Practicing What You Preach

In four of my last five Future Hope columns I have written about the importance of independent, peace and justice electoral campaigns, particularly now as we face, in Dick Cheney’s words, a war that “may never end, at least, not in our lifetimes.” Faced with such a prospect, it is essential, imperative, that those of us who understand the “war on terrorism” for the sham that it is push ourselves to get out there and speak truth to power, as publicly, visibly and effectively as possible.

Well-organized electoral campaigns can be one of the most effective ways to reach the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. For many U.S. citizens, elections are the legitimate way to express political views. Even for those turned off to the corporate-dominated, two-party system, election campaigns are the primary way they hear about and relate to politics.

Campaigns can educate, and they can also build organization. The recent Nader/LaDuke Green Party Presidential campaign is a good example. There is no question but that the national Green Party of the United States (USGP) emerged larger, stronger and more unified as a result of that campaign.

Believing that one should practice what one preaches, I have decided after many weeks of active exploration to be the New Jersey Green Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate this year. I will be running against Democrat Robert Torricelli and whoever becomes the Republican nominee.

In a letter I began to circulate this week, here is how I explain my decision, and what I see as the major issues of this campaign:

The primary reason why I am doing this has to do with what happened in this country after September 11th. Simply put, I believe that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield administration, supported in most respects by the national Democrats, is attempting to use the threat of more terrorist attacks to create a militarized, repressive and even more unequal country and world. This is a bad thing, but what makes it worse is the fact that their approach to the problem of terrorism WILL NOT WORK.

The kind of terrorism we saw on September 11th grows from the soil of human desperation and recognized injustice, which exist primarily because of the domination of U.S. multinational corporations around the world. Terrorism is not ultimately a military problem. It is an economic and social problem. It can only be ended by a new U.S. foreign policy based upon social and economic justice and the raising up of the living standards of the wretched of the earth.

We must stand for fair trade and democracy, not so-called “free trade” agreements that mainly strengthen corporate “freedom” to exploit human and natural resources. Such agreements lead to job loss and union-busting and further erode our democratic rights.

Robert Torricelli and the Republican nominee will be on the other side of this set of issues. And they are critical and urgent issues. That is the first reason why I am running.

I am running because there is an urgent need to get serious about the development of alternative energy sources so that we will not be dependent upon Middle East oil and so that we can reverse the growing crisis of global warming.

In the words of former Texas agricultural commissioner Jim Hightower, we should “enlist our very best scientists in a crash program… to resolve any remaining technological impediments to the mass use of fuel cells, biomass, solar, wind, geo-thermal and other abundant, clean and cheap energy sources.”

We need a crusade to weatherize our buildings and homes and make them much more energy-efficient. This will both cut our utility bills and provide jobs for those in need of employment and income. We need to strengthen our rail, bus and mass transportation systems.

Torricelli and the Republican will at best provide lip service to this agenda. That is a second reason why I am running.

I am running because I believe that the democratic ideals and principles of our country, applied unevenly and in a discriminatory fashion before September 11th, must not be undercut further in the name of homeland security.

It is one thing to take necessary steps to strengthen security. It is another thing altogether to expand the ability of the FBI, CIA and other government agencies to eavesdrop, snoop and secretly investigate those they choose to go after without any court authorization or accountability.

The USA Patriot Act should be repealed and new legislation enacted following open and public Congressional hearings into the question of what additional law enforcement tools are needed post 9-11. Those arrested, citizens or immigrants, must have due process rights, including immediate access to family members and lawyers. Racial profiling must be ended, and firm action must be taken against acts of police brutality.

You won’t hear these positions being put forward by the Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate candidates in New Jersey.

I am running because my campaign can help to build movements in New Jersey for “clean money” elections and instant runoff/preference voting. I am convinced that we will never get out from under the domination of big monied interests in this country without these reforms.

Under “clean money” systems, now in operation in Maine, Arizona and Vermont, candidates for public office receive public financing if they raise a certain number of small donations, demonstrating a broad base of public support, and agree not to raise any more money after that point. Under an instant runoff/preference system, voters number their candidate preferences.

If no candidate receives a majority of the number one votes, voters’ second and possibly other choices are factored in to determine the candidate with the most support. This allows voters to vote for the candidate they like the most without helping to elect the one they like the least. It expands the pool of alternatives for the voters and gives them real reasons to vote.

Needless to say, ethically-challenged Torricelli and the Republican won’t be advocating these reforms.

Finally, I am running because a statewide campaign can help to strengthen and build the connections that already exist among a variety of groups: Greens, labor, people of color, feminists, environmental activists, students and youth, supporters of a death penalty moratorium, gay/lesbian people, people of faith, peace activists, senior and community organizations.

For over twenty-five years I have been working to build unity among all of these various constituencies, believing that only such unity can lead to the kind of changes we all need. This campaign will draw from those years of experience.

I hope you will seriously consider support to and/or involvement with this campaign. We need money, and we need campaign volunteers. With your support and involvement, I will work hard from now until November 5th so that people all over New Jersey and beyond will see that there are new winds of change blowing in this state, a new, grassroots movement for peace, justice and democracy. Let’s make it so!