There is a democracy crisis in the United States. We all know it.
We can see how the power of money rules both of the dominant political parties and prevents the urgent changes we need.
I recently faced that democracy crisis in a personal way.
I am running for the US Senate as a Green Party candidate in Maryland. I had been invited to participate in a forum at Goucher College with the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate. It was sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council.
They actually invited me twice because they rescheduled and wanted to make sure I was available on the new date, March 28.
I appreciated them treating me as an equal and looked forward in particular to debating the two Democrats to highlight the differences between their positions and the Green Party’s views.
But, two weeks before the debate I was told I was no longer invited.
Third Party Shut Out
The Baltimore Jewish Council’s initial claim was they had too many candidates attending. In reality there would only have been three Republicans, two Democrats and me – certainly not too many.
This false claim was followed by a series of equally false claims, all of which I rebutted, but then they essentially said – we are not inviting you because we can.
(Through a spokesperson, BJC executive director Art Abramson called Flowers’ assertions “half-truths and mistruths.” See below for their full response.)
Greens constantly face these kinds of barriers that prevent them from competing with the two major parties. We have a deeply entrenched two-party system and non-profits like the Baltimore Jewish Council are often tied to those parties. The media barely reports our existence and we are excluded from debates and public forums.
Every few years we have to collect tens of thousands of signatures to continue to have ballot access, yet we are not included in the state-funded primary. Under Maryland law, Green Party candidates are not permitted to appear on the ballot printed up by the state and distributed to voters during the state-funded primary election.
This is part of the democracy crisis – when a party that does not represent the interests of the wealthy is left out, the public debate is stifled. And voters are the biggest losers when alternative voices are left out.
Issues I’d Have Raised
If I had been permitted to participate in the debate, here are some of the essential issues I would have put forward that are not being discussed:
• Stopping construction of Dominion’s fracked gas terminal at Cove Point. It puts thousands of lives at risk and worsens the climate crisis by driving more fracking in the mid-Atlantic. My opponents have been silent. I co-founded We Are Cove Point with residents and supporters.
• Transforming trade rigged by corporations to trade that protects people and the planet. My opponents have meekly said they oppose the TransPacific Partnership while I have helped to lead a five-year campaign that has made the TPP politically toxic.
• The need for public banks to stop Wall Street from stealing necessary dollars from our cities and states. Public banks can finance infrastructure projects and provide capital for worker-owned cooperatives and small businesses to help build wealth that is rooted in communities.
• Holding Wall Street executives accountable and ending their culture of fraud. I was the first candidate to endorse the Bank Whistleblowers United plan that would bring the rule of law to Wall Street and break up the big banks, under existing law.
• Ending poverty by bringing back a Guaranteed Basic Income. It’s a concept that economists from Milton Friedman to John Kenneth Galbraith supported and that politicians from Richard Nixon to George McGovern advocated for. With poverty rising and robotics, artificial intelligence and globalization destroying jobs, it’s needed now more than ever.
• Advocating for an Apollo Project to transform the country to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy by 2030 Only something this sweeping will truly confront the threat of climate change. My opponents just advocate for market solutions, counting on Wall Street to face up to climate change.
• Transforming policing and drug policies to end violence and mass incarceration by decriminalizing drugs and regulating their sale. In places that have done this there have been a significant reduction in crime and fewer arrests, health problems and deaths.
Escorted off the Stage
Our country faces numerous crises – and in the current political environment, citizens are demanding a broader discussion of them.
So, when I was dis-invited I decided I had to speak out.
I went to the event to insist on being included. When they called for the candidates to come forward, I went on the stage and introduced myself. They called security and as I was being removed, the crowd of several hundred started chanting “Let her speak.”
It was not until 24 hours later that I saw what happened after I was out of the building. The chanting continued for a lengthy time, people shouted from the audience for real democracy and open debates. It lifted my spirits to see that so many also saw the democracy crisis and were tired of rigged elections for two money-dominated parties. It showed that people are no longer willing to put up with it and it gave me hope that a real democracy movement is closer than we realize.
The experience of running as a candidate outside the two wealth-dominated parties is opening my eyes even further to the corruption of our political system. My candidacy is expanding to one that must now also talk about the crisis of democracy, which underlies the many other crises we face.
I will continue to expose our current mirage democracy and demand a seat at the political table.
Baltimore Jewish Council response by Sarah Mersky, director of government relations:
“Dr. Flowers contacted the BJC in early January asking to be included in our candidates’ forum, which was scheduled at the time for late February. The BJC sent her a formal invitation via email. This was before the filing deadline so we did not know whether she would have a primary opponent.
“The date of the forum was changed to March in late January. We let her know the change in date. Again, this was before the filing deadline. We contacted her campaign manager in early March via phone but did not get a call back. We later emailed her to let her know that because she did not have a primary opponent that she could not participate in the forum.
“We informed her that if we have a general election forum that she would be invited to speak.”
Real News Network coverage of the incident: