The Overlooked Candidates – Part Two of a Three Part Interview Series on Third Party Candidates
Alyson Kennedy is an American political activist and a ranking member of the Socialist Workers Party. She was the party’s candidate for vice president in the 2008 presidential election. On February 12th, 2016, Kennedy was announced as the nominee for president of the United States on the Socialist Workers Party ticket with running mate Osborne Hart.
1. What is your campaign's central message?
Well, the central message is that the working people need to break with all of the capitalist politicians and parties. We need to rely on our own strength and organization. The attacks on our living and working conditions are decreasing. More than ever we need to build stronger unions. We need more union power. We need to organize more unions. Unions that really fight, that is what we need. Unions that are completely independent from especially the Democratic Party.
2. Can you give a little background on yourself?
I grew up in Indiana. That’s where I went to high school and when I was in high school, I was deeply impacted by the civil rights struggle going on and the ongoing Vietnam War. Through those things, I began to question what was going on in our country. Being there for these anti-war and civil rights movements, I began to see how the country really works. There’s a working class and a ruler class. The working class has the opportunity to make change. It was interesting to see the change that could be made.
Anyway, I was teaching in Louisville and I became very active in the movement to desegregate the schools. In 1975, I joined the Socialist Workers Party in Cleveland, Ohio actually. I moved to Cleveland in 1975 and have been very active ever since. By 1981, I was moved out of Cleveland and I became a coal miner and joined the coal worker’s union. It was a time when a lot of women were getting hired in the coal mines for really the first time ever and I participated in many strikes to better the working conditions for coal mines and coal mine workers. That’s the kind of party this is, it isn’t a party that talks, it is a party that takes action. Working class action.Moving to present day, I have recently worked at Wal Mart and joined the fight for a 15 dollar minimum wage. I’ve been very active in that movement in the past few years and I think we are finally making some progress in the fight.
3. Can you give readers some of the history of your party?
The SWP was formed in 1938. It was formed by workers that were part of the struggles of the working class in the 20s and 30s. These workers were former members of the Communist Party USA and were expelled from the party for supporting Leon Trotsky over Joseph Stalin. The roots of our party go back to the Russian Revolution actually. Our history is one that is rooted in labor movements over the past couple of decades.
4. What is your opinion on the job President Obama has done?
I think that President Obama, when you think about what he has done, he has been doing a good job at working the policies of the wealthy billionaire class. When he was running for office, for example, he proposed to close Guantanamo. He has not done that. The prison is still not going to be closed and even if his plan were to go through they are just going to move the prisoners into the United States. Another example [of President Obama working the policies of the wealthy billionaire class] is he keeps preaching this economic recovery. There are actually growing signs that there are going to be another downturn. This combined with what is going on in the Middle East create a very serious problem in the world. What he has done in Syria is a disaster in my opinion. We have seen a five year civil war there. We have a situation where over half of the population of Syria is either a refugee or displaced. These examples are very serious situations that need to be addressed.
5. Do you think President Obama lived up to his promises enough?
Not at all.
6. Why do you think more and more Americans are starting to beyond the two ruling parties?
The workers are angry. It’s as simple as that.
7. What do you think about the Bernie Sanders campaign and do you think it's fair when people call him a "socialist"?
I don’t think Bernie Sanders is a socialist, not in the sense of what our party stands for at least. Sanders isn’t a working class revolutionary socialist like we are. I went to a Sanders rally recently in Chicago and he talked of a rigged economy and a broken campaign finance system. I don’t think the economy is rigged, it is just how capitalism works. You just can’t make a few changes and think everything will be alright. We need big change and the only solution is to make a revolution and completely change things.
8. Can you give voters a few reasons to start looking at third party candidates?
I think because there are no solutions beyond the two parties, the capitalist party setup. We almost saw it in this election where a third party emerged in Michael Bloomberg. If he decided to run, it would have just been another capitalist running. That’s not what we need. What we need is independent political action and to look away from the capitalist Democrats and the capitalist Republicans.
9. Do you believe a third party will eventually emerge and really challenge the two-party establishment? If so, how long do you think it will be until we see that happen?
I do. I really do. I think one of the things the SWP is talking about is the need to organize a labor party. We don’t have a working class party in this country, we need that very much. It wouldn’t be a party for people to get elected to office it would be a party to mobilize and fight for worker’s rights. I think we are starting to see it happening now. We are seeing the fight against police brutality and the fight for a higher minimum wage. It is hard to put a time frame on it, but I think it will come and it is only a matter of time
before it does come.
10. What do you think the best case scenario for the 2016 election cycle is?
I don’t think there is a best case necessarily, it’s pick your poison. But I think voters should vote for the SWP. We don’t have this illusion that we will win but we think that we can get something accomplished in terms of the fight for worker’s rights. That’s my best case scenario.
11. Worst case scenario?
I think the worst case scenario is getting another president like we have every four years that carries out the wishes of the very wealthy. I think that is what we are going to be stuck with and it is not the answer.
12. Can you give your perspective on the rise and fall of Jeb Bush? Do you think it is a telling sign of what politics in America is becoming?
I think it is certainly a telling sign of what is happening, yes. I think he couldn’t get any traction because he was associated with his father and his brother. His brother has the Iraq War tied to him and Jeb even defended that. The people are tired of war. That’s why he failed to make up any ground.
13. What would your take on another Clinton presidency be?
I think Clinton would carry out Obama’s legacy and I think there won’t be any fundamental difference. She is going to carry out the policies of the wealthy.
14. Best case scenario for you? Realistically.
The best case scenario for me would to be on as many picket lines and at as many protests with working people as possible. That’s going to make it a good campaign in my opinion. That is a critical thing for working people today I believe.
15. What could be done to provide third party candidates with more ballot access and exposure?
The SWP is probably going to be on the ballot in seven states in the US. We’d be on the ballot in every state if the election laws weren’t rigged against parties like the SWP. In Illinois, for example, you need to collect 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot. But you need to get double that in reality because they scrutinize and throw out a lot of signatures. They make it almost impossible to get on the ballot in some instances. Another way the system is rigged against us is how the media is used. For example, these debates! Are we part of these debates? No! They exclude us from being part of mainstream politics. The media refuses to cover our campaign in any serious way.
16. What do you hope to achieve with your campaign?
What we hope to achieve is to use this election to continue educating working people as to the need to break from the two party system and to organize struggles independently of these parties and to organize a revolutionary movement in this country.
17. Describe Donald Trump in three words.
Capitalist billionaire politician.