Thanks you, Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President of the U.S.
As you know, Tikkun is a 501-c-3 nonprofit, and contributions to make Tikkun able to continue to function are tax-deductible. So to restate what we tell our readers all the time, we are not allowed by IRS rules to endorse a candidate or be identified with a candidate or a political party. So we will continue to seek to interview other major candidates and have requested interviews with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
To start this interview, could you help our readers differentiate what you stand for from what Bernie Sanders stands for? And if there isn’t a difference, why don’t you run in the Democratic Party where your voice might have much greater impact because of their access to the media?
Great question. My campaign in the Green Party for President of the U.S. seeks to continue the momentum and the vision of the Sanders campaign.
There are two differences with the Sanders campaign. One is that we can go further because we are not constrained the way that Bernie was constrained by the Democratic Party, its agenda, its funders, its limits. What Bernie’s experience and the experience of his movement showed us over the past year was that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counter-revolutionary party.
The magnificent work that the Bernie Sanders campaign did and the momentum they built and the public support that they demonstrated and mobilized is a wonder to behold and it has forever transformed the political landscape. But it was essentially sabotaged by the Democratic Party as it has always done since, George McGovern won the Democratic Party nomination, and the rules of the game were changed so that a grassroots campaign could not win the nomination again – in part by creating super delegates and Super Tuesdays, but that’s not the end of it.
The Democratic Party has reliably conducted smear campaigns against their progressive candidates when they began to show real threats of winning the presidential nomination. Jesse Jackson, was doing very well and was wiped out by a smear campaign. Howard Dean was marginalized by the “Dean Scream,” an extremely concocted, engineered public smear campaign. Dennis Kucinich was basically redistricted after years of standing up against the Democratic Party agenda. So this is what the Democratic Party has done, unfortunately.
And that’s why our Green Party campaign has sort of been standing at the ready to be Plan B when we would be needed.
The Democratic Party has demonstrated a broader strategy of faking left with these magnificent campaigns that it allows to be seen and heard for a little while but then destroys. So it’s been sort of a process of fake left but move right on the part of the Democratic Party. So while they’ve allowed these beautiful campaigns to be seen and heard, the party ultimately continues to march to the right, becoming more corporatist, more militarist, and imperialist. So that’s the major difference: that we can actually continue Sanders’ work and provide a place for his movement to grow. We in the Green Party have every intention to keep growing and to provide really firm grounding for this political movement to have a continued political voice and organizational development.
I should mention a couple specifics where we differ from Bernie. One is that we would take the policy on public funding for college further. We would not only provide free public higher education, we would also cancel student debt and bail out a generation of young people who have been held hostage by predatory student loan debt. The US government under Obama’s leadership managed to do this for the bankers and the big financial firms on Wall Street to the tune of about 17 trillion, so if we could come up with that kind of money for the crooks that crashed the economy it’s about time to bail out the young people who are the victims of that waste, fraud, and abuse on Wall Street.
We differ in our foreign policy approach. We’ve called for rebooting our foreign policy so that it’s no longer based on economic and military domination, but rather on human rights, international law, and diplomacy. So that means saying to our various allies that we intend to provide support and funding to countries who are abiding by international law and human rights. The U.S. will not be shoring up the military budgets or the armaments of repressive regimes (e.g. the hundred billion dollars-worth of weapons we are selling to Saudi Arabia for example in support of their war in Yemen, their human rights abuses and war crimes in Yemen). Nor will we provide that for the Netanyahu government in Israel, the 8 million dollars a day that we’re providing to shore up the Israeli military.
On the environment, we call for an emergency climate program, consisting of an emergency jobs program in order to achieve 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030. That involves reviving our economy with 20 million new jobs, which will achieve not only 100 percent clean, renewable energy but also a healthy, sustainable food system and public transportation. This program makes wars for oil obsolete, and it also massively improves our health to the extent that our savings on disease care related to illnesses linked to fossil fuels, whichare massive, the health savings alone are enough to pay the cost of this green energy transition. So it’s a win-win program.
It also allows us to consider wars for oil obsolete and to cut our military by 50 percent so that we’re putting our dollars into true security rather than into this dangerous, bloated military budget that is making us less secure, not more secure. These wars to secure our oil and energy supplies, which have been conducted since 2001, since the world trade towers went down, have cost us an estimated six trillion dollars, according to a recent Harvard study. When you include the cost of caring for our wounded veterans who we’ve placed in harm’s way who deserve far better care and support than they are getting, it’s cost us six trillion dollars for this massive military machine. That comes down to an average of $75,000 per American household, and what has it achieved? Aside from killing a million people in Iraq alone, which is not winning us the hearts and minds of the Middle East, killing and wounding tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers, the actual consequences of this, you know, $75,000 per household has been failed states, mass refugee migrations which are tearing apart the Middle East and Western Europe, to say the least, and worse terrorist threats. In fact, these, wars on terror have only expanded and strengthened each of the terror groups that we have been fighting, whether you look at the Taliban or Al Qaeda or the newly created ISIS which grew out of the chaos in Iraq.
