In New York State, there are more than two political parties and there are more than two candidates running for governor. While only Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic Party candidate, and Carl Paladino, the Republican Party candidate with Tea Party support, have realistic chances of being elected (and with Paladino that is a definite maybe), there are a number of minor party candidates on the ballot or running write-in campaigns.
Minor parties and their candidates are running to gain political influence (the union-backed Working Families Party and the Liberal and Conservative Parties), promote their agendas (the Anti-Prohibition pro-marijuana party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Libertarian Party), and sometimes because they have much nothing better to do (Jimmy McMillan and the Rent is Too Damn High Party and New York City Councilmember Charles Barron and the Freedom Party).
Some minor parties, such as Working Families, generally cross-endorse the main candidates hoping to gain ballot strength and build for the future. Others such as the Independence and Taxpayers Parties are not real parties at only, only efforts by the Democratic and Republican candidates to grab more space on the ballot.
Before I go any further, I need to state that I am a tee-shirt wearing member of the New York State Green Party (we don't have membership cards). The Green Party is running Howie Hawkins, a teamster from the Rochester area who works for UPS for governor and Gloria Mattera, a health professional and community organizer from Brooklyn for lieutenant governor. I think the Green Party campaign is different from the campaigns of the other minor candidates and from the major parties and bears close attention, not because they will win anything, but because they have the potential to reshape political dialogue in the state and the nation.
Howie Hawkins and Gloria Mattera were in Brooklyn on Sunday, September 26th, to participate in a giant block party called the Atlantic Antic. After the block party we met and spoke together at a Green Party fund-raiser in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Jon Stewart has accused minority parties on the left and right of promoting extremism and of irrationality. In the case of the New York Greens, Stewart is definitely wrong! Hawkins and Mattera are two of the most rational and thoughtful people I have met in the political arena. They make the Democratic and Republican Party candidates look like the irrational extremists.
Howie Hawkins told me "Paladino thinks he is mad, but he's not as mad as me!" He thinks, "The basic issue in this campaign is: Will our state government be for the people, or continue to serve the super-rich and the giant corporations?" Hawkins is wrong in one respect. This is probably the basic issue facing the entire country.
Hawkins told the assembled group that New York State and the nation need a new "New Deal," a "Green New Deal." It would include the promise of full employment with government as employer of last resort; a single-payer health plan; and full funding for education. He also called for an end to tuition in the city and state universities, a state bank to invest government funds and pension dollars, and a more progressive tax structure. While every other candidate for governor is calling for cuts, Hawkins actually wants to state to spend more, to provide jobs, and to stimulate the economy.
Gloria Mattera used her allotted speaking time to explain the four pillars of the Green Party: Non-violence and the demilitarization of the United States; social and economic justice; ecological wisdom; and grassroots participatory democracy. You can learn more about the Green Party, their stands in the gubernatorial election, other Green Party candidates, and the Green New Deal at their website http://www.web.gpnys.com.
Because or arcane New York State law designed to keep minority parties off of the ballot and out of the public mind, the Green Party needs 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election to get a permanent ballot line. This is crucial to the party because it frees them from constantly having to circulate nomination petitions and would allow party activists to concentrate on presenting issues.
The Green Party will get my vote, but clearly that is not enough. It needs 50,000. Kermit the Frog sings on the Muppets, "It's Not Easy Being Green." It may not easy, but it is getting easier.