We Come in Peace

We Come in Peace
by Chet Hardin

The Green Party slate of candidates for this year's elections offers an alternative to pro-war Republicans — and Democrats

The Green Party of New York State nominated noted actor, writer and commentator Malachy McCourt to head up its Peace Slate Saturday at Channing Hall in Albany. The party is banking on McCourt's name recognition (his brother, Frank, wrote the very popular Angela's Ashes) and a strong antiwar stance to garner the 50,000 votes necessary to gain the ballot line.

[photo of Malachy McCourt by Robert A. Kelly www.pbase.com/rakelly]
In his bid for governor, McCourt is joined by lieutenant governor candidate Allison Duncan; attorney general candidate Rachel Treichler; comptroller candidate Julia Willebrand; and U.S. Senate candidate and longtime activist Howie Hawkins.

In accepting the party's nomination, the 75-year-old McCourt took his first foray into the political arena. "When I was on the radio, when I would make a comment on how things are run, people would say, 'Well, you should run for office.' And I would say that I am very good at evaluating what other people should do, but I'm not so good at doing it myself," he said. "I was finally persuaded, and here I am."

McCourt was born in Brooklyn but raised from the age of 3 in Limerick, Ireland. He moved back to the United States at age 20 and still carries a thick Irish brogue. And though he worked for years as a manual laborer, it is his long and successful career in the arts and entertainment world that has prepared him for his gubernatorial run. What McCourt lacks in political experience, he makes up for in charisma. "He is a very good storyteller," Hawkins said.

Though McCourt's own views jibe well with the nonviolent, environmentally conscious Green Party, he admits that he has been a party member for a very brief time.

"About 10 minutes," he joked, sort of. "I just joined. I find that I have a spiritual affinity with them. They are thinking the same things I have been thinking, but I have never paid that much attention. I was always one of those less-of-two-evils types. I always thought the Democrats would come around. But I found that they are moving in the wrong direction."

Bringing an end to current conflicts in the Middle East tops his agenda. "We need to get out these people who are using war as a means of solving our problems," he said.

His platform also includes the demilitarization of the National Guard. He would like to see it as a civilian and environmental corps, put to work cleaning up around the state. A living wage, legalized medical marijuana, guaranteed free public education, free subway use paid for by higher taxes on corporations, and higher wages for teachers round out his vision for New York.

One point in his platform is likely to make few friends. "I will declare sugar to be a controlled substance," he said. Pointing to the near- epidemic numbers of childhood diabetes, and other sugar-related conditions, like rotten teeth, he said that sugar "is ruining children's lives and health."

Running a campaign against the widely popular Democratic candidate Eliot Spitzer doesn't faze McCourt.

"The poor man," McCourt laughs, referring to Spitzer.

Hawkins is also facing down a popular Democrat in his bid for U.S. Senate. "We are getting a big response, especially in the Senate race, because Clinton has been so pro-war and so many people want to get out of that war," Hawkins said. "Expecting the Democrats to get us out of this war any more than the Republicans is like asking a crack addict to turn in their dealer."

If elected, Hawkins said he would work to "bring the troops home immediately, bring them home as fast as logistically possible." Hawkins is a seasoned political organizer. One of the co-founders of the Green Party in the United States, he was at the 1984 convention in St. Paul, Minn. He has run for statewide office two times before and pulled 5 percent of the vote in last year's hotly contested mayoral race in Syracuse.

"I am proposing that we get very serious about making the transition from fossil and nuclear fuels to the efficient use of renewable energy," Hawkins said. "I am calling for a global public works program to rewire the world with renewable energy in 10 years." This is achievable, he said, by switching subsidies from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and by yanking $300 billion a year from the Pentagon and investing the money instead in renewable energy systems.

"Instead of spreading resentment around the world, we would spread goodwill," he said, "and secure our country better than resource wars, which is what we are doing now."

Building this new infrastructure, Hawkins argued, will offer a solution to New York's economic woes. It will generate economic activity that will spill over into the private sector, providing jobs in construction and engineering that will increase the income of working people who will in turn spend money on their basic needs, creating business opportunities for the private sector.

At least, he said, he and the Green Party are championing a plan that offers a positive and constructive solution for New York state. "What is Sen. Clinton championing except for her own campaign coffer?" he asked.

If elected, McCourt said he and his party will bring a vision for the future that is less violent, less abusive and more socially and environmentally conscious. "Plus we will bring a bit of song, a bit of poetry, a bit of history."