On the campaign trail in the USA, July 2020

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Monday, August 31, 2020

The following is the third edition of a monthly series chronicling the 2020 United States presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month's biggest stories.

This month's spotlight on the campaign trail includes interviews with the vice presidential nominees of the American Solidarity Party, the Bread and Roses Party, and the Unity Party of America.


As the campaign reached July, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden led incumbent President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, in the RealClearPolitics head-to-head polling average, 49.7 percent to 40.3 percent.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day.
Image: The White House.

On July 1, the city of Seattle cleared the autonomous CHAZ/CHOP (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Capitol Hill Organized Protest). Nevertheless, civil unrest including the toppling of statues, still stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in May, continued elsewhere in the US. President Trump sent Department of Homeland Security officers to protect federal buildings in Portland. Biden criticized the move, arguing Trump was "sow[ing] chaos and division" and "mak[ing] matters worse." The Trump campaign accused Biden of "siding with criminals." Trump maintained the campaign theme of law and order. While the nation continued to suffer through the coronavirus pandemic, the President traveled to South Dakota, which, unlike most states, had not enacted a stay-at-home order, to take part in a celebration at Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day. He delivered a speech in which he condemned rioters who desecrate statues and memorials throughout the nation. In addition, he announced the creation of a special park with statues to honor historic US figures. Most attendees at the event did not practice social distancing or wear face masks. The next day, Trump held a Fourth of July "Salute to America" in Washington, D.C. in which he delivered another speech. Joe Biden forewent traditional holiday activities as an added precaution against COVID-19. That same day, rapper Kanye West made a surprise announcement on Twitter that he, himself, was running for president. In an interview with Forbes, West outlined his campaign. He named Wyoming preacher Michelle Tidball as his running mate and introduced the Birthday Party as the vehicle for his run. His platform included anti-abortion views. West backed away from his previous support for President Trump, expressing disappointment at reports Trump hid in the White House basement during riots. He leveled greater criticism at Biden, saying he was not "special" like himself, Trump, and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The interviewer questioned whether West was running to help President Trump defeat Biden. West did not deny the suggestion. After the interview, a spokesman for West claimed West decided to drop out of the race. However, subsequently, West officially filed with the FEC and secured a place on the ballot in Oklahoma with a US$35,000 payment. Two other Independent presidential candidates also paid the fee to qualify for the Oklahoma ballot: child actor and entrepreneur Brock Pierce; plus pianist and pageant participant Jade Simmons. West, in an interview with a Charleston, South Carolina radio station, floated Simmons as a potential running mate, arguing Tidball could be used in a different capacity. He identified fellow rapper Jay-Z as his ideal running mate. West held his first campaign rally in Charleston, where he tearfully discussed potentially aborting his first child with wife Kim Kardashian, screaming "I almost killed my daughter!" He proposed a US$1 million payment for those who give birth to children rather than aborting. At this time, West's family reportedly expressed concerns about West's mental state. The next day on Twitter West accused his wife of attempting to "lock me up" due to his comments at the rally.

Kanye West speaks at a campaign rally in Charleston.
Image: Nice4What.

In a July 9 speech in Pennsylvania, Biden introduced an economic plan called "Build Back Better" designed to reinvigorate the US economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. "Build Back Better" is, like Trump's "America First" plan, a form of economic nationalism. "Build Back Better" calls for an increase in corporate taxes among economic incentives to "Buy American." Biden claimed the plan would create five million US jobs. Trump encouraged public schools to reopen classes in-person at summer's end. He threatened to withhold federal funds from districts that did not comply. Trump later softened his stance, acknowledging that circumstances may require delaying some school reopenings. In addition, for the first time, Trump was pictured wearing a face mask. As cases of coronavirus increased in Florida, Trump cancelled the in-person Republican National Convention planned for Jacksonville. Instead, like the Democratic National Convention Republicans opted to hold their convention in a largely virtual format. The Libertarian Party held the second half of its convention partially in-person in Orlando. Although the party had already nominated the ticket of professor Jo Jorgensen for president and podcaster Spike Cohen for vice president at the virtual convention in May, party business still needed to be completed. At the same time, the Green Party held its national convention virtually and nominated the ticket of party co-founder and union leader Howie Hawkins for president and truck driver Angela Walker for vice president.  

