The following is an interview with Pat Noble. Pat Noble is a member of the Red Bank Regional High School Board of Education, is the National Treasurer of the Socialist Party USA, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Socialist Party of New Jersey and the Chair of the Central New Jersey Socialist Party. Folks can follow him on Twitter @socialistpat.
Jen: Tell me a little about the position you’re running unopposed for.
Pat: I am currently running for re-election for a second, three-year term on the Red Bank Regional High School Board of Education. The Board is comprised of nine seats from three constituent districts, with my seat being one of the Red Bank seats. The purpose of a Board of Education is to serve as a policy-making body for the district.
Jen: What challenges do you face being a socialist in office in a two-party system?
Pat: I should start by clarifying that my position is non-partisan, though I am very open about my politics as a democratic socialist and have been endorsed by the Central New Jersey Socialist Party local in my 2012 campaign and subsequent 2015 re-election bid. I think the greatest challenge a socialist can face in electoral politics is that of public misconception. Our beliefs and principles, while radical in their own right as an alternative to capitalism, are also radically different than the beliefs and principles that are falsely associated with us by corporate media and the right-wing Democratic and Republican parties. We are painted as authoritarians that only seek massive government control and centralization, which of course is very far from reality. Since we do not have regular access to media in the same way that the capitalist parties do, our largest challenge is continuing to change the public perception of what socialism actually is. When presented as individual ideas or proposals, socialist positions carry the support of a significant amount of the working class. Our task is to not only put forward socialist ideas to our communities and through our activist work, but to also connect those ideas to a larger need for systematic change.
Jen: What advantages do you have being a socialist in a two-party system?
Pat: As it turns out, our greatest challenge is directly related to our greatest strength. With the Cold War-era, anti-socialist mentality continuing to fade, we are coming to a place where we can introduce socialist ideas into the general discussion among working people and have them well-received. My personal advantage from this is that, as a socialist, I can put forward ideas and proposals and receive support for them from the general public.
Jen: This is a two-part question. First, how many people do you represent?
Also, my conception of a socialist democracy is people working for themselves, participating in their own lives and decision making processes at home, in the workplace, at school…and playing an active role in their society and in effect representing themselves. So how do you act as a representative to this population while upholding the concept of socialism from below?
Pat: My constituency (Red Bank) has roughly 12,000 residents and the district as a whole has roughly 23,000 residents. I think your second question is about bridging the divide between ideology in theory and practice. Running a candidate for office and having that person elected does not equate to building socialism in my mind, but I do believe that it offers momentum that can be built upon when it comes to introducing working class people to socialism. There are obvious limitations on an elected socialist in a capitalist system, regardless of the position held. That being said, I think the answer to your question is that we do the best job that we can, enjoy the small victories and learn from the mistakes as they come, and never lose sight of what our long-term goals are.
Jen: You’re running for re-election. How did you win support for the position in the last election and how are you winning support this time around?
Pat: When I first ran in 2012, I was running opposed but was elected with 54% of the vote in a two-way race. In that campaign, I focused on handing out flyers in town and communicating with a lot of the people that supported my 2011 campaign for Monmouth County Freeholder. I am running unopposed in my re-election bid but will be using the same strategies to communicate with voters.
Jen: What are some issues that you look forward to tackling this election cycle, specific to your district, and what bearing do these issues have on New Jersey as a whole and perhaps beyond to districts across the nation?
Pat: In a way there is a disconnect between the issues I’m talking about and what a school board actually has jurisdiction over. For example, I’m talking to voters about issues like school district funding and standardized testing, which an individual school district has no control over but should be discussed nonetheless.
Jen: Are you allowed to list the Socialist Party USA name on the ballot? (In California, we currently are not.)
Pat: Since I am running in a non-partisan election, there will be no party designation with my name on the ballot. That being said, I continue to be very open about my socialist beliefs and hope that voters identify me as such. As a side note, we are able to put “Socialist Party USA” on the ballot in partisan elections in New Jersey and always do so when possible.