In the run-up to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it is worthwhile to take note of the third-party or independent candidates that are candidates for president. These are people trying to advance agendas of humanity, who are up against an antidemocratic system rigged in favor of the two most prominent political parties.
Yesterday, The Dissenter began its effort to highlight the importance of third party politics. Especially given the fact that President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney could care less about talking about the rule of law and transparency while on the campaign trail, the candidacy of Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson was highlighted through an extensive interview.
Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, is another candidate who is raising issues and speaking to the suffering of millions of Americans that has resulted because of the inequality and injustice that seems to have grown exponentially in the past decades. She is not just a politician but an activist. Recently, she was arrested during a sit-in against home foreclosures at Fannie Mae in Philadelphia. Her participation in the protest and decision to get arrested along with other demonstrators gave her candidacy a significant boost in attention.
Below is a transcript of the beginning of an interview with Stein. We talked for nearly an hour. This is her answer to my first question. The rest of her interview will be published over the next couple of days.
KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: Let’s begin with you talking a bit about your background and, specifically, I’d like you to talk about your work as an activist, because I think that is something unique or exceptional that you bring to the presidential race.
JILL STEIN, Green Party Presidential Candidate: The American people are clearly clamoring for something real out there in this political system that has become so disconnected from what real everyday Americans are struggling with and the solutions we are clamoring. So, I think the fact that our campaign is not bought and paid for by Wall Street, the fact that we are every day real people who struggle on behalf on those things that are critical to the American public is why we are getting the resonance that we are.
My background—I’m trained as a medical doctor and I became active, both from my perspective as a health care provider but from my perspective as a mother, looking at generations of young people struggling with chronic diseases they shouldn’t have. This epidemic of asthma, learning disabilities, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autism—you name it. I said to myself, our genes didn’t change overnight. These were new diseases twenty years ago in young people. And I said, our genes didn’t change. Something’s going on at the level of our communities, and I became tired of pushing pills on people and sending them back out to the very same things that were making them sick, so I became involved in community efforts to make our communities healthy and to take them back and make them work for the people who live there, not the multinational corporations who profit from them and exploit them. And I began to work to close down our polluting incinerators and to create jobs through recycling programs or to clean up and implode our coal plants and create jobs in weatherization, conservation and renewable energy.
I thought, well surely if our legislators knew we could save lives, money and create jobs they would throw their support behind this kind of thing. As your typical activist, it took me about ten years to see this was just a game we play to keep the discontented busy spinning their wheels while the relentless exploitive economy continues to turn its wheels. In fact, we’ve only been accelerating in the wrong direction.
I should mention that I became involved then in getting the money out of politics, thinking that seemed to be the problem. Let’s get the money out that bribes our elected officials legally to do the wrong thing. And, I joined a large coalition here in Massachusetts to pass public financing for elections. We passed it in a referendum by a two-to-one margin and the nearly solidly Democratic legislature—about eighty-five percent Democratic—promptly began to fight the law and within a year or so had repealed it. At that point, it became clear to me if we want the jobs we need or the health care we deserve and all the rest, we need to change the sick political system in order to fix everything else that ails us. So now I say I am practicing political medicine, when people ask me what I am doing, because it is the mother of all illnesses and we got to fix this one in order to fix everything else that is literally and figuratively killing us. And I don’t just mean our health but our economy, our jobs, our civil liberties, our democracy, our health care system.
That’s basically a long way of saying I’m here as a mother, above all, really concerned about the direction that we have taken under this predatory political system that is bought and paid for by Wall Street. And in my own experience, I found if we’re going to change it, it’s not just changing one law. It’s not just simply finding a nice person within a sick system that will prevent them from doing the right thing, even if they wanted to, but we really need fundamental system change. So, that’s why I am working with the Green Party.
I actually got recruited to run back in 2002 against Mitt Romney, as a matter of fact. I was recruited by the Green Party, which said our values are your values. We agree. We need to reform our healthcare system. We need an environment that’s not making us sick and we need jobs consistent with all that. So, the pitch presented to me was why don’t you keep doing what you’re doing but call it a political campaign. So, I first became involved not just in electoral politics but it was the first time I became involved in a political party in the run-up to 2002.
I had never seen a reason to participate in electoral politics. It seemed so corrupted and I had never gone to a political meeting nor identified myself with a political party. So, it was quite a discovery to see that as a candidate the landscape was not at all what it was made out to be by the corporate press and the prevailing mythology that people even in 2000 and much more so now are desperate for a politics of integrity and a human-scale politics that looks, talks, smells and walks like a human being. Right now, what we get mostly looks, talks and smells like a rat and people know difference and care far more about the humanity of their politics than any political label.
So, I was really flabbergasted and uplifted back in 2000 to see what an exciting conversation people were begging to have about real things in their lives and I found it—I entered politics out of desperation and I came out of that first race with a lot of inspiration about the need and the potential to have a real political process that actually puts the true crises we’re facing on the table and the real solutions, for which there’s enormous public support.
The purpose of our campaign now is to transform this breaking point that we’re facing into a tipping point to take back our democracy and the kind of future we deserve. And it’s true, I think, we are accelerating in the wrong direction under both Democrats and Republicans and we badly need to own our politics once again. There’s an enormous wake-up call going out among the American people because we really are up against a breaking point.
The ranks of the poor are enlarging massively by the year and we’re all in the target hairs right now. One out of every two Americans are in poverty or in low-income and headed for poverty. One in three homeowners are at risk for foreclosure. Fifty million Americans don’t have health insurance and the Affordable Health Care Act is not going to solve this, even when it had a Medicaid expansion. I’ve been living with it in Massachusetts for five years and the data is in. It is not solving the problem by any means.
At any rate, I think there is a social movement that is alive and well, out there at the grassroots. People are really struggling for their survival and literally to put food on the table and keep shelter over their heads and to have a job, especially a job that pays a living wage. The accountability is so clearly now in both partisan camps and assured by this president who has not moved us forward over four years and has embraced the fundamental policies of George Bush and in many cases gone much further on the war, on the Wall Street bailouts, on the off-shoring of jobs with these free trade agreements with the most draconian of them all being negotiated behind closed doors by this president, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
We’re at the breaking point and it’s a really good time to turn it into a tipping point and take back our future.
Part 2 to come. We discuss what has been most striking about the erosion of civil liberties in this period of history and what her relationship to grassroots activism would be if she were to be elected president.