With All Due Respect – What About the Greens?
by Madelyn Hoffman
As the Green Party of New Jersey’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020, I disagree with the electoral solution proposed in the recent Open Letter: Dump Trump, Battle Biden to the people of the U.S. penned by Medea Benjamin and signed by some 50 people on the U.S. left. This sentiment has been voiced repeatedly in the past few months and is growing in intensity today. Yes, a strong movement of the people is needed to dismantle the war machine and to stop the U.S. from continuing to act like it has a right to “police” the world. A strong grassroots anti-war movement is the best hope we have for an end to the endless wars the U.S. is involved in. But Biden is not the political leader needed to make this happen.
I reject the effort by the authors and signers of this letter to predict that Biden will be open to public pressure after the election, should he win. First of all, Biden will never support the $350 billion cut in the military budget proposed as a resolution by a few strong members of the House of Representatives. I doubt that Biden would even support Sanders’ weak amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calling for a 10% cut in military spending..
Why do I believe this?
First, shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the national uprising that followed calling for “defunding the police,” Joe Biden said he thought the “solution” to the problem would be to increase funding for the police, the exact opposite of what protesters were demanding.
Second, he has been critical of Donald Trump for not being antagonistic enough toward China and has supported Trump’s every move to try to illegally and aggressively unseat the duly elected president of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro, calling Maduro a “thug.” Tweeted Joe Biden, “Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro.”
At the same time, Biden and the Democrats remain silent about the human rights atrocities occurring in Colombia on a daily basis under Ivan Duque — at least 800 community, social and indigenous rights leaders have been murdered since November 2016 when the Colombia Peace Accords were signed and scheduled to go into effect.
Just recently, seven soldiers in Colombia admitted to the rape of a 13-year old indigenous girl from the Embera tribe. The charges are sexual abuse, not rape. Where is Biden’s or Trump’s outrage at these human rights violations? Perhaps they are silent because BOTH want Colombia to help unseat Maduro in Venezuela.
The calls to defund and demilitarize the police are raising key issues of spending priorities at a local level, even while these skewed priorities begin at the top. At least 53 cents out of every dollar is appropriated to the U.S. military by the U.S. Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike. In fact, for two years in a row, the U.S. Congress has given Trump more money than he has requested.
There are few issues more important than excessive military spending and U.S. imperialism. As long as we’re spending $740 billion or more on military maneuvers and hardware, we aren’t spending anywhere near the amount needed on community needs and programs, addressing climate change, implementing a workers’ bill of rights, or providing single payer health care for all.
The Green Party is different, but the Greens don’t even get an honorable mention. The fact that the Greens are organizing locally with those calling to “defund and demilitarize the police” and then building platform planks around the connection of those issues with the issue of “defunding the military and demilitarizing U.S. foreign policy” is completely ignored.
Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker are calling for a 75% cut in military spending. I am calling for at least a 50% cut in military spending. The Green Party of the United States has long recognized U.S. foreign and domestic policy as an obstacle towards addressing climate change and creating genuine international security due to its endless wars.
The letter does acknowledge that simply replacing Trump with Biden is not the answer.
But to continue to believe that this Democratic Party can be turned into a party of peace is, I believe, naive at best. Remember that under President Obama and Vice President Biden, the program (S1033) that allowed the Department of Defense to give police departments military equipment was expanded by 2400%. The Obama administration dropped more bombs than Bush before him and pledged to divert trillions of dollars over a decade for nuclear weapons “upgrade.” Have we heard either party oppose increased sanctions on Iran, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Syria, Venezuela, and others? Or oppose the assassination of Ghaddafi in Libya or condemn the burgeoning slave trade there? Most recently, 16 Democrats voted to thwart the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
With all due respect, the goal of this strong, powerful uprising to shift funding away from war and war’s enforcers, should not be and cannot be to elect Democrats. As voters and activists we have given into this pressure every four years for as long as I can remember. Where has it brought us?
I believe our goal must be to build an alternative political party that is not beholden to corporate PACs, and not wedded to capitalism. We must build a party and a movement committed to building stronger and healthier communities, one willing to challenge the mainstream parties, both electorally and in the streets. In this way, we can change election law, implement ranked choice voting, get big money out of politics and end a stream of domestic and foreign policies that are based on violence and war and that benefit the billionaires, not the people.
Madelyn Hoffman, a seasoned activist, was director of the Grass Roots Environmental Organization and director of New Jersey Peace Action. She was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate in New Jersey in 1996. The following year she ran for New Jersey governor as a Green. She also ran as a Green for U.S. Senate in 2018, receiving 25,150 votes, and as of this printing is running for the same seat again in 2020.