The Greens’ Man for Governor

Written by Doug Ireland on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

The gubernatorial
campaign currently under way is attracting very little interest from the electorate–partly
because of the uninspired campaigns by the two Democratic primary contenders,
Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo; and partly because George Pataki’s reelection
is not seriously in question.

there is now an alternative candidate whose presence on the November ballot
gives a choice to intelligent voters fed up with the petty squabbling of brain-dead
politics-as-usual: Stanley Aronowitz.

is one of a vanishing breed: the working-class intellectual. The author or editor
of 20 books–most recently, The Last Good Job in America (2001) and
The Knowledge Factory (2000)–Aronowitz is Distinguished Professor
of Sociology and Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center. But he’s
also a former steelworker, raised in the Bronx, who was an organizer for both
the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (now UNITE) and the Oil, Chemical & Atomic
Workers; he spent years as a community organizer and as associate director for
Mobilization for Youth, which was one of the largest youth work agencies in
the country and a flower of New York’s nonprofit service sector. He also
served as director of Park East High School in East Harlem, the first postwar
experimental public high in the city.

earned the nomination by appearing before more than half of the Green chapters
throughout the state. He belies the stereotypical "granola culture"
image of the Greens: an ebullient platform performer, he made a point of telling
the Greens that he was a meat-eater and not a pacifist. ("There are
just wars," he says. "We have to be able to intervene militarily to
prevent genocide–and if I saw a reason to intervene, as in Bosnia or Somalia,
I’d be for it.")

and Spend!" is Aronowitz’s no-nonsense campaign slogan. "I joyfully
embrace the Reaganite charge against the liberals," he says. "Nobody
who doesn’t attack the question of taxes can credibly address other issues.
Pataki is making $2 billion in tax cuts over three years–$1 billion
this year alone–but the Democrats are afraid to talk about taxes. Yet the
people who still pay the bulk of state taxes are the so-called middle-income
earners, while people making over $100,000 get tax breaks. Pataki gave a little
relief to the poorest of the poor–who don’t pay much in taxes anyway–but
the tax rate at the top, which used to be 14.7 percent, is now down to 7.2,
almost down to a flat tax. I want to restore the tax burden to those able to
pay, and establish a graduated general-welfare tax over and above the existing
formula." That, Aronowitz says, is the only way to avoid the cuts in services
that Pataki has squeezed out of the budget, "especially with federal aid
drying up because Bush has hijacked big bucks to pay for expanding his ‘war
on terrorism.’"

is for substantial increases in higher education; for a single-payer state health
insurance system, "like those being proposed in Maine and Massachusetts,"
to cover the state’s millions of uninsured ("And it would be cheaper
here," he adds, "because we have three million union members whose
premiums are prepaid"); for closing the Indian Point Nuclear Plant in Westchester
("The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it’s among the worst
of 103 nuclear plants in the country–and the cleanup and decommissioning
could employ half of the 1500 workers in the plant"); and for complete
repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, and the decriminalization of marijuana
("No one should go to jail simply for using drugs–and the Democrats
are only talking about reducing sentences. The Democratic Assembly bill still
doesn’t go far enough, and it’s blocked because the GOPers upstate
don’t want downstate judges to have flexibility in sentencing").

is also for complete repeal of the Taylor Law, which forbids strikes by public
employees. He’s against expanding the working week for workfare, for Medicaid
financing of abortions. He is also unalterably against the death penalty (which
Pataki favors and McCall opposes, while Cuomo–unlike his father, who was
famous for opposing it–is deliberately ambiguous on the issue). And he
has some interesting things to say about preserving New York’s family farms
to reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables free from chemicals and genetic
tampering. (For more on Aronowitz’s views, go to

As a registered
Democrat, I’ll cast my vote for McCall in the primary. Cuomo represents
the opportunist "centrist," DLC wing of the Democratic Party, which
his nomination would reinforce; and his campaign has been marked by subliminal
race-baiting before Jewish audiences. Cuomo’s tv commercial claiming "these
houses were built by Andrew Cuomo" is an offensive joke–he built nothing,
he just happened to be HUD secretary at the time.

But while
McCall is marginally better on some issues than Cuomo, and the Democrats would
be foolish to reject another person of color so soon after the racially tainted
nomination of Mark Green, McCall is an ethically challenged mediocrity. Elected
as the state’s fiscal watchdog, until he decided to run for governor he
long put the damper on criticism of Pataki in order to grab for his wife a cushy
post as head of the Fashion Institute of Technology. And McCall has been tone-deaf
to the exigencies of public morality as state comptroller, ladling out business
to those who gave him campaign cash (like the scandal-plagued Global Crossing
conglomerate). At the same time, he’s been surprisingly less than forthcoming
with business for minority-run concerns (which is one reason why some prominent
black business leaders are supporting Cuomo).

Since Pataki
will win no matter whom the Democrats nominate, Aronowitz cannot be accused
of being a "spoiler." If Aronowitz gathers at least 50,000 votes,
it will preserve the Green Party’s line on the ballot as an alternative
to the two-party duopoly, an option our ailing, money-dominated democracy badly
needs. (The Greens are already playing a useful role in local government–for
example in Ithaca, formerly a one-party town, where Greens have made a showing
in the City Council.)

is smart, articulate and running the kind of truth-speaking campaign the two
Democrats are incapable of, helping to bring new voters into the political process.
He’ll get my vote in November. You should consider giving him yours.