Flowers Excluded From Debate Disrupts For Democracy

Above: Dr. Margaret Flowers being surrounded by Goucher University security as she speaks from the debate stage on March 28, 2016. She had been excluded from the debate by the sponsor of the event, the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Reaction From Crowd Shows Thirst For Real Democracy

Note: Popular Resistance does not endorse candidates and avoids the horse race type coverage of political campaigns. We only cover electoral politics if it is related to movement activities. For example, we have covered movement disruptions of the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.

One campaign we have not covered is the Margaret Flowers for Senate campaign. Even though she co-directs Popular Resistance we have not even mentioned that she is running for the US Senate in Maryland.  One of her purposes in running is to build an alternative to the two Wall Street parties, a party that represents the views of the movement. Of course, this is an uphill struggle because so many barriers are put in place to create an effective third party. Throughout history it has been the combination of a mass movement with its own political party that has brought about fundamental change. This is how workers got the 8 hour day and the right to create unions, how women got the right to vote, and how all of the New Deal was created, built out of the campaigns among Progressive and Socialist Party candidates.  These are just a few examples among many.

This week one of the barriers to third parties was shown and Dr. Flowers responded with a ‘Disruption for Democracy.’ She had been invited twice to participate (the second time was when the Baltimore Jewish Center rescheduled the date) and was looking forward to debating Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards to raise issues they never discuss. But, a few days before the debate she was dis-invited. All sorts of phony reasons were given like — too many candidates had RSVP’d — in fact there were only two Democrats on the stage. So, Dr. Flowers decided to attend the debate, walk on the stage and demand to be heard.

The response was amazing. The crowd of several hundred people started changing “Let Her Speak” and “Let Dr. Flowers debate.” The outpouring showed that people recognized what Dr. Flowers was trying to highlight: the US has a crisis in democracy and people are sick and tired of rigged elections and closed debates. Here’s the raw footage:

Denying her the ability to participate created havoc and undermined the credibility of the debate. Of course, Dr. Flowers knows she is in for an uphill struggle in Maryland which is among the bluest of blue Democratic states where the media and the non-profit industrial complex as well as corporations are closely linked to the party.

Below is a report on the ‘Disruption for Democracy’ from Green Party Watch which also contains a report from The Real News Network.  KZ

Flowers forcibly removed from Maryland U.S. Senate candidate forum

Maryland Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Flowers was forcibly prevented from participating in a candidate forum sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and Goucher College on Monday evening. Flowers, who had been extended invitations to the debate twice by the organizers, was abruptly disinvited without notice two weeks before the event.

When the candidates were asked to take the stage, Flowers stepped up to remind the BJC that her exclusion was in violation of IRS regulations that require non-profit organizations to be non-partisan. She said, “Many times during the first half of the forum, the moderator and Republican candidates emphasized that in this political moment voters are fed up with the status quo and are looking for alternatives. Yet, the one candidate who was invited and provides an alternative to the the two party system was excluded. I was ready to answer the questions but I was not given the chance. I wanted to participate in this debate, not protest it.”

Flowers was invited to the event on January 7 and accepted that same day. At that time, Sarah Mersky, the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Director of Government Relations, said the event would be “a wonderful opportunity for Baltimore and the Jewish community to get to know you better.” The BJC also later Dr. Flowers know of a postponement of the original February date, indicating that they still wanted her to take part. However, on March 11, Flowers received a terse message from Mersky disinviting her, saying the event would be limited “to contested primary candidates only” — a late change in the rules. The Flowers campaign said in reply that the IRS “has issued regulations for non-profit organizations requiring them to be non-partisan and inclusive” and that “in recent debates in the Baltimore area, non-profit organizations that initially excluded Green Party candidates decided to reverse their decision when their lawyers looked at the law.”

In phone conversations and personal meetings with the Flowers campaign, the BJC stated that the event was limited to candidates polling at least five in polls, a new requirement that had never been mentioned before to the Flowers campaign. Flowers pointed out that there have been no polls of Green Party candidates, making it impossible for the BJC to know that Flowers does not reach the polling threshold. Flowers asserted that her level of support in the Green Party is well above five percent.

Under Maryland law, Green Party candidates are not permitted to appear on the ballot printed by the state and distributed to voters during the state-funded primary election. “This is one of many ways the two wealth-based parties create an unfair electoral system for those who challenge them,” said Flowers. The Green Party is holding a self-funded primary election that any person registered to vote and affiliated with the Green Party may participate in. By rule, all Green Party nominations are contested.