And I would add to this what some Americans don’t know – that in fact this particular, terrorist enterprise was in fact a creation of the CIA and the Saudis who came up with this not-so-great idea about how to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan: they created a global terrorist movement in support of the Mujahideen and really globalized this indigenous movement and made it very big, very strong. The Saudis established their madrasses, which have become essentially schools for terrorism training, and, you know, it’s been growing chaos ever since. And this is policy that the U.S. and our allies are funding, training and arming the so-called “good terrorists” who tomorrow become the bad terrorists.
We cannot simultaneously fight terror while we and our allies are funding, arming, and training terrorist enterprises. So in fact we call for a peace offensive in the Middle East beginning with a weapons embargo led by the U.S. because we are the main provider of weapons to all sides. And we call a freeze on the bank accounts of those countries, in particular our allies, who continue to fund these terrorist enterprises. Hillary Clinton herself identified the Saudis as still the continuing source of funding for Jihadi, Sunni terror enterprises, around the world. The only one benefiting here is the weapons industry.
Some of our Tikkun magazine readers believe that because the Sanders campaign ran in Democratic Party presidential primaries it was able to legitimate a set of ideas that have been outside the discourse of American politics for at least the past 20-30 years and that could not have happened if he had remained outside the two party system as it currently exists. The problem was not his running in the Democratic Party, they say, the problem was his not using that momentum he built to then take his supporters into the Green Party or into an independent party afterwards. And that’s not something that was forced upon him by the Democrats. He did not have to endorse Hillary Clinton, he did not have to have to say to the country that she is qualified, and the best qualified, and then undercut his followers and his delegates by not really allowing them to call a national convention of his supporters and have a chance to democratically participate in what should be the follow-up. In fact, they say, if he had been serious about building an alternative voice even within the Democratic Party he could have been telling those who worked for him in each state to create, after that state’s primary was completed, an ongoing organization aimed at transforming the Democratic Party from within and/or struggling against its predictable capitulation to the 1% from without. But that was not the Democratic Party’s fault that when speaking to tens of millions when he got that moment at the Democratic National Convention he didn’t use it to both endorse Hillary (which he had to do to get her agreement to let him speak on prime time t.v. as the Democrats had prevented from happening during the primaries) and simultaneously to announce an ongoing alternative movement to challenge Hillary afterwards.
I’m largely in agreement with that. I agree that this has been a brilliant strategy and where it ran afoul was by trying to remain within the Democratic Party. I personally don’t fault Bernie for that because that’s who he is and you know, that’s what he said he would do from the very start. And I think the strategy you are describing is in fact what seems to be happening.
A major argument given by people who agree with your politics more than they agree with Hillary but are using their time and energy now to elect Hillary, is that there’s a very remote chance that the Green Party candidate could win this election. These voters remain concerned that, despite what they (and most of the media) characterize as his outrageous statements, Trump might win by virtue of his being able to present himself as the anti-establishment candidacy against Hillary, who is perceived by many to be the establishment candidacy, and all the more so since the Democrats are now, after the nominating convention, courting Republicans to say, “Hey, you know, she’s closer to what you’ve traditionally believed in than Trump.”
For many liberal and progressive voters, there is concern about repeating the year 2000 process which led to the election of Bush. The public perception is that the Green Party’s Ralph Nader candidacy helped make that happen. The media repeats the story, and many, many liberal and progressive voters believe, that in key states where the election was very close, like Florida where the election was determined by less than 200 votes, that Nader’s close to 100,000 votes in that state, and in some other close states, took away the votes that would otherwise have gone to Gore. And the result was to have a Bush presidency which soon led us into the war in Iraq. Many people asked Nader to tell his voters in states where the polls indicated that the two leading candidates were neck and neck to not vote for him but to vote for Gore. He refused.
Now what I’m asking you is not to comment on 2000, but to answer for 2016: .
Would you be willing to tell your voters that if it came down to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, a few of the states that are battleground states where the election might be very close, that if the day before it looks really close, that your supporters should not vote for you, they should vote for the Democratic Party candidate, and hence avoid the possibility of the victory of Trump being blamed on you, on the Greens, and more generally on the liberal and progressive forces in the country, setting back the possibility of independent electoral politics for a very long time.
