The public life of Green Party leader Madelyn Hoffman has already been a war: a war against war mostly but also a fight for working class people, universal healthcare, and for a more just society; and so the 2020 squall of COVID-19 arrived as not only a dramatic deadly interloper but also one more awful underlined and with an exclamation pointed indicator of why Hoffman, running for a U.S. Senate seat, demands change.
She stayed inside for the most part and sheltered in place through the early stages of COVID and dutifully went about the business of campaigning via Zoom, until the police killing of George Floyd in May, which prompted the veteran bullhorn-wielding street warrior back into her natural habitat.
“After the murder of George Floyd, I put it all aside and went out there, and you kind of learn to keep your distance and not to stay close to somebody,” Hoffman told InsiderNJ in an exclusive interview.
In a sense, though, if it’s still not easy being green after all these years, it might even be less easy being a Green. And yet, Hoffman, who garnered 25,150 votes in 2018 in placing (a distant) third behind U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (1.7 million votes) and Republican Bob Hugin (1.4 million), soldiers on through the white noise of Ralph Nader’s favorite two party duopoly as this year she takes on incumbent U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“The paradox with the Green Party is we’re supposedly not big enough or strong enough or organized well enough to be a threat and then on the other hand, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Democrats have led organized efforts to knock the Greens off the ballot. Here we have received no challenges because we’re so solidly blue.
“But there are lots of other things going on,” she added.
“What happens, based in part on Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, is that the efforts to undermine the Green Party to get on the ballot creates some pressure to not run anyone at all,” she noted.
Hoffman gets it, she admitted.
An overriding sense out there exists among President Donald J. Trump’s foes that he’s too grotesque for voters to exercise any other option except to grimace and vote Democratic.
“It’s not resistance to the Greens so much as it’s because of Donald Trump,” Hoffman said. “I can understand. The idea is ‘I don’t want more choices; it’s either Donald Trump or the Democrat.’ I can understand that argument, but also as someone who has run as a Green, every single election cycle we hear something along those lines, that it’s not the right time for a third party. But there is a road to victory through the electoral college. But, yes, the only third party candidate who ever broke ten percent was Ross Perot [in 1992].”
It’s tough, year after year, to not rack a win; not to mention somewhat suffering the ignominy in certain Democratic Party circles – and the warm perpetual afterglow of Republican approbation – of Green Party prez candidate Ralph Nader’s 2.74 percent grab of the 2000 popular vote in a year when Republican George Bush beat Democrat Al Gore by 537 votes in Florida for the national win.
But not tough enough to withdraw from beating the drum.
“As an electorate we’ve lost our way,” said Hoffman. “It gets back to what Ralph Nader said in 1996, which is that if you keep voting for the lesser of two evils, the candidates keep getting more evil. We saw that in 2016, for example, when Trump and Hillary Clinton registered the lowest approval ratings of any two candidates for that office, and this year the approval ratings for Trump are probably lower.”
But for Hoffman, beyond the horse race in this COVID-19-stained election year lies the tragic and indelible evidence of a punishing system for working people.
“COVID has revealed a lot, including the circumstances of 14 million people, who lost their health insurance and their jobs at the same time,” Hoffman said. “The idea that health insurance should be tied to your work leaves people high and dry. There’s a crisis on top of a crisis because nobody should be without healthcare because they lose their job. It puts workers in inhumane situations. What we are doing is basing our entire system on the profit mongering of the private insurance industry.”
She’s critical of Booker for advocating too tepid a response to the problem.
“The solution is national health insurance,” she said pointedly. “If we cut our military budget at least 50% and move all that into health insurance, we wouldn’t be raising taxes.”
In the meantime, she argued, the Democratic Party has moved more and more to the right, as demonstrated by the establishment’s insistence on carving a path for raging moderate Biden to land the nomination, she said.
Beyond the personalities and the inch worm’s worth of difference ultimately on policy, in her view, “A lot of people are disillusioned with both political parties,” she said. “The policy changes we need are radical changes not reform changes.”
She criticized Booker for being weak on police brutality.
“Elimination of a no-knock warrant and banning choke holds go to certain police behaviors or tools,” she said, critiquing Booker’s response, “but the Eric Garner case occurred when chokeholds were already banned and it didn’t matter. It was still used and police got off scot free. My take on Senator Booker is that he recognizes the problem but is not taking strong enough steps to prevent them.”
