Friday, November 27, 2020

A Tale of Three Caucuses in the People’s Republic

In November 2011, more than 1,300 people attended the largest Burlington political gathering in decades — the Democratic Caucus. It was a jubilant crowd, gathered in Memorial Auditorium, a city landmark on Main Street. Everyone was there — from Stalwart Democrats to hardcore Progressives. The Party that had elected three mayors in a row wasn’t even fielding a candidate.

Still, before the caucus happened, no one knew who would show up.

Four candidates addressed the huge crowd before the vote — which was so close between the frontrunners, Tim Ashe and Miro Weinberger, that it had to be conducted in two parts.

Caucus Stumbles on Mayoral Tie

VTDigger, November 14, 2011

This year, both the Progressive and Democratic Parties in Vermont will hold caucuses — but they’ll be virtual. Progressives will caucus on December 1, while Democrats will gather on December 6. And so, for the first time, people will register in advance for a caucus with the party of their choice. And since the parties know in advance who is likely to participate, the candidates are reaching out to specific potential supporters. I’ve been contacted personally by two of them so far.

Listen & Watch on YouTube

The mayor was not one of them. But as Miro Weinberger finishes up his third term, his re-election priorities include continuing to lead the response to the coronavirus, racial justice, and the climate crisis. His main accomplishments, he claims, are a year-round homeless shelter, transforming City Hall Park, and ending what he calls the Burlington Telecom “financial fiasco.” No doubt he will remind voters that the fiasco and other problems emerged during the last Progressive administration.

The Progressive candidate, whether it is Brian Pine or Max Tracy, will focus on racial, economic and environmental justice, an agenda that echoes Bernie Sanders’ most recent presidential run. The party has attracted a new and younger constituency, and its platform is the most progressive ever. (Update: The two progressive candidates engaged thousands of residents through virtual forums and phone calls. Then 1,420 people voted online for two days. The Progressive Party called it “the largest political caucus in the modern history of Vermont.” The winner was City Council President Tracy.)

According to media coverage, Pine is the “bridge-builder” and Tracy is the “ideologue.” But it isn’t that simple. Whatever bridges Pine has built, he seems to have done it by supporting the status quo — including redevelopment of the downtown mall (before he opposed it) and embracing some of Weinberger’s priorities. Tracy is clearly more oriented to emerging issues and constituencies. But whether that makes him more ideological, or more electable, is another question. Pine has been more loyal to the Progressive’s traditional leadership, while Tracy has sometimes broken with them. 

And yet, based on the three debates between the two potential Progressive candidates, it would be difficult to tell that there are any clear and stark differences between them. And that’s no accident. They agreed in advance not to attack each other, I was told by one, and also that the Party prefer it that way. As a result, though, they have denied their own caucus voters crucial information that might have better distinguished the two. It’s the same lack of transparency that got the party into trouble a decade ago.

There is also an Independent candidate, Ali Dieng. Like Pine and Tracy, he is a member of the City Council. But his analysis is very different. Dieng thinks the big problem that thwarts local progress is...wait for it, party politics. His platform is big on broad value statements, but thin on policies. Beyond that, he is probably the most conservative candidate in the race, although his immigrant story obscures that a bit.

In 2018, there were also three major candidates — the incumbent mayor, Progressive Carina Driscoll, and Independent Infinite Culcleasure. In the end, Weinberger won just under 50% of the vote. Culcleasure got 15% and Driscoll around 36%. But since then Weinberger has faced some setbacks, most prominently the collapse of his plans to rebuild the downtown mall. A former developer himself, the mayor was suckered by conman Don Sinex and various corporate flaks. 

But so far, it looks as if virtual campaigning in Covid times could result in the same election outcome — unless the Progressive candidate can attract more Independent voters, become more forthcoming about the Party’ past misteps, and make a much sharper critique of Weinberger’s nine year record.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Uneasy Empire: War Games and Trilateral Rules

Originally broadcast on WRUV-FM in Burlington, September, 2002 during The Howie Rose Variety Show

Trilateral Rules: In September 2002, Greg Guma made his first appearance on The Howie Rose Variety Show in Burlington (then on WRUV-FM), discussing the roots of ongoing conflicts with Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. He continued as a guest and co-producer for more than a decade. In this excerpt, co-hosts FP Cassini, Silvie Airways and Formless talk with Greg about the Trilateral Commission and the rise of Jimmy Carter. With studio photos; illustrations by Dan Florentino and LJ Kopf. (7 minutes)

