“Let People Power Bloom!” Margaret Flowers is running for the Green Party nomination for Senate in Maryland, and her platform is as audacious as its slogan suggests.
A revolutionized economy that’s fueled entirely by renewable energy, established far faster than either major party is proposing. Universal –truly universal – health care in a system that takes decisions out of the hands of insurance companies. A foreign policy that’s more dovish and acknowledging of the Palestinians’ plight.
Those are just a few of her proposals as she seeks the Green Party nod for November. And while she has no major opposition within the party, she’s made it clear she would never view the nominating process as a coronation.
“Democracy’s all about choice – and Green party voters can choose ‘None of the above!’” she said.
It may seem like a trivial distinction. But Flowers keeps coming back to the word “choice” as she describes her rationale for fighting on, even as the major parties mobilize their machines and millions of dollars of SuperPAC money lay in wait.
“This is part of democracy’s crisis,” she wrote in The Baltimore Brew. “When a party that does not represent the interests of the wealthy is left out, the public debate is stifled. And voters are the biggest losers.”
And as long as neither major party offers, in her view, any real measure of the change Americans so desperately need, she’ll press on even in the face of astronomically long odds, pushing ideas.
Sometimes, she gets thrown off stages for it.
To this day, Flowers is unsure why she was forcibly removed from the stage of a debate between candidates held by the Baltimore Jewish Council last March. After being invited to the forum twice, she said she was disinvited, apparently after not meeting polling requirements for her party to justify her presence on stage – even though no polls had been taken of Green Party voters to verify this.
“It might have been my position on Palestine,” she mused. Whatever the reason, the incident was emblematic of a larger problem – it’s not just the U.S. economy that’s rigged, but the political system as well.
It might be tempting to view Flowers’ campaign – and the campaigns of other long-shot third partiers – like Don Quijotes of democracy, picking up a lance against entrenched interests that have already written rules to guarantee the outcome. But there’s no delusion here, as Flowers is very candid about the long odds she faces.
“It’s definitely very challenging in this state, especially against someone like Van Hollen, who’s got Wall Street’s millions and the Democratic Party machine behind him.”
The candidate she’s invoking, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, takes party discipline to a whole new level. Having headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s efforts to elect Democrats nationwide, van Holland has cultivated an extensive fundraising list. The bulk of Maryland’s Democratic Party establishment players have fallen behind him, though his main Democratic rival, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, has surged in recent polls.
Supporters would say Van Hollen has been cooperative or even pragmatic about political realities as he accepts half a loaf in legislative deal-making. But not Flowers, who has called the Affordable Care Act a “scam.”
“I would remind people that insurance is not the same thing as getting health care. We continue to see people going bankrupt for lack of care.”
Her candor is a reminder of one possible upside of the all-but-insurmountable system – the freedom it brings to speak, and campaign on, her conscience.
Flowers calls the Affordable Care Act a step backwards in the fight for universal health care because of its gifts to insurance industries. It’s not the only issue where she’s far to the left of the Democratic Party, but it may be the most personal one for her.
In 2007 she quit her practice as a Maryland pediatrician and began advocating full-time for a single-payer health care system, envisioning reform where no one went bankrupt or died for lack of care. What took place instead was more Rube-Goldberg than revolution, a complicated three-stool piece of legislation that balanced the interests of insurance companies with Democrats’ desire to expand health insurance nationwide.
Flowers’ push comes as Maryland’s Green Party adds to its membership and organizational muscle. In 2012 the party quadrupled its votes for President in 2012 in Maryland, and it’s registered converts at an accelerating rate ever since. In 2015, it added just 725 new voters to its rolls. But last February alone, 235 new voters joined its ranks ranks, according to The Maryland State Board of Elections.
Despite the momentum, Flowers is realistic about the challenge in 2016.
“I most likely will not win this time,” she told The Baltimore Post-Examiner. “But if we expand the public dialogue, push issues that aren’t being talked about, that’s a success.”
William Dahl is a recent graduate of The College of William and Mary, where he majored in Government and studied abroad in La Plata, Argentina. He has worked for community foundations in Argentina and Miami dedicated to community engagement and prosecution for human rights abuses. A native Virginian, he moved to Baltimore in 2013 to join a financial research firm, where he enjoys being able to write on the side.