Interview with Richard Weir: N.C. Green Party Candidate for U.S. Senate
by Joseph Waters
First of all, introduce yourself. Who are you, what’s your background?
My name is Richard Weir. I was born and bred in Pitt county, North Carolina and I’m 34 years old. I currently live in Greenville, NC where I am finishing a Master of Arts in Teaching at East Carolina University. I also have two prior degrees from ECU, one in Anthropology and the other in Religious Studies. I would be in the wrong not to mention that I am married to a wonderful woman, April, who has been the light of my life for the past 10 years. Currently, I’m running as a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate. I have been endorsed by and am running as a candidate for the Green Party; although it should be noted that the Green Party is not an official party in North Carolina.
Why are you running and what do you hope to accomplish?
I am a member of the Green Party, and as such I believe in the key values of the Green Party. One of the reasons I am running is because I feel like our political process is being held hostage by the two-party system. What we have is basically a dictatorship of the two or a duopoly. When we think of dictatorship we tend to think of one party in control, but in the United States we’re actually living in a dictatorship formed by two major parties; there is no choice in our government. It’s either black or white, you know, one side or the other; or rather I should say it’s red or blue. We don’t have true choice when we’re voting. That lack of choice really limits our democracy and I believe that we have to have government that is by the people, for the people and of the people and not by political parties; specifically two main political parties. That’s a major reason why I’m running.
I should point out that North Carolina has some of the strictest election laws in the country. If you want to be an independent candidate here, well, you can pretty much forget about it. Even a write-in candidate, like myself, has to have 500 valid signatures on a petition just to have votes counted. If I wanted to be on the ballot, I’d have to get about 100,000 signatures. How can a person who is a common citizen in North Carolina take part in the political process, other than to vote, when they have to spend the entire time pouring money out of their pocket just to get signatures? It’s undemocratic. And that’s another major reason that I’m running is that I want to see some change. I don’t know if my candidacy will do that, but at least I’m fighting for change. There are basically several things I want to accomplish, as far as working with the Green Party. I want to help the Green Party grow in North Carolina. I want to make people aware that there are more than just 3 parties they can vote for in NC [though not a “major” party, the Libertarian Party does appear on the ballot in NC]. Even though the Greens are not officially on the ballot, we are here. I want to see Green issues or values really expressed in NC. I am hoping that my candidacy, if I can get enough votes in November, will show that the GP really can be a viable party in the state of NC. Those are pretty much my major goals.
What are some of the key issues that you’re concerned about?
A major issue in NC right now is the fact that budgets are being made where education is getting the ax. Of all the things that they could cut, why do they treat education as if its just this minor thing that the government has to pay for once in a while. We are destroying our future by failing to properly fund education in this state and around the nation. One point that goes hand in hand with education cuts is the fact that the teachers really have no power to oppose those cuts. There are teachers unions in NC, but by law teachers cannot strike. In fact state employees cannot strike here. Now, what’s the use of having a union if it doesn’t have any teeth, you know? So, the teachers can scream that their money’s being cut, they can scream that their jobs are being cut. They can scream all they want to but, they’re not allowed to properly organize and fight for rights in the workplace. That’s a major issue for me. I want to see NC allow public employees to strike if they feel like their rights are being violated.
Okay. Well, is there anything else? I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff. Any other major beefs?
Well, I was focusing mainly on state issues there, but there is something else that’s really important in my mind and that is the danger of having corporations involved in politics. I am not taking any corporate money. The Green Party does not take corporate money, but the Democrats and Republicans both take corporate money; both of them. Barack Obama’s campaign – one of his biggest donors was Goldman Sachs. They gave money to Barack Obama and they gave it to John McCain; they played both sides of the fence in case one won over the other. It goes back to that whole duopoly thing. Another thing, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that corporations, and unions, although I’m not as concerned about unions as I am corporations, can pretty much give as they wish to a political campaign. In it’s furthest extreme, what the Supreme Court has set up is the possibly that one day… well, can you imagine the CEO of Walmart becoming President of the United States? Or, maybe we could change the name of the country to McAmerica.
Yeah. Might as well.
This election brought to you by McDonalds [raucous laughter].
