Sunday, I attended a house party for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor of New York. I voted for Hawkins last time, unable to pull the lever for Andrew Cuomo even before he had a chance to damage public education in our state. I’m going to vote for him again, this time with more enthusiasm.
I’m tired of voting for Democrats who aren’t members of the party I grew up in, one that represented working people. The party I grew up in believed in the ideals expressed by Franklin Roosevelt in his 1944 State of the Union speech in which he argued for a second Bill of Rights for Americans. Roosevelt asked Americans to believe it possible for people to be guaranteed a job at living wages, decent housing, medical care, education and enough income to provide adequate food clothing and recreation. He looked forward to a system in which farmers would be able to earn a living from their crops and business people were free of predatory monopolies. Mind you, he talked about all of this amid World War II. Successive generations of Democrats would champion civil right and respect for the environment. I used to be proud to be a Democrat. The party stood on high the moral ground of trying to make our economic and political systems work for the betterment of its citizens. The party that used to believe in these ideals helped to create and grow the middle class.
As Hawkins says it, Democrats today appear to want to repeal the New Deal, not extend it. In most elections we are given a choice between them and today’s Republicans who seems to want to repeal The Enlightenment. Some choice for working people.
I don’t think for a minute that Hawkins is going to be elected governor of New York, but what I know is his ideas are more like mine than any other candidate’s. He believes in a living wage for workers and supports a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed to the productivity of the American worker. He believes in progressive taxation – you make more, you pay more. He supports single payer health care for all. He believes that the unemployed who wish to work should be able to do so, if need be in a state funded WPA-style jobs program. Hawkins and the Green Part support the idea of our being 100% clean energy by 2030. Finally, and most importantly for an education union leader like me, he stands for an end to high stakes testing, the Common Core State Standards and the full-funding of public education, K through college.
Political positions are one thing, character another. What I like most about Howie Hawkins is that he works for a living. He’s a good union member working for UPS. He lives in the heart of Syracuse. When you listen to him talk, you realize that here is a man who has spent his life working for progressive causes, not building a political resume. The battles of working people for justice punctuate his almost every sentence. I love the idea that he has to take an unpaid leave of absence from his UPS job to run for another that he knows odds are he can’t win. It’s important to him to keep progressive ideas alive.
While Howie Hawkins may not win the governorship of New York, if I and progressive people like me who think it is possible to build a better more just society cast our vote for him, we just might breathe some life into the Democratic Party and turn it back towards its roots. My union colleagues who were so disappointed at the Working Families Party endorsement of Cuomo have a logical and comfortable place to go. There is nothing of significance in the platform of the Green Party and Howie Hawkins that doesn’t match up well with the principles and policies of our unions. It’s time to put our money, resources and votes behind the things we believe in instead of behind people we know will betray us after Election Day.