Howie Hawkins

October 30, 2006

Howie Hawkins is running against Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Spencer for the Senate seat from New York. But why haven't you heard from him?

The Green Party candidate is anti-war, has a plan to fund public higher education and wants to make third-party candidate history by attracting independent voters. Myles Miller and Lucia Di Lauro, from Children's PressLine, spoke with Hawkins recently at the recent Brooklyn Peace Fair held at Long Island University.

Children's PressLine: What are you planning to do if you get elected?

Howie Hawkins: If I get elected it� �It will be the biggest upset in electoral history. I am running against the candidate with the most money from corporate interests and the most name recognition: Hillary Clinton. But on the other hand, the majority of the people stand with me, not her, on the key questions of this election, which include the war. She wants to keep fighting it, I want to bring the troops home. The majority of New Yorkers want to do that. On the question of health insurance, I want a publicly financed national health insurance plan that covers everybody. She wants to keep patching up private health insurance, which is very inefficient and leaves 2.9 million people in New York uninsured and another three million underinsured.

CPL: How are you doing compared with past third-party candidates?

HH: I've been excluded from the debates sponsored by the corporate media, to the point where the League of Women Voters withdrew their sponsorship from the debate at WABC because I was not included. Even though I am not getting out there like that, I'm getting a good return on the polls according to the Zogby poll, 21 percent support among independent voters, which is about 5 percent among all voters. Which, for a third-party candidate, would be historic. It's more than Nader got running in New York in 2000. The last independent candidate for U.S. senate to get over 1 percent was W.E.B. DuBois in 1950 on the American Labor party. His campaign was similar to mine, it was about peace, civil rights and social justice, and I'm polling better than he got in that election.

CPL: Hillary Clinton has said that she wouldn't stay the course in Iraq. Now, she's changing her views on that. What do you feel about her changing her views on the war in Iraq now?

HH: That's rhetoric. She's committed to doing what the original mission was, which was to set up military bases there and control the oil. And she's just arguing with Bush, and in this case Spencer, over the tactics. But she's committed to the war. She says we can't withdraw quickly. She says we have to stabilize Iraq in order to bring the troops home. You listen to the generals, that's 10 or 15 years. And I think they're being over-optimistic. She's been with Bush from the beginning on this war. And she still is. They're both saying we've got to change our tactics. They're not anti-war; they're criticizing how the war's being conducted.

CPL: If she's with Bush in saying that we should change the course, wouldn't that mean that they're making a positive change in the way the war is run now?

HH: No, they're still � the war was wrong. You don't go overthrowing other people's countries and occupying them, putting their people in prison and torturing them, and murdering and raping their civilians. We have some of our marines and soldiers being prosecuted for rape and murder of Iraqi civilians. That was all wrong. So, it's not how you fight the war, it's that you shouldn't be fighting this war. Get those guys out of harm's way, 'cause right now they're caught inside the internal power struggle in Iraq, they're getting killed by snipers.

CPL: Some major issues that the Democratic Party stands by are of course making college more accessible�

HH: Now that's not true. They want college more accessible for people that already have money. They'll give tax credits to people that already have money. They won't give grants to low-income students. They won't fund CUNY and SUNY [the city and state university] system to the point like it used to be where it was virtually free, tuition free. My position is public higher education should be tuition free, so that the poor can go as well as the middle class.

CPL: How would the institutions make their money?

HH: Through progressive taxes. Make the corporations and the rich pay their fair share, like they used to, and there'd be enough money so that kids could go to public schools at the college level.

CPL: Also, what are your views on the way that Congress is run now? What are your plans to change this, if you're elected?

HH: Well, the system right now is a two-party system of corporate rule. It's like, when there was Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed back in the 19th century and Boss Tweed used to say, "You can vote for anybody you want as long as I get to pick the candidates.? So what you have now are corporate-funded candidates in both parties. They give you the illusion of choice. But they're funded by the same people. Rupert Murdoch, who's head of Fox News, held a big fundraiser for Hillary Clinton one morning in July, and that was for brunch, and then for lunch, he went over to a McCain fundraiser. So he fundraised for both the leading Democratic and Republican candidates, and that's how they do it. We need an independent political movement that's funded by the working people, not the corporate elites.

CPL: What are your plans on making affordable housing more accessible, and your plans on raising the minimum wage?

HH: My basic position is that we've got to get out or Iraq and Afghanistan and back into our communities. So we have the money to fund affordable housing, to provide a living wage job for anybody willing and able to work, through public works programs, building things in our communities that we need, and that that money should also go for the environment and for public education. Affordable housing, we need to start building public housing again. We stopped building it; instead we give tax credits to developers. Then the developers give money to the politicians. It's a payola scheme; it's legalized bribery is what private campaign financing is. I would challenge all that.

CPL: Why don't many people know about you? Do you do campaign ads?

HH: It's grassroots fundraising. People, to go to a luncheon for Hillary Clinton, they've got to pay $1,000. For me, that's like 250 people contributing a few bucks out of their pocket. She gets the rich to contribute that way, and then they expect favors in return. We're rising what we can, but you see how the system's stacked. The media won't cover you. I had a guy who writes for the Daily News say, "Howie, I won't cover you 'til you show up in the polls.? And I said, "I may not show up in the polls unless you cover me.? And he said, "Too bad.? So, how do you get recognized?

Children's PressLine is a journalism program for young people ages 8 to 18 in New York City.