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INTERVIEW: Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for president

Howie Hawkins KUTV (4).png
Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for president. (KUTV)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) -- On March 4, 1853, the last U.S. president who was not either a Democrat or Republic, Whig Millard Fillmore, left office after losing his party's nomination to be reelected to fellow Whig ,Winfield Scott. Democrat Franklin Pierce went on to defeat Scott. Both Fillmore and Pierce are widely regarded by historians as two of the worst U.S. presidents ever.

Fast forward to 2020, where Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is trying to end that 167 year drought.

2News is talking with the top third party candidates for president, according to ballot access.

Polls including third-party candidates are almost non-existent. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from Sept. 27, and a Monmouth poll from a day later both included President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the top two third-party candidates: Libertarian Dr. Jo Jorgensen, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

ABC News/Washington Post poll from Sept. 27:

  • Biden - 49%
  • Trump - 43%
  • Jorgensen - 4%
  • Hawkins - 3%

Monmouth poll from Sept. 28:

  • Biden - 49%
  • Trump - 45%
  • Jorgensen - 1%
  • Hawkins - 1%

2News Special Projects Producer Adam Forgie is interviewing the top third party candidates for president, according to ballot access. Check our our other interviews:

Currently, the only third party candidates who could technically win the Electoral College are Jorgensen, who is on all 50 ballots, and Hawkins, who is on the ballot in 29 states and is an official write-in candidate in 17 more. Only Nevada, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Louisiana do not have Hawkins on the ballot or as a write-in option.

You can watch our entire 24-minute, uncut interview with Mr. Hawkins in the video below. Below the video, we've transcribed the entire interview as well.

You can follow Adam Forgie on Twitter and Facebook.

Interview Transcript

Forgie: “Hello, I’m Adam Forgie with the KUTV web team and today we’re talking with the Green Party candidate for president, Mr. Howie Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins, thank you so much for joining us.”

Hawkins: “Hey, thanks for having me.”

Forgie: “First off, Utah is one of the reddest states in the nation. But President Donald Trump is not very popular here with a sizeable chunk of conservative voters. IN 2016, Trump won Utah with 45% of the vote, but in 2012, Mitt Romney won with 73% and Democratic candidates are even less popular. How do you convince voters who are not fond of Trump or Joe Biden to vote for you?”

Hawkins: “I’m the strongest anti-Trump vote. In fact, I believe I saw a poll, I was looking at polls this morning, some of them have Biden ahead in Utah, but that’s indicative of what’s going on across the country. Trump is toast. Biden’s been ahead 7-8% consistently since the Spring and since that terrible debate, Biden has jumped up again another six points or so. I think people need to use their vote, particularly if they’re progressives. How are you going to vote against Trump? I’m for a Green New Deal, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are opposed. I’m for Medicare for all, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are opposed. I’m against deploying modernized and strategic tactical nuclear weapons, the so-called nuclear modernization program, which has the ability, time, and science to put in their Doomsday clock the closest it’s ever been to midnight. I’m for stopping that and negotiating nuclear disarmament. Trump and Biden support that nuclear modernization program. I want to cut our bloated military budget and invest that money in infrastructure and schools and affordable housing and environmental protection. Trump and Biden like the military budget bloated and Biden recently said he might increase it. So, I think if you’re a progressive, don’t get lost in the sauce and vote for Biden because you oppose Trump, vote for me because you oppose Trump. And send a message, Biden’s likely the next president, tell them what you want, a Green New Deal, Medicare for all, new priorities.”

Forgie: “Speaking about the Green New Deal, the Eco-socialist Green New Deal, that’s an issue that’s very important to you and has been for about the past decade, tell voters who may not know anything about this deal what it is and how you plan to combat climate change.”

Hawkins: “I was the first candidate in this country to campaign in 2010 running for governor of New York. It’s both the Economic Recovery Program, remember then we were coming out of the great recession, as well as the Climate Recovery Program. So, we planned, and our budget lays this out sector by sector, to employ 38 million people in new jobs caring for the people and the planet. We want to get to 100% clean energy and zero emissions by 2030, basically because that’s what the climate science says we have to do, to avoid dangerous climate change. We need this investment now to recover the economy. We’re going to rebuild all of our productive systems. So, not just the energy sector, but manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and buildings so that they don’t emit carbon emissions and they’re powered by clean energy. That’s the basic objective and we have the only detailed Green New Deal plan in the country. We show our homework, you can see on our website, HowieHawkins.us, you can see how much we figured to transform each sector and how many jobs it will create, and we show our sources. You know, the Green New Deal, the democrats took the slogan and diluted the content, and then with the Democratic platform and the Biden primary plan just buried the whole idea of a Green New Deal. There’s no other plan out there, we’ve got one and we think it’s what the country needs now. But the deal with this climate emergency but also to bring the economy back.”

