Down-ticket Green Party Candidate: Third Parties Can Reshape Local Politics
During the 2016 Green Party national convention, Green Party candidate for Texas county commissioner says an alternative party could help forge a break with the usual white liberal platform in her local district
DHARNA NOOR, TRNN: Dharna Noor, here for the Real News Network in Houston. Coming to you from the GNC, the Green Party National Convention. And I’m here with a candidate on a down ticket race here in Texas. This is Ashley “Flashe” Gordon and she’s running for county commissioner in Travis County. How are you doing today Ashely?
ASHELY “FLASHE” GORDON: I’m doing well.
NOOR: So tell me a bit about some of your reactions to the convention. Specifically, yesterday you posted workshop on the state of black America and you see to have some critical words for the Green Party’s lack of uplifting, specifically voices of color and black voices throughout this convention. Can you speak to that a little bit?
GORDON: To start off on a positive I will say that I appreciate everyone who came to the workshop. They were open minded. They didn’t come in in a defensive fashion. So even though there were some hard truths that we did talk about yesterday, throughout the whole workshop, for the most part we had very positive feedback. And I saw that going into today. People came and talked to me and liked to know if there was a place, and thanks to y’all there was a place for them to go and see the workshop so they could share with other people and so I definitely appreciated that.
I think that the Green party is a least trying to recognize the issues that are happening in the party as far as diversity. And I know I’ve talked to some people who have been in the party longer than I have and said they’ve been fighting this fight for a long time and I think everyone is finally feeling like it’s been addressed appropriately. Or at least a conversation about how to address it are now coming out as we’re seeing an influx of people with various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
In some ways I noticed why–I understand why especially experiencing some of the microaggressions that I’ve experienced during the conference, why people are upset, why you’re angered and you know that’s just a part of the larger conversation we see going on in our country. But as far as political organizations go, I think the Green Party is doing the best job at trying to address the issues that are happening within the party concerning diversity.
NOOR: Earlier today, my co-producer Kwame Rose and I spoke with the VP Nominee Ajamu Baraka. And we asked him about the role of black voices within the Green Party and he said something I thought was interesting. He said it’s not really the job of the Green Party to organize black folks. It can be a platform for black folks to be organized but really we should be putting more emphasis on autonomous sort of organizing spaces for black folks and other communities of color.
What are you sort of see the future of creating a more diverse Green Party as leading towards? Like what do you sort of see in the Green Party when you think of a future–a more diverse future with a more inclusive platform and more inclusive voices?
GORDON: First let me say that Mr. Baraka actually came to the workshop yesterday and I did not recognize him straight away. And what I love, his humility. Because when I told him I didn’t recognize him right away, he wasn’t offended. He was glad he was able to come to me and introduce himself personally. So that alone lets you know that we definitely have candidate in the party that are a lot more connected than we have seen on the political front.
I agree with him. I agree that it isn’t up to the party itself but the party does need to provide space. This is supposed to be a grassroots organization and we have to, and I always say this and people think that I’m contradicting myself by running for office and saying this, that we cannot depend on the government to fix our problems. We have to depend on our communities. And so what I do hope is that the Green Party is just a space for people who are already active in their communities or want to be active in their communities to reorganize on the outside and then we use this space in the Green party to come together to talk about our different activism activities and that no activity will be silenced if we’re here.
So I was speaking to some ladies earlier and a gentleman from New York, [ Mr. Paul] about how it’s important for us to recognize there are several issues across the board when it comes to social justice and one is not more important than the other and we need to give voice to that. And that’s what the Green Party can do for us. Is that as we come from our communities saying the problems that are happening in Philly are not necessarily what’s happening in Texas. And so I need people in Philly to have a time and a space to speak and so I can be in solidarity with them in Texas based on their issue and vice versa.
So that’s what I think the party can do. But I agree with him. It’s not up to any political party to fix our problems. That’s what we need to do as a community. We need to organize.
NOOR: So for you it’s not really a contradiction. You can have organizing spaces outside of these party systems and also work within them.
GORDON: Yes, absolutely and I think we sell ourselves short in believing we can’t do both. When we say we need to have people running for office, we absolutely need to have people running for office. We also need librarians and that is a form of activism. We need teachers, we need everyone. And so being a part of a political party and even running for office is just one avenue too. And one thing that I like about the Green Party is that it isn’t just about politics. It isn’t just about making sure their people on ballots to run for office. But also this is–we’re actually about making a difference in our individual communities and then together. Also it’s not just nationally, Green Party is international. So this a movement and so politics are a part of that movement.
NOOR: Tell me a little bit about your run. Travis county is the county that has Austin in it. So talk a little bit about the political demographic there and why you’re choosing to run on an alternative party ticket.
GORDON: I don’t know if you have enough time to hear all of the commentary you have about Travis county. I love Travis county. I’ll start with that. I love Travis county. We have some beautiful artists and teachers and musicians. There are a lot of really great things about our county.
So Travis county is more than just the city of Austin and that is a message that I want everyone to understand. We talk a lot about our [christened] cities such as Pflugerville, and Manor and out in [Austin’s colony] and Del Valle. We have other spaces in Travis county that get ignored which is an issue that I have and it’s one of the reasons why I am running for office is that those spaces that are supposed to get services from the county are often ignored to focus on Austin. Even though Austin has the most resources just alone as a city.
