Howie Hawkins is wearing his Teamsters jacket when he stops in at Eugene Weekly, hours before a campaign event in Corvallis. Recently retired from UPS to focus on his campaign, he’s the only Teamster running for president of the U.S.
A co-founder of the Green Party, Hawkins calls himself an original Green New Dealer and is seeking the party’s nomination. Although he says he doesn’t expect to win the presidency, he’s hoping the party will offer a viable alternative to the two-party system by building political momentum at the bottom of the ballot.
Democrats often blame Greens Ralph Nader and Jill Stein for splitting the vote in 2000 and 2016, respectively. But Hawkins says Democrats in those elections won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College — so it’s not the fault of the Green Party, it’s the system that they refuse to change.
Aside from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hawkins says Democratic Party hopefuls don’t have solutions to issues like climate change, growing inequality and a nuclear arms race.
And the Democratic Party leadership — such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — is killing the Green New Deal, he adds.
If the Democratic Party does beat President Donald Trump in 2020, progressives will be disappointed because the party doesn’t have a progressive agenda. Sure, the party has had progressive politicians in the wing, but they’re often cast aside as “junior partners,” Hawkins says.
If Sanders wins the nomination, he adds, Democratic Party leadership will block Sanders’ policies. Although Sanders does have a serious climate action plan, unlike the rest of the current hopefuls, Hawkins says he or the Green Party nominee would still run to hold him accountable.
That’s what Hawkins says he did in the 2014 New York gubernatorial race against incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
When Hawkins ran for governor, he received 5 percent of the vote. That was enough, he says, to shift Cuomo’s policy stances, such as a ban on fracking, paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage.
In 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced her own Green New Deal, which among other things would establish the goal of the U.S. becoming carbon neutral by 2030. But Howie Hawkins first ran on a Green New Deal when he ran for governor in New York in 2010.
Hawkins’ ecosocialist Green New Deal has two major programs: an Economic Bill of Rights and a Green Economy Reconstruction Program.
The Economic Bill of Rights is influenced by former President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 call for basic rights. It includes job and basic income guarantees, free education and a retirement program.
His Green Economy Reconstruction Program would implement a renewable electricity system, high-speed rail system, infrastructure reconstruction, green manufacturing and more.
His Green New Deal would make a transition from fossil fuel, a mode of production he so opposes that while in Oregon he visited Coos Bay to express solidarity with those opposing the Jordan Cove Pipeline.
On his website, Hawkins issued a statement about the natural gas pipeline project, saying there must be an end to fossil fuel projects.
“If we don’t, we will be burning fossil fuels for decades more. This will create a climate catastrophe,” he says. “Climate sanity demands that instead of building more fossil fuel infrastructure, we should be putting new energy into a Green New Deal to create a 100 percent clean energy system by 2030.”
To fund his plans, his campaign platform says he would cut military spending by 75 percent, cut tax loopholes, implement ecological taxes and nationalize banks.
That would cost $27 trillion over 10 years, but to have any hope of keeping the global temperature increase below 1 percent Celsius, he says, rich countries have more work to do. It’s possible, he adds, pointing to the U.S. takeover of manufacturing during World War II to defeat fascism.
“We need to do nothing less to defeat climate change,” he says.
When Hawkins stopped by the EW, Pelosi and House Democrats had just approved Trump’s updated NAFTA deal — called the USMCA. The free trade deal that hasn’t been ratified yet, but Hawkins says it’s an attack on workers and the environment.
“It promotes fracking the hell out of the whole continent,” he says, “building new fossil fuel infrastructure and transferring Mexico’s energy sector from public to private control.”
The free trade agreement is likely to pass in the Senate, especially since Sen. Elizabeth Warren has voiced support for it. But Hawkins says that once you set aside all of the insults members of the two parties launch at each other, they agree on economic, foreign and even climate policies.
“Trump says it’s a hoax and the Democrats act like it’s a hoax,” he says about the parties’ inaction on climate action.
Hawkins has received more than $50,000 in individual contributions, according to the Federal Election Commission, a tiny fraction of the money raised by Democratic hopefuls.
Hawkins says winning the presidency is a longshot. But his campaign is also about building the Green Party, which commonly welcomes “pissed off former Democrats” to the fold.
As of the 2016 general election, 143 Green Party-affiliated politicians hold office, seven in Oregon. Hawkins says he wants to see thousands of Greens elected to local office in the 2020s, adding that the Green Party could become the second party in places where Democrats have given up.
From there, he says the Green Party representation can grow to state legislatures, then to Congress. That can lead to a caucus, and then they can run a presidential candidate. When that happens, national media outlets won’t be able to ignore their campaign.
And if the Green Party could organize nonvoters, it could become a major party.
“The future of the Green Party is getting the people who are alienated, people who think they’re apathetic,” he says. “Working class people, people of color, youth, they’re more alienated because they don’t think either party is addressing their concerns.”