03 November 2010

Congratulations to Howie Hawkins

Third place means nothing in an American election, and 1% of the vote usually means even less, but as of 11:18 this morning, with most of New York's districts having reported, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins has accumulated 56,633 votes. To be more exact, that's 1.38% of the votes counted so far, but as long as it's more than 50,000, Hawkins has earned the Green Party an automatic line on the state ballot until the next gubernatorial election. In 2014 the Greens will not have to run obstacle course of petition collection and will be free to concentrate such resources as they'll have on seeking votes rather than signatures. Objectively speaking, the result is still shamefully low and reflects poorly on New Yorkers' capacity for independent political thought, but by Empire State standards Hawkins's performance is still a victory and ought to be celebrated as such.

Meanwhile, it's still uncertain whether Warren Redlich will bring the Libertarian Party across the same finish line. He had 44,537 votes at the last count, good enough for fourth place and 1.09% of the total. Redlich may have suffered from a split libertarian vote. Assuming that the 22,705 people known so far to have voted for Anti-Prohibition candidate Kristin Davis are libertarians by orientation rather than protest or joke voters, the overall libertarian constituency in New York appears to outnumber the independent progressives who voted Green. Had libertarians united behind one candidate, they would have earned an automatic line easily, but it may be characteristic of the species to fall short of unity in political action.

Approximately 4.5% of New York voters opted for independent gubernatorial candidates this year, including 39,740 votes counted so far for Rent is 2 Damn High candidate James McMillan and 20,707 votes for Freedom Party candidate Charles Barron. The independent constituency is as ideologically diverse, at least, as the Bipolarchy electorate that favored Democrat Andrew Cuomo over Republican Carl Paladino. No candidate or cause can hope to unite all 184,322 (and counting) independents. But if there's potential strength in these numbers, it will consist of their capacity to inspire or encourage more New Yorkers to emulate them. The more people vote independently, the less weird or contemptible independent voting will seem to everyone else. What's the threshold number in this case? The state can't set an arbitrary standard here, and we can't identify the objective magic number that will mark a tipping point until we actually pass it. All independents can do is stay independent and set examples for everyone else.

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