Paths to War: A look at how and why the US really went to war in the middle east, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, filled with “fun” facts that explode the conventional narrative; untold history on pipeline politics, preemptive strikes, no-fly zones, and how to promote regime change. With personal notes, behind the scenes photos, and illustrations by Dan Florentino. (8:30 minutes)

Our S.O.B.: How Saddam Hussein went from ally to enemy and the CIA overthrew Iran’s government in 1953. More hidden history from The Howie Rose Variety Show, originally broadcast in September 2002. With studio photos and footage from ARGO. (5 minutes)

Find out more about Uneasy Empire

“Despite unilateralist bravado and free trade fantasies, faith in the corporate gospel is faltering around the world.” - from the Introduction

Published in 2003

Excerpts Here 


The First Casualties  Excerpt  Excerpt 2

The Real World Order  Early Draft

Official Secrets

Pointing the Finger  Revised

Roots of Repression: A Less-Told History

The Empire’s Trade Clothes  Early Draft

The Battle for El Dorado  Excerpt

Beyond the New World Order  Excerpt   Revised

“It’s a long battle, a global fight for justice, equality, and democracy. And that battle we are going to win.”

Friday, November 6, 2020

Presidential Turnout: 21 Hopefuls Sought Vermont Votes

In 2020, as of October, 1,216 candidates had filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for President. And due to Vermont’s open approach to ballot access, the state’s voters were able to choose from an impressive 21 of them. Those candidates hailed from 16 states and represented a mind-blowing array of parties and ideas.

Trump Platform: “We’ll see what happens.”

Everyone knows the winner by now — Democratic war horse Joe Biden (242,820 votes, or 65%, in Vermont), who represented Delaware in the US Senate for decades until becoming Obama’s Vice President, and the sore loser, Donald Trump (112,704, 30%), a developer and reality TV personality who irritated New Yorkers for decades until moving to Florida, running for President, and winning the right to offend everyone for four years. 

Those Post-Victory Blues: Commentary Link 

The national race was a nail-biter, but the Vermont outcome was hardly in doubt. Vermonters went for every Republican presidential candidate from 1860 to the 1980s. Even FDR couldn’t break through. Since 1988, however, the state’s electoral votes have gone to every Democratic candidate. That didn’t change in 2020. 

But the predictable state outcome provided an opportunity to win “conscience” votes for some other hopefuls — 16 men and three women — competing for Vermont’s presidential votes. Several chose to be listed as Independents, but most represented political parties, some old, some new, with wildly diverse histories and political agendas. 

Let’s see how they did. The most popular turned out to be South Carolina Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (3,608 votes, just shy of 1%), the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins (1,310), and Wyoming-based Independent Kanye West (1,269). The only other candidate receiving more than 1,000 votes was H. Brooke Paige, the Grumpy Old Patriot candidate from Vermont (1,164).

Nationally, Jorgensen — the only female candidate on the ballot in all 50 states — came out on top. Her estimated 1.6 million votes (1.2 %) is the second-highest total for the party in its half century history.

Here are the rest, with their home states and the Vermont votes they received: Christopher LaFontaine, Vermont, Independent (856 votes); Richard Duncan, Ohio, Independent (213); Brian Carroll, California, American Solidarity (209);  Don Blankenship, West Virginia, Constitution (208); Alyson Kennedy, Texas, Socialist Workers (195); Gloria Estela La Riva, California, Liberty Union (166);  Gary Swing, Colorado, Boiling Frog (141); Phil Collins, Wisconsin, Prohibition (137); Keith McCormic, Vermont, Bull Moose (126); Brock Pierce, Puerto Rico, Unaffiliated (100); Jerome Segal, Maryland, Bread and Roses (65); Blake Huber, Colorado, Approval Voting (54); Kyle Kenley Kopitke, Michigan, Independent (53); Rogue “Rocky” De La Fuente,  California, Alliance (48); and Zachary Scalf, Georgia, Independent (29). 

Better luck next time. Fortunately, there will be one. Meanwhile, who were these hopeless hopefuls? 

