There has always been a longstanding battle between the two prominent political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Now more than ever, we’ve seen divides between the two in the White House, on social media and in bold campaign ads shown every commercial break.
The second congressional district race is no exception. Democratic candidate Jacqueline Gordon is facing off against Republican candidate Andrew Garbarino, but they are not the only ones in this race. Representing the Green Party, Harry Burger wants to make his initiatives known too. They include top-down reforms of the police department, responsible gun ownership, universal healthcare, an Ecosocialist Green Deal and legalization of marijuana.
“What got me to finally toss my hat in the ring was recognizing this system has broken down because we only have two parties in controlled opposition,” said Burger. “I’ve been registered as a Green for probably close to 10 years. They have always refused all corporate funding and supported doing what’s best for the people.”
The Huntington native’s interest in politics sparked when he was in high school and realized how impactful it is when citizens hold their elected officials accountable.
“I had to write a letter to my member of Congress on the way to earning the Eagle Scout award,” explained Burger. “That’s the first time I remember really understanding that democracy depends on the citizens being a check on the power of our leadership.”
After hearing about the retirement of longtime incumbent Congressman Peter King, Burger thought this was the best opportunity for a change in leadership.
One of the changes that Burger plans to make is provide equal access to healthcare. According to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, universal health coverage, “significantly improves the life expectancy at birth and healthy life expectancy.” Burger pointed out that the U.S. is one of the only few developed nations that doesn’t have universal healthcare.
“We let shareholders and executives get rich by denying claims and sending families into bankruptcy when somebody gets sick,” argued Burger. “Medical bills are the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the U.S., but that’s almost unheard of anywhere that has socialized medicine.”
Burger further highlighted the importance of universal healthcare, especially during the coronavirus pandemic in which over 200,000 people in the United States have died.
“My strategy for making sure that everyone gets good healthcare is to add a requirement that members of Congress and our families have to be on the same level as someone having not even a penny to their name,” said Burger. “We would not be allowed to receive any care that isn’t covered for everybody and no spending our own money for extra services. That way if there’s any shortcomings, we’ll suffer them personally and have incentive to fix that for everybody. In engineering we call it ‘Eat your own dog food,’ especially in a pandemic and a recession where so many have lost their jobs.”
Another factor that plays into health that Burger is passionate about is the environment and it’s one of the reasons why he decided to join the Green Party, a party that’s always championed environmental rights and protections.
“We need the Ecosocialist Green New Deal to get as close to zero greenhouse gas emissions as we can by 2030,” asserted Burger. “Any new power generation capacity from this point on needs to be zero emissions, then we work on building out new green energy and storage infrastructure.”
Since Burger has a mechanical engineering background, he said he knows that there are several ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions through technology in a way that kills two birds with one stone.
“All this would require lots of construction projects across the country, allowing us to guarantee a job for any American who wants one,” said Burger. “The first New Deal got us through the Great Depression, now the Green New Deal will be the thing to bring us out of this recession.”
When it comes to police reform, Burger says the only way to fix issues of over policing and police brutality is to hear from the people who are most affected by it.
“I recognize that I’m another white guy, but I’m not here to be a ‘white savior,'” said Burger. “I know that people of color and other minority groups like LGBTQUIA+ have historically been hurt the worst by over policing and abuse, so I’m doing my best to center their voices.”
A specific action that Burger wants to take is looking into 911 calls and assessing whether certain situations call for an officer with a gun, a social worker with a police escort or something else. He has also been active with Long Island United to Transform Policing and Community Safety to work on furthering the conversation on policing. In the same vein, the Green Party candidate also wants to end the disproportionate arrests and criminalization of people of color in regards to drugs.
“I know one thing I hear a lot about is how the ‘War on Drugs’ has been used as an excuse for mass incarceration, and one part of the Green platform is to fully legalize marijuana and decriminalize possession of other drugs and treat substance abuse as a public health issue that we need to help people with instead of just throwing them in prison – neither of my opponents support that,” said Burger.
The only topic that Burger is not traditionally Green on is gun rights. As a gun owner who shot his first gun at 12, he believes people have the right to defend themselves with a firearm.
“Everyone should be able to defend their home and family with firearms unless they’ve clearly demonstrated that they can’t be trusted to do so responsibly,” says Burger on his website.
In short, Burger’s platform is based on clean energy, universal healthcare, treating drug use as a public health issue and not a crime, treating everyone equally under the law and gun safety. Ultimately, he wants to leave voters with this.
“If you’re not angry with your government, you’re not paying enough attention,” states Burger on his website. “Now that more people are waking up to the idea that neither of the Big Two can really be trusted, we need a whole new party to take the lead – the Green Party.”