We’re Fighting for Democracy: an interview with Rosa Clemente, vice presidential candidate of the Green Party.
Rosa Clemente, 35, is the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party of the United States. Clemente, who is Puerto Rican, was born in the South Bronx, New York, and educated at the University of Albany and at Cornell University. A vibrant community organizer and feisty journalist, Clemente co-founded the National Hip Hop Political Convention. The Green Party’s presidential candidate is Cynthia McKinney, former two-term Congresswoman from Georgia. In May 2007, McKinney left the Democratic Party at an anti-war rally in front of the Pentagon. "As an American of conscience," she said, "I hereby declare my independence from every bomb dropped, every civil liberties rollback, every child killed, every veteran maimed, every man tortured. And I sadly declare my independence from the leaders who let it happen."
Vijay Prashad spoke to Clemente as she waited to board a flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul to participate in the protests around the Republican National Convention.
What would the first 100 days of the McKinney-Clemente administration look like?
Well, immediate withdrawal from Iraq. We’d stop the blockade against Iran. And we’d put forward criminal charges against Bush. Bush and his cohorts need to be held responsible for what they did.
For me, and particularly for my generation of young people of color, we need to have a livable wage. Not just a minimum wage. This would immediately begin to alleviate the economic conditions in areas of color, but in general as well. We’d pass a health care bill along the lines of a single-payer policy. It is completely doable.
As soon as we withdraw from the wars and the pre-wars that we are engaged in, we’d have the money to do this. Cynthia McKinney had pledged to cut the Pentagon’s budget by half or three quarters. 34 cents of every tax dollar goes to the Pentagon. We would cut this, we’d demilitarize. We’d take care of people at home.
What would the first 100 days of the Obama-Biden administration look like?
There won’t be a withdrawal of the troops. They’d transfer troops to Afghanistan. Biden dropped that in his speech a couple of times. Besides that I don’t know what they’d do. The Democrats are not responsible to their own platform at this point.
What would the first 100 days of the McCain-Palin administration look like?
I don’t even want to imagine a McCain administration. The country would fall apart faster than it would under the Democrats. A woman’s right to reproductive rights will be taken away. Anti-abortion Supreme Court justices will make sure of that. Palin is a staunch "right to life" woman. That’s why McCain picked her. And there’d be more wire-tapping of people.
Scott McLarty, the National Media Coordinator for the Green Party, told me that it would have been easier to run against Hillary Clinton. He says the Obamamania, or the appeal of hope is hard to untangle. What do you feel now that you’re running to the Left of Obama?
I’m don’t think I’m running to the Left of Obama. We’re running against the whole institution. I don’t think it would have been easier with Hillary Clinton. Part of the battle for the third parties is institutional. For instance, the candidates are not allowed to debate. We’re whited out of the media. Even with Obamamania at its height and McCain hype, independent polls show that people are holding on to their independence, or staying home or voting for a third party. Collectively, Greens, Libertarians and others are polling at 11%. Democrats and Republicans are five points apart. The American people believe that a two-party system is not democracy. Elites and corporations run both parties. If more people have information on third parties, they wouldn’t believe that we are spoilers. In 2000, the Supreme Court selected Bush. It was not Ralph Nader who spoiled the election for Al Gore. It was the Supreme Court that picked him. Kerry in 2004 didn’t make an effort to get the votes counted in Ohio. In 2000 and 2004, the Democrats didn’t fight hard enough to get the votes counted. We have a hard road to travel, because of the disinformation coming out of these campaigns. We’re fighting for democracy.
As an Afro-Puerto Rican woman, what does Obama mean to you?
As a person of African descent who is married to an African American, I know what it means for someone like Obama to be so close to the White House. His candidacy means history was made. But coming from a generation where we’ve seen so many black elected officials who have made many promises and defaulted on these promises, it’s hard to remain focused on the making of history. I as a person understand why Obama’s candidacy is so important. But I am not going to vote for someone based on gender or color anymore. The day of voting for identity is over. Both parties are not doing what the people are telling them to do. They’re punking out on getting us out of the war. They’re punking us out on no drilling for oil. The people are stranded in New Orleans again [Hurricane Gustav was on its way as we spoke]. Democrats essentially share the power with the Republicans now, and they don’t do anything. Electoral politics has to be used for some kind of positive change.
Young people are with the Obamamania. But some young people, middle class young people on college campuses. Young people coming back from the military, coming out of prisons with no right to vote, young immigrants who can’t vote, unemployed youth, these young people are not so caught up in the mania.
My daughter knows who Obama is. My daughter also knows that Cynthia McKinney is running. Nader is running. I’m running. There’s history in Cynthia McKinney’s candidacy as much as there is in Obama’s candidacy. I happen to be voting for and working with Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party.