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks at the funeral of John Lewis.
Image: Mark DeSaulnier.

In mid-July, Trump commuted the prison sentence of confidante Roger Stone. Stone had been found guilty of several crimes including false statements to investigators as part of Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election. Trump called Stone's 40 month sentence "unjust." The Biden campaign criticized the commutation as an abuse of power, pointing to the "ballot box" as the only way to stop Trump. Several days later, Trump's niece Mary Trump released the tell-all book Too Much and Never Enough. The book alleges, among other things, that Trump paid his friend Joe Shapiro to take the SAT for him before his admission to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Shapiro's widow, former tennis player Pam Shriver, said her husband had told her Trump had not met Shapiro until being admitted to Wharton. The July 17 death of Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a prominent civil rights leader, had a major impact on the second half of the month. The death brought the issue of civil rights back to the forefront of the campaign. Lewis's colleague and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Karen Bass emerged as a significant contender to be Biden's running mate, joining Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Duckworth as potential candidates. Trump did not attend Lewis's viewing or funeral. Three former presidents including Barack Obama attended the funeral. During his eulogy, Obama took a veiled shot at Trump for his attacks on mail-in voting, which critics, like Obama, have said amounted to voter suppression. As the funeral progressed, Trump tweeted about possibly delaying the 2020 election due to his concerns about potential fraud from widespread mail-in balloting instituted due to the pandemic. Biden attacked Trump for the tweet, claiming he used it to distract from Lewis's funeral. In honor of Lewis, Biden said once in office he would immediately sign the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, renamed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. On the day of the funeral, the co-chair of Black Voices for Trump and 2012 presidential candidate, Herman Cain, who, like Trump, ran for president on his business credentials, died from COVID-19. He had attended Trump's Tulsa rally in June without a mask and first received hospital treatment for COVID-19 on July 1. Trump lauded Cain as a "powerful voice of freedom."

As July came to a close, Biden’s lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average slightly decreased, with Biden registering 49.9 percent to 42.1 percent for Trump.


Amar Patel (American Solidarity Party)

Amar Patel
Image: Amar Patel.

In July, the American Solidarity Party's ticket of retired teacher Brian T. Carroll for president and high school teacher Amar Patel for vice president, qualified, through petition, for ballot access in Illinois. The party has expanded upon its ballot access from 2016 when its first ticket of Mike Maturen for president and Juan Muñoz for vice president appeared on the ballot only in Colorado, receiving a total of 6,776 votes, largely from write-ins in other states.

The party was founded in 2011 as the Christian Democratic Party. It changed to its current name ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The party is based on Roman Catholic social teachings, advocating for social justice, environmentalism, and "a consistent life ethic" including opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. It has grown ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Last September the party nominated Carroll for president over past Wikinews interviewee Joe Schriner and Joshua Perkins who also sought the party's nomination. Carroll selected Patel as his running mate. Patel, the son of Indian immigrants, is a high school teacher in the Chicago suburbs. He converted to Catholicism in 1993 and engaged with the Knights of Columbus. He became involved in the pro-life movement and, in association with that, the Republican Party, but grew disillusioned with the party over the war policies of the George W. Bush administration. Eventually, Patel joined the Solidarity Party and rose to the position of chairman

Patel spoke with Wikinews about the campaign. He discussed how he became the vice presidential nominee of the Solidarity Party, what he sees as his duties and responsibilities as Carroll's running mate, and why voters should consider voting for the Carroll/Patel ticket.

((WSS)) Why did you agree to be the running mate of Brian Carroll? How do you complement him on the ticket?

Patel: I was already serving the second and final year of my term on the National Committee and was the party chair when Brian asked me to run with him. I would have essentially done the same thing I did until the end of June whether I was running for office or not. This basically continued my service as a party leader through November and I welcomed the opportunity to have a heightened awareness to our message for a few more months. I complement Brian by being the quick take provider on Twitter while he is long form prose producer on Facebook.

((WSS)) What duties and responsibilities come with being the vice presidential nominee of the Solidarity Party?

Patel: Technically there are no official duties or responsibilities besides filling in and signing the required paperwork to get on various ballots or become write-in candidates. I have taken on the responsibility of creating memes and videos for us to promote the party message but also the short term campaign message.

