On Wednesday Oct. 11, Green Party Candidate, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Alumni (’77) and former Editor of The Empath (now The Point News), Pat Elder visited SMCM to speak about his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives and issues affecting Maryland’s Fifth District. The Office of Sustainability invited Elder and several other political candidates to speak this month.
Elder, a resident of St. Mary’s County, is taking on incumbent Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (a member of the SMCM Board of Trustees) and his Republican challenger William Devine, III, in the General Election this November. Hoyer has won every House election in the MD-5 district since his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1981.
During his presentation, Elder discussed the issues central to his campaign. Elder described his upbringing and how his views developed through his adolescence. In the 9th grade, Elder attended Catholic school and had a teacher that was a member of Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement. “He said ‘Kids! Your government is burning babies in Vietnam.’ And I was just 13 years old, man, I’m in the Catholic school and I heard this radical priest saying this to me, and it fundamentally changed my life, because he was telling the truth,” Elder stated.
When he was 16, Elder interned for Common Cause (a citizen lobby that works on campaign finance reform) and was told by U.S. Secretary of Health, John Gardner, to “Follow the money. If you want to know how American politics really works, forget the stuff they teach you in U.S. History class. It’s the money.” Elder advocates for publicly financed campaigns, arguing that we need to “rid the American political system of corporate money” in order to have a democracy.” Elder stated that “Amazon didn’t pay any taxes in 2017. How does that work? It works with campaign finance.”
Elder provided a list of large energy, health, finance and military groups that contribute to Rep. Hoyer, including Exelon, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, just to name a few. “Why would they give the Democrats money? Well, they get equal shares, the Democrats and Republicans. So Steny Hoyer manages to raise millions and millions of dollars. He doesn’t spend that money on his campaign. Instead, he sprinkles it to other Democratic candidates who are willing to do the corporate bidding of these corporations,” Elder told the crowd.
Elder also discussed policy suggestions that he takes from around the world, discussing Medicare for all, public financing of daycare and public financing of college, all of which have been implemented in European countries for some time. Citing what he learned from a trip to Germany, Elder explained “that in order to provide, to build, to sustain a beautiful society, and to be able to create the worker, the German worker, whom they say is the best worker in the world, they have to nurture them when they’re little, when they’re children. And what they do is they have healthcare for everybody. They have daycare for everybody. They have college and job training programs for everybody.”
On the environment, Elder called for the shutdown of coal fired power plants at Chalk Point and Morgantown, which create 47% of all the coal-fired particulates in the air in Maryland. “The Hogan administration is loosening it, and the Trump administration is also loosening it so that we can have more carcinogens in the air.” Elder argued that the coal was an example of a bigger problem: campaign finances from large energy companies, donating money to Democrats and Republicans to support their interests over the people’s health.
Elder also mentioned the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. “They lob 110mm rockets that are about five feet long into the Potomac river, they have a ship 6 miles downstream off the shore of St. Mary’s County and they have a target on there, and they see if they can hit that target from six miles away with an explosive device. And you know what, the crabs hate it. And so do the fish.” Elder told St. Mary’s students that “If you’re over there on Church Point, you can hear it. It’s like a little flutter because it’s 20 miles away.”
Elder teaches GED courses at the jail in Leonardtown, where he has seen what inmates go through on a daily basis. “Almost all of the men who I talked to, several hundred, were in for drug offenses.” Speaking about the incarceration system, Elder told TPN “It’s a revolving door. They get released, they get re-arrested and re-incarcerated. These are sick men, and they need a clinical setting. Not a jail setting. A lot of them are good people. They’re caught in a vicious system.”
Elder is the author of “Military Recruiting in the United States,” a book that describes “the deceptive practices of the U.S. military as it recruits American youth into the armed forces.” “There is a trend toward the militarization of Colleges and Universities that I don’t like to see,” Elder told TPN. “We have 2,000 high schools that have shooting ranges, and everyone’s cool with that,” Elder said, referencing “marksmanship training” ranges used by the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces. “We have to drastically cut military spending and take care of people.”
Speaking about his St. Mary’s experience, Elder told TPN that he “came to St. Mary’s as a radical” and was further influenced into political activism because of “the close relationships I had with a handful of Political Science professors that taught me that American foreign policy was motivated and directed by corporate interests. And that’s still the case today.”
Elder was the Editor of the SMCM student newspaper, the Empath. “I wrote extensively about President Renwick Jackson. He hired this guy named Manny Patillo to come in, he’s the one who fired [seven college employees who were progressive activists]”. In the second edition of the Empath in 1977 Elder published an article titled “Patillo Knew!” uncovering that Patillo was hired by Oglethorpe University directly from his previous position at Rochester University, but did not mention his position at SMCM. “He was a henchman,” Elder told TPN.
During his time at SMCM, Elder says he “saw injustice that was not corrected. I saw environmental degradation that was not addressed. I saw power politics in the way the Governor appointed board members who did not have the qualifications, quite frankly.” But when it came down to it, Elder “found that most students really didn’t care. Just like today, most voters really aren’t involved.”
Elder’s advice to SMCM students is that “The happiest, most fulfilled people are fortunate enough to pick their battle and stick with it their entire lives. What are you passionate about? Is it the environment? Work for an NGO. Is it LGBTQ issues? Get working on it. Is it fighting war? Link up with people. Even if you can’t find paying work, get involved in resistance.”
The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Maryland voters can vote for all U.S. House of Representatives seats, as well as one U.S. Senate seat, the Governor of Maryland, Maryland legislature seats and several other down-the-ballot candidates and referendums.