Leslie Cagan has worked in a wide range peace and social justice movements for almost 50 years: from the Vietnam war to racism at home, from nuclear disarmament to lesbian/gay liberation, from fighting sexism to working against U.S. military intervention. Most recently, Leslie was co-coordinator of the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, which brought 400,000 people into the streets of NYC demanding action on the global climate crisis. Leslie helped create and served as the National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition that grew to over 1,400 member groups. She discusses her recent activism and what we can do going forward.
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Please forward, if you can, to Leslie Cagan – URGENT
Dear Leslie Cagan,
I am a great admirer of your writings and political activism. I read the open letter to the Green Party which you co-signed along with eight others at the beginning of 2020, and thought I would comment further, and add an effective new strategy.
I am an artist who works in clay, imbuing my work with social and political commentary. My activism began on the south side of Chicago, where I was born in 1948, and where I was exposed to the stories of Holocaust survivors in our synagogue at an early age. I also write occasional op-ed pieces for local newspapers.
As you know, the upcoming election poses the grave danger of a second term for Trump. This is shaping up as a most corrupt and unethical contest, and it will be further compromised by the coronavirus, which is providing ample opportunity for GOP controlled states to suppress votes beyond current levels. And under the non-watchful eye of Atty. Gen. William Barr, foreign adversaries already have a free hand in their efforts to slime the Democrat’s nominee. Don’t count Trump out.
Once again, the Green Party’s only possible effect on the election is that of spoiler, tipping the popular vote in a few swing states to award enough Electoral College votes to give Trump victory. But you know all of that. Maybe the Green Party needs to take a different strategy to achieve actual representation in government, beginning with the U.S. House and Senate, by following the lead of their ideological opposites, the Tea Party, who entered power by entering GOP primaries and going on to win general elections. The Democrats need the vision and the youth vote the Greens can supply, and the Greens need the numbers and power to elect that the Democratic Party can provide.
If you are interested, read on. The following is an op-ed piece submitted to — and rejected by — the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Portland Oregonian, and others. I send it directly to you, hoping that you may have an impact on the Green Party directly.
Thank you for your consideration. We must defeat this horrible, hollow human being in November. The fate of the world — the future of our children and grandchildren — depends on it.
P.O. Box 914
Vaughn, WA 98394
Home: 253 884 9002
Studio: 253 884 1180
Hey, Greens! Take a Cue from the Tea Party
The Green Party of the United States holds its convention online, July 9-12, to confirm candidates for president and vice president. This slate could tip the November election to the Republican candidate, echoing the outcome of the 2000 race, when the Supreme Court finalized Florida’s contested popular vote with George W. Bush ahead of Al Gore by only 537 votes. Bush won that state’s 25 Electoral College votes, and the presidency by a tally of 271–266.
In that election, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 97,488 votes in Florida. The majority of those votes would likely have gone to Gore, an early crusader against global warming, rather than Bush. Had Nader not been a candidate, Gore would have won Florida’s popular vote, the Electoral College 291–246, and the presidency.
In 2016, Donald Trump eked out popular vote wins in three swing states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In each state, Trump’s narrow margin of victory over Hillary Clinton was exceeded by the votes received by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Had Clinton carried the popular vote in these states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260, and the presidency.
Trump’s record speaks volumes: Executive Orders rescinding environmental regulations protecting our clean air, water and land; his insistence that global warming is a hoax; withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. Why would the Green Party run a presidential slate if there is the slightest chance that such a ticket could tip a tight election to the most anti-environmental president in our nation’s history? While the nominee of the Democratic Party will not be perfect, he or she will be far more in line with the ideals of the Green Party than the antithesis represented by Trump and his GOP.
It’s not the message of the Green Party that is the problem, it’s the vehicle. The Greens have never won any Federal election — neither the presidency nor a single seat in the U.S. Congress – nor have they even come close.
A more effective strategy for the Green Party would be to follow the lead of their ideological opposites, the Tea Party, a loosely organized group of disgruntled ultra-right conservatives which became active in reaction Barack Obama’s presidency. The Tea Party chose to not run candidates on a futile third-party ticket, but found early successes challenging moderate Republican incumbents in primary elections for local, state, and federal offices, then winning in a growing number of general elections. In a few short years, they accomplished a near total make-over of the GOP, culminating in the election of Trump.
The Democratic Party is ripe for transformation, too — in line with policies they increasingly share with the Greens. Wouldn’t it be better to build a unified coalition of perhaps overwhelming numbers, instead of competing for votes – and losing elections – over minor differences?
In the 2018 mid-term election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez challenged ten-term U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary, winning by nearly 15 percent. She then defeated the GOP candidate, Anthony Pappas, in November by a landslide 78 to 14 percent. Given the reality of our political duopoly, it is unlikely that she could have won either race had she run on a Green Party ticket. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a rising star and influential player in the Democratic Party, a magnet and inspiration for young voters, who are actively committed to progressive causes ranging from Black Lives Matter to the Green New Deal. It is imperative to tap the power of this fastest-growing demographic.
Green Party candidates could also begin entering government through Democratic primaries. While it is now too late for such challenges in 2020, the Greens still have time to refrain from nominating a presidential slate. This gesture would demonstrate that they understand the gravity of this election and the need to unseat Trump. It could also begin to create a powerful coalition with progressive Democrats, a partnership with the votes necessary to win future presidencies and majorities in both branches of the U.S. Congress. Such a union could ignite the political revolution Bernie Sanders proposed, an idea which sounded like a pipe dream a few years ago, but which could now be within reach.
Finally, if the leaders of the Green Party stubbornly repeat their quadrennial cycle of Sisyphean lunacy, and advance a 2020 presidential slate, Greens nationwide should vote for a candidate who can actually defeat Mr. Trump.
Richard Notkin is a ceramic sculptor, and political activist, who resides in Vaughn, Washington. Among his awards are a 1990 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and three Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
P.O. Box 914
Vaughn, WA 98394