By Madelyn Hoffman and Barry Bendar
The progressive movement in the United States and in New Jersey is not dead or dying. It’s alive and well and growing, except that those who equate progressivism with the Democratic Party can’t see it, won’t see it and typically try to pretend that it isn’t even there. Their misguided belief that the failure of the Sanders movement to take control of the party in 2020 was caused by some systematic anomaly as opposed to the way too early surrender of Sanders himself to the Democratic establishment, perpetuates this defeatist attitude.
In fact, some would argue that in the last presidential election, Democrats were actively engaged in trying to kill it themselves, by knocking the Green Party candidate off the ballot, particularly in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but in other states as well. In addition, if we define the progressive movement solely as the act of putting up so-called progressive democrats against the establishment and voting for them, we’re also going to see a different reality from those of us who have been out in the streets, day in and day out, despite the pandemic that has limited our ability to congregate for more than a year now.
But as a Green Party candidate for public office in 2018, 2020 and now 2021, and as a member of the Green Party of New Jersey first in 1996 when I was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate for New Jersey, I know from my own experience that the Green Party of New Jersey is growing in its membership and in actual votes received, despite all efforts from both the Democrats and the Republicans in New Jersey to consolidate their power into one political machine designed to control the electoral agenda of the state.
I am running for Governor of New Jersey this year, 24 years after my first effort in 1997 against Christie Todd Whitman and James McGreevey. I am running because in 2020, as a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, I received 38,288 votes — more than any other NJ Green candidate for statewide office in New Jersey since Ralph Nader in the year 2000. I don’t see these votes as a reflection of anything particular about me as a candidate, but as an indication that more and more people are tired of the same rhetoric and empty promises of New Jersey’s political machine. Increasing numbers of people are seeing the need for a political party that:
- Builds and supports grass roots activism on issues as wide-ranging as single-payer health care for all, an end to police brutality and racism, an eco-socialist Green New Deal to stop climate change and endless wars and to fully fund a workers’ bill of rights and an economy that prioritizes the people, not the corporations and their wars.
- Encourages, supports and listens to the youth of this state and country as they become leaders and activists around these issues with the urgency required to make real change. This generation more than any other understands that we have no more time to wait and too much to lose!
Since 2016, the Green Party of New Jersey’s membership has grown by over 200% — and is now just shy of 12,000. Yes, some jaded reporters who were caught up in terrible political scandals in this state (does everyone remember Bridgegate?) want to trivialize these numbers to suit their political ends, but anyone whose eyes and mind remain open can see that the people in this state and country understand that the current economic and political system is not working for them.
Think of all the people who filed for unemployment during the pandemic who are still waiting to receive benefits. Or all the people who lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs because of this pandemic. Or those whose friends and family have been tragically affected by police brutality and the number of people in the U.S. and in New Jersey in the streets after George Floyd was murdered by police a little less than one year ago.
And what about those students, current and past, who are buried under mountains, yes mountains, of student debt? Or those hundreds being assisted by mutual aid organizations during the pandemic because they simply can’t survive under this cruel and unjust capitalist system? Communities are banding together to help one another because they understand this need and understand that unless we work together to make sure that rents and mortgages are canceled after the pandemic’s restrictions are lifted, there will be thousands facing eviction or foreclosure.
These people know that the so-called two party system has failed them over and over again. In fact, as many have stated, the Democratic Party is where movements go to die. In other words, if change is going to come, it’s going to come from outside these parties that somehow, through fear and the spending of millions of dollars, get people to keep voting for one or the other party, again and again. This is not because of any significant differences in their policies — real debates and discussions about what is really needed rarely happen — but because of the “lesser of two evils” syndrome.
As phrased above, this “so-called two party system” in New Jersey seems to appear as a “one party system” more and more every day. Take the example of Donald Trump’s pardon of Ocean County Republican Political “Boss”, George Gilmore that was endorsed by three former Democratic Governors, those being Florio, McGreevey, and Codey. And how about the business partnership between Democratic State “Boss”, George Norcross and the predecessor to George Gilmore in Ocean County, former Republican Chairman, Joseph Buckelew? Sounds more like one big happy family to me, one that abuses the general public for their own gain.
We want and deserve better in the way our elections are conducted. We need Ranked Choice Voting, a method that will allow voters to first cast their vote for their preferred candidate, whether that candidate is backed by the machine or not without risking the election of someone seen as more evil.
Let me end by saying that it is time that the media and political analysts stop ignoring the presence of the Green Party and the growing amounts of grass roots activism in this state. Pretending that we don’t exist or that we are the enemy because we “steal” votes from the two-party political machine that runs New Jersey as if those votes belong to them, isn’t going to make us go away. We will continue to work to create the strongest, independent pro-working people’s party possible and do not need the corrupt political machine or big donors to do so.
Madelyn Hoffman, Green Party of New Jersey’s candidate for Governor in 2021
Barry Bendar, campaign volunteer