On August 30, 2020, the Movement for a People's Party held their first People's Convention. I was asked to give a speech alongside other invited speakers like Nina Turner, Cornel West, Marianne Williamson, and many others. The purpose of the People’s Convention was to discuss plans to build a new largest party in America by 2024.
A category 4 hurricane just swept through my state of Louisiana during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Extraordinary weather events are normal. 180,000 dead Americans and 1,000 more dying every day from a coronavirus is normal. One million Americans newly applying for unemployment benefits every week is normal. Being killed by police as a Black man is normal. Congressional gridlock is normal. The President eroding faith in our institutions is normal.
What’s become normal is not okay. None of this is okay.
What we’re doing in America isn’t working. America is not working.
It’s time to draw a line. This far and no further. This line, we shall not pass.
The only way to really change direction is with truly systemic structural reforms. We have to look with new eyes at ancient festering problems. We can’t just vote for different leaders. We have to change how we vote, and voting has to exist upon a foundation of fundamental human rights.
We all have a right to life. That is a fundamental human right, but we’ve never truly recognized it. No one really has the right to life so long as someone else can withhold what’s needed to live. Within a monetary system of private property, money is oxygen so we all have an unconditional right to enough money to live. That is why I believe the most important structural change of all, is an unconditional basic income floor, where every American would start every month above the poverty line, and never fall below it.
UBI is not solely an income boost equivalent to a simple raise however. It's a structural change that removes barriers to other structural changes. It's a foundational floor for everything else we need to do. It's the power to say no. It’s the security to breathe freely. It's fuel for essential activism.
UBI is still about money too, but too many people don't think through what that means. What does money buy? It buys time. It buys freedom from abuse. It buys access to the courts. It pays for disaster evacuations. It pays for grassroots campaigns. It affords volunteering. It supports entire communities.
We need more than UBI. An unconditional right to life is not the ultimate goal of a just society. It is the prerequisite to a just society.
UBI is the construction of a firm anti-racist foundation of equity to support our humanity, and free our imaginations and our potentials to achieve all that otherwise remains unachievable.
Upon that foundation, we also need healthcare as a right. No one should ever be dependent on their jobs for life-sustaining income or lifesaving medical care.
The right to breathe is not an employee benefit. It is inalienable. We need Medicare for All, and we need Basic Income for All. No conditions. No means-testing. No but-whatabouts.
Survival. Guaranteed. For life. So that life can be about everything beyond survival instead of an endless pursuit of survival.
But to accomplish and preserve these pillars of a just society, we also need a functioning government. We need to save, restore, and expand our democracy.
We never should have allowed a two-party system. Duopoly is not democracy.
To change this structure requires mass local activism. Every state is in charge of how they vote. Maine was the first to break free by adopting ranked-choice voting. Alaska and Massachusetts may be next. Every state must follow in order to end the spoiler effect and move from plurality to majority voting.
Gerrymandering must end too. Politicians must be prohibited from choosing their voters. At the very least, we need third-party fair redistricting, but even better - multi-member districts utilizing proportional representation.
We also need publicly-financed elections where every American is allotted an amount of funding to donate to political campaigns, so that lobbyists are overpowered by the power of the People.
We need so much more, but I consider these the most important that will make everything else possible, no matter how impossible it all feels right now.
2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget, but it also just changed the world, and a changed world means an opportunity to remake it into something new, something that actually works for all of us. Something that puts our humanity first.
A better world is possible, but it’s up to us to make it happen. It’s up to us to build it.
It’s up to us to draw that line, together, and choose to recognize our mutual human rights through the further democratization of power, and the decoupling of both survival income and healthcare from employment.
To hell with the two-party system. To hell with poverty and the daily fear of it. And to hell with non-universal healthcare.
2020 and no further. Normal is no longer acceptable.