That would be more honest, wouldn’t it?
That is where we’re going, and we need to step in, the people need to step in and say: Stop! We need a federal amendment to the Constitution banning corporate involvement in politics. I honestly believe that. Now the wording of that I would have to do some research on and I would have to find out a little more information, but we need to do something as a people. Corporations are organizations whose only goal is profit, not people. They have no other concerns as long as they’re making money. Corporations don’t care about the environment or the common person; you can look at the Gulf of Mexico and see that. We need to stop and let people know, these corporations are not human beings, we are human beings, we control the government, not big business. We have to fight corporate greed, and if we do not do something soon our country is going to become an oligarchy, you know? We’re going to become a country that is controlled by the BP’s and Goldman Sachs, or the McDonalds and Walmarts. I fear the corporations and what they are doing to both the American people and the world.
Well, there is one more thing and I’ve been saying it for a while. I had people disagree with me until this thing happened in the Gulf. Offshore drilling – I am completely and totally opposed to offshore drilling. Let’s put windmills off the coast. You know, I don’t mind going to the coast and seeing windmills as far as the eye can see out in the ocean. It’s a whole lot better to see that than black tar washing up on the beach. We need renewable, clean energy in America and we are dragging our feet on it. And, if we keep dragging our feet and they start drilling off our coast, then NC’s coast is going to look like Louisiana’s coast looks right now. Unfortunately it might be too late already, because when that stuff gets into the Gulf Stream it will come right up the east coast to Cape Hatteras. I am an Eastern North Carolinian, I love the ocean and the water. To think of our precious beaches being destroyed, that really breaks my heart. So, we need clean renewable energy and we need it now. We need to stop pandering to Big Oil.
So, what kind of specific policies would you want to put in place?
Well, one of the first policies that I would want to put in place would be to ban offshore drilling. We have to have a complete ban on offshore drilling. I want to see alternative ways of making power; solar, wind power, even, well, they even have, although I’m not well-versed on it, devices that make power off the tides of the ocean. Let’s look at these alternative means; safe alternative means. We’ve got to break this addiction to oil. As it is, it’s going to destroy us. It will destroy us. Another policy would be to promote free unionization; the right to collectively bargain. This Work First thing needs to go away in NC. On the federal level I know it would kind of be stretching it to reach into the states to do this, but there has to be something done. I would work to see that the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed throughout the United States. I would also really like to see changes in our health care system. I don’t think the current changes that have taken place will really help. In fact, I think it’s just pandering to health care companies and insurance companies. We need to take big business out of our health care system. We need to put people before profit. I’d have to research that a little more; how to go about it. The fact is, I’d like to take business out of everything. I don’t trust big business and I don’t trust big government, and I worry about when the two get together. That is what this new health care plan Congress has passed looks like to me.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
It is. Honestly, if the American people would just open their eyes and look at what is going on; I mean really look, they would be horrified. That is how change comes about. Right now we live in an age where sound bytes and fools on TV tell people what to think. People don’t think for themselves anymore. That’s a little insulting [laughter], but I digress. On the federal level, really I would like to see more power given back to states in some areas. I’m not going to say I’m a conservative states-rights person, but I believe that politics should definitely be handled mostly on the local, grassroots level. People should have the right to make more decisions for themselves without government or corporate interference.
What does the Green Party stand for, briefly, and why are you running as a Green and not as a Democrat or Independent or anything else?
Well, I’m running as a Green because I believe in the issues that the Green Party takes to heart. Issues such as decentralization or returning government and politics to the people. We need to realize that power lies with the people, not government. We’re the ones who should have control. I want to see more attention to environmental issues. That’s another one of our key values. Decentralization and the Environment – very important to the Green Party. That goes along with this whole thing of drilling off the coast. We must also ensure equality and social justice. I worry about racism in America. I mean, this whole thing going on in Arizona right now, with a law about as fascist as you can get. I don’t think most people realize just how fascist it is. You see polls about this immigration law and the majority of Americans support it. Well, you know, a majority of people supported killing witches in Salem and in medieval Europe, but that didn’t make it right.
Explain just a little bit what the changes were, what the new law says in Arizona. What have they done there, for people who don’t know?