Forgie: “You’re proposing an “economic bill of rights” as well as a social economy with a political democracy. Can you explain what that all means?”

Hawkins: “The economic bill of rights has been around 75 years as an idea. It’s something that President Roosevelt proposed in his last two State of the Union addresses in 1944 and 1945. Then it was picked up by the civil rights movement with the march on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963. They submitted a plan to Congress called the Freedom Budget. It was not enacted, and Dr. King tried to keep doing it with the poor people’s campaign of 1968. What it involves is a job guarantee. If you’re willing and able to work and you can’t get a job in the private sector, you go to the employment office instead of the unemployment office and say, ‘I want my job’ and the local community is planning social service projects and infrastructure projects to put you to work. It’s an income guarantee above poverty, built into the tax structure, so if you’re income is below poverty the government can send you money to bring you up above the poverty line, so we end poverty that way. It’s Medicare for all. It’s building public housing to the point where everyone has access to an affordable housing option. It’s lifelong public education from pre-K and childcare through college and trade school after high school. Then it’s a secure retirement by increasing social security benefits so no seniors live below the poverty line. When we say ‘socialist economy’ we’re talking about economic democracy. The big, big banks and businesses and basically private tyrannies and they should either be cooperatives in the private sector or public enterprises that are democratically controlled by the workers in those enterprises. We want to do that partly to improve political democracy because when you have concentrated wealth, this billionaire class, they translate that into political power and dominate the political system. And then political democracy okay. Economic democracies, a pre-condition of real political democracy, we also need to bring back the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act because there’s a lot of voter suppression right now, particularly of Black people. We need fair ballot access; this country is off the charts compared to other countries. You want to run for Congress as an independent in this country it takes thousands and, in some states, tens of thousands of signatures. You want to do that for the House of Commons in the U.K., for example, it takes ten signatures. So, people wonder why we don’t have more people running third party for Congress, it’s hard as hell to get on the ballot. And then we want proportional representation in Congress, and ranked choice voting for executive offices like president, instead of the Electoral College we want a national popular vote with ranked-choice voting. That’s where you rank your choices, one, two, three. Maine is doing it this year for the presidential race and what the means is it requires a majority to be elected and if nobody gets the majority in the first round, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and their ballot is transferred to their second choice. So, if somebody really wants to get rid of Trump, but they prefer me to Biden, they can vote for me and not worry about helping Trump because if I came in third, my votes would be transferred to the second choice, which in most cases would be Biden. That eliminates the spoiler problem. Those are improvements to our democracy but there’s a lot more we need to do. We’ve got to get rid of gerrymandering, have proportional representation from multi-member districts in Congress and other legislative bodies, [have] public campaign finance because the system we’ve got now is legalized bribery because the wealthy special interests, they buy the politicians, we’ve got the best government money can buy, but that doesn’t represent us, the people. Those are some of the reforms we’re talking about.”

Forgie: “You mentioned third parties. The Commission on Presidential Debates says in order to appear on the presidential debate stage, you must have 15% support across five national polls, what will it take to get your Green Party on the debate stage?”

Hawkins: “We need something besides the Commission on Presidential Debates. It sounds like a government agency like it’s the Federal Election Commission or something. In fact, it’s a private corporation controlled by the Democrats and Republicans and it was set up to exclude their competition. 15%, I think if the Green Party had access to the major media and the debates, we might be up there because, I think, the issues we’re advocating have majority support according to public opinion polls. The job guarantee, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, are all majoritarian positions, but they’re excluded from the debates. Back in 1988 when Dukakis and George H.W. Bush were running, they made a contract with each other and handed it to the League of Women Voters who had been sponsoring the debates, and said ‘here’s what we’re going to do,’ and the league said ‘this is a fraud, we’re inviting you to the debate, we set the moderators, we ask the questions, and here you’re telling us what to do, it’s not an independently sponsored debate. That’s what we need to get back to. The Commission on Presidential Debates, we’ve sued them through many election cycles, and the court’s say it’s a private corporation it can do what it wants. We’ve got to get the civic organizations, the news organizations to step up and provide independent debates. I would say, a good criterion is if you’re on enough ballots to win the Electoral College, you should be included in the debates. This year that would include the Green Party and the Libertarian Party as well as the Democrats and Republicans. I think a four-way debate would be a lot more constructive and worth watching than that farce we saw last week.”

Forgie: “Speaking of the presidential debate last week it was widely criticized for being so chaotic, how would you have handled the debate if you were on the stage with Trump and Biden?”

