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The Green Alternative: Prez Candidate Jill Stein On What It Will Take To Win In 2016

The Green Alternative: Prez Candidate Jill Stein On What It Will Take To Win In 2016
Tue, 8/11/2015 - by Derek Royden

In late June, Dr. Jill Stein of Lexington, Mass., announced she would be seeking the Green Party nomination for President of the United States in 2016. This follows up Stein's 2012 run on the same ticket, which received endorsements from progressive luminaries like Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges.

That year, Stein and her VP running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested twice for their activism during the campaign: first, during a sit-in at a Philadelphia bank where they were protesting foreclosures, and second, when they attempted to enterthe presidential debate at Hofstra University and bring attention to the exclusion of alternative political parties in the election process. Winning close to half a million votes in 2012 made Stein the most successful female presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Occupy.com recently caught up with Stein to discuss her 2016 campaign, the policies she's labeling her Green New Deal, her take on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what's changed for the Green Party since 2012.

In late June, Dr. Jill Stein of Lexington, Mass., announced she would be seeking the Green Party nomination for President of the United States in 2016. This follows up Stein's 2012 run on the same ticket, which received endorsements from progressive luminaries like Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges.

That year, Stein and her VP running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested twice for their activism during the campaign: first, during a sit-in at a Philadelphia bank where they were protesting foreclosures, and second, when they attempted to enterthe presidential debate at Hofstra University and bring attention to the exclusion of alternative political parties in the election process. Winning close to half a million votes in 2012 made Stein the most successful female presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Occupy.com recently caught up with Stein to discuss her 2016 campaign, the policies she's labeling her Green New Deal, her take on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what's changed for the Green Party since 2012.

Derek Royden: Do you think Green Party policy ideas today are starting to resonate more with the U.S. public than they have in the past?

Jill Stein: Hugely, yes, I think the Green Party has been ahead of the curve historically on equal marriage, on the climate crisis, on green energy, on nonviolence, on fighting corporate personhood, on fighting for local self-sufficient economies. We’ve been ahead of the curve but the curve has caught up to us in a big way since the last election. You could kind of feel it in transition then, kind of like people were surprised to hear what we had to say. This time around, people really understand that the system is in crisis and that the Green Party is the only political alternative out there.

Most democracies have multi-partisan systems so you can have a socialist party, an environmental party, you can have different kinds of parties. [But] in this country you have either the parties of oligarchy or you have all the other sorts of alternatives with integrity, and we have come together making for a very powerful, unified force. People are beginning to mobilize around a common agenda for people, planet and peace over profit. There’s this wake-up call – that we can’t move forward without taking on the whole tamale. Somebody at the Green Party national convention reiterated the quote: “We’re at a moment in history where in order to change anything, we have to change everything.”

It created a very empowering moment because we recognized that we have a very big team and it is undoubtedly a majority. When you add in the one in two Americans who are in poverty or low income according to the census bureau, that’s a lot of people. Add to that the one in three African Americans who are held hostage in the prison state, that’s a lot of people. Add to that 40 million millennials with college debt and no way to pay it, given this low wage poverty economy that we have been locked into, that’s a lot of people.

And it’s only getting worse, it's not getting better. There are certain superficial claims to the economy being in recovery but that's purely delusional and cherry picking of the data. We’re not in a recovery, it’s still an emergency. So when you add these forces of crisis together including, of course, the climate crisis, we have no alternative except to go forward together with a broad, empowering, inclusive agenda that’s as big as the crisis we’re facing. The word is out and the resistance is thriving right now.

DR: One of the main problems third party candidates have had in the past is that the mainstream media tends to ignore the issues they bring up, not to mention the candidates themselves. Do you have a strategy to get your message out there to the public?

JS: We sure do and there are a couple of strategies. One of them is we’ve filed a court case against the Commission on Presidential Debates and there is actually a fighting chance that we can open up the debates because they’re breaking the law. We have a very well-funded lawsuit, it entails a coalition of groups across the political spectrum that are fighting to open them up and we certainly have a fighting chance for a wide variety of reasons.

