Instead, let us honor three people who are daring to run for the highest office in the land, although they probably don't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning or even coming close. That isn't really the point, though, is it? In this age of Citizens United, money rules politics, and voters are rapidly becoming superfluous. We are but the warm bodies expected to do our duty and pull the lever for one of the two vetted and pre-approved candidates of the oligarchic duopoly. But last I checked, we still have our first amendment rights, even though privacy is dead and the right to assemble is pretty much at the whim of the individual municipality and police force.
What alternative candidates and third, fourth, fifth parties are achieving right now is raising public awareness of what is possible, and what we deserve and what abysmally low standards we have set for ourselves as a putative Democracy. According to polling, most self-identified conservatives actually support progressive causes, such as single payer health care and taxing the rich and ending the wars. Yet, the two sides of the Money Uniparty no longer answer to the will of the electorate.
I am sure there are more outsider parties and people (I am leaving out the Libertarians and Communists, although I may come back to them in a later post), but here is today's trio of independent candidates (links go to their official websites) : Rocky Anderson of the American Justice Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Jerry White of the Socialist Equality Party.
First, Rocky -- he has the biggest organization of any declared leftist independent thus far. Former three-term mayor of Salt Lake City, Anderson is an unlikely progressive from a traditional rock-solid conservative state. He ranks as one of the strongest environmentalists who ever held public office. Unlike the corporatist deficit hawk DINO Barack Obama, Anderson embraced the ideals of Occupy before there even was an Occupy. From a profile of him in The Guardian:
His agenda is a familiar one on the left. Broadly speaking, he wants to break the hold of corrupting corporate influence on the two main parties and give a voice to ordinary working people. It also chimes with the general thrust of the Occupy movement, even though the latter has steered clear of engagement with electoral politics.
"The more time has gone on, the more it has become clear that we're not going see change in this country with these two parties," he says. "There are lots of good individuals in the Democratic party, [but] without Democrats voting the way they did in Congress, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. We wouldn't have suffered as a nation because of these Bush tax cuts.
"Obama received more money from Wall Street than any presidential candidate ever. And they got a great return on their investment."
This would represent the first attempt to apply the principles of the Occupy movement within the electoral area. Anderson points out discussions about launching the party preceded the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street. But while there are no organisational links, he says there is plenty of common ground. "There is clearly a convergence of interests regarding the concerns we have and the concerns of Occupy Wall Street. There's little I've heard from the Occupy movement that I would disagree with and I think there's little we support that they would disagree with."Anderson thinks Obama's neopopulism is fraudulent. "How does he, with a straight face, talk about getting jobs back to the U.S. without even mentioning free trade agreements and the need to significantly renegotiate those agreements to put them in better balance in terms of worker rights and environmental protections?" (Anderson has a point -- everybody has conveniently forgotten that textile jobs are headed to South Korean factories peopled by North Korean guest slaves, and that Colombian farmers are still getting beaten up and worse by thugs in the employ of multinational corporations.)
Next up: Jill Stein is a physician from Massachusetts and this election cycle's Green Party candidate. An avid Occupy supporter, she is running on a platform for a "Green New Deal" --
the objective of which would be to employ "every American willing and able to work" to address "climate change...[and the] converging water, soil, fisheries, forest, and fossil fuel crises" by working towards "sustainable energy, transportation and production infrastructure: clean renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, intra-city mass transit and inter-city railroads, “complete streets” that safely encourage bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing of the goods needed to support this sustainable economy". The initial cost of the Green New Deal would be funded by various mechanisms, including "taxing Wall Street speculation, off shore tax havens, millionaires and multimillion dollar estates" as well as a 30% reduction in the U.S. military budget.The four points of the Stein Green New Deal are the right to a job at a living wage; the transition to a sustainable, green economy; a financial sector serving Americans; and citizen empowerment. Sounds eminently logical and simple and refreshingly socialistic.
Which brings us to our third candidate and party, which you may not be as familiar with, although the principles of all three overlap. The Socialist Equality platform stresses a strong labor movement, as originally advocated by Karl Marx, and is unabashedly anti-capitalist. If nothing else, it should demonstrate to the audiences of Romney and his ilk that Barack Obama is about as far right to socialism as it's possible to get without plummeting off a cliff.
White also ran on the Socialist Equality ticket in 2008 against Obama and McCain. A labor journalist, he is a long-time union organizer and strong proponent of the Auto Workers movement in Michigan. He is not at all impressed with Obama's auto industry bailout, which resulted in a draconian reduction in wages and benefits and record profits for the industry. Here is what he has to say about Obama's playing of the populist card for purposes of his own re-election:
Yet under his watch, not a single banker, hedge fund manager or financial regulator responsible for the economic catastrophe has been prosecuted, let alone convicted. On the contrary, the president has handed them the keys to the national treasury and tailored his policies to enable them to continue their speculative activities and make more money than ever.
The fury of the state has been reserved for those who have sought to protest against the plundering of society by the financial elite and the resulting growth of poverty, unemployment and inequality. They, for the most part student youth, have been assaulted by baton-wielding police in riot gear, packing rubber bullets and using pepper spray. The protesters have been arrested in the thousands. Obama, with his silence, has signaled his support for these attacks, carried out for the most part by Democratic mayors.The SEP platform includes an international working class movement (as opposed to one limited to the United States) and public ownership of banks and other institutions. Writes White: "There are some who say this is unrealistic. But what can be more unrealistic than maintaining a system that perpetuates the wealth of the few at the expense of the many? Is it more realistic to tell workers that they must accept a 50 percent wage cut to keep their jobs, or to tell the elderly that they must go without medical care, or to tell the young that they must go without an education?"
On this Presidents Day, depressed as you may be by the corrupt status quo, rejoice that there are people who refuse to lie down and take it. Activism lives. The left is resurging because there is no other choice. Rumors of the demise of the Occupy movement are grossly exaggerated. We don't have to settle for Rombama or Bamtorum. Go ahead. Spoil their day.