, whenever the rubber hits the road, to the whims of a rightward-shifting Democratic Party that scorns and belittles them with a ferocity that is equivalent to the vitriol also given to neo-Nazis and pedophiles.
This is what makes the Howie Hawkins presidential run so interesting to me. He’s a longtime socialist activist-organizer who has been in the trenches for decades, struggling to build independent working class politics that not only includes electoral runs (he’s been on the ballot for numerous state and local offices in New York over the past two decades) but also on-the-ground workplace activism as a member of the Teamsters and the caucus that has been struggling for reform within the House that Hoffa Built. Way before the Democrats picked it up, Hawkins ran for Governor on a platform that included rolling out a Green New Deal. His political heritage includes membership in Solidarity, one of the more coherent (and certainly less cultish) Trotskyist groups in the landscape. He wants to stick with such a problematic political project like the GPUS and make it into a viable opposition party. The idea of his campaign being one that trains organizers to build a base that will stick around the day after the 2020 election is a refreshing change, especially because the modus operandi of prior Green presidential runs has been the absolute opposite. Even Ralph Nader, who had the most guts of all their presidential candidates, was not able to make the Green Party more viable than what it currently is, partially because of his own engagements with other matters and partially because he did not belong to the party. Hawkins, by contrast, has been a member from the start and so has a dedication to the cause that is worthy of your respect.
I don’t want to make a pitch for the casting a vote for Hawkins in 2020 right now, mostly because there are too many variables that could change the landscape before that Election Day. But the prospect of independent Left opposition politics trying to build a sustainable and lasting force that opposes Trump and the Democrats is something I have been holding out hope for desperately in the past 3 years. Let’s be honest, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon had middling returns after the 2016 nomination of Hillary Clinton. The renaissance within the Democratic Socialists of America was certainly welcome but their adherence to the Democratic Party has the ability to alienate a large segment of the population that has become thoroughly disenchanted with that party.
Could Hawkins and his candidacy catalyze such an opposition? It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch…