On the campaign trail in the USA, May 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

The following is the first edition of a monthly series chronicling the 2020 United States presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month's biggest stories.

This month's spotlight on the campaign trail includes interviews with the vice presidential nominees of the Constitution and Libertarian parties as well as the chosen running mate of the leading Green Party presidential candidate.

Summary

At the beginning of May, with the Coronavirus Pandemic ongoing and stay-at-home orders easing in some states, presumptive US Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden led incumbent US President Donald Trump of the Republican Party in the RealClearPolitics average of head-to-head opinion polls, 47.4 percent to 42.1 percent. In an April 30 – May 4 Monmouth poll with then-US Libertarian Party presidential candidate Congressman Justin Amash included, Biden led Trump 47 percent to 40 percent with 5 percent for Amash.

Congressman Amash, who changed his party registration to Libertarian, contended for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination, but dropped out of the race just ahead of the party's online National Convention. At the convention, the party's 1996 vice presidential nominee, Jo Jorgensen, won the presidential nomination. Podcaster Spike Cohen received the vice presidential nomination. In other third parties, at its own online national convention, the US Constitution Party nominated a ticket of businessman Don Blankenship for president and Michigan Taxpayers Party chairman William Mohr for vice president. For the US Green Party, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura joined the party and had signaled an intent to run but ultimately decided against it. Labor activist Howie Hawkins broadened his lead among pledged Green Party delegates, approaching the number required to secure the nomination at the online Green National Convention, scheduled for July 11. Hawkins, who is also the presidential nominee of the Socialist Party USA, had his hopes of a left-wing coalition dashed when it was reported the ballot-qualified Peace and Freedom Party of California and the Liberty Union Party of Vermont chose Party for Socialism and Liberation presidential nominee Gloria La Riva as their presidential nominee. Hawkins selected 2016 Socialist Party USA vice presidential nominee Angela Walker to be his running mate.

Biden first addressed the allegations of sexual assault from former staffer Tara Reade, on television program Morning Joe. When confronted with the accusation he penetrated Reade, against her will, using his fingers under her clothing in 1993, Biden told host Mika Brzezinski "No, it is not true. I am saying unequivocally it never, never happened, and it didn't. It never happened." Meanwhile, a new allegation surfaced from a woman, a niece of Biden's 2008 US Senate opponent Christine O'Donnell, who claimed Biden commented on the size of her breasts when she was 14 years old. The campaign called the statement "absolutely false." An organizer said Biden was not at the event specified. O'Donnell defended her niece's claim, saying it may have taken place at a different time. Biden searched for a female running mate. 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were mentioned as possibilities. Biden said he planned to announce his choice around August 1. Continuing a trend from earlier months, Biden made a couple of gaffes in May. First, he juxtaposed numbers, claiming 85,000 Americans were unemployed and millions had died from coronavirus. More consequential, he told African American radio host Charlamagne tha God "if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black." Backlash from the statement led Biden to express "I shouldn’t have been so cavalier [...] No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background." In another incident, as Biden remarked on investigation, shortly before President Trump took office, of then-National Security Advisor-designee General Michael Flynn, Biden failed to mention his own request at the time to unmask Flynn's identity. The unmasking came to light shortly thereafter in a release of documents related to alleged FISA abuse, which President Trump described as "Obamagate." An analysis of anti-Biden memes showed "Dementia Joe" as a popular characterization of Biden.

 
President Trump (right) views the Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch with Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
 
Participants in the George Floyd protests May 28 in Minneapolis.
Image: Lorie Shaull.

President Trump made several controversial statements in May. Early in the month, he received additional fallout from a statement he made in late April about the use of disinfectant inside the body to treat coronavirus. He hinted that the White House Coronavirus Task Force would be disbanded, but later reversed himself. Nevertheless, the task force's daily press conferences did cease. Trump said he himself took the drug hydroxychloroquine, which he promoted early in the pandemic as a counter-measure against coronavirus, despite reports about the side effects. He tweeted support for the protests to end statewide shutdown orders despite it undermining his own guidelines. He also promoted an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory suggesting Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a Congressional intern in 2001. When Trump tweeted that state plans to use mail-in ballots to allow people to vote from home would result in voter fraud, Twitter placed a disclaimer "fact checking" the tweet. In response, Trump issued an executive order making social media that exercises editorial control open to liability. Twitter continued to edit Trump's tweets. Trump tweeted about the riots that followed the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in Minneapolis while a police officer restrained him. Part of Trump's tweet included the statement, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter disallowed comments and likes and placed a warning over the tweet alerting viewers it promoted violence. Trump later said he meant looting leads to somebody getting shot, perhaps by rioters. The phrase itself has historic, racial overtones, of which Trump claimed to be unaware. Meanwhile, Trump attended the joint NASA-Space X launch and delivered a speech to mark the occasion.

By the end of the month, with coronavirus deaths surpassing 100,000 and protests and riots related to the death of Floyd spreading throughout the nation, Biden maintained his lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of opinion polls, 48.4 percent to 42.5 percent.

Spotlight

William Mohr (Constitution Party)

 
William Mohr.
Image: Michigan Taxpayers Party.

At the Constitution Party's 2020 National Convention conducted online May 2, the party nominated businessman Don Blankenship for president on the second ballot. For vice president, the party unanimously chose Michigan Taxpayers Party — the Constitution Party's affiliate in Michigan — chairman William Mohr.

While Blankenship has been widely covered for his role as CEO of Massey Energy during the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that resulted in the deaths of 29 miners, his subsequent conviction for misdemeanor conspiracy to violate safety standards willfully, his one year imprisonment, and his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for the Republican Party's US Senate nomination in West Virginia, Mohr is relatively unknown. He was a candidate for Michigan House of Representatives in every election from 2006 to 2014. He received 3 percent of the vote in his 2012 run and 2.3 percent in his 2014 run.

In 2016, the Constitution Party ticket of Darrell Castle for president and Scott Bradley for vice president received 203,091 votes (0.15 percent) with ballot access in 24 states. For 2020 the party is currently on the ballot in 14 states.

With Wikinews, Mohr discussed how his nomination for vice president came about, his role on the Blankenship/Mohr ticket, and the prospects for the ticket.

 ((WSS )) How did your nomination for vice president come about? Did you seek the role or was it thrust upon you?

Mohr: I neither sought the office, nor was it thrust upon me. My good friend, Darrell Castle, asked me to run and nominated me for the position. The nomination was immediately supported by many who know me well. Given the support I received in voice, text, those within the national delegates, and that I was chosen by Don Blankenship for his running mate, I decided to accept. I am humbly honored to serve my party and the nation in this capacity.

 ((WSS )) What are your thoughts on presidential nominee Don Blankenship? How do you complement him on the ticket?

Mohr: Don Blankenship is a good man with vast knowledge in the political field. He stands firm on his positions, aligns well with the party platform and has an abundance of ability to lead this nation in the direction it needs to go. His political history demonstrates his ability to influence leaders around him. He has a backbone superior to most men and will be the strongest President we have seen in decades.
Combined with my longtime message on the need for a return to morality in our states and nation, I am convinced that the Blankenship/Mohr ticket will simply be the best thing that has happened in Washington in a long, long time.

 ((WSS )) With the coronavirus pandemic hampering ballot access efforts, is it possible to improve on the electoral performance of 2016 presidential nominee Darrell Castle? What can you do to improve the visibility of the ticket?

Mohr: The American people are beginning to wake up to the fact that they are being ruled by tyrants. Times are changing in our nation. Many current elected officials are promoting false information and gaining much power and control by using this virus as their vehicle. The so-called pandemic has enlightened the masses to the point of large demonstrations and protests. In recent years Constitution Party vote counts have increased considerably and we are winning more and more offices, small and large. Recent actions by elected leaders have only led the masses farther away from the big two parties. I expect to see a large increase in voters searching for alternatives, which will certainly create yet a greater increase in visibility for the Constitution Party.

Spike Cohen (Libertarian Party)

 
Spike Cohen in May 2020.
Image: We Are Libertarians.

On May 23 at the online Libertarian National Convention, the Libertarian Party nominated Clemson University psychologist Jo Jorgensen, the party's 1996 vice presidential nominee, for president on the fourth ballot. The next day, the party nominated podcast host Jeremy "Spike" Cohen for vice president on the third ballot. Cohen, who went into the convention as the running mate of performance artist Vermin Supreme, was not the candidate Jorgensen initially backed for the vice presidential nomination.

Cohen, who goes by his nickname "Spike", which he has explained derives from a character on ‘’My Little Pony’’, was initially a neoconservative but shifted to libertarianism. In 2016, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He is co-owner of Muddied Waters Media, which features his podcast (((My Fellow Americans))).

With Wikinews, Cohen discussed his journey from neoconservatism to libertarianism, his role on the Jorgensen-Cohen ticket, and how to improve on the performance of the party's 2016 ticket of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson for president and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld for vice president, which received 4,489,235 votes (3.27 percent).


 ((WSS )) What was it that turned you away from neoconservatism to begin your transition to libertarianism?

Cohen: First it was seeing how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq actually played out, and that made me re-examine what I believed and actually form a political philosophy.

 ((WSS )) How would you describe your role as vice presidential nominee? How do you complement Jo Jorgensen on the ticket?

Cohen: I think the role of VP nominee is to help complement the ticket for the party faithful, to support the POTUS candidate, to promote her policies and beliefs (which isn't difficult to do because they're mine as well), to broaden the appeal of the ticket to the public, and generally to support her in running for President. I believe that Jo and I present a unique opportunity to reach voters across many age groups, and to campaign in both traditional and dynamic, cutting-edge ways to a public that is more open to an alternative to the Republicrats and their nonsense than ever before.

 ((WSS )) How can you improve on the performance of Johnson-Weld in 2016?

Cohen: Gary and Bill largely relied on outside agencies and beltway media connections to do their campaigning. A lot of complaints that I've heard from Libertarian activists and downballot candidates is that they felt completely left behind and unsupported in 2016. We are running an across-the-board, homegrown Libertarian campaign that is designed to lift up the whole party. We also aren't relying on corporate media to tell our story, but instead are going to focus on viral marketing and social media reach to create earned media exposure that will force the mainstream media to pay attention to us, on our terms. We believe that will get us the 15% we need in the polls to get in the debates, and when that happens, we have a serious shot to win. Imagine having the two buffoons with a long history of contributing to our problems, and who are now barely able to form a coherent sentence, debating against an accomplished, self-made, brilliant leader who will be able to debate circles around them. And imagine me debating Mike Pence and...whoever has the misfortune of being Biden's running mate.

Angela Walker (Green Party)

 
Angela Walker in 2015.
Image: Altparty3.

On May 5, US Green Party presidential frontrunner and the presidential nominee of Socialist Party USA, Howie Hawkins, announced his selection of a running mate for the 2020 presidential race. Hawkins, a union leader and co-founder of the Green Party approaching securing the delegates required for the Green Party's presidential nomination, tapped Socialist Party USA's 2016 vice presidential nominee Angela Walker.

Walker, a truck driver who currently resides in South Carolina, first met Hawkins in 2014 while she was running for Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin as an independent socialist and Hawkins was running for governor of New York for the Green Party. Walker received 20 percent of the vote in her race and Hawkins received five percent in his. That showing was Hawkins' best in three successive runs for governor — 2010, 2014, 2018. In 2016, Walker was Mimi Soltysik's running mate with Socialist Party USA. The ticket received 2,705 votes.

The Green Party, which received 1,457,226 votes (1.06 percent) with the 2016 ticket of Jill Stein for president and Ajamu Baraka for vice president, is to nominate its ticket officially at its online national convention July 11.

Wikinews reached out to Walker to discuss how her past experience impacts the current race, why Hawkins/Walker is the best choice for leftists and socialists, and what goals she has for this campaign.

 ((WSS )) How does your experience as a nominee for vice president in 2016 help in the current campaign? How is your role the same or different from 2016?

Walker: It's my pleasure to be the Vice Presidential nominee for the Socialist Party of the USA in 2020, as I was in 2016. The roles are the same: we want both the Green Party and the Socialist Party to grow and be welcoming spaces for people of color, people with disabilities, people along the LGBTQIA rainbow, people who have been wondering where they could fit into a party. Also, getting our platforms and party principles into communities is important. Marginalized communities in particular need to know that they have options outside the party duopoly we have in this country. Being part of a campaign I can believe in helps me reach folks in those communities.


 ((WSS )) Why should leftists and socialists support Howie Hawkins over Gloria La Riva or the Bernie Sanders-backed candidate Joe Biden?

Walker: Many on the Left are very excited about the concept of Medicare for All. They are interested in reversing climate change, and they're interested in having a universal basic income available to them. They are also interested in social justice, making sure people are housed and fed and not abused by the state. All of these things are in our campaign platform. All of them. In detail. I can't speak for the LaRiva/Peltier campaign platform, as I haven't read it. They are people who have my respect. And as to Biden, the fact that he does not support any of the issues people are asking for makes him a nonstarter. His cavalier statements and treatment of marginalized communities is also very problematic. Howie Hawkins is offering a platform that would improve the lives of everyone in this country while helping to reverse climate change. That is something I feel people can be confident about supporting.


 ((WSS )) What are your goals for this campaign?

Walker: My goals for this campaign are to help both the Green Party and the Socialist Party be welcoming spaces for marginalized people, and to get people politically educated around the country. Another goal is to help build true unity throughout the Left. We might not agree on everything, but there are many places where Leftists of different ideologies intersect. I want us to meet at those intersections and build from them. There is still a pandemic happening. There is an uprising happening. It is in the hands of the people how we help each other going forward, and I am looking forward to being helpful in those efforts.


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Sources

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.