Hoffman supports defunding the police, she explained, when asked how her views differ.
“That is a message people will not understand but it is similar to my position on cutting the military budget by 50%,” said the Green Party candidate for United States senate. “It’s allowing cities to reprioritize how they spend their money. When you pour money into police the department is being asked to solve every problem that’s before them; problems that in many cases are actually the province of social workers and educators. Police are being sent in using this kind of force – that’s not the way. If the only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail. Defunding the police is the answer we need to look at radically.
“If that kind of [reform] retraining [to date] of police was going to effectively be what it is, it has not made a difference,” Hoffman said. “Since the murder of George Floyd, it’s continued. This goes back, in my case, to the police beating of Rodney King. I saw that unfold on television. I remember thinking ‘I’m glad this was captured on video tape.’ We were still learning about a lot of things but that event, that beating, looked like a turning point in the struggle for justice. Yet when the verdict was finally reached, attorneys for the defense convinced the jury they didn’t see what they thought they saw. The problems are much greater, and this is going back years. Something’s got to give.
“I have not heard enough from Senator Booker,” she added. “I don’t see him speaking out nearly enough.”
Like Menendez, she said, her opponent is also too solidly pro-Israel, leaving Palestinians out of the equation. “When Booker was running for president he was confronted by a young woman asking all the presidential candidates about their positions on Israel, and he said, ‘If Israel’s occupation of Palestine is your issue, you need to find another candidate.
“Well, I’m another candidate,” Hoffman offered.
As for Biden, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate said his wobbly positions on fracking and the Green New Deal leave her cold.
Isn’t she convinced he’s the more wicked of two evils?
In the end – no.
She has embraced Democratic presidential candidates in the past – very sparingly, including Bill Clinton (the first time, not the second) and Barack Obama (the first time, not the second). But Obama was a bust in the end on her issues, and Biden was his right arm. “It meant celebrations and congratulations for a few days and people talking about a post racial society but as it turned out it was all symbolic,” said Hoffman, who, if she goes down, wants to go down fighting, and likely reanimating in time for the next campaign, which she prays won’t be amid further entrenched negative circumstances for workers, but which looks that way, if the present can even be believed.
Hoffman’s (FULL!) List of Endorsements:
- Rev. Dr. Corey Teague, member of the Paterson Board of Education
- Chris Hedges, Journalist
- Jill Stein, physician, activist, and 2012 and 2016 Green Party Presidential Nominee
- Ajamu Baraka, peace activist, 2016 Green Party Vice Presidential Nominee
- Howie Hawkins, activist, 2020 Green Party Presidential Nominee
- Angela Walker, activist, 2020 Green Party Vice-presidential Nominee
- Peter Jacob, social worker, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, 2016 and 2018
- Lisa Savage, teacher, activist, Independent Candidate for US Senate, Maine
- Craig Cayetano, candidate for Ward 3 Town Council, Hawthorne, New Jersey 2019 and 2020
- Herb Tarbous, Democratic Primary Candidate for Middlesex County Clerk
- Aissa Heath, Democratic Primary Candidate for Union County Freeholder
- David Schraeger, Peace Activist
- Kevin Hernández, Democratic Primary Candidate for Hudson County Freeholder District 6
- Anthony Díaz, co-founder of the Newark Water Coalition; Democratic Primary Candidate for Essex County Freeholder
- Josh Shapiro, hub coordinator, Sunrise Montclair
- Margaret Kimberley, activist, author, New York Green Party Member
- Margaret Flowers, peace activist and physician, proponent of improved and expanded Medicare4All, Green Party leadership
- Victor Monterrosa Jr, lawyer, Newark, New Jersey
- Bob Witanek, NJ Anti-War Agenda, New Jersey
- Orlando Osmán Méndez, 2019 Alianza Verde Candidate for mayor of Quindio, Colombia
- Stef Zamarano, co-producer of the Jimmy Dore Show and wife of Jimmy Dore
- 89.1 FM WHAR – Free Radio for the Free Thinker
- The Radio Kiosk with Kate
- Black Alliance for Peace
- Green Party US Latinx Caucus
- Green Party of Monmouth County
- Green Party of Ocean County
- Young Ecosocialists Caucus – NJ
- Cats of Eastwick
- Hummus JC