Barack Obama spent $730 million to claim the White House in 2008, and it’s projected that this year’s winner will spend more than a billion. As it turns out, however, it only takes about $40,000 to run an energetic, inspiring, effective presidential write-in campaign to protest this rigged electoral system and give people the chance to cast a bold, positive vote.
It’s a question of goals. Is your ambition to achieve the White House at any cost so you can become the CEO of world imperialism, slashing budgets at home and dropping bombs abroad? Or is your ambition to take part in the struggles of workers and young people across the country, lay the groundwork for future united fronts, and spread the idea that there is an alternative to the misery-inducing profit system?
For Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) candidates Stephen Durham for president and Christina López for vice president, it’s the latter. Since launching their “un-millionaire campaign” in January, they have made good progress toward their goals. In the final stretch, they will continue to persuade people — including those who have turned their backs on the ballot box in disgust — to vote on Nov. 6 for an action plan tailored to what working people really need and for candidates with the principles and experience to deliver.
A working-class platform and team. Durham and López are ideally suited to represent the multiracial FSP and its socialist feminist program.
Radicalized during the 1960s, Durham, 65, is a white gay rights pioneer with a 20-year history as a union militant in the hotel trades. He serves as FSP organizer for the New York City branch, headquartered in Harlem, a position he previously held in Los Angeles. Fluent in three languages, he is a frequent FSP representative internationally, especially in Latin America.
Chicana Christina López, 44, born and raised in Arizona, is now the president of the Seattle chapter of Radical Women (RW), FSP’s sister organization. With a union background in both the private and public sectors, she is a determined champion for immigrant rights and one of the leaders of a sustained feminist fight against budget cuts in Washington state.
Together, Durham and López have decades of experience organizing for the rights of everyone from tenants to political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Lynne Stewart, and Bradley Manning. They are grounded in the liberation fights of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and all those who are oppressed and marginalized.
For five years now, workers and the poor have been paying for an economic crisis they did not cause. The essence of the FSP campaign is to say, ¡no mas!
The platform calls for dismantling the Pentagon and taxing big business in order to provide the proper funds for education, medical care, and other human needs. It stands for ending unemployment with a massive program of new public jobs; nationalizing banks and key industries under the management of workers’ committees; canceling student and consumer debt; establishing authoritative, elected civilian review boards over the police; unrestricted reproductive rights; expanding mass transit and making it free for the good of people and the planet; and much more to improve the lives of those who must work for a paycheck to survive. (Click here to read the full platform.)
Temperature check: West Coast whistle stops. That’s the platform Durham, López, and their supporters have been taking around the country, from anti-NATO protests and teacher picket lines in Chicago to small farm towns in Washington state and Occupy Poughkeepsie’s base in upstate New York.
It’s also the program that the FSP team ran on in their quest for the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP), supported by an enthusiastic band of volunteers. PFP is a California-based electoral coalition with a socialist and feminist program.
At PFP’s nominating convention in Los Angeles the first weekend in August, celebrity won out over political integrity. Durham placed second to comedian and newly minted socialist Roseanne Barr, who turned to PFP only after losing the Green Party nod, which she had sought on a “reform capitalism” platform.
Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) candidate Peta Lindsay helped Barr cinch the Peace and Freedom spot by dropping out and throwing PSL’s support to Barr minutes before voting began. This effectively prevented any of the serious socialist candidates from getting the nomination. (See VoteSocialism.com for more.)
A month later, Barr’s vice-presidential partner, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, withdrew from the ticket, citing political differences and frustration with Barr’s failure to actively campaign or contribute money to the effort. (It was too late for Sheehan to drop out officially, so she will still be on the ballot.)
Meanwhile, FSP candidates López and Durham dusted off their traveling shoes and went back on the road with Campaign Manager Doug Barnes, traveling north from Los Angeles through San Francisco and Sacramento up to Seattle. Making their journey in a borrowed station wagon, they joined union picket lines, leafleted shoppers at big-box stores, and met with supporters including new endorser Suzanne Brooks, a popular and respected writer for outlets like the online Black Commentator.
In Portland, Ore., they discussed education issues with teachers, and Durham spoke on “Wanted: a solution to the unemployment crisis that does the job.”
Once in Washington, more speaking engagements followed, and the two candidates toured the state. They explored issues and put forward their ideas with migrant farm workers, activists against anti-immigrant checkpoints, small-business owners in rural communities, and many others, taping radio interviews on the fly and getting good coverage in local newspapers.
López is campaigning and speaking at several schools in New York and New Jersey in September, and the team looks forward to more campus opportunities in October.
The candidates report finding everyday people receptive to their message. Durham gives as just one example a woman in Ellensburg, Wash., who described herself as a “dyed-in-the-wool Republican,” but told him, “I will read what you have to say because we sure do need change.” López draws the conclusion: “People are not only ready for change, they are looking for direction.”
The two see their campaign not as an end, but as a beginning. They are committed to using what they have learned and the new connections they have made to strengthen the movements for justice and liberation — including the movement for international socialism.
Turn Election Day into an Independence Day. Millions of people in the U.S. want presidential candidates who really mean it when they say they will end war, create jobs, raise living standards, and guarantee basic rights. Millions are also quite aware that no candidate backed by Wall Street will deliver these things. But they are trapped on the “lesser evil” merry-go-round, trying to figure out every four years who will do not the most good, but the least harm.
It’s way past time to exit the circus. The most meaningful action that workers and the oppressed can take this electoral season is to lodge a protest, to say I am voting for what I want and need.
Vote for Stephen Durham and Christina López on Nov. 6!
By Andrea Bauer
Freedom Socialist, October-November 2012, Volume 33, No. 5