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New York Needs 50,000 Green Votes

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The New York gubernatorial debate at Hofstra University turned into a seven-ring circus. One of my Hofstra students compared it to a SNL skit. However, while she found it highly entertaining, she confessed there was little substance to the "debate." The self-professed Manhattan Madam had index cards with some funny one-liners. The "rent-is-too-damn-high" guy was a character, not a candidate. Charles Barron was too busy preparing to run for mayor of New York City in 2013 to address statewide issues. Warren Redlich of the Libertarians was a regular guy who sounded like he could use a regular job. Carl Paladino came across the worst. He couldn't finish sentences and at one point seemed to forget what was going on and got up to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile Andrew Cuomo sat bemused, waiting for it to end, and waiting for voters to anoint him governor. Polls show him winning by a landslide.

The problem with this circus is that it obscured real alternative visions for the future and the choices that New York voters must face. The Democratic (Cuomo) and Republican (Paladino) Party candidates took turns blaming corruption and New York state workers for bloated budgets and deficits. They denied responsibility for their contributions to this mess during the last twenty years and argued that only they could clean house. Raising taxes to cover costs was a no-no. Their simplistic solution was cut, cut, cut. Maybe Cuomo and Paladino should be running for state barber instead of governor.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, presented real alternatives, but as another one of my students remarked, his answers were too complex and did not make for comedic relief. After the debate, the media ran sound bites of the Manhattan Madame and the Rent Guy, but acted as if Hawkins and the Greens had not participated.

Hawkins and the Greens do not expect to take over the state government, but New Yorkers need them to win the election. Current state law requires a political party to obtain at least 50,000 votes in a governor's race to earn a regular ballot line. In 1998 the Green Party achieved ballot status when its candidate for governor, Al Lewis, received over 50,000 votes. However, it has not hit that mark since.

The Green Party of New York had its roots in local Green organizing campaign in the mid-nineteen eighties. Ralph Nader received 244,030 votes for president of the United States on the Green Party line in 2000. From 2003-2004 the Green Party had a city council majority in the Village of New Paltz, NY and a member of the Green Party was town mayor. If Hawkins and the Greens achieve ballot status, the party can run candidates in local elections across the state and concentrate on presenting their platform, the Green New Deal, rather than on circulating nominating petitions.

The Green New Deal for New York is based on the Four Pillars of the Green Party: Ecological wisdom, environmentalism, and economic sustainability; social justice, respect for diversity, and equal opportunity; grassroots or participatory democracy; and non-violence and opposition to imperialist wars. To maintain its political independence, the Green Party does not accept donations from corporations.

As presented by Hawkins and other Green Party candidates for state office, the Green New Deal echoes former New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt's call for a bill of economic rights which included the right to a living wage jobs, education and health care for all Americans. According to his campaign website (http://www.web.gpnys.com/), Hawkins believes "Our country faces the highest, most persistent unemployment since the Great Depression at the same time that we must confront the threat posed by climate change. It is not time for the failed solutions of the past, the same version of trickle down economics of tax cuts for the rich promoted by both major parties for decades that fail to create jobs. We need a massive public investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transit, organic agriculture and clean manufacturing to give us some chance of mitigating the worst damages posed by climate change." The Greens would pay for the Green New Deal through a combination of proposals that would make the tax system fairer. They want to stop rebating the $16 billion annually from the stock transfer tax to Wall Street speculators; restore the progressive state income tax to levels from the 1970s; and raise $10 billion with a 50% bankers bonus tax.

Whether you agree with the entire Green New Deal or not, it is a voice for reason, justice, and alternatives that New York State sorely needs. Howie Hawkins and the Green Party need 50,000 votes on November 2 for New Yorkers to win this election.