Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

In 1916 a socialist ran for president of the United States. The US Post Office, stretching bck to the American Revolution, had always granted free or nearly free postage for newspapers and magazines, so socialist tracts and magazines had subscription lists in the millions. The 1916 socialist candidate got 600,000 votes, about 3% of the total. The first World War was on the horizon, and socialists opposed that war, viewing it as a conflict between empires in which ordinary people had no stake. So the US government ended postal subsidies for newspapers and magazines.

In 1920, another socialist, Eugene Victor Debs ran for president. By then a widespread crackdown on socialists in public life was underway, and Debs was imprisoned for his opposition to World War 1. Debs got 900,000 votes, 4% of the total cast from his cell in a federal prison in Indiana.

In 1924 another socialist, Robert LaFollette ran for president on the ticket of the Progressive Party and got 5 million votes, one sixth of the total votes cast for president that year.

The establishment was in a sort of panic. The lords of capital, the bankers, the industrialists, represented today as they were a hundred years ago by the Democrats and the Republicans were not about to allow themselves to be simply voted out of power. So they passed a briar patch of restrictive laws on the state level to make it increasingly difficult or impossible for socialist candidates to get on the ballot in the first place.

The most effective of these laws, which are still with us today, are the petitioning laws, rules which do not apply to Republican or to Democratic parties or their candidates, but only to other parties whom voters might go for if only they were allowed access to the ballot. Having been law for a hundred years now, most people have forgotten the purpose of these laws or are simply not aware of them at all. But they are still on the books and with some variations, still enforced in about half the 50 states.

For all its faults and lapses, right now, in the years 2019 and 2020, the only national party that calls itself socialist – more precisely ecosocialist – outside the Democrats and Republicans and intent upon competing with them is the Green Party. And the Green Party is intent on organizing to break the two party monopoly on the ballot. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy, and it hasn’t been done nationally in the hundred years that the restrictive anti-socialist ballot access laws have been in place.

In Texas for instance, a party other than the Democrats or Republicans, whose ballot access is grandfathered in, must gather 83,000 signatures in 75 days, and they must be voters who have not recently voted in either a Republican or a Democratic party primary election. As a practical matter, this would require the full time mobilization of about 200 signature collectors dispersed around the state for ten and a half weeks. It’s not impossible, but it is expensive and difficult.

In Georgia, a state with less than half the population of Texas, new parties are required to gather a little over 65,000 signatures over a 14 month period. This is what’s called a party petition, since it allows a qualifying party to place candidates via nomination at a state convention. Georgia also separates congressional elections from all others, so a more restrictive rule applies to congressional candidates, who must produce 18 to 24 thousand petition signatures of qualified registered voters. Like many other states, Georgia law also provides a presidential-only petition, with a much lower requirement of only 7,500 signatures, but presidential-only petitions actually prevent the building of local party organizations, since they do not allow for the running of candidates for local office.

Alabama requires 51,500 signatures to put a new party on the ballot with the ability to name candidates for all partisan elected offices, but a much lower threshold for presidential only campaigns. Generally Greens prefer not to run presidential only campaigns for the quite sensible reason that building local electoral power requires local candidates and local campaigns, in addition to somebody at the top of the ticket.

Tennessee law demands the Greens come up with 56,000 signatures for party access to the ballot; Ohio, 43,200; Indiana 42,900; Oklahoma 35,600; and Illinois 25,000 signatures in 90 says, and this is far from a complete list of even the worse offenders. Again, most of states allow lower petitioning thresholds for presidential-only campaigns. The most extreme example is Minnesota, which requires only 2,000 signatures for a presidential-candidate-only ballot access, but demands more than a hundred thousand signatures to allow a party to nominate local candidates throughout the state.

Greens will not formally choose their presidential candidate until the summer of 2020, but the presumptive nominee is New York’s Howie Hawkins, a retired teamster out of Syracuse who was one of the party’s founders and the first candidate of any party to campaign on the Green New Deal. Hawkins is the only one of the Green candidates to have put together a team and begun to raise the $3 to $5 million it will take to run a credible campaign in 2019 and 2020. Ballot access is the key. Without breaking the century old ballot access barriers which the capitalist parties have erected against challenges from the left the Greens or any other socialists are going nowhere fast.

