After mounting a primary challenge against Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin this year, Silver Spring resident Jerome Segal decided to form the Bread and Roses Party as a new option for voters at the polls.
“I have a whole set of new perspectives that I think resonate very well but have no place to go,” Segal said. “I actually come out of a real socialist tradition and one that’s linked … to the simple living, high-thinking tradition going back to the Quakers, [Henry David] Thoreau … and the utopian communes of the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Following June’s primary election in which Segal placed third, with 3.3 percent of the vote behind Cardin and former military intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, Segal said he was “frustrated” at the lack of media coverage of the primary race, adding that many voters were not aware the incumbent Senator was up for reelection.
Inspired by the 1912 labor strike in Lawrence, Mass., Segal, 74, originally from the Bronx, explained that the party is “socialistic in its ideals but something that’s open to non-socialists and new socialists.”
Using the 1875 Karl Marx slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” Segal explained that his party based its interpretation of socialism on a redistributive principle, so that everyone has the “ability to satisfy their own needs should not be dependent upon their income level” and an alternative to the current “jobs system” of capitalism.
He added the “jobs system,” which includes two classes of people – job creators and job seekers – should need to be partially or entirely replaced.
The party’s name also has historic connotations, with “Bread” meaning “the transition to a decent society, one that satisfies core rights, eliminates discriminations, ensures equal opportunity and exercises compassion for the less fortunate,” and “Roses” referring to “beauty in the public domain, enabling lives of meaning and purpose, expanded leisure, overcoming the deeper underemployment of unused human potential,” according to the party’s preamble.
Segal, a former federal employee and current executive director of the foreign-policy nonprofit Jewish Peace Lobby, explained the party would not adopt ideas commonly associated with socialism, such as “state ownership of the means of production” and the “dogmatic culture” of “past socialist movements.”
In its platform, the party calls for a $50 refundable tax credit for campaign contributions, a $100 per person refundable tax credit for contributions to non-profits, single-payer healthcare with no deductibles and no co-pays, and allowing children to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until the age of 29. It also calls for expanding the estate tax, a housing program to encourage tenants either to purchase or convert their dwellings into cooperatives, a national commission to address gang violence with a holistic approach, grants to develop inner-city schools, eliminating entrance fees to national parks and public museums, and technical assistance to entrepreneurs to create “vibrant local shops as in Paris or Manhattan.”
Having attended the then-tuition-free City College of New York in the 1960s, Segal, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan, added that the party supports tuition-free tertiary education.
In addition to domestic issues, the party also supports changes in the current US-Israeli relationship, including setting economic aid at $3 billion; a prohibition against using U.S. aid on the expansion of the West Bank; promoting Israeli-Palestinian interaction through joint economic projects, media programs, and cooperative activities in the arts, dance, science and the environment.
The party also supports continued nuclear diplomacy with Iran and opposes legislation that criminalizes involvement in the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement.
Although the party’s platform, which is still a work in progress and contains a disclaimer on its incompleteness, Segal said the platform will be “permanently incomplete” and will evolve continuously.
“If we have more humility about what we actually know, we can do a couple of things … we can be much more experimental and become a learning society … and be much more flexible about the divisions among us.”
The Maryland Board of Elections is currently verifying the 19,500 signatures Segal submitted on Aug. 6 to certify the party.