Hawkins: “Well, I wouldn’t have called Trump names, but I would have said to him ‘come on man, you’re showing no class. You’re disrespecting the moderator, the other candidate, and most importantly, the American people.’ I don’t know if he has any shame, but I would probably put it that way. And then what I think I would have contributed was real solutions to these life or death issues. Trump claimed a lot of stuff that turned out not to be true, as is often the case, when he was asked why should people vote for you. And Biden’s answer to that question was he talked about Trump, what’s bad with Trump, but Trump is not enough for most voters. Most voters, they don’t want to hear from a candidate what’s wrong with the other guys, they want to hear what you’re going to do. I would have provided constructive alternatives. Green New Deal, Medicare for all, and so forth. In a three-way debate, it doesn’t pay to go negative, so in that debate I would have won. I may have won anyway because our website crashed once the debate started. People started looking for alternatives, and I understand the same thing happened to the Libertarians, so I think it would have been a more constructive debate and more substantive cause I would have presented our positive solutions and not just be calling names at the other candidates.”

Forgie: “Our country, it’s probably safe to say, is more divided now than it has been in a generation, what would you do as president to unite the country?”

Hawkins: “I’d set a better tone from the top. Trump’s been scapegoating immigrants, minorities for problems they didn’t cause. If I got elected it would be on a mandate so I would go to Congress and say ‘look, I was the underdog, I won, get on board with the mandate or you may have Greens running against you in two years’ and I think we’d get support that way. I would focus on positive solutions to these problems instead of what we’ve been having which is negative partisanship. Most of the messaging you get from the two major parties is what’s wrong with the other party. And most people vote not for their own party, but against the other party. What’s missing are real solutions that are constructive and popular. I think that’s how you bring people together. You get below the labels people give themselves; Democrat or Republican, conservative, moderate, liberal, and talk about concrete solutions, there’s a lot more agreement than we think. Like Medicare for all, that’s polled majority going back to Truman, they used to call it National Health Insurance, so I think it’s a way to bring the country together, people want solutions, they want jobs in this COVID depression, they want to suppress the virus so they can go back to work and school safely. It’s been a total failure, Trump is the Typhoid Mary of COVID, getting his own people sick, now his chickens have come home to roost. His whole core group, almost all of them are now infected. That’s a total disaster. People are looking for what we’d say is scale up testing, contact tracing, and quarantining those exposed or infected. That will suppress community spread of the virus, so it will be safe to go back to work and school. That’s what the health guidance has been from the public health officials. Trump could have been the hero of this thing, instead, he’s the goat because he didn’t follow their advice.”

Forgie: “Speaking of COVID-19, you’re critical of the president’s response. From the beginning, how would you have handled things differently?”

Hawkins: “Test, trace, and quarantine. They’ve done it throughout the Pacific Rim, from New Zealand to South Korea, throughout Europe, and they’re back to work, they’re back in school. We’re 4% of the world’s population and we have a quarter of the world’s COVID deaths and infections. We’ve been a total failure. What I’m talking about we should have done from the beginning. That’s what I would have done, what most organized societies have done.”

Forgie: “Besides the virus, one of the biggest issues of the year is protests and racial issues. Those protests regarding police brutality have been going on since May, since George Floyd’s death. Some of those protests turned into riots. What would you do on a federal level to address police brutality and racial issues facing this country?”

Hawkins: “I would provide guidance and incentives from the Department of Justice to get communities to institute community control of the police. What we have now is the police police themselves, through internal affairs. Sometimes there are civilian review boards, but they’re advisory and they’re appointed by the same politicians that set up the police departments to do what they do which is over police and harass low income and minority communities and not do a very good job on the serious crimes, the assaults, the rapes, the murders, the carjackings, home burglaries, they only clear about 25% of those cases with arrests. That’s what we expect the police to do. So, community control means a commission elected by the public or even selected by lot, like juries, that have the power to hire and fire the police chief, to rid forces of sadists and racists, to oversee the policies and budgets, and to independently investigate and discipline officer misconduct. That way they would protect and serve our communities rather than themselves. That’s the first thing. The second thing end the war on drugs which has been a source of mass incarceration, and over-policing in low income and minority communities. We would say legalize marijuana, tax and regulate it like we do with alcohol and tobacco, which are more harmful drugs, and decriminalize the hard drugs. So instead of a criminal charge, you get an appearance ticket. They do this in Portugal. You appear before a doctor, a social worker, and a lawyer, and they look at your situation and see how they could help. Are you addicted and need drug treatment? Are you using the drugs to cope with other problems? Do you need a job, do you need counselors? And what’s happened in Portugal is HIV spread has been suppressed, there’s not drug-related street crimes, there are not overdose deaths from drugs. Hard drug use has declined. I really think we need this approach now because so many people are dying from opioids. And they don’t get help because they’re afraid of getting a criminal charge [because] they’re using an illicit drug. The third thing is they talk about is defunding the police which basically means taking some of the budgets which are bloated in some cities and reallocating that for housing for the homeless or drug treatment for the addicted. The problem is, there’s not enough money for that in the police departments. We really need a federal program, that’s part of our Green New Deal, we want to invest in jobs and housing and healthcare and schools in these communities that have been segregated and discriminated against and exploited for generations. The source of most street crime is concentrated poverty, so that program would help alleviate that.