Five Party People

Jerome Segal of Maryland, represented the Bread and Roses Party (65 votes). Segal is an American philosopher and political activist from Silver Spring. A research scholar at the University of Maryland and president of the Jewish Peace Lobby, he was a candidate in Maryland’s Democratic primary for the US Senate in 2018. During that year, Segal also announced the creation of a new socialist political party, "Bread and Roses," after raising the 10,000 signatures required by the state’s Board of Elections. The party is named after a slogan used by striking workers during the 1912 Lawrence textile strike. To find out more:

Howie Hawkins is an American trade unionist, environmental activist, and frequent candidate in New York. A co-founder of the Green Party of the United States, he was was also its 2020 presidential candidate (1,310 votes). The GPUS is a federation of state political parties that promotes green politics, specifically environmentalism; nonviolence; social justice; participatory, grassroots democracy; gender equality; LGBTQ rights; anti-war; anti-racism and eco socialism. It was formed in 2001 as the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP) after a split from the Greens/Green Party USA (G/GPUSA) in the late 1990s. After its founding, the GPUS became the primary national green organization in the country, eclipsing the G/GPUSA, which was formed in 1991 out of the Green Committees of Correspondence (CoC), a collection of local green groups active since 1984. For more information:

Joanne Jorgensen, candidate of the Libertarian Party, (3,608 votes) is an academic and libertarian political activist from South Carolina. She was previously the Libertarian Party's nominee for vice president in the 1996 presidential election, as the running mate of Harry Browne. Libertarianism is often thought of as 'right-wing' doctrine. However, on social — rather than economic — issues, libertarianism often tends to be 'left-wing'. If any alternative party has an enduring base in Vermont, this is apparently it.

Libertarians share a skepticism of authority and state power, but diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing economic and political systems. The Libertarian Party promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism, and limiting the size and scope of government. For more:

Don Blankenship, who ran as the Constitution Party candidate, is a West Virginia business executive (208 votes). A candidate for the US Senate in West Virginia in 2018, he was Chairman and CEO of the Massey Energy Company, the sixth-largest US coal company, from 2000 until his retirement in 2010. In December 2015, Blankenship was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards in relation to the Upper Big Branch mine explosion and was sentenced to one year in prison. 

The Constitution Party, formerly the U.S. Taxpayers' Party until 1999, promotes a right to far-right view of the principles and interests of the US. Its platform is based on originalist interpretations of the Constitution and shaped by principles that it believes were set forth in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Bible. For more:

Phil Collins, the Prohibition Party candidate, currently lives in Wisconsin. Collins has also been active in local politics in Illinois and Nevada (137 votes).  In 2019, he ran in Las Vegas' mayoral election and came in second. On April 14, 2019, he was given the Prohibition Party's vice presidential nomination after initially losing the presidential nomination to Connie Gammon, the original 2020 vice presidential nominee after Bill Bayes withdrew from the presidential nomination. On August 24, 2019, he replaced Gammon as presidential candidate after she withdrew due to health problems. Afterward he announced that he would also run in the American Independent Party’s presidential primary in California. 

On March 3, 2020, Collins won that primary. However, the party elected to give its presidential nomination to Rocky De La Fuente and its vice presidential nod to Kanye West. Both are also candidates for president on the Vermont ballot. The Prohibition Party has nominated a candidate for president in every election since 1872, making it the longest-lived American political party after the Democrats and Republicans. For more:

Three California Dreamers

Brian Carroll, the American Solidarity Party candidate (209 votes), taught junior high history and other subjects in Farmersville, California from 1977 to 1983. At the time, he also wrote for the Valley Voice newspaper, especially on the local need for public transportation. He taught nine years in Colombia, South America and one summer in China. In 2008, he returned to teaching in Farmersville. Carroll ran for California's 22nd congressional district in 2018 against Republican Devin Nunes and Democrat Andrew Janz, a contentious race due to Nunes' role in the Trump investigation. 

The American Solidarity Party (ASP) is a Christian democratic political party founded in 2011. It emphasizes "the importance of strong families, local communities, and voluntary associations."  Socially conservative, the party defends religious freedom, favors a social market economy, and seeks "widespread economic participation and ownership,” along with a safety net. Its platform calls for conservation and a transition toward more renewable sources of energy, while rejecting population control measures. For more:

Rogue “Rocky” De La Fuente was on Vermont’s presidential ballot representing the Alliance Party (48 votes). A businessman and perennial candidate, he was the presidential nominee of both the Reform Party and his self-created American Delta Party in 2016.  In 2018, De La Fuente was on the ballot in nine states' primaries for US Senate. He campaigned as a critic of President Trump’s immigration policies. This year, he entered Republican primaries, but secured the nominations of the Reform Party, the Alliance Party, and American Independent Party.  

