Running for President as a Third Party candidate is a tough gig. Out on the campaign trail we are always outspent by the Democrats and Republicans, opposed in court by their fancy lawyers and harassed by their, mostly paid, political representatives. Worst of all, both of these corporate funded parties rely on fundamentally undemocratic ballot access laws to ensure their own dominance. I take this for granted - the Democrats and Republicans will resort to any dirty trick necessary to fend off a challenge from Third Party candidates. The big surprise of this election season is that another Third Party, the Illinois Green Party, not the Democrats and Republicans are the ones resorting to dirty tricks.
A little over a month ago, my campaign filed the paperwork to be listed on the ballot as a Presidential candidate. Ballot access should be a guaranteed right for all candidates, but restrictions like petition gathering and fees prevent small parties from being listed. Simply put, if you don't have deep pockets or a groundswell of support, you will not appear on the ballot. Illinois is one such state. They require 25,000 signed petitions to be "certified" as a candidate.
The way Third Party candidates deal with these restrictions is to file our paperwork even if we collected fewer petitions than the requirement. We utilize the lessons of the Civil Rights movement that teaches us to refuse to comply with immoral laws. Normally a Democrat or Republican will swoop in, challenge the petitions and throw us off the ballot. However, if they don't challenge them, everyone who filed gets listed - democracy is served in the process because voters are presented a diverse set of choices.
This year in Illinois, the Democrats and Republicans were asleep at the wheel. Even though we in the Socialist Party USA filed paperwork with one signature, they didn't challenge our application. They didn't have to. The Illinois Green Party did the work for them. Or, more correctly, Rob Sherman the Chair of the Cook County Green Party is the person who filed the challenge to get us thrown off the ballot. In doing so, he violated the golden rule of Third Party politics - namely that we don't do the dirty work for the two corporate parties.
Despite several protests from Third Party advocates, including many Green Party members, Sherman refused to remove his challenge. He told our campaign that he would only do so if Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President and Howie Hawkins, the person standing in as the VP candidate, told him to do so. They did via email letters in which they advocated for open Ballot Access laws. Yet despite this pressure, Sherman has not yielded. He has chosen to go back on his word and maintain a petty privilege that serves only the interests of the Democrats and Republicans.
Perhaps Rob Sherman is confused as to why I am running this campaign. I write this, in part, to let him know. I am running because I believe in democracy and because I believe that democracy means choice. This is not just a throwaway line.
As an African-American candidate for President I am running to do justice to all the other African-American candidates who tried to run for elected office, but were denied their right to do so. Being enslaved denied us our rights. The limited freedoms of the Post-Reconstruction kept us from and threw us out of elected office. And Jim Crow laws employed a particular viciousness to deny our right to vote and to run for office.
My question to Rob Sherman is - Do you want to support this legacy of electoral fraud and ballot access restriction or do you support free choice?
Besides the candidates that Rob Sherman will throw off the ballot, the innocent victim in all of this is Jill Stein. Jill seems like a sincere and honest person who does an excellent job at offering the Green Party vision of change. I look forward to working closely with her on issues related to access to the ballot and to the Presidential debates. However, blocking the Socialist Party and other parties in Illinois will be a black eye for her campaign. Green Party claims to support open electoral laws will be permanently suspect unless Sherman removes his challenge.
In closing, I would like to say that I hope to spend my time fighting the two corporate parties. I want to offer the American people a vision of democratic socialism that emboldens them to take action - action beyond just a vote in November. I do not want to spend any amount of time fending off attacks from other Third Parties. It is a sad day when Socialists and Greens cannot agree that each should be listed side by side on the ballot. Let's hope that Sherman and the Illinois Greens come to their senses and support the idea of open access to the ballot. My belief in this notion has not wavered.