Back in 2002, when I was first tricked into running for office, we agitated our way into a debate, not because the Green Party had so much support but because people were horrified by the predatory debates where people are forced to listen to corporate puppets. It was televised and, inside the debate hall, our public interest ideas went over like lead balloons, but when the group emerged from the debate, I was mobbed by the press for the first and the last time. They told me I’d won the debate on the instant online viewer poll; you can be sure that was the last time they did an instant online viewer poll, but it made the point that the public is really hungry for a politics of integrity, and that’s what we’ve got and they don’t.

We also hope to conduct mass actions in the run-up to this [debate] so that we will be campaigning in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law. So we hope to, for example, initiate an economic boycott of the corporate sponsors of the Commission on Presidential Debates. We have a bunch of fun adventures to look forward to and we encourage people to go to our website and get on the newsletter and be tuned in and participate. You know: be the movement, be the campaign.

DR: What’s the web address for your campaign so people can check it out?

JS: It‘s Jill2016.com. Our campaign’s theme is basically to lift up the voices of grassroots struggle so that you don’t have this preposterous kabuki theater called presidential campaigns where all we’re talking about is how racist and bigoted the various Republican candidates can be. What we need on the table is Black Lives Matter, the prison system, ending the war on drugs and making public higher education free. That is our intent, that is why we are running in this race: to lift up the powerful voices around these powerful ideas whose time has come. People don’t need to feel in any way like participating in the campaign means leaving their issues behind – to the contrary, its about lifting their issues and their struggles up.

DR: You mentioned Black LIves Matter, and it feels like in the past year a new civil rights movement has exploded in the U.S. to address structural racism and police violence against minority communities in general, and African Americans in particular. How would you as president address these very important issues?

JS: I’m glad you asked this because it really distinguishes our campaign. President Obama just granted clemency to what, 46 people? After they spent a decade locked up unjustly for nonviolent use of substances that are safer than alcohol and nicotine for the most part, in particular marijuana. We’re talking about number one, recognizing that we have an emergency here, an emergency of racial justice that demands a solution as comprehensive and deep and structural as the crisis itself.

What we’re calling for is a national action plan for racial justice now, and I want to clarify this is an action plan under development by the Malcolm X Grassroots Initiative – it isn’t something we’re inventing, but is rising up out of the African American community in particular and it calls for a set of solutions that meet the most urgent needs as defined by the people who are impacted themselves. What does that mean? It means employment, because unemployment rates are sky high in communities of color. We have an economic program called the Green New Deal which calls for a job for everybody: a living wage job for everyone. A job is a human right, a necessity. It also pays for itself, it jumpstarts our economy. But the racial justice piece of this is that the Green New Deal prioritizes job creation in the areas of greatest need: communities of color.

So that’s one solution. Another is addressing structural racism in the prison system and the war on drugs. That means declaring an end to the war on drugs and treating substance abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal issue. It means freeing non-violent drug offenders with needed preparation, including job training and providing ongoing rehabilitation. It also means ending systemic discrimination against former convicts and that is discrimination in housing and employment, in education and the ability to get a loan, voting, you name it.

It also means addressing structural racism in the judicial system. For example, communities of color should have a standing investigator who can be brought in every time there is a death at the hands of police or in police custody like in the Sandra Bland case. This should be routine, it shouldn’t be something that has to have the good luck to come to public attention and get public outrage around it in order to have the Attorney General declare that it warrants special investigation.

We need to systemically introduce restorative justice as a supplement to the criminal justice system. Restorative justice looks to restore the community and in the case of non-violent offenses it should be used much more, as its been found to be very effective. It looks to intercept before violence occurs; it's a wonderful and very promising system of justice that should be integrated. We must also address inherent racial bias in education and that means ending high stakes testing: limited doses of testing for diagnostic purposes only. High stakes testing is not a valid assessment tool and it is actually very harmful to those who are most vulnerable to the deficiencies in the education system.

[Finally], we need to stop burdening taxpayers with school privatization and charters, which do not improve education. All they do is cherry pick and basically steal money from public education and leave the kids who are really challenged inside the public schools. We have to call this system of test, punish and privatize to a halt.

DR: In terms of foreign policy, many commentators have argued convincingly that the Arab Spring was as much a result of drought and rising food prices as it was about overthrowing repressive governments. Would a Green foreign policy try to take these issues into account and, if so, how could the United States help to alleviate this kind of suffering?

