The Green Party’s Jill Stein discusses presidential politics, third parties
Jill Stein is a candidate for the 2016 Green Party presidential nomination. Stein was the Green Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, garnering 469,015 votes in that election. Stein spoke with Buzzsaw News and Views Editor Evan Popp about her campaign, the direction she believes the country needs to go and the present and future of third party politics.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Evan Popp: What is the platform that you’re running on? What are a few tenets of that?
Jill Stein: Well, basically it’s a platform to create an America and a world that works for all of us, instead of the one percent. It’s a platform that responds to this unprecedented crisis that we’re facing and provides transformative solutions. First and foremost, we need to abolish student debt, to cancel it like we did to the banks, the crooks who got us into this mess. So it’s about time that we cancel it for the victims of that mess, that is young people who are locked in predatory debt and don’t really have a way out. Number two is we create free public higher education because that goes along with liberating a generation of young people and equipping them to have a secure future. Throughout the twentieth century we provided free high school education. Well, in the twenty-first century, you need a college education to have security.
Number three is to address the two-headed crisis of the economy and the climate. And we call for a Green New Deal, which is an emergency solution to both of those crisis. It provides 20 million living wage jobs that transform our economy with green energy, a green food system and green, sustainable, energy-efficient public transportation. And it also includes needed infrastructure. … And this has the benefit of reviving the economy, turning the tide on climate change and making wars for oil obsolete. Because when we have 100 percent sustainable energy, we don’t need the friggin’ wars for oil anymore… This enables us to cut the military budget in a big way.
We also call for health care as a human right and Medicare for all and also for rescuing public education and ending the use of high stakes testing as a justification for closing schools and bashing teachers and unions and for privatizing education. We call for a national action plan for racial justice now. This would assess police brutality and racism not only in policing, but also in our court system and in our economy. To start with, we would address police violence through community-police review boards that ensure communities control our police and not the other way around. We call for addressing the crisis of immigration by ending the U.S. policies that are causing it. And … ending NAFTA [The North American Free Trade Agreement] and the trade agreements that put farmers and workers basically out of jobs, particularly in Latin America, and force them to come here as economic refugees.
Finally, the last one is a foreign policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy instead of the current policy based on economic and military domination, which has been an incredible disaster creating failed states, mass refugee migration and have actually made the terrorist threat far worse.
Popp: You have run for president before and you’ve run for other public offices as well. Given the fact that it’s very unlikely you would win this election, what is the goal of the campaign?
Stein: Let me address the philosophy that resistance is futile, because that is what the powers that be drum into our heads. I’m not holding my breath about winning this election, on the other hand I’m not ruling it out. Crazier things have happened. And I think it’s very important for us to define what to win is. To win might be winning the White House, but a win is also laying the groundwork for eventually winning the White House. And a win is also helping to lift up and strengthen and build a real infrastructure for … a political party that’s here for the long-haul that can challenge power and that can hold lower offices. Greens have held hundreds of lower offices.
But let me just say there is a path to victory. There are 43 million people who are locked in predatory debt. There is no other campaign that will be on the ballot that will abolish debt, and that goes for the [Bernie] Sanders campaign too. …If word got out to 43 million young people that they could come out and cancel their debt, that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because 43 million is a winning plurality of the vote. So young people actually have the power to take over this election.
Popp: You mentioned the Green Party at the local level. Do you think the path forward for the Green Party is to continue to sow the seeds at a local level and build up?
Stein: I think it works both ways. You need from top down and from bottom up. If you look back over the history of social change in this country, it always has a political voice as well as a social movement. … So I think the name of the game here is not to be intimidated into accepting second-class citizenship. And not to be intimidated by this politics of fear that says you have to be quiet, you have to trust the big guys, especially when they’re running for higher office. … People said vote for the lesser evil in the last several races because you didn’t want big bailouts for Wall Street, you didn’t want the offshoring of our jobs or the massive expanding wars, the attacks on our civil liberties. That’s exactly what we got by allowing ourselves to be silent. So we think it’s really important to stand up and be loud and run as hard as we can.
Popp: It seems with this presidential election there is a certain mood of anti-establishment sentiment. Do you think that’s the beginning of something that could propel a party like the Green Party forward?
Stein: Absolutely. … You’ve seen it really clearly in the [Democratic and Republican] primaries where, by the way, they prohibit third parties from running. That’s the name of the game right now. The system tries to silence third parties because that’s really where revolts happen. You have the Democratic and Republican Parties that are really resisting the outsider candidates that are prevailing right now. We have Bernie Sanders, who’s kind of a Democratic socialist running as a Democrat but way out in front in many ways and gaining. And then you have Donald Trump running as an outsider in the Republican race. And if you look at polls right now, the largest voting block has rejected both parties. That’s really where the power would be if we could breakthrough the blackout on independent, third parties that really speaks to the issues that people are clamoring for and then enables us to really build for that instead of having to cram a revolutionary campaign into a counter-revolutionary party.
Popp: I’m guessing that last part was a reference to Bernie Sanders. I’m curious what you think of him.
Stein: I think his agenda very much overlaps with ours, almost completely domestically. Where we do differ on domestic policy is we support cancelling debt for students, he does not, and we oppose school privatization and high stakes testing and he … voted for that and voted against amendments that would have restricted privatization and high stakes testing. And we differ on foreign policy. We believe we cannot achieve justice and prosperity at home while we have a military budget that’s devouring 50 percent of our discretionary dollars and while we have a ‘War on Terror’ that’s creating more terror. That’s, I think, where we differ.
But he is doing a wonderful job stirring up the passion that’s out there and if the Democrats sideline him, which they have a long history of doing, sidelining their rebel candidates … people are going to be furious. … I think you can’t dump a revolution into the Democratic party because it has all these rules. Even if he gets the nomination, he’s going to be forced to peel it way back, peel back the revolution to what the party will accept. But they are likely to try to deny it. … And that’s why we encourage people, if you’re supporting Bernie, go ahead and support him, but make sure that you help the alternatives get on the ballot, help spread the word. Because when push comes to shove, before you vote for Hillary, you want to have an alternative.
Popp: So if Bernie were to get the Democratic nomination, you would not support him in the general election?
Stein: We’d be starting all over again. And we saw this with [Barack] Obama. There was a lot of passion and enthusiasm for Obama. … And if you allow your whole infrastructure to be dismantled and then you start all over again, it’s just not going to work. If people are worried about vote splitting, make them pass ranked choice voting, which we’ve been advocating for forever. And that eliminates the whole question about a divided vote. But the Democrats don’t want that. They want to be able to blackmail people into voting Democratic, they don’t want people to be able to vote independently.
Popp: In 2012, while running for president, you were arrested trying to get into the Presidential debate. What efforts will you be making this time around to try to get into a debate?
Stein: We will start earlier, and we will have more action. We have two lawsuits right now that are suing the Commission of Presidential Debates, which is in the words of the League of Women Voters … a fraud perpetrated on the American public. We will be fighting to open up the debates through court, but we also hope to organize direct action campaigns. We encourage people to get involved and make sure we have power, as voters, to control our election.
Evan Popp is sophomore journalism major who is launching his own presidential bid with the not-about-to-have-Donald Trump-as-President Party. You can email him at [email protected].