((WSS)) In what states is the Carroll/Patel ticket expected to be on the ballot? Why should voters in those states choose Carroll/Patel over other tickets?

Patel: We will be on the ballot in my home state of Illinois, Vermont, Wisconsin, Colorado, Louisiana, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Washington, Mississippi, and perhaps a few others.
There is no other campaign that clearly states that government will necessarily continue to grow as long as #FamilyFriendsFaith erode. Those institutions teach us self control and responsibility for others. If you primarily concern yourself with selfishness, the state has to provide the constraints that you do not. If you believe rights and responsibilities must be balanced vote Carroll/Patel 2020.

John de Graaf (Bread and Roses Party)

John de Graaf
Image: John de Graaf on Facebook.

The Bread and Roses Party ticket of University of Maryland research scholar Jerome Segal for president and filmmaker John de Graaf for vice president secured a spot on the ballot in Vermont in July. The party had already achieved qualified status in Maryland. It is seeking access only in non-swing states where a particular major party is heavily expected to win. In swing states, to avoid the spoiler effect, the party supports the Democratic Party's presidential ticket.

Segal founded the Bread and Roses Party since the last presidential election. Its name derives from the rallying call of immigrant textile workers in Massachusetts during a 1912 strike. The party holds leftist positions including the right to employment, paid vacation, a shortened work week, and recognition of the State of Palestine. In August 2019 the party nominated Segal for president. He announced de Graaf as his running mate this past April. As a filmmaker, de Graaf has produced 40 documentaries. In addition, he has co-written four books, and has written numerous articles for such publications as The Progressive and The New York Times.

With Wikinews, de Graaf discusses why he joined the Bread and Roses Party, what his role as vice presidential nominee entails, and why voters in non-swing states should choose the Segal/de Graaf ticket over other options on the ballot.

((WSS)) Why did you decide to run as the vice presidential nominee of the Bread and Roses Party? How do you complement Jerome Segal on the ticket?

de Graaf: I was asked by Jerome to be his Bread and Roses Party running mate and considered it an honor as I have been advocating for its principles for half a century. We believe that quality of life is more important than quantity of money or goods, and that our national priorities of economic growth, worship of the stock market and constant tax cutting to fuel mindless consumption both threaten the life systems of the planet and ignore the importance of "the roses" in our lives — such things as nature, natural beauty and smart human design, the arts, social connection, good health, and especially enough leisure time to actually enjoy the fruits of our prodigious labors.
We come out of the "voluntary simplicity" movement of resistance to consumerism but understand that living simply and ecologically is not solely a personal choice. We need policies that make it easier for people to earn a modest but secure income without working themselves to death or producing for the sake of production rather than the satisfactions that meaningful work, human connections and a beautiful environment can bring us.
Jerome has also been a longtime advocate of Middle East peace and justice for Palestinians with a two-state solution in Israel. We support that, and a massive reduction in nuclear weapons and arms buildups in the interest of world peace. Our priorities as a country are simply out of whack and we want to make that point and offer a different vision of the good life.
I complement Jerome in that while he is an academic and a scholar I am a filmmaker and communicator who has spent forty years making documentaries for PBS about quality of life issues.

((WSS)) What duties and responsibilities do you have as the vice presidential nominee of the Bread and Roses Party?

de Graaf: At this point, only to help get the word out as we are under no illusions of winning. Our goal is educational and we hope that our key concepts — guaranteed jobs or income that allow for a modest but secure life and a Beauty New Deal (to complement the Green New Deal which we also support), will be picked up by candidates and leaders in the major parties. Of course, we hardly expect the GOP to take us seriously but we know many Democrats share our values and will be inspired by our proposals.
We'd love to see a Bread and Roses caucus in the Democratic Party — we agree with its calls for greater equality, climate action, racial justice, compassion and kindness. We also believe it should pay attention to the "roses" and should work hard to reduce international tensions. We will continue to campaign for these ideas both as a third party and within the Democratic Party.