The Alliance Party was formed on October 14, 2018. In December, the American Party of South Carolina successfully asked the state Election Commission to change its name to the Alliance Party. In May 2019, the Independence Party of Minnesota voted to affiliate with the Alliance party. The Independent Party of Connecticut also affiliated, and the Alliance Party became ballot qualified in Mississippi. For more:

Gloria Estela La Riva, a presidential candidate on Vermont’s Liberty Union Party line (166 votes), is a California-based socialist activist with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and the Peace and Freedom Party. This is her tenth consecutive candidacy as either a presidential or vice presidential candidate. This time she is running on the PSL, Peace and Freedom, and Liberty Union tickets. La Riva was previously a member of the Workers World Party. She ran as the PSL and Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016. The PSL is a US communist party established in 2004 after a split in the Workers World Party. For more:

Two Rocky Mountain Party Builders

Blake Huber, the Approval Voting presidential candidate (54 votes), hails from Colorado. He worked in the telecommunications industry until his retirement, and is a co-founder of the party, which focuses on advocating for a voting system that allows people to select multiple candidates. In 2018, the party ran Huber for Colorado Secretary of State. It was recognized as a minor party in Colorado in 2019. For more:

Gary Swing, a 48-year-old cultural events promoter in Denver, was on Vermont’s presidential ballot as the Boiling Frog candidate for president (141 votes). Swing originally filed FEC paperwork to run for US Senate in Colorado as a member of that party. Boiling Frog is more of a ballot label for his independent U.S. Senate bid than a national political institution. That said, according to coverage of Swing’s candidacy in the Bennington Banner, Boiling Frogs are concerned about global warming and stovetop warming, amphibian rights, preservation of endangered species, water pollution, and conservation of wetlands and other natural habitats. It makes sense. For more:

I could go on, but you get the idea; a candidate for almost every conscience.

Still, lest we forget, also on Vermont’s presidential ballot you would have found... from Texas, Alyson Kennedy, representing the Socialist Workers Party (195 votes; 40 years ago Bernie Sanders was one of its electors), and Keith McCormic, leading the Bull Moose Party (126 votes); from Vermont, H. Brooke Paige, representing the Grumpy Old Patriots (1,164 votes) and an Independent, Christopher LaFontaine (856 votes).

Speaking of Independents, Vermonters also had the option of voting for Wyoming’s Kanye West (1,269 votes, who led the field with some assistance from Jared Kushner), Ohio’s Richard Duncan (213 votes), Michigan’s Kyle Kenley Kopitke (53 votes), Georgia’s Zachary Scalf (29 votes), or Puerto Rico’s Brock Pierce (100 votes), a candidate so independent he was listed as Unaffiliated. All totals are the unofficial ballot results from the Vermont Secretary of State.

Vermont Results

Vermont Digs Doug: With 265,088, Vermont’s top vote-getter turned out to be State Auditor Doug Hoffer. He even topped the 248,205 votes cast for incumbent governor Phil Scott, a moderate Republican (no, they’re not extinct). Of course, it helps not to have a Republican opponent. (What’s up with that?) Doug is a straight shooter and a Vermont public servant for more than 30 years. 

The remainder of the Auditor votes (over 48,000, or 15%) went to Progressive candidate Cris Ericson, which will allow the Progressive Party to maintain major party status. Ironically, Ericson — who won five(!) Progressive primary races — ran as a supporter of Donald Trump, who won only 30% of the Vermont vote. 

The most disappointing outcome was David Zuckerman’s 99,066 votes (27.46%) in the governor’s race. Like Hoffer, Zuckerman is also a member of Vermont’s Progressive Party. It was a heavy lift, and Vermonters don’t usually reject a governor after just one or two (two-year) terms, especially during a crisis. (Scott has had two terms.) But it also suggests that Vermont’s Democratic coalition may not hold together for a candidate with mixed party loyalties. The last time we saw an outcome like this was 2004, when former Progressive Mayor Peter Clavelle got 38% running as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Jim Douglas.