NOOR: And Austin is known as a sort of a liberal town, especially for Texas. Is the county that you’re running in mostly blue or mostly red, and what sort of challenges have come from either?
GORDON: Well it’s turning a little bit more green now. It’s traditionally been blue in the sea of red here in the state of Texas. But one thing that we do see that has been very troubling for us and it is a topic that I spoke about in the workshop yesterday is we have a neo liberal type attitude. So we feel that if we are involved in any type of social movement or we call ourselves an ally to a certain group, that that’s the extent of the activism and that we are different from the ultra conservatives. And that is a very dangerous mindset.
So we see that in Austin where people are fighting for sidewalks which I agree with. We do need more sidewalks. They pick certain actions and they think that that is enough. But their eyes are closed to problems such a gentrification. And so whereas you’re fighting for a park or a sidewalk, where are you doing it at? You’re doing it in a space that’s traditionally African American and those African Americans don’t live in that space anymore.
So that is one issue that we’re having a lot of. Especially in Austin is that we have people who say they care and they call themselves activists and they call themselves allies but they are not having real conversations with people who are disenfranchised by the actions of the city and the county. And we’re seeing the results of that and so and that’s something that my campaign has been addressing and we’re having real conversations.
NOOR: So you’ve spoken about how part of the point of running on the Green ticket for you is sort of breaking with this sort of Democratic Party, this liberal strategy that you’ve spoken of being of kind of problematic. But in doing so I assume that you’re sort of running the risk of not having as much media time, as much exposure. Can you speak about any of the challenges you face as a Green candidate in a traditionally liberal area?
GORDON: Yes, I can say that even at candidate forms, a lot of the candidate forms are found out about because one of the democratic candidates is a friend of mine and he would let me know. And he would let them know that there was another candidate running. I experienced even being at the forums that sometimes I would get skipped over and that happened until I became that stereotypical angry black woman. And then they stopped. But they would literally skip over me even though I’m the only woman in the race, they would skip over me.
The media, I was speaking with the ladies over here recently and saying that the newspapers wouldn’t allow me to be listed during the primaries because they said I wasn’t with the major parties. The league of women voters wouldn’t allow me to be listed in the primaries for the same reason. But this summer has been a little bit different. With some of the newspapers and with the convention, this being a convention year really helped because they became interested especially after the scandal with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Then of course Donald Trump.
They became fascinated with what’s happening with the Green Party. So they’ve been connecting more with the Travis County greens and so that’s helped. And of course news outlets such as your own have been coming to us and saying that we want people to know about the candidates in the area so let’s help them out as well.
NOOR: Now on the presidential race will you be supporting the Green Party as well?
GORDON: Of course.
NOOR: What’s sort of your response to some of the rhetoric we’ve heard amongst even some people who have traditionally aligned themselves with more progressive and alternative parties. You know a number of people have sort of pointed out, for instance, that the lesser of two evils strategy is particularly important here because they find Trump to be a particularly scary candidate. Some have pointed out for instance that they believe that it’s marginalized communities like women of color, for instance, that will be most mal effected by a Trump presidency. What’s sort of your response to this rhetoric and the call for this unified front against Trump?
GORDON: Some of the rhetoric that I have heard concerning supporting Hillary Clinton because so that we will not have a Trump presidency, I’ll say it like this. For one if you vote for the other party such as the Green Party, then guess what? The Green Party wins. But with everyone having the mindset about, I will split the vote if I vote for the alternative, it’s a fallacy.
I also have been saying this as well. That one evil is not better than the other. And so the lesser of two evils is not a concept in my mind. They’re different but they’re still evil. So I won’t support either one of them. I think that Donald Trump is dangerous for America and I also believe that Hillary Clinton is dangerous for America. So why is it that despite the fact that so many people have been so disenfranchised by the two party system, especially now that we’ve seen Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the same race, so many people still continue to vote for either democrats or republicans?
GORDON: It’s the rhetoric. We believe we’ve been told that if you do this then I promise it will get better. Well most people have become jaded with the process anyway. So even when they do have an alternatives going to find out the information about those alternatives, it becomes very difficult or taxing to them. So they just don’t. So voter turnout, whether it’s the national election or local elections, they’re very low. I saw a poll from the primaries, it was very low.
So candidates are not winning because they’re popular. Candidates are winning just based on a very small portion of our population. Hopefully as social media’s connecting us and we’re starting to see more of the injustices before our eyes. We’ve always known they’ve existed. For instance, Rodney King. Well now we see these type of police brutality cases. We saw Philando Castille, live. We saw this man die on camera.
And so I think this year is going to be the tipping point to where people sort of wake up and sort of say that. And again we said, Hillary Clinton we found out that the election was rigged. I think that we’re discovering that we really do have the power and it’s going to take us activating that power to change things. But traditionally you become a democrat or a republican based on your family values and you never really question it.
You just know that democrats in your mind are better than republicans or republicans are better because you know they care more about “family values” and it sticks with you and very few people challenge those beliefs as they’re growing up. But we’re seeing more young people and especially those going off to universities, progressive universities where there are social movements happening are starting to challenge those beliefs and so hopefully that will continue on into the future.
NOOR: Okay, thank you so much for joining us.
GORDON: Of course, thank you.
NOOR: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network in Houston, Texas.
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