If Hillary loses to Trump, it’s the Democratic Party that should be faulted for blocking the nomination of Bernie Sanders, and using the dirty tricks they used that were revealed in the emails that were revealed the days before the Democratic Convention which show a history of consciously trying to block Sanders. There is a possibility that she will lose it to Trump because people don’t like her, the more they see of her the more they don’t like her, as much as people are also very much horrified by Donald Trump. She is the horrifying establishment candidate; he’s the horrifying new kid on the block.
In fact, there are many ways that, instead of splitting the vote, we Greens could be flipping the vote, and the underdog could actually become the top dog. And, you know, in my view, Trump is a disaster. I will feel horrible if he is elected. But Hillary is a disaster. I will feel horrible if she is elected. I will feel no more secure to sleep at night with Hillary’s finger on the nuclear button than Trump’s finger on the nuclear button. And in fact, Hillary may be catapulting us into nuclear war in the blink of an eye when she sets up her no-fly zone over Syria, against a nuclear-armed power that she has been antagonizing for years and has no compunction about standing up to.
So I think we have every reason to be as terrified about Hillary as we do about Donald Trump. And while Trump’s talk about deporting immigrants and barring the gates is despicable, I would say that Hillary’s actions – bombing black and brown people in Muslim countries around the world – is absolutely despicable as well. And I don’t see a trade-off betweenTrump’s racism and xenophobia and Hillary’s racism and militarism. I think they’re both unacceptable, and what is most unacceptable of all is that political system that tells us that we have two lethal choices: here, pick your weapon of self-destruction.
In fact, I want to just mention two scenarios that could flip this around. One is that there are 42 million young people and not-so-young people who are trapped in predatory student loan debt. If word gets out that young people can actually come out and cancel their debt by voting Green, because I’m the only candidate who will bail out young people like we bailed out the crooks on Wall Street. We can do it, and there are ways the president can do it under more or less executive authority. That is an irresistible motive to bring out a generation to the polls.
There is the potential to get into the debates, which we are owed as American citizens. We not only have a right to vote, we have a right to know who we can vote for, and the public is adamant about demanding the debate. We may very well work our way into the debates, whether we’ve gotten to 15 percent in the polls, which the organizers of the presidential debates demand as the entry requirement for being in the debates, or simply by right. People should be demanding that now.
Now that generation just happens to be really good at self-mobilizing and communicating over the internet, so even if we do not get the corporate media, we have the potential to mobilize 42 million to cancel debt. That is a winning plurality of the vote. And if everyone in debt brings out one person in their family, we have a winning majority of the vote. That’s one way in which we could win the presidency.
We must build our power. If we are ever to get out of this grave we are digging that gets deeper by the hour, we must build our power. The lesser evil doesn’t work, it fails because people stop coming out to vote for lesser evil politicians that are throwing them under the bus, even if someone else could do it worse. That’s how we lost both houses of Congress, under a lesser evil President, because it wasn’t a win for Republicans, it was a loss for Democrats. So we say, forget the lesser evil, fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it, because they do. This election is an existential moment. We’re not just deciding what kind of a world will we have, but whether we will have a world or not going forward.
Looking at climate, looking at nuclear wars, and looking at expanding wars. The Democrats do not fix it. They are every bit as much the problem. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. The sooner we stand up, the sooner we can build forward.
Okay, so, I’m taking it that this is the long way of saying “no” to my question You would not tell your voters to vote for Hillary over Trump if it was very close between them and you were still polling maybe five percent or ten percent of the population.
It’s the policies of the Clintons, whether you look at NAFTA or Wall Street deregulation or, three strikes, you’re out, or the massive expansion of the prison state, the dismantling of welfare and the aid to families with dependent children, you know, the policies of the Clintons have been very much at the core of the economic misery that lifts up right-wing extremists like Donald Trump. So the Clintons are not the solution. It’s a false solution, it’s a trap. Resist that propaganda. Hillary Clinton as President will fan the flames of right-wing extremism.
In an interview that we at Tikkun did with you four years ago we presented to you three key elements of what we, Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, stand for.
The first one was a New Bottom Line that says that institutions, social practices, legislation, our economic system, our political system, our legal system, our education system, should be judged efficient, rational, and productive not by the Old Bottom Line of money and power but by a New Bottom Line of love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and environmental sensitivity, and the ability to respond to the universe, not as something to be turned into a commodity and sold, but rather to respond to it with awe and wonder. That was our New Bottom Line.