One of the things this law does is give law enforcement the right to stop someone and request proper identification showing that you’re a citizen. This is the main thing that I have a problem with, because it just sounds like something from Nazi Germany. Like in the old movies when the gestapo would come up and say: “Papers, please.” The whole thing smacks of fascism. The vast, overwhelming majority of people who are coming from Mexico are not bad people. They’re coming here for opportunity. They’re coming here for the same reasons our ancestors came here for, and we’re hating them for it because they’re from another country. Or maybe it’s because they don’t look or act like “US”? I tell you, it is not right. They’re human beings, they’re just like us. Some will not be good, some will be good. Some will be productive, some will not – just like us. To blame all of society’s problems on a group of people, well that just sounds like Nazism to me. I think that’s what some people have started doing; blaming all society’s ills on a group of people and this law in Arizona is a prime example of that. So, other Green values, gender equality, just equality period; I don’t believe in discrimination of any type. We should not have discrimination in our laws. That goes for same-sex marriage, immigration and so on. We have to work to become a world where everybody is equal and everybody has the same rights, no matter what.
So, any more reasons why you’re running as a Green and not something else?
I’m running as a Green because I believe in the tenets of the Green Party. I do not feel comfortable with the Democratic or Republican parties, especially the Republican party. Or as I sometimes call them “The Party That Shall Not Be Named”. Now, I’m not saying I agree with everything the Green Party believes in; within the platform there would be several things that I don’t completely agree with, but I’m not going to go into those. We don’t have to agree with everything. When all is said and done I feel more comfortable with the Greens.
What would you say to those who continue to believe that we must work through the Democratic Party? Like those of us on the Left, or Progressives.
Wake up. The Democratic Party is not going to listen to the Left or progressives in NC. Let’s take Pitt county for instance. Pitt county is 60% democratic; it goes red most of the time. Party does not mean anything in NC anyway, and if you’re a progressive in the Democratic Party there’s really no room for you. And so, you should consider two things, you should consider either becoming a Green or becoming unaffiliated. The major parties – they’re what’s wrong with America today. You can blame every problem we have on the two major political parties; mainly because if one’s not in power the other one is. That is a good thing about the two-party system; we know whose fault it is [raucous laughter]. We know who to put the blame on.
How do you and the Green Party differ from other third parties, like the Libertarians for instance?
Well, my understanding of the Libertarian Party is that they do tend to be for big business. They do not believe in government regulation of business or government regulation of pretty much anything. The Greens believe that the government does have a duty to protect people and step in. There are left-wing libertarians, I have met them, but they are few and far between. The Green Party tends to be a more progressive party. We do believe in a lot of the same things as libertarians do. For instance, legalization of drugs. Me personally, I’m not for the legalization of every drug, but I think marijuana should be made legal. I don’t use it myself, but if somebody, say, my neighbor wants to use it, let him use it, okay? I have no problem with that?
So, you did not inhale? Is that it?
I did not inhale [in a Bill Clinton voice, followed by much laughter]. Honestly, I tried it and I did inhale. I tried it and I figured out I didn’t like it; it did nothing for me.
I’m paranoid enough already.
[Laughter] I’ll be honest with you. I tried it a couple of times and I inhaled then too, but it never did anything for me. But, you know, why should somebody be punished for using something like marijuana? Alcohol is a whole hell of a lot more dangerous than marijuana, but you can go to an ABC store and buy it. But, anyway, that is something that we have in common with the Libertarian Party. They would not see environmental regulation in the same eyes as we do. They would not see business regulation the same way that we do. They would be completely and totally against any type of nationalized, socialized health care. Greens tend to support the single-payer system; basically, extending Medicare for everybody. So, those are major differences. I actually thought about joining the Libertarian Party once, but for their whole view on economics and the role of business. When it comes to social issues and privacy issues, the Green Party agrees with the Libertarian Party in many ways, you know, I’m sure there are some that are a little bit different. My personal view, and I’ve been called a libertarian because of this, my credo is you can do whatever you want to but don’t harm me. In other words, do no harm, do as you will; that’s something I take to heart. That’s only with social issues, because with other issues I’m much more progressive.
To be continued…