((WSS)) In what states should voters expect to see the Segal/de Graaf ticket on the ballot? Why should voters choose the Segal/de Graaf ticket over other tickets on the ballot?

de Graaf: COVID-19 has made it very difficult to collect the signatures to get on the ballot in many states and you will only see us on the ballot this year in Maryland, where Jerome lives, and Vermont. We are not seeking to be spoilers and had no intention of running in any state where we might in any way cause the defeat of Joe Biden as we believe the most important thing right now is to end the monstrosity of the Trump presidency.
We see Vermont and Maryland as among the bluest states in the union, where it is also possible that some on the Left will sit the election out, knowing that a Biden victory is assured in their state. Instead, we hope they will come out and vote for us and then for other progressives further down the ticket. If we get enough votes to be noticed we hope we can create a new dialogue about the importance of the roses in political thinking.
In other safe Blue States or deeply Red ones, voters can write us in to send a message about quality of life. As we emerge from Covid-19, we do not want to return to the old normal of a grossly unequal, overworked America, obsessed with materialistic values at the expense of our environment, health and happiness. I hope people who read this will check out our webpage and our Facebook page. [links provided below.]

Eric Bodenstab (Unity Party of America)

Eric Bodenstab
Image: Unity Party of America.

The Unity Party of America ticket of Internet entrepreneur Bill Hammons for president and engineer Eric Bodenstab for vice president secured ballot access in New Jersey in late July. The party had already attained ballot access in Colorado as a qualified minor party with at least 1,000 members. This is the first election cycle the party has fielded a presidential ticket.

Hammons founded the Unity Party in 2004 and grew it through his 2008 and 2010 runs for US Congress, his 2014 and 2016 runs for US Senate, and his 2018 run for Governor of Colorado. The party, which describes itself as centrist, advocates in its constitution for, among other things, a balanced budget amendment, elimination of the federal income tax, tax deduction for health care costs, a global minimum wage for fair trade, term limits for Congress and judges, lowering the voting age, DC statehood, and expanded space exploration.

Bodenstab has previously run for city council and was the Unity Party's nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Colorado in 2018. With Wikinews, Bodenstab discusses how he joined the Unity Party's presidential ticket, what constitutes his role as the party's vice presidential nominee, and why voters in the states the party has attained ballot access should consider casting their vote for the Hammons/Bodenstab ticket.

((WSS)) : Why did you join Bill Hammons on the Unity Party's 2020 presidential ticket? How do you complement him on the ticket?

Bodenstab: I joined Mr. Hammons on the ballot because it was time to expand the party nationally. We had just appeared on the ballot together in 2018, and by December it was clear that we were going to field a presidential candidate. That person was myself. Bill, for all his effort since 2004, probably needed to have someone else drive. In addition, there was plenty to do at the state level here in Colorado. When COVID[-19] hit, I lost my job and it made sense to pass the baton back.

((WSS)) : What duties and responsibilities come with being the vice presidential nominee of the Unity Party?

Bodenstab: Our duties are very widespread. From fundraising to finding candidates to talking with voters — we are candidates and field coordinators at the same time. I was just in Louisiana last weekend personally seeking 8 electors for our presidential ballot. Despite having in-laws in that state, we didn't have much of a network there, so Bill and I both were building it at the grassroots level.
After we engaged and enrolled 8 individuals, spread across the 6 districts, Bill headed back to Tennessee to finish our ballot access there. Our time in Louisiana took us to Eunice, a small town of no more than 10,000. After finding our elector there (in CD 4), we met a young woman who was helping us find our last elector in Baton Rouge. In passing, I let it be known that I was in the engineering field. She was clearly more excited by that, than us being presidential candidates. Such is the nature of our campaign, but I wouldn't have it any other way. People should be excited by us being ordinary citizens rather than rich and powerful lawmakers.

((WSS)) : In what states should voters expect to see the Hammons/Bodenstab ticket on the ballot? Why should these voters consider casting their vote for the Hammons/Bodenstab ticket over the other tickets on the ballot?

Bodenstab: As I have mentioned, we traveled to Louisiana and Tennessee this last month. We anticipate being on the ballot there, as well as in New Jersey (which is confirmed and reported, how you heard about us).
We have demonstrated that just a couple guys, with the peripheral help of several others, can take a big step personally on behalf of the party we founded some years ago. I don't think any of the other candidates can boast that. Jo Jorgensen, from what I understand, has also worked tirelessly on ballot access for the Liberty party. But she cannot claim she founded a party. With all due respect, there is something incredibly special about that.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.