The battle for national ballot access for the Green Party will require about 1.2 million petition signatures nationwide, a load of organizing talent and a good $2 million dollars. The talent is mostly there, the money has to be raised, beginning now. By the summer of 2020 when Democrats kick Bernie Sanders to the curb again it will be too late. Petitioning deadlines in places like Arizona and Kansas fall in the early spring of 2020, so efforts in these and a dozen other states need to be off the ground in late fall and winter. There’s a reason these barriers have blocked socialist challengers from the ballot for a century now. It’s what they were designed to do.

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO… Go to http://howiehawkins.us and take a look at what the Real Green New Deal, not the pale Democratic appropriation of the name is all about. Then drop some coin, make a donation to the only campaign dedicated to organizing a national attempt to break the restrictive ballot access regime wide open – that’s Howie Hawkins’ campaign. Know that once the Hawkins campaign gathers $5,000 in each of 20 states in donations of $250 and less it qualifies for matching funds from the Federal Elections Commission, a law that fearful Democrats are trying to scuttle in HR 1.

Your donation NOW helps us break the ballot access barrier in 2020. Even if you’re a one of those who calls yourself a Democrat and a socialist, your position inside the capitalist party can only be strengthened by the existence of a viable left OUTSIDE that party as well. And if Bernie or Bust busts again, you’ll be needing a new home. We’re building it now. Bernie has a plan B. It’s Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or Pete WhatsHisHame. What’s your plan B?

For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. In full disclosure, I’m a Green and a member of Howie Hawkins’ campaign committee too.

Black Agenda Report has been named by anonymous cowards as a tool of the Russians, so we are censored by Google and other corporate social media. That’s the way it works nowadays. The only way you can be sure you’re getting the latest news, commentary and analysis from the black left is to subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter, with links to all our newly published audio, video and print material neatly packaged for your reading listening and viewing convenience. To do this, visit us at www.blackagendareport.com, that’s www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscrible button.

Thank you.

Direct download: 2020_ballot_access_bd02.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am EDT

In 1916 a socialist ran for president of the United States. The US Post Office, stretching bck to the American Revolution, had always granted free or nearly free postage for newspapers and magazines, so socialist tracts and magazines had subscription lists in the millions. The 1916 socialist candidate got 600,000 votes, about 3% of the total. The first World War was on the horizon, and socialists opposed that war, viewing it as a conflict between empires in which ordinary people had no stake. So the US government ended postal subsidies for newspapers and magazines.

In 1920, another socialist, Eugene Victor Debs ran for president. By then a widespread crackdown on socialists in public life was underway, and Debs was imprisoned for his opposition to World War 1. Debs got 900,000 votes, 4% of the total cast from his cell in a federal prison in Indiana.

In 1924 another socialist, Robert LaFollette ran for president on the ticket of the Progressive Party and got 5 million votes, one sixth of the total votes cast for president that year.

The establishment was in a sort of panic. The lords of capital, the bankers, the industrialists, represented today as they were a hundred years ago by the Democrats and the Republicans were not about to allow themselves to be simply voted out of power. So they passed a briar patch of restrictive laws on the state level to make it increasingly difficult or impossible for socialist candidates to get on the ballot in the first place.

The most effective of these laws, which are still with us today, are the petitioning laws, rules which do not apply to Republican or to Democratic parties or their candidates, but only to other parties whom voters might go for if only they were allowed access to the ballot. Having been law for a hundred years now, most people have forgotten the purpose of these laws or are simply not aware of them at all. But they are still on the books and with some variations, still enforced in about half the 50 states.

For all its faults and lapses, right now, in the years 2019 and 2020, the only national party that calls itself socialist – more precisely ecosocialist – outside the Democrats and Republicans and intent upon competing with them is the Green Party. And the Green Party is intent on organizing to break the two party monopoly on the ballot. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy, and it hasn’t been done nationally in the hundred years that the restrictive anti-socialist ballot access laws have been in place.

In Texas for instance, a party other than the Democrats or Republicans, whose ballot access is grandfathered in, must gather 83,000 signatures in 75 days, and they must be voters who have not recently voted in either a Republican or a Democratic party primary election. As a practical matter, this would require the full time mobilization of about 200 signature collectors dispersed around the state for ten and a half weeks. It’s not impossible, but it is expensive and difficult.

