After Maryland Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers was escorted off the debate stage at last night’s forum just outside of Baltimore, she talked to the Real News about the two-party system’s chokehold on democracy and her decision to protest it
THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: On Monday night, Republican and Democratic candidates running for Maryland’s open US senate seat gathered for a forum at Goucher college organized by the Baltimore Jewish Council. The race has largely been narrowed to one between Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, who are leading in the polls in a state that almost always votes Democratic. But on Monday, the event was disrupted by Dr. Margaret Flowers, a green party candidate who was invited, then disinvited to the event. MARGARET FLOWERS: My Name is Margaret Flowers. I’m a candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland. I’m running for the nomination of the Green Party. I don’t want to have to be a person who has to actually go up on stage and protest to be respected in this election. HEDGES: Flowers was invited by the Baltimore Jewish Council in early January. Two weeks later the forum was rescheduled and she was sent a second invitation. Initially, the council had not outlined any prerequisites for the candidates who could attend the forum. FLOWERS: I was actually invited twice to be a part of this forum, but then I was recently disinvited. HEDGES: In mid-march, Flowers was informed that participants had to be polling at above 5 percent within their respective parties. Flowers told the council that the Green Party had not conducted a poll, but that she is clearly leading the nomination process for the party because she is waging the most visible and significant campaign with well over 5 percent support. FLOWERS: The Baltimore Jewish Council invited me to be a part of this forum, which is actually what they are required by IRS regulations to do. The IRS law says that non-profit have to treat all candidates for office equally. HEDGES: The council responded in a final email that the forum “is for candidates in contested primary elections to voice their opinions, and is limited to candidates listed on a ballot available at the polling booth. You are not facing a contested primary election, are not even on the ballot, and will not have ballots available for voters at polling locations. Therefore, because this forum is inapplicable in your situation, you are not invited to participate.” Though Margaret is running uncontested in the Green Party, Green Party candidates are not allowed to appear on the ballot during the state-funded primary elections. But this is one of the tools the two-party structure uses to shut out third parties, Flowers says. FLOWERS: But we have a number of crises that we’re facing. At the bottom of all these crises is a crisis of democracy and people are not aware of how corrupt the system is and it was made that way by the Republicans and the Democrats to exclude retired party voices. And that’s why we’re stuck in the box that we’re stuck in, because third parties can’t get through these obstacles. When the Real News contacted the Jewish Council for a final comment, it justified its decision by saying that it excluded not only Margaret Flowers, but all of the other 30 or so candidates who were not polling at more than 5 percent. SARAH MERCY: Lots of people did respond and, again, they were given the information and criteria just as Dr. Flowers was. So, obviously you’re not going to have a forum with 30 people. No one has had a forum with more than five or six candidates. And almost every one has been just Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. FLOWERS: If we want democracy we have to understand that we need to remove these obstacles for third parties and open the debates, so that we really can hear what all the solutions are on the table and then people can really make an informed decision about who they want to vote for… And I’m freezing, sorry.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.