The second part that I presented to you was our Global Marshall Plan, which says that the strategy is not to primarily emphasize human rights – the strategy to replace militarism is a strategy of generosity that would require the United States to take the leadership of the advanced industrial countries to get us to commit to one to two percent of our gross domestic product each year for the next twenty to once and for all eliminate – rather than just ameliorate – global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate healthcare. So a strategy of generosity towards the peoples of the world rather than a strategy of domination. So Tikkun and the NSP have actually developed a Global and Domestic Marshall Plan to show what a strategy of generosity would look like at www.tikkun.org/gmp. If that were implemented in a spirit of generosity and caring for the people of our planet, that is, not in away that focused on how to build up our own global influence or better position our multinational corporations, but first and foremost with an ear to listening and respecting the peoples of this world and then acting with a genuine spirit of generosity and not a spirit of “hey, we have a new strategy to get OUR way in the world,” it could change dramatically reduce the degree to which other people around the world would respond to the haters and terrorists in the world.
The third thing that I presented to you was the ESRA—the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution, (I know you’ve read it at www.tikkun.org/esra). It would in point #1, eliminate all money from politics except that which was given equally to all the candidates from the state legislatures on the state level or from the Congress on the national level, and all other monies of any sort–individual, corporate, nonprofits, anybody—would be banned. The second point of the ESRA – the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution – is that it requires that corporations with incomes above $50 million a year must get a new corporate charter once every five years, and that would only be granted to those that can prove a satisfactory history of environmental responsibility and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens who had received testimony from people all around the world about the environmental and societal impact of the operations of those corporations.
We are supporting in spirit and in substance, all of those policies. We are supporting demilitarization, and conversion to meet human needs globally–we call it a Global Green New Deal – but it’s essentially the same thing as your position. We need to lead the way for all the countries of the world to demilitarize our budgets and put our resources into being the “superpower of humanitarianism.” By transforming our military resources into humanitarian resources, and sustainable resources so that we’re greening our economies and creating healthy and sustainable energy and food systems, we can accomplish this world that you seek. And like the first plank of your proposed constitutional amendment, the ESRA, we advocate for campaign finance reform, for 100 percent public funding of elections. I mean, point for point we really have very much the same agenda here.
We have not called specifically for renewal of corporate charters, but we have called for that before. And I think, you know, it’s terrific. It’s a no-brainer. We often don’t get to talk about all the details, but this is very much the vision and the substance of what we are talking about. Though we may use different terms, this is core to our vision of the future.
Many spiritual progressives see the Left as still being stuck primarily in an economistic vision of the world, and in which Bernie was far better than Hillary, and you better than Bernie on delivering benefits and rights to people. We at Tikkun and our education arm the interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogsives.org) are saying that we want a vision of a different kind of world, and that vision of a different kind of world is one in which the bottom line is not simply economic entitlements that are extended more broadly, although we totally are for that, total in favor of economic equality as part, but only part of what we believe should the center of a progressive vision.
But we are also calling for a world whose bottom line – and this is a difference with, say, a soft socialism, is that we want the bottom line to be institutions and social practices that enhance people’s capacity to be loving and caring and kind and generous, and environmentally sensitive and ethically sensitive, and able to see other human beings as embodiments of something of intrinsic value, and able to look at the universe, look at our planet Earth, not from just from a standpoint of what we can get or use in it, but also from the standpoint of it being intrinsically valuable and something that enhances our capacity to respond to it with awe and wonder and not simply with what can we use here. So this is a different frame of thinking which we think would be much more successful for a progressive movement. We rarely hear people like Bernie, or even people in the Green party, speak to non-economistic needs that people have. They certainly are motivated by these values, but they rarely articulate them when they have the attention of large audiences.
There are traditions within the progressive world, especially the Black church, and the arts movement within, various political realms, that explicitly share these values.
And the culture of the Green Party is also changing. I think as we merge with this very principled and soulful African-American-inspired movement, things are changing, so I’d say: hold onto your hats, and we’re learning from each other, and to my mind we are very clearly moving in that direction. And we now talk about love, and we talk about relationships, and community, and caring, and values. And it really does pervade our events and our material now. So I do think there is a cultural shift that is happening.
Okay, great. Let me introduce you to Ari Bloomekatz, who is our managing editor
Hi Dr. Stein, thanks so much for taking some time with us today.
Sure, Ari, I just have a couple more minutes left to wrap up, so if you wanna just ask me one or two, we could do that.
You frequently talk about the ultimate evil being our two-party system. I’m wondering if you actually think that there’s any chance that Bernie Sanders’ run was actually counter-productive at all to ending our two-party system? We see that 90 percent of his supporters talk about voting Democrat, which is pretty high a number. And so I’m curious whether or not you actually think that his campaign could have actually strengthened the hold of the two-party system.