In Georgia, a state with less than half the population of Texas, new parties are required to gather a little over 65,000 signatures over a 14 month period. This is what’s called a party petition, since it allows a qualifying party to place candidates via nomination at a state convention. Georgia also separates congressional elections from all others, so a more restrictive rule applies to congressional candidates, who must produce 18 to 24 thousand petition signatures of qualified registered voters. Like many other states, Georgia law also provides a presidential-only petition, with a much lower requirement of only 7,500 signatures, but presidential-only petitions actually prevent the building of local party organizations, since they do not allow for the running of candidates for local office.

Alabama requires 51,500 signatures to put a new party on the ballot with the ability to name candidates for all partisan elected offices, but a much lower threshold for presidential only campaigns. Generally Greens prefer not to run presidential only campaigns for the quite sensible reason that building local electoral power requires local candidates and local campaigns, in addition to somebody at the top of the ticket.

Tennessee law demands the Greens come up with 56,000 signatures for party access to the ballot; Ohio, 43,200; Indiana 42,900; Oklahoma 35,600; and Illinois 25,000 signatures in 90 says, and this is far from a complete list of even the worse offenders. Again, most of states allow lower petitioning thresholds for presidential-only campaigns. The most extreme example is Minnesota, which requires only 2,000 signatures for a presidential-candidate-only ballot access, but demands more than a hundred thousand signatures to allow a party to nominate local candidates throughout the state.

Greens will not formally choose their presidential candidate until the summer of 2020, but the presumptive nominee is New York’s Howie Hawkins, a retired teamster out of Syracuse who was one of the party’s founders and the first candidate of any party to campaign on the Green New Deal. Hawkins is the only one of the Green candidates to have put together a team and begun to raise the $3 to $5 million it will take to run a credible campaign in 2019 and 2020. Ballot access is the key. Without breaking the century old ballot access barriers which the capitalist parties have erected against challenges from the left the Greens or any other socialists are going nowhere fast.

The battle for national ballot access for the Green Party will require about 1.2 million petition signatures nationwide, a load of organizing talent and a good $2 million dollars. The talent is mostly there, the money has to be raised, beginning now. By the summer of 2020 when Democrats kick Bernie Sanders to the curb again it will be too late. Petitioning deadlines in places like Arizona and Kansas fall in the early spring of 2020, so efforts in these and a dozen other states need to be off the ground in late fall and winter. There’s a reason these barriers have blocked socialist challengers from the ballot for a century now. It’s what they were designed to do.

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO… Go to http://howiehawkins.us and take a look at what the Real Green New Deal, not the pale Democratic appropriation of the name is all about. Then drop some coin, make a donation to the only campaign dedicated to organizing a national attempt to break the restrictive ballot access regime wide open – that’s Howie Hawkins’ campaign. Know that once the Hawkins campaign gathers $5,000 in each of 20 states in donations of $250 and less it qualifies for matching funds from the Federal Elections Commission, a law that fearful Democrats are trying to scuttle in HR 1.

Your donation NOW helps us break the ballot access barrier in 2020. Even if you’re a one of those who calls yourself a Democrat and a socialist, your position inside the capitalist party can only be strengthened by the existence of a viable left OUTSIDE that party as well. And if Bernie or Bust busts again, you’ll be needing a new home. We’re building it now. Bernie has a plan B. It’s Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or Pete WhatsHisHame. What’s your plan B?

For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. In full disclosure, I’m a Green and a member of Howie Hawkins’ campaign committee too.

Black Agenda Report has been named by anonymous cowards as a tool of the Russians, so we are censored by Google and other corporate social media. That’s the way it works nowadays. The only way you can be sure you’re getting the latest news, commentary and analysis from the black left is to subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter, with links to all our newly published audio, video and print material neatly packaged for your reading listening and viewing convenience. To do this, visit us at www.blackagendareport.com, that’s www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscrible button.

Thank you.

Direct download: 2020_ballot_access_bd.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EDT

Joe Biden announced his candidacy for president last week. You might imagine that in the age of Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren, with some of the leading Democrats talking up free college tuition, the abolition of student debt, Medicare For All raising the minimum wage and taxing wealthy individuals and moonwalking even a little away from support of apartheid Israel that another frankly pro-corporate candidate would enter the race somewhere near the bottom of the polls. That would be right. You’d be imagining that.