Forgie: “Do you have time for a couple questions from social media?

Hawkins: “Absolutely.”

Forgie: “Alright, so ‘William Garrison 1805’ from Reddit asks: ‘I want to know what your plan is to disassemble the US war machine that has brought us the military industrial complex. What steps do you plan to take towards that goal?’

Hawkins: “We want substantial cuts in the military budget, in fact, 75%. That’s what we did in the first two years after World War II. Bring our troops home from these endless wars. We have combat troops now engaged in 14 conflicts. Basically, defend American territory instead of being the world’s global military empire, making is safe for global banks and corporations to exploit other countries. Instead, [I want us to] be the world’s humanitarian superpower. Provide aid instead of arms. Have a global Green New Deal to help developing countries leap into the 21st century solar age and not get stuck in the fossil fuel age. I think that’s a matter of the new priorities I was talking about; less spending on our military and more for caring for the people in the planet.”

Forgie: “Carl the Sagan, also from Reddit asks: ‘Why the specific opposition to nuclear energy when it could drastically reduce greenhouse gases while replacing the baseline load that is usually taken up by oil, gas and coal plants? Assuming there was a way to dispose or recycle waste in an environmentally friendly way would you be open to consider nuclear energy in the future?’

Hawkins: “It’s been 75 years and they still haven’t figured out what to do with that waste. Nuclear power is dirty, it’s dangerous, you could have catastrophic accidents like Fukushima. It’s uneconomical. You want to expand carbon-free energy, put it into solar and wind. Most forms of solar and wind are half or a third as much as nuclear power. Nuclear power can’t exist without subsidies. The Price-Anderson Act, which is partial insurance in the case of bad accidents from the federal government. The private insurance industry won’t cover it. As far as baseload goes, there are other ways of doing that. First of all, you have a national smart grid and the wind is blowing somewhere, the sun shines somewhere in the country during the day. We can have different forms of storage, from hydrogen to batteries to kinetic storage, you pump water up with the extra power and then run it down through a generator when you need the power, so the baseload problem is solvable with the renewables.”

Forgie: “Choice Green from Reddit asks: ‘How can the Green party reach traditionally Red states such as Utah, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, without sacrificing progressive ideals?’

Hawkins: “Well, the Democrats aren’t winning in those states, so you might as well run as a Green on the full program. In most of those states the Democrats don’t run serious candidates in most races so the Green Party can be the second party starting out. On things greens do is we bring real issues. A lot of these races people run on; ‘you know, I grew up here, I got a dog and a cat. You all know me, I’m a nice guy or gal, and we come there with issues that kind of shakes things up and getting a debate is half the battle. For example, on healthcare, Medicare for all. We have a conservative party in New York, I work with conservatives on that issue. And on public power, Nebraska’s got public power so some of those red states have socialist institutions. They have public power in Nebraska, they have a state bank in North Dakota. You get beyond the labels and talk about concrete solutions and we’re going to have a lot more agreement than we think. I think what Greens have got to do in those states is get organized, start running candidates and get active on the issues. Democrats aren’t really trying there, they gave up on those states. I would say the same thing in the cities. Republicans aren’t that serious about trying to run in most cities because they think they can’t win. So, the greens could be the second party there as well.”

Forgie: “Milk Bones 28 from Reddit asks: ‘I’m undecided between voting Libertarian and Green because I agree with stances of both parties but also disagree with stances of both. Why should I vote for you and the Green Party over Jo [Jorgensen] and the Libertarian Party?’

Hawkins: “Well, I think there’s a lot of overlap between the greens and the libertarians on drug policy and reform, staying out of stupid foreign wars and not spending so much on the military on civil liberties, on ending the surveillance state. Where we disagree is on economics and environmental protection. I would say to think the market can solve every problem is na├»ve. We need a more nuanced approach. In some industries, like restaurants. I don’t want government-run restaurants. I want those restaurants to compete and provide good food. On the other hand, the energy system should probably be public. It’s a natural monopoly because you don’t want multiple sets of wires coming into your home to provide power. I think you need a practical and pragmatic approach and I think the greens offer that, whereas the libertarians, the market is the solution to every problem, which it’s not.

Forgie: “Is there anything else you want Utah voters to know?”

Hawkins: “I don’t think so, we covered a lot of ground.”

Forgie: “I appreciate you coming and talking with us today and taking time out of your busy schedule, thank you so much, Mr. Hawkins.”

Hawkins: “Thank you.”

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