BY JEREMY JONES
A candidate on a United States presidential ticket was in McLeod County this past weekend, but many readers may not recognize his name.
Osborne Hart is the vice-presidential candidate for the Socialist Workers Party, running alongside the party’s presidential candidate, Alyson Kennedy. While chatting with a Leader reporter in downtown Glencoe Sunday afternoon, Hart, an experienced civil rights activist and union supporter, called for an end to what he described as a “slow, grinding depression.”
“Working class people create the wealth in society, but we have no control over it,” Hart said.
And he doesn’t believe his party is the only group unhappy with the direction of America. He pointed to the popularity of Bernie Sanders and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump as signs that the working class is looking for options outside of party establishment candidates. But Hart was critical of Trump, and of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, he said, offers to lead America down the wrong path with promises of building on President Barack Obama’s legacy.
“He’s going to be the first two-term president in U.S. history to be in war his whole term,” Hart said. “Just last week he was talking about bombing Libya. War is expanding … Clinton, as a senator and secretary of state, has rubber stamped all war measures.”
Like Clinton, Hart said, Trump only has answers for the upper class, and not working Americans.
“He says he will make America great again,” he said. “I don’t know what he is talking about. The period he is talking about had Jim Crow, had the draft … there was a whole section of working people whose wages were determined by the color of their skin.”
He criticized capitalism for imbalances as well.
“It is based on the exploitation of the majority,” he said, adding that new technologies, medicines and access to food and health care should be used to improve life for everyone.
“But everything has been turned into a commodity for profit … instead of addressing human needs,” Hart said. “Public education has been battered and reduced, it has become a commodity.”
Hart, 63, has been a lifelong fighter for black rights, and has joined struggles against police brutality and segregation. He protested the Vietnam War, joined the defense of United Steelworkers, and has spoken in defense of the Cuban Revolution. He ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 2015, and has worked as a meatpacker, steelworker, on railroads and in warehouses and Walmart.
What they would do differentlyHart calls for a “massive public works program.” He said such a project should be tackled by giving jobs to Americans at union wages, and include the construction of modern roads, schools, hospitals and improved internet availability.
He also wants to see universal health care “from the cradle to the grave.”
But how would such massive undertakings be paid for?
“There is plenty of wealth out there,” Hart said. “It needs to be used for the people who make it.”
Kennedy and Hart call for all U.S. troops to return home.
“Intervention creates vacuums,” Hart said, adding the voids are filled by terrorist groups that harm the working people in those countries.
One federal issue that has been of keen interest to many McLeod County residents these past few years is the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of “waters of the United States.” The language is included in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which seeks to regulate water use and maintain clean water. A recent ruling from the EPA opens up more county ditches to federal jurisdiction, depending on the interpretation.
Hart compared the burden federal jurisdiction of ditches placed on farmers to limits placed on ranchers with free-range grazing livestock.
“In terms of the environment, farmers and ranchers are one of the most conscious people,” he said. “They are conscientious about the environment, but they face these massive regulations.”
Hart called the working class the steward of the land and environment, and said that working people can solve environmental problems when allowed to.
“What did government regulation do for people in Flint (Michigan)?” he asked.
Hart also called for a minimum wage that will keep pace with inflation. He said that not only have wages fallen behind inflation, but they have fallen behind the increased productivity of American workers, and the profits they are creating.
Warm receptionHart said that McLeod County is not the first conservative-leaning county where he has had a warm reception. Residents in Glencoe and Hutchinson are among those who signed a petition that placed Kennedy and Hart on the Minnesota ballot for U.S. president this November, along with seven other states. It is that support that brought Hart for a visit here and elsewhere in Minnesota, where he spent a few days knocking on doors and chatting with locals on the street.
“What we’ve found (is) … working people are open to looking at the world differently,” Hart said.
Hart acknowledged the popularity of Sanders, who described himself as a socialist Democrat during his campaign. He said Sanders brought to the electoral process a message of the people demanding more from the 1 percent of Americans who hold the majority of wealth. But Hart said a key difference separates Sanders from the Socialist Workers Party.
“He thought capitalism could be reformed,” Hart said. He said his party wants to move the country away from capitalism. Capitalism, he said, is “in an irreversible crisis.”
Despite campaigning, Hart said the change he seeks won’t happen on Election Day.
“Pulling the lever doesn’t do it,” he said. “That’s why we campaign year round.”
The party actively seeks to aid protesters and unions wherever possible. Social change, and fair labor practices are both important causes to Hart and Kennedy.
Revolutions, Hart said, require the mobilization of the working class. He cited civil rights movements to end black segregation and to grant women the right to vote as movements that required massive turnout and demonstration from Americans when there wasn’t a poll. He also pointed to the right to vote for 18-year-old Americans as the result of public pressure. At the time, young soldiers were dying in Vietnam without the right to vote.
Even though the ticket is not on the ballot in all states, Hart still encouraged voters to consider his party on Election Day if they are not satisfied with the other candidates, or are considering voting for one they dislike simply to oppose another they dislike more.
“With lesser evil politics, you always get evil,” he said. “We say vote for us whether we are on the ballot or not, that will be a demonstration.”
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