JS: One way we can help to alleviate it is by ceasing to cause it and there are many ways we’re contributing to it. We have the highest per capita production of greenhouse gases and consumption of energy, so that’s one issue right there. We need to get our own house in order. Climate is global and what we’re doing has global impacts, obviously.

We are calling for 100% renewable energy by 2030. That’s 100%. It’s not only powering our homes but also our transportation. Another big part of the problem is our military industrial complex and the fact that we have the biggest war machine, equivalent to basically all others added up. The single biggest polluter on the planet is the U.S. Department of Defense. This not only creates global suffering through climate change but also through war. It’s very important that we transition from a foreign policy based on total economic and military domination to a foreign policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy.

What just occurred with Iran is a very small indicator of what is possible. We should be rendering the whole Middle East nuclear free. If we really want to have a stable Middle East, and, for that matter, a future for Israel, which is a subject of concern for so many people who are protesting the Iran deal saying that it’s a threat to Israel, well, actually Israel’s nuclear weapons are a huge threat to everyone in the region, including Israel itself, as is the belligerent Netanyahu government. The U.S. government needs to stop not only our own war mongering but we need to stop supporting other militaristic governments like the Netanyahu government and like the Saudis, who are committing war crimes right now in Yemen. We need to stop being in the business of funding war criminal governments, and that too will help alleviate suffering in the region and instability and the climate crisis.

All of these crises fold together and so do their solutions. As complex as these problems are, they are actually not so complex when you stand back and look at the big picture, because they have common causes and common and convergent solutions. That's why we call for a Green New Deal – not only for the U.S., but also globally, because all of these problems have a global dimension and can only be solved globally. In a nutshell, the Green New Deal in the U.S. creates 20 million jobs. Good living wage jobs that could put everybody back to work as part of the solution, and that means an emergency transition to a green economy which means green energy, green food and green transportation as well as meeting human needs, because communities are not sustainable unless they are meeting the needs of people.

As it turns out, what’s healthy for the planet is also healthy for the people. We spend $1 trillion a year on the military industrial security complex, but we spend $3 trillion a year on the sick care complex. We don’t have a healthcare system so much as a sick care system, and in moving to a Green New Deal, by creating a healthy local organic food system, by ending pollution and by creating an efficient public transportation system that also allows people to walk and bike safely in their communities to transit hubs – in doing so, we actually address the major drivers of chronic disease in the U.S. As a medical doctor, I have great familiarity with these issues and it turns out that 75% of our $3 trillion a year is spent on chronic diseases which are preventable. How? Through a healthy diet and exercise. You get exercise not by joining a health club. Exercise needs to be integrated into how we lead our lives, into our transportation systems. That’s how societies become healthy – by having activities integrated, not by buying a health club pass.

This isn’t just theoretical, by the way, this actually happened in Cuba when the country lost its oil pipeline in the early 1990s as the old Soviet Union went down. At the time, their economy is crashing, everybody is totally stressed out, but guess what? They don’t have any fossil fuels to burn so their pollution goes away. They have to start walking and biking and they have to undertake an organic food system very quickly, and what happens? Rates of obesity went down 50%. Death rates from diabetes went down 50%. Death rates from heart attacks and strokes went down between 25% and 35%. So they had a health revolution that cost them zero dollars, and we spend $3 trillion a year.

DR: You never really hear about that in the mainstream media.

JS: Of course not, exactly. That’s why we have good news and when people say, ”Yes, you have good news, but how are you going to get the word out?”, well, there are many ways to get the word out and let me just say this: when I had a chance to participate in a debate, and generally when Greens have a chance to participate in a debate, we’re generally declared winners of these things, not because we’re so brilliant but because we have a license to actually tell the truth, because we’re not owned by corporate America. We can tell the truth and speak to what everyday people are thinking because that’s what our party is: it's a party of everyday people. We don’t take corporate money so it's built into our DNA; it's built into how the Green Party works that we do not take bribes, legal or otherwise, and that’s sort of the lifeblood of both the Democratic and Republican parties. It's legalized bribery: that's how they live. We have the unique ability to tell the truth and people are chomping at the bit not only to hear the truth but to mobilize around it. In fact, many people are already leading the way and we are simply lifting up these voices.

We have the power. It's good news, it's in our hands. We have the power to actually win this election if we so choose, but we can win, even short of winning, by showing that we are now a mobilized organized political force and we ain’t going away.

 

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