Green Party Presidential Candidate Says Progressives Are Going Too Easy on Biden

The Green Party's presidential nominee, Howie Hawkins, is calling on progressive voters not to "settle" for Democratic rival Joe Biden's platform just to see President Donald Trump defeated in the upcoming 2020 election.

Speaking with Newsweek on Thursday, Hawkins said that while Biden might be the most likely candidate on the left to defeat Trump, that does not mean that progressives should become complacent when it comes to demanding action on issues like combating climate change and addressing racial injustice.

"Trump, I want him out of there more than anybody, but if you just settle for Biden, you're not going to get any of the things you wanted as a progressive," Hawkins said.

"Unfortunately," he continued, "I think progressives are settling for Biden, a lot of them are, and they're undermining their own case. They have made no demands on him."

After Biden's campaign introduced a series of policy recommendations crafted by its joint task force with supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ended his presidential bid in April, before the Democratic National Committee, some progressives were disappointed to see much of the major upheaval promised in Sanders' campaign left out.

Among the key items left out was the ambitious Green New Deal package aimed at addressing climate change and economic inequality.

Still, supporters of the deal have embraced much of Biden's plan as maintaining key aspects of the package. Meanwhile, his plan has been progressive enough for Trump to declare it "extreme" after the Democrat revealed his plans to spend $2 trillion over two years to promote the use of clean energy across sectors in a bid to create economic opportunities and tackle climate change.

Speaking in July from the Rose Garden, the president said he believed Biden's agenda was "the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history."

"I think it's worse than actually Bernie's platform," the president said, referring to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

For Hawkins, however, Biden's plans to tackle climate change do not go far enough.

"Trump says that climate change is a hoax, but Biden acts like climate change is a hoax," Hawkins said. "I wonder if he really understands the issue," he mused.

The Green Party candidate said he was further disappointed by Biden's refusal to back Medicare for All, the universal health care legislation promoted by Sanders.

"Medicare for All... A green new deal... Taxing the rich to fund social programs...Biden is for none of these," he said.

If progressives readily accept that, he said, "they are setting themselves up to have no leverage with Biden if he becomes president."

Speaking on his own campaign, Hawkins said that he was frustrated by the notion that would-be Green Party supporters might cast their ballots for Biden over fears of splitting up the vote in the 2020 election.

Some Democrats have long accused Hawkins' predecessor Jill Stein of playing a part in former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's 2016 election loss.

If voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania had voted for Clinton instead of Stein, the Democratic candidate might have gone on to be president.

However, as Hawkins noted, there is little evidence to suggest that Stein's dropping out of the race would have secured the former secretary of state's victory.

The Green Party candidate said he believes fears over splitting up the vote are to blame for why his campaign has not attracted as much attention from the media or voters in the lead-up to the election.

"We've been pretty much blanked out of the media," he said. "We're not part of the conversation."

"I'm comparing Jill Stein's coverage to my coverage and it's just not comparable," Hawkins said. "I've got nothing, pretty much nothing, certainly from cable, the big three cable networks. If you're not covering people, they don't know you're out there. It's a chicken and egg thing."

He also took aim at the suggestion that voting for the Green Party might equate to helping Trump, asserting: "People need to understand that a vote for the Greens is a vote against Trump. There's a misunderstanding on that...It's not in Trump's column, it's in the Green column."

Hawkins further said that he was disappointed to media focus around combating climate change quiet down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"COVID is important, but so is the climate," Hawkins said. "The media seems to be able to only focus on one or two things at a time."

Still, he said he believes protecting the environment is still important to voters.

"In the general public mind, it's in the back of their minds. It's a big worry that's really changed in this country," he said. "I think that's sentiment is still there."

Newsweek has contacted Biden's campaign for comment.

Howie Hawkins
Then-Green Party nominee for governor, Howie Hawkins speaks onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Concert at Central Park, Great Lawn on September 29, 2018 in New York City. Hawkins is now the Green Party's candidate for president. Michael Kovac/FilmMagic/Getty