Green Party presidential hopeful offers a new New Deal
There are still some who blame Green Party 2000 presidential candidate Ralph Nader for taking votes away from Democratic candidate Al Gore, ultimately resulting in the election of George W. Bush. Could this be the same for 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was in town last week?
Minnesota is among a dozen states that is awaiting confirmation of Stein as the Green Party candidate. A retired medical doctor, Stein also ran for president in 2012. A party spokesman told the MSR that at least 6,700 signatures have been turned in to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. According to a Stein campaign statement, she is confirmed to be on the ballot this November in 28 states; the goal is to be in at least 45 states.
“We’re confident [that] we will be on the ballot” in Minnesota and the other states, said Stein, who got less than one percent of the national vote in 2012. She spoke to the MSR August 16 in a sit-down interview.
“Whether we win the White House or we just win the day…either way it’s a win-win that establishes a base from which we can grow,” Stein explained. “We need a campaign that really is about justice.”
She added that her goal is not just influencing the 2016 presidential race, mainly dominated by Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton and GOP candidate Donald Trump, “but [also to] take over this election for an agenda of justice. This is in our power to do this. We have no choice but [to] profoundly change direction.”
America has a “racial justice crisis,” stated Stein. “There is a lot of attention paid now to the police violence and brutality and it is a critical problem, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Stein and her Green Party vice-president running mate Ajamu Baraka “call for addressing this crisis — ending police violence through citizen review boards so that communities can control their police. We call for independent investigators so that every case of serious injury at the hands of police is investigated. We call for the demilitarization of the police.”
Stein advocates a “Green new deal” along the line of FDR’s New Deal during the Depression, which would include job creation and “a truth and reconciliation commission that looks at the crisis of racism and the violence surrounding it.” She also wants to cut the U.S. military budget by at least 50 percent, which Stein said would help fund domestic programs.
“People are clamoring for something else,” said Stein on both Clinton and Trump, who both score high in the polls as being unlikeable. “The Democratic and Republican candidates are the most disliked and untrusted in history. Our campaign represents something else. This isn’t just an election in many ways, but looking at what kind of world we are going to have. This is the time for us to stand up and use that political courage.”
Stein also participated in the August 16 Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) Black America forum at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis. When asked why she accepted the group’s invitation, she said, “Communities of color are the front line of justice. We need to bring them into the front line of presidential politics. This is the real America.”
Over 200 persons, mostly Black, packed the theater for what was billed as “a community conversation between Dr. Stein, NOC Executive Director Anthony Newby, a panel of six Black community members, and questions from the audience,” according to a NOC press release.
Stein told the audience, “I think I’m the only candidate out there advocating for reparations.” That, along with her many responses, drew repeated cheers and applause throughout the one-hour forum. When the candidate was asked about education, environmental justice, and a $15 minimum wage, she pledged that the Black community “will be the first in line” for her Green new deal plan.
Audience member questions were submitted and read aloud by Newby. Stein was asked if her campaign was “a lost cause.”
“We call it tyranny when other countries say that [citizens] can only vote for two parties,” she responded. “We can change our voting system to a system that is actually used in the Twin Cities,” referring to the Ranked Choice Voting system that Minneapolis adopted several years ago. “Neither [Clinton nor Trump] has the popular vote. Politicians do not have a right to our vote.”
“She answered every question,” said Newby to the MSR afterwards. “She didn’t shy away from race or reparations. She didn’t shy away from tough economic questions. She had a strategy and a plan, and she articulated it.”
Rahhel Halie is a University of Minnesota Morris graduate who was one of the community panelists. During the panel discussion Halie asked Stein about her student debt retirement plan. After the discussion Halie told the MSR that she wasn’t completely satisfied with the candidate’s response: “I don’t think she was specific enough.”
During our earlier sit-down interview, Stein pointed out that too many are “held hostage” by such loans. “Many of them [are] people of color who are hurt hardest, and often wind up dropping out [of college], and they have no degree to show for it. [Furthermore], there are still enormous biases for those students of color who do come out with their degree” and [they] often experience difficulties finding work.
“Our campaign is the only one that will cancel that debt and bail out students the way the establishment [bailed] out Wall Street,” said Stein, who added that if she can convince those with college loan debt, it could be the difference-maker in her candidacy.
“It’s 42 million people,” said Stein. “That number is enough to win the presidential race in a three-way race. People are looking for someone else. I’m the one candidate in the race not compromised. I would not just be a commander-in-chief but an organizer-in-chief.”
NOC, which hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate, also invited Clinton, but at press time they had not heard from her campaign. Sen. Bernie Sanders attended a similar forum last January during his primary campaign.
“Her vision resonated with the folk in the room,” said Newby of Stein. “The question is, will that message translate into real political power.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.