It’s hard to say what would have happened had Bernie not run or had he run as an independent? What I can say is that the movement for independent progressive politics is light years ahead of where it was a year ago, and in fact it’s light years ahead of where it was even six weeks ago. When Bernie endorsed Hillary, the floodgates opened into our campaign for thousands of volunteers, donors, activists, people who are working on our petition drives, new Green Party chapters that are being founded. It’s just an explosion of passion, vision, and community-building, now, between the Sanders campaign and the Green Party.
And it’s, it’s like meeting up with long-lost family, and this incredibly wonderful, ecstatic embrace of fellow travelers who’ve been – kind of coming this direction for years, and now suddenly we found each other. And it’s really wonderful. And right now the power of this new community knows no end. And by many appearances, the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign – you know, what are they left with? A hollow shell. By trying to suppress the Sanders movement, and sabotage it, they’ve really alienated the principled people, the people who are not walking around with their eyes closed, the people who really have a spirit and a vitality of struggle – they’re out of the Democratic Party. And so the Democrats may have some numbers – and the polls are all over the map. There are some polls say it’s 50 percent that will stay with Hillary. And, this is still a poll in the absence of an informed public who doesn’t know what their choices are yet.
There is a major exodus, now, from this sinking ship of the Democratic Party, which is left to the likes of Hillary Clinton and the people who can stomach endless war, and the hype about climate as we go over the climate cliff, and the Walmart economy that Hillary’s been an apologist for, sitting on that Walmart board of directors for six years, leading the charge to exploit working people, meanwhile remaining the apologists for Wall Street.
You really have to swallow a lot of vision and a lot of knowledge to stick with the Democrats. Meanwhile, we’re seeing the Republicans move in to the Democratic Party, and there’s a major political realignment taking place. And there’s enormous resolve to keep building on the strength that we have right now until we prevail and create an America and a world that works for all of us. People have really seen the necessity for that, and things are lining up in such a ways to make this possible, truly possible.
Bernie was pretty effective in reaching a lot of young people, a lot of millennials. Why was his campaign so effective in reaching young people, and why has the Green Party not been as effective in reaching young people?
Democrats have a very good outreach mechanism. They have televised debates, they have coverage by the press, so using that system Bernie was able to lift up this movement. And it would have been very hard to find another way to do it, outside of the tools for networking and organizing that come with the Democratic Party. But then they ran into the wall that is just part and parcel of organizing with the Democrats, which is that progressives can climb the mountain but they can’t go to the Promised Land, because the Democratic Party won’t let that happen. Expectations were raised, and people became involved and passionate and put blood, sweat, tears, and money that they didn’t have into this, and they’re not going to give up this vision that they’ve created.
So it’s been kind of the makings of a perfect storm. As Michael was saying earlier himself, it would have been very hard to duplicate this jump start that Bernie was able to give the movement, and then the movement outgrew him. And it’s like a kid that comes of age. You can’t tell them what to do once they sense their power as a human being to create the world that they deserve. And that’s where this movement is right now. And this is a Hail Mary moment where we either stand up, and we go for the world that we deserve, or we go over the environmental and militarist waterfall, which is where we are rapidly headed towards right now.
So this is a big wake-up moment. We have the potential to organize like we’ve never seen before. And given the magnitude of student debt, that it is a plurality of the vote, we do have the potential to get the word out. And suddenly now we have a funding base because of the Sanders people that have come into our campaign, we’ve raised as much money in the last three weeks, more, in fact, more money in the last three weeks, than we’ve raised in the entire existence of our campaign over a year, more like a year and a half, up until now.
So we’re on very different terms right now, and we have a lot of tools to actually begin really organizing. And whether we get to the White House this race or simply win it by winning the day on the issues, and on listing up candidates for down-ballot races, and establishing the infrastructure for revolution. We’ve now got it. We’ve never been here before. This is an absolutely transformative moment for the progressive movement, where the social movements are coming together and recognizing they can’t make it without each other. That you can’t just survive on climate justice alone, you need to have racial justice and economic justice and women’s justice. All of this, and immigrants, and indigenous, and LGBT justice. You know, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. These things all come together and people realize that we are part of a whole and are ready to work together like I’ve never seen before in my forty years of activism. We are at a time when we have no choice but to massively change the paradigm right now. And that future is bearing down on us. So we have both the necessity and the opportunity to transform our future. It’s happening now, hold onto your hats, we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let’s make it happen.