In a recent interview with The Intercept, presumptive Green Party nominee for President of the United States spoke about why she was running and why she felt, as do many in her party, that “the two-party system is the worst case scenario”. Since it is very clear the Mrs. Stein has every intention of running a serious presidential campaign, and since she is bound to get significant support from former Bernie Sanders voters, as well as the votes of the generally disenfranchised, it makes sense to get a feel for what her policies are, why she’s running, and how it could very well affect the overall outcome of the election.
When asked how voting for the lesser evil is a failed approach and how voting for the greater good is the only way to go, Mrs. Stein responded:
“I think that’s really subject to debate. Because who is it that ushered in the agenda of globalization, of rigged trade agreements, of Wall Street deregulation? This was the Clintons. This is the core of Clintonism. That’s what’s creating the right-wing extremism.
In fact, the lesser evil inevitably leads to the greater evil in the same way that Barack Obama lost both houses of Congress. He had two years with two Democratic houses of Congress — they could have passed any law that they wanted. They could have provided health care as a human right, they could have pulled back on these wars for oil and the war against terror, and the assault on immigrants, and assault on the press and our freedom of speech and privacy. They could have done any of that. And what did they do? They bailed out Wall Street and installed Larry Summers, the architect of Wall Street deregulation. They’re not on our side.”
And concerning Obama being elected with a highly popular mandate in 2008, Mrs. Stein has this to say:
“When he got into office, he took his ground troops out of commission. That’s what enabled him to win the primary, because he had such an active grassroots movement. He dismantled that grassroots movement at the same time he was appointing Larry Summers, and it became perfectly clear what his agenda was…. The myth is out there that the Republicans stopped him. He had two Democratic houses of Congress, he could have done something. He didn’t. What he did was make George Bush’s tax cuts for the rich permanent and he gave Wall Street the biggest bailout on record, that’s what he did…They couldn’t even pretend to stop fracking, they couldn’t pretend to stand up for Palestinian human rights, they couldn’t pretend to support health care as a human right. They gave some lip service to breaking up the banks and they couldn’t pretend to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership when even their candidate is pretending to oppose it. This is not meaningful progress; this is how they sabotaged a breakaway movement. This is what the Democratic Party has been doing ever since George McGovern won the nomination in 1972.”
The above quotes bring up interesting points. Trade agreements like NAFTA, which has seen jobs transferred south of the US border to the detriment of industries, unions and laborers in the US, did indeed happen under President Clinton. Agreements like NAFTA, and the destructions of living wage paying jobs in the US, is a rally cry for people who would vote for Donald Trump, who says that he would bring those jobs back. Since this is so appealing to those who lost their jobs, especially in states that would normally go democratic (e.g. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania), the NAFTA agreement that Bill Clinton pushed through might actually cost his wife the presidency 20+ years later.
And of course, what about Obama being elected as the hoped for reformer? Much of what was in place stayed, including key players in economic policy like Larry Summers (who is very chummy with Wall Street and big banks), and no criminal investigations have been brought against the powers that brought the financial crisis in 07-08. It all seems business as usual, with the wealth generated by society continuously filtering its way up to the richest .1%, while low wage jobs even for people with university degrees continue to be the norm. If one just looks at these points as simple facts, it would seem quite clear why Jill Stein would have the support that she does.
Besides this, Mrs. Stein has no great love for Bernie Sanders, which would seem to come as a surprise. When asked in the interview why she thought Mr. Sanders threw his weight behind the Clinton campaign, she had this to say:
“I think his paradigm is obsolete. He’s grown up with the concept of the Democratic Party as the New Deal party. I think his experience in Vermont was that as an independent third party you couldn’t move forward. But I think we are in a different era right now. The American public has moved and has repudiated these two political parties, and we have the internet and we have the capacity to self-mobilize. Sanders is anchored in a different paradigm. He hasn’t been part of the social movements on the streets over the last 10 to 15 years, he’s been in Washington, D.C., surrounded by Democrats, and it’s just a different mindset.”
When asked if she’s spoken recently with Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Stein replies:
“No. I’ve tried. He has not been interested. Never returned a phone call or answered an email. It’s pretty clear where he stands.”
And on the topic of police violence and racism, and how Mrs. Stein would address these issues, she had this to say:
“It’s not rocket science, it’s obvious things. We need civilian review boards, with the power to subpoena, we need to have the power to hire and fire police commissioners, in particular. We need to have full-time investigators so that it doesn’t take a miracle and the Department of Justice in Washington to get an investigation. Every death at the hands of police should be routinely investigated. And we call for a truth and reconciliation commission, along with reparations. We need a national facilitated discussion to actually drag out of the shadows the living legacy of the institution of slavery. That legacy has not gone away.”
The words that Mrs. Stein speaks through the above quotes are very interesting to hear for the progressive/independent-minded constituency. The trick is to build an actual party through a continued grassroots movement, not just through showing up every four years during presidential elections to get a word in edgewise. If Mrs. Stein and her supporters, whether they be former Sanders supporters or the generally disenfranchised, want to see real change, they’ll have to become a Tea Party-esque movement in order to really change the system. As the disenfranchisement continues to grow (and it will) it remains to be seen if there is more than just rhetoric behind Mrs. Stein and her supporters.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To read the full interview with Mrs. Stein, click here.
Comments and counterpoints welcome