The Greens' Man for Governor

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The gubernatorial campaign currently under way is attracting very little interest from the electorate?partly because of the uninspired campaigns by the two Democratic primary contenders, Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo; and partly because George Pataki's reelection is not seriously in question.

Fortunately, there is now an alternative candidate whose presence on the November ballot gives a choice to intelligent voters fed up with the petty squabbling of brain-dead politics-as-usual: Stanley Aronowitz.

Aronowitz is one of a vanishing breed: the working-class intellectual. The author or editor of 20 books?most recently, The Last Good Job in America (2001) and The Knowledge Factory (2000)?Aronowitz is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center. But he's also a former steelworker, raised in the Bronx, who was an organizer for both the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (now UNITE) and the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers; he spent years as a community organizer and as associate director for Mobilization for Youth, which was one of the largest youth work agencies in the country and a flower of New York's nonprofit service sector. He also served as director of Park East High School in East Harlem, the first postwar experimental public high in the city.

Aronowitz earned the nomination by appearing before more than half of the Green chapters throughout the state. He belies the stereotypical "granola culture" image of the Greens: an ebullient platform performer, he made a point of telling the Greens that he was a meat-eater and not a pacifist. ("There are just wars," he says. "We have to be able to intervene militarily to prevent genocide?and if I saw a reason to intervene, as in Bosnia or Somalia, I'd be for it.")

"Tax and Spend!" is Aronowitz's no-nonsense campaign slogan. "I joyfully embrace the Reaganite charge against the liberals," he says. "Nobody who doesn't attack the question of taxes can credibly address other issues. Pataki is making $2 billion in tax cuts over three years?$1 billion this year alone?but the Democrats are afraid to talk about taxes. Yet the people who still pay the bulk of state taxes are the so-called middle-income earners, while people making over $100,000 get tax breaks. Pataki gave a little relief to the poorest of the poor?who don't pay much in taxes anyway?but the tax rate at the top, which used to be 14.7 percent, is now down to 7.2, almost down to a flat tax. I want to restore the tax burden to those able to pay, and establish a graduated general-welfare tax over and above the existing formula." That, Aronowitz says, is the only way to avoid the cuts in services that Pataki has squeezed out of the budget, "especially with federal aid drying up because Bush has hijacked big bucks to pay for expanding his 'war on terrorism.'"

Aronowitz is for substantial increases in higher education; for a single-payer state health insurance system, "like those being proposed in Maine and Massachusetts," to cover the state's millions of uninsured ("And it would be cheaper here," he adds, "because we have three million union members whose premiums are prepaid"); for closing the Indian Point Nuclear Plant in Westchester ("The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it's among the worst of 103 nuclear plants in the country?and the cleanup and decommissioning could employ half of the 1500 workers in the plant"); and for complete repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, and the decriminalization of marijuana ("No one should go to jail simply for using drugs?and the Democrats are only talking about reducing sentences. The Democratic Assembly bill still doesn't go far enough, and it's blocked because the GOPers upstate don't want downstate judges to have flexibility in sentencing").

Aronowitz is also for complete repeal of the Taylor Law, which forbids strikes by public employees. He's against expanding the working week for workfare, for Medicaid financing of abortions. He is also unalterably against the death penalty (which Pataki favors and McCall opposes, while Cuomo?unlike his father, who was famous for opposing it?is deliberately ambiguous on the issue). And he has some interesting things to say about preserving New York's family farms to reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables free from chemicals and genetic tampering. (For more on Aronowitz's views, go to

As a registered Democrat, I'll cast my vote for McCall in the primary. Cuomo represents the opportunist "centrist," DLC wing of the Democratic Party, which his nomination would reinforce; and his campaign has been marked by subliminal race-baiting before Jewish audiences. Cuomo's tv commercial claiming "these houses were built by Andrew Cuomo" is an offensive joke?he built nothing, he just happened to be HUD secretary at the time.

But while McCall is marginally better on some issues than Cuomo, and the Democrats would be foolish to reject another person of color so soon after the racially tainted nomination of Mark Green, McCall is an ethically challenged mediocrity. Elected as the state's fiscal watchdog, until he decided to run for governor he long put the damper on criticism of Pataki in order to grab for his wife a cushy post as head of the Fashion Institute of Technology. And McCall has been tone-deaf to the exigencies of public morality as state comptroller, ladling out business to those who gave him campaign cash (like the scandal-plagued Global Crossing conglomerate). At the same time, he's been surprisingly less than forthcoming with business for minority-run concerns (which is one reason why some prominent black business leaders are supporting Cuomo).

Since Pataki will win no matter whom the Democrats nominate, Aronowitz cannot be accused of being a "spoiler." If Aronowitz gathers at least 50,000 votes, it will preserve the Green Party's line on the ballot as an alternative to the two-party duopoly, an option our ailing, money-dominated democracy badly needs. (The Greens are already playing a useful role in local government?for example in Ithaca, formerly a one-party town, where Greens have made a showing in the City Council.)

Aronowitz is smart, articulate and running the kind of truth-speaking campaign the two Democrats are incapable of, helping to bring new voters into the political process. He'll get my vote in November. You should consider giving him yours.

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