I’m not voting for my favorite candidate this year
Joe Sims has rarely met a progressive independent candidate he didn't like, but this year he says the stakes are too high to give one of them his vote for president. | Photo: Fred Jewell / AP | Illustration: People's World

In 1968, I was persecuted for voting for civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory who ran for president as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party. Well, actually I didn’t vote for him, but I said I would in a straw poll conducted in my 5th-grade class. The teacher objected that Gregory wasn’t Nixon or Humphrey (thank God), but I insisted. Next thing you know, I got called to the principal’s office.

Seems I loved the underdogs. Years later I collected signatures on the dusty streets of Compton in Los Angeles to place Communist Party candidates Gus Hall and Jarvis Tyner on the presidential ballot and then again for Hall and Angela Davis in the next election cycle.

I was thrilled when over a decade later Jesse Jackson was the Rainbow Coalition’s standard bearer and competed for the Democratic nomination.

When Jesse stopped running and his campaign manager, Ron Daniels, took up the banner, I enthusiastically supported the hometown favorite. So disdainful of the two-party system in later years, I’d write-in Daniels’ name when provided no other choice. Daniels was an old family friend whom I met as a teenager at his Freedom Inc. Uhuru Center on Youngstown’s South Side.

Truth be told, for most of my life, I never met a progressive independent candidate I didn’t like. I suppose it’s in the blood. Our grandmother, Pauline Taylor, was the first Black woman to run for governor of Ohio in 1948. Back then, she stood with Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party. (So, by the way, did Coretta Scott King.)

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Even when Ron wasn’t on the ballot, he’d still have my vote. “Ron’s not even running,” friends would object. I’d reply, “I don’t care. That’s my guy.”

Pauline Taylor, left, with Eslanda Robeson. | Courtesy of Joe Sims

Not this year. The stakes are too high. We’ve got Ku Kluxers in the White House and neo-Nazis in and around its gates. The situation is unmistakable.

In this regard, I got taught a hard lesson by my fiercely independent, revolutionary, democratic, and devoutly Christian grandmother. It was a lesson before dying. Grandma and I had this running joke: I would attack Bill Clinton (outraged at his treatment of Lani Guinier and Sistah Souljah), and Grandma would reply, “What do you want, Bush?” And I’d say, “But, but, but,” to which she’d smile and say, “You like Bush.”

One day, Grandma had a stroke. I rushed to her hospital bed and my sister said, “Grandma, do you know who this is?” She looked up and said, “He loves Bush.” Those were the last words she ever spoke.

I’ve taken the lesson. Sorry, Ron. (But I still got love for you!)

This article, like all op-eds published by People’s World, reflects the opinions of its author.


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.