Just weeks after the Republication Presidential Primary debates came to a halt, Presidential hopefuls of a different stripe – primarily progressives - debated here in Los Angeles. Candidates came together on April 19, 21 and 22 offering substantive alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans.
Also different from the Republican debates was the absence of any mainstream press. “These are events the mainstream media doesn’t cover,” said Peace and Freedom L.A. County Chair Frank Boeheim in his welcoming remarks at Sunday’s forum. “We’re here resisting the dominant agenda of outsourcing jobs, foreclosing homes and privatizing education.”
Sunday’s debate was sponsored by the Peace and Freedom Party, with candidates running for the Party’s Presidential nomination. They were Stewart Alexander (Socialist Party USA), Rocky Anderson (Justice Party), Stephen Durham (Freedom Socialist Party) and Peta Lindsay (Party of Socialism and Liberation). Participants answered questions first from the moderator, author and journalist John Gabree, then from the audience. Approximately 50-60 people attended at the Westside Peace Center in Culver City.
Candidates shared their views on immigration, healthcare, education, foreign policy, the environment, the economy and the Occupy Movement. On most issues they weren’t far apart. All opposed corporate control of politics. They supported Occupy Wall St., redress for income inequality, job creation, healthcare for all, immediate end to imperialist wars, universal, free quality education, and immigration reform.
None expected to become President. Lindsay, 28, isn’t even old enough, and the Secretary of State will not put her name on the ballot. Instead, they hope their campaigns will help build and strengthen a mass movement toward real social, political and economic change.
The most significant difference surfaced early on. Gabree noted that while Alexander, Durham and Lindsay are all socialists, Anderson is not. He asked Anderson to comment. “We’re all for the same thing,” Anderson responded. “But I’m not for centralized state control of major parts of the economy. That can lead to a different kind of power abuse. What we need,” he continued, “is a true social democracy.”
Anderson, Mayor of Salt Lake City from 2000-2008, was the only candidate with previous electoral office experience. He recently dissociated himself from the Democratic Party, especially critical of the Party’s support of the National Defense Authorization Act. This Act gives the military power to indefinitely detain US citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trial. He was emphatic: “Our Constitution is being eviscerated. We need a return to the rule of law.”
A few sparks eventually flew. Where Alexander, Durham and Lindsay wanted a moratorium on all foreclosures, Anderson disagreed. Some, he held, are legitimate. “This isn’t Candyland,” he asserted. “There were some fraudulent borrowers.” Anderson also criticized the others for wanting to abolish cap and trade environmental regulations. Alexander, Durham and Lindsay said they didn't go far enough. “Now we’re having a real debate,” Anderson responded. “Things are so bad with the environment you have to act quickly. You can’t wait for the overthrow of Capitalism to start saving the environment.”
Afterwards, long-time Peace and Freedom Party member Israel Feuer, 83, of Palms, commented that all the candidates sounded sincere and well meaning. Rocky Anderson, though, was his choice. “Rocky has the most realistic ideas,” Feuer said. “Speaking loudly and using rhetoric doesn’t mean you’re right.” Feuer also stressed the importance of the progressive candidates working together to impact change.
On Thursday, April 19, KPFK’s Ian Masters hosted a debate at the UCLA Hammer Forum with Rocky Anderson and Buddy Roemer, former Governor of Louisiana. Roemer is running as an Independent in America’s Elect (on-line) primary.
Saturday’s event, hosted by the Maggie Phair Institute, was held at the Echo Park United Methodist Church. Rocky Anderson, Peta Lindsay, Stephen Durham, Roseanne Barr (Green Party), Dr. Kent Mesplay (Green Party ) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party ) debated. Excerpts are available on YouTube courtesy of Jeff 4 Justice at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esV8dbTTdsg . According to Jeff in his YouTube site comments, the church was full of people.
In the absence of mainstream reporting, the internet is currently the best source for information about alternative candidates and parties. The Green, Libertarian, American Independent, and Peace and Freedom Parties all have candidates on the June ballot. Unlike other races, voting in a Presidential Primary still requires party registration. In his remarks Bonheim also urged the audience to vote on June 5th and reminded them the deadline to register, or re-register, is May 21st.
Following are the websites for the candidates who participated in the Los Angeles area debates:
Stewart Alexander – www.stewartalexanderforpresident2012.org/
Rocky Anderson – www.voterocky.org
Roseanne Barr – www.roseanneforpresident.com
Stephen Durham – www.votesocialism.com
Peta Lindsay – www.pslweb.org/votepsl/2012/
Kent Mesplay – www.mesplay.org
Buddy Roemer – www.buddyroemer.com
Jill Stein- www.jillstein.org
Americans Elect 2012 - www.americanselect.org (First National On-line Primary)