McReynolds at the 2009 Left Forum in New York City
David Ernest McReynolds
October 25, 1929
Los Angeles, California
|Died||August 17, 2018 (aged 88)|
New York, New York
|Socialist Party (1951–2015)|
Prohibition Party (before 1951)
Green (affiliated non-member)
|Alma mater||University of California Los Angeles|
|Occupation||Activist, politician, writer|
David Ernest McReynolds (October 25, 1929 – August 17, 2018) was an American politician and social activist who was a prominent democratic socialist and pacifist activist. He described himself as "a peace movement bureaucrat" during his 40-year career with the War Resisters League. He was a resident of New York City. McReynolds was twice a candidate for President of the United States, running atop the ticket of the Socialist Party USA in 1980 and 2000. He was America's first openly gay presidential candidate.
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McReynolds was born in Los Angeles, to Elizabeth Grace (Tallon), a nurse, and Lt. Col. Charles McReynolds, an Air Force intelligence officer. In 1951 he joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA) and in 1953 he graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. Between 1957 and 1960, he worked for the editorial board of the left-wing magazine Liberation. He was openly gay and wrote his first article about living as a gay man in 1969.
McReynolds was staunchly anti-war and a draft resister, and in 1960 joined the staff of the War Resisters League (WRL), where he remained until his retirement in 1999. In 1965 he lectured on "The Old Left and the New Left" at the newly founded Free University of New York.
On November 6, 1965, he was one of five men who publicly burned their draft cards at an anti-war demonstration at Union Square in New York. This was one of the first public draft-card burnings after U.S. law was changed on August 30, 1965 to make such actions a felony, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. He was close friends with Bayard Rustin and other prominent peace activists, as well as literary figures such as Quentin Crisp.
In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War, and later became a sponsor of the War Tax Resistance project, which practiced and advocated tax resistance as a form of anti-war protest.
McReynolds was particularly active internationally, both in War Resisters' International, of which he was chairperson for the term 1986–88, and in the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace, which eventually merged into the International Peace Bureau.
The SPA was renamed the Social Democrats USA by a majority vote at the 1972 convention. Michael Harrington resigned and then formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (now the Democratic Socialists of America, DSA) with the purpose of "realignment" strengthening the role of labor unions and other progressive organizations in the Democratic Party to pull it to the left. The smallest and the most left wing faction of the SPA, known as the Debs Caucus, including McReynolds, formed the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA). McReynolds was long a member of both DSA and SPUSA.
McReynolds' primary theoretical contribution to socialism came from his blending of a pacifist world-view with a commitment to re-distributive socialist economics. Politically, he was a staunch anti-authoritarian and collaborated with a diverse set of political formations on the democratic left. His widely read pamphlet, The Philosophy of Nonviolence, provides a unique window into the mind of a lifelong activist wrestling with the contradictions and pitfalls which plagued the political left in the 20th century. He concludes that "...there is no living, vital philosophy which does not have 'holes' in it." Consequently, he mapped out a pluralistic approach which is, on the one hand, socialist, yet is entirely engaged with thought systems as seemingly contradictory as Hindu philosophy. He concluded that a brand of pacifist-socialism is best suited for future socialist experiments since it offers the greatest opportunity to prefigure the kinds of democratic relations necessary to create a functional and free society.[clarification needed]
In his political career, McReynolds ran for Congress from Lower Manhattan twice and for President twice. In 1958 he ran as a write-in SPA candidate and then in 1968 as a Peace and Freedom Party candidate for Congress in the 19th district pulling in 4.7% of the vote (3,969 votes). In 1980, he ran for President of the United States as the SPUSA candidate, with Diane Drufenbrock as vice presidential candidate, receiving 6,994 votes (0.01%). He ran again for President as the SPUSA candidate in 2000 with Mary Cal Hollis as his running mate, receiving 5,602 votes. In both 1980 and 2000, McReynolds received the endorsement and ballot line of the Liberty Union Party in Vermont.
After the 2000 election the Palm Beach Post speculated that the vast majority of the 2,908 voters who had voided their votes by punching the names of both McReynolds and Democratic candidate Al Gore on a "confusing butterfly ballot" (and also of the over 3,000 more who punched both Gore and Buchanan) had meant to vote for Gore and that mistaken voting on the Palm Beach County butterfly ballot had consequently cost Gore the state's crucial electoral votes, and therefore the election as a whole.
In January 2015, the Socialist Party USA's National Committee voted to censure McReynolds over alleged racist comments made on social media regarding the Charlie Hebdo shooting and shooting of Michael Brown. He resigned from the SPUSA shortly thereafter.
On July 10, 2004, McReynolds announced his candidacy running on the Green Party ticket for one of the New York seats in the Senate, running an anti-war campaign against Democratic incumbent Chuck Schumer, where he pulled in 36,942 votes for 0.5% of total.
McReynolds was active politically until just before his death, attending meetings, speaking in classrooms, being interviewed for films and research, and participating in peace, justice, antiwar, and antinuclear actions. His last arrest was at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in 2015 at an action calling for immediate nuclear disarmament.
He was an avid photographer throughout his adult life and spent time during the last three years of his life sorting his collection of more than 50,000 photos.
In 2015, McReynolds endorsed U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States, praising him as a "serious candidate" and for not personally attacking his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
McReynolds died on August 17, 2018, aged 88, following a fall he sustained at his New York City home.
|Party political offices|
| Socialist Party Presidential candidate
Mary Cal Hollis
| Socialist Party Presidential candidate
| Green Party Candidate for United States Senator from New York