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An interview with Green Party presidential hopeful Howie Hawkins

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“We haven’t had a socialist movement that is a major force in American politics for generations and Bernie’s not helpful with that because he’s bringing them into the Democratic Party,” said Howie Hawkins. “You go into the Democratic Party, they don’t know if you’re a Sanders socialist or you’re a Bloomberg corporatist, right?”


I had an opportunity to sit down with Howie Hawkins, who is running to be the Green Party‘s candidate for President of the United States. We met at Urban Greens, where Hawkins was meeting local Greens about his campaign and fielding questions from potential supporters. We spoke for about 30 minutes on a wide range of issues, from a $20 minimum wage to nuclear disarmament.

Here’s the full interview, followed by some highlights:

On Howie Hawkins:

“I was the first candidate in the country to run for a Green New Deal, in 2010, running for governor of New York as the Green candidate, It became a signature issue of the Green Party over the next decade. Our presidential candidate, Jill Stein, ran on it as her central theme in 2012, 2016 and then it became a national thing. It went viral when the Sunrise Movement, with the new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York sat in Pelosi’s office demanding a Green New Deal, which is great. And a poll was done a few weeks later and 80 percent of the people want a Green New Deal including 64 percent of Republicans. But they couldn’t get it through Congress. They had proposed a special committee and Pelosi wasn’t for that. So they came up with a non-binding resolution for a Green New Deal. Let’s just say we’re for it, without really doing anything.

“And it was watered down. They took our brand and watered down its content. They extended the deadline to zero out carbon emissions from 2030 to 2050. They dropped the demand for a ban on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure, which is crucial. We build that infrastructure, we’re locked into burning fossil fuels for decades and the planet gets cooked. We want to cut military spending deeply so we can put that money into a Green New Deal. They dropped that part. And then Pelosi won’t let a vote on it and on the Senate side, McConnell wanted to get all the Democratic presidential candidates on the record on the Green New Deal, and Schumer the leader of the Democrats said, ‘Oh, that’s a trick. We’re all going to vote present.’ And all the good little Democrats in the Senate did except four of them voted with the Republicans, ‘No.'”


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On Bernie Sanders:

“Bernie is building a campaign for his ambitions. He’s not building a political organization where you have a membership that from the bottom up makes decisions. So in other words, a political party. What has happened to the left, when it has gone into the Democratic Party, which it has been doing for generations, is it disappears. They end up being the grunts, the people that do the door knocking, the petitioning, the phone banking for liberals who want to maybe patch up capitalism a little bit, but they’re not really socialist. We haven’t had a socialist movement that is a major force in American politics for generations and Bernie’s not helpful with that because he’s bringing them into the Democratic Party. You go into the Democratic Party, they don’t know if you’re a Sanders socialist or you’re a Bloomberg corporatist, right? You vote for the Green Party, everybody knows what that means. That vote makes the politicians have to compete for you, for those demands like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and the Economic Bill of Rights.

On minimum wage:

“$20 by ’20. I ran for it for governor in 2018. $15 is not a living wage in a lot of places with the cost of living, particularly on the East Coast. If you adjusted the minimum wage we paid in 1968 for both inflation and gains in productivity… It would be about $27. So I think we can get right to $20 with maybe a two year transition. I believe like Franklin Roosevelt, he has a famous quote [saying] if you can’t pay a living wage, maybe you shouldn’t be in business. Why should your business depend on paying people a poverty wage? They’re living in poverty, they can’t pay their bills. That doesn’t seem like a good way to run an economy. So those were some of the thoughts behind it.”

On what a socialist economy and democratic economic planning looks like:

“It means let’s take public power… It would be democratic in the sense that the people set the basic policies or would elect the people who run on the basic policies they support… It would be like a Federation. It would be a decentralized public ownership coordinated at the center. But the initiatives comes from below.”

On housing and homelessness:

“We have enormous housing prices. Homelessness is off the charts. We have nearly 10 million people in extremely low poverty that don’t have access to affordable housing. What we would do is build 25 million new units of public housing and 40 percent would be reserved for very low income. So that would cover the very low income that don’t have access now, but they’d also be developments that would be mixed income. What we did between World War II and about 1970, before we stopped public housing almost all together was we just segregate poor people of color off in the worst part of town, isolated from services and transportation and jobs and everything. And that just increases segregation.

“What they do in Europe is you’ve got professionals, blue collar workers and single moms with kids without much income all living in the same apartments. We can use this public housing program to help with desegregation.”

The last time I met a Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein, she said that there essentially was no difference between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Do you believe that?

“I never thought that was the case. Trump is and out and out racist. He’s encouraging the white racists to come out, do violence to people. They’ve done it, they’ve done it to Jews, Muslims, blacks, Latinos…

“You just don’t say, like Susan Sarandan did and I thought this was an idiotic statement, she said, ‘Oh, if Trump wins it will wake people up.’ It’s like saying we’ll let the Klan take power after reconstruction and it’ll wake people up. You don’t give them power! So Clinton was terrible. She was dangerous. But Trump was worse. I’ve always felt that and I’ve been calling for his impeachment since he got in office and started getting the monuments, you know right there during the inauguration.”


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com