In the real world, Joe Biden announced last week and the first three polls list him at the top of the field, leading Bernie Sanders by double digits, with everybody else in single digits. Ominously, in all three polls about half the voters favoring Biden are black voters. The obvious conclusion, supported by the fact that Biden’s first two campaign videos, are race themed, and the second one prominently includes Barack Obama, is that Biden’s popularity among black voters is a hangover from the blind and unconditional support those same voters gave to the Obama administration. In the case of Barack Obama the fumes were so strong that his actual record didn’t matter. Barack could bail out and immunize the banksters and the companies that manufactured fake paperwork to take hundreds of thousands of homes away from people, and support from his base did not waver. Barack could propose commissions to privatize social security, and rescue the insurance companies instead of delivering Medicare For All and his based still lined up behind him. Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” program put more than 150,000 experienced black teachers out of work and closed thousands of public schools to make way for the privatization of education across the country, and black voters, including most of those former teachers, would have voted for him again.

Biden was Obama’s vice president. But Biden is not Obama. Even if Obama openly endorses him at some point, Biden has his own record, and it’s that of a consistent corporate stooge. particularly of the real estate and banking industries, and as one of the architects of the mass incarceration state.

Joe Biden didn’t just cast a vote for the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known as the Clinton Crime bill. Joe Biden wrote the bill, including but not limited to provisions that created

no less than 60 new federal death penalty offenses

a ban on Pell grants for prisoners, from which states took their cues and enacted similar bans on higher education for prisoners.

$9 billion in new funding for prisons

sex offender registries to ensure lifelong stigmatization of the convicted

3 strikes provisions

new funding for “boot camps” and juvenile prisons

funding for 100,000 new police officers

Biden’s bill resulted in a spike in mass incarceration which of course affected African American and Latinx communities more profoundly than any others. The damage to families and lives of course continues today.

For many years, Joe Biden was known as the Senator from MBNA, the giant credit card entity that was bought by Bank of American in 2006 and re-sold to Lloyd’s Bank UK in 2016. Biden was responsible for the provisions that made it impossible to discharge student debt via bankruptcy, thus shackling millions of people with ballooning student debt that lasts till their forties and fifties. Student debt of course weighs heaviest upon black women.

Joe Biden is an unwavering supporter of apartheid Israel, just like his buddy Barack, and an unrepentant warmonger like just about all of his Democrat colleagues in the House, the Senate, and among presidential candidates. Until Biden’s entrance, Bernie Sanders was the clear Democratic front runner. That’s over. The polls haven’t broken Biden’s black support by age, but it’s safe to assume that Bernie still leads among younger black voters, while Biden’s voters tend to be older.

After promising for two years and failing to deliver Trump and his crew in handcuffs over imaginary collusion with the Russians, it’s hard to see how any Democrat wins in 2020. Even Bernie Sanders did his best to spread the RussiaGate nonsense. And while Bernie is likely the best candidate against Trump (my opinion – not the pollsters) the big lmoney guys from the telecoms, the military contractors, the real estate and banking and Big Pharma will surely line up behind their dependable Uncle Joe. They would rather lose with Biden than win with Bernie.

The key to popping the Biden Balloon is getting past the warm and fuzzy Obama hangover, and drilling down into Biden’s actual record as a corporate stooge, a warmonger, an architect of the prison state, a foe of Medicare For All and a servant of the predatory banking industry which has saddled a generation with unpayable student debt. Most of the Democratic hopefuls though cannot do this, because they too are on the same corporate tit as Joe Biden, which is a telling indictment of the Democratic party, and why I and others are trying to build another party outside of and independent of the corporate-run Republicans and Democrats.

For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Find our audio podcasts – there are two of them, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn or wherever you get your podcasts.

Please do know that Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who, accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So please do like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and all, but old fashioned email direct from us to you is the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that Black Agenda Report has delivered each and every week since 2006. So please visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our free weekly email newsletter containing weekly summaries of and links to all our weekly posted print, audio and video content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.

To comment on our material, join the conversation on our Facebook page, or send us email to comments(at)blackagendareport.com, or you can message us on Twitter @blkagendareport.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. He answers email, and has also been known to answer tweets to @brucedixon.

Direct download: 20190501_bd_biden_balloon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:07pm EDT