Presidential Candidate Jill Stein Addresses Green Party in Roxborough [Pt. 2]
Before physician and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein showed up at Crossroads coffee shop on Monday, several members of the Green Party of Philadelphia, and others, discussed whether or not she’d be the best choice for their party.
“She’s been part of the Green Party for a long time,” Dana Edsall, a Green Party member in town from Lancaster, said of Stein. “It’s not like she’s just jumping in.”
Stein, a Harvard-trained physician and 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, has run for a state position on the Green Party three times in Massachusetts, and once garnered the most votes for a Green candidate in that state’s history. She’s authored two books on health and has got a 7-point plan (which she calls the “Green New Deal”) which, several in attendance mentioned, plays well with the party’s “Ten Key Values.”
Stein is running against two candidates for the Green Party nomination: air quality inspector Kent Mesplay and comedienne Roseanne Barr.
“But I have to say,” Edsall continued, “we heard Roseanne speak a couple weeks ago. She did also. And she’s a great speaker…You can read it in how she’d dealt with her life in the last few years.” Barr, while most remembered for her sitcom Roseanne and movie roles, has taken up a Hawaii nut farm and progressive radio show in the last decade.
Stein showed up around noon to address supporters, asking everyone around a large table in the back of the coffee shop to introduce themselves, then began responding to concerns and detailing her platform for the presidency.
“In 2002 I ran for governor [of Massachusetts],” she said. “At the time I had never been political. The last thing I wanted to do was participate in a partisan political endeavor. I wanted to stay on the issues” and remain independent of a party, she said.
But, she says, she woke up at “the young age of 50” and realized that’s what the two political parties—which she referred to as the corporate parties—wanted. Nothing was being done, she said, about health care and things like mercury in fish and air pollution.
Stein published the book In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development in 2000 and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging in 2009. She was sought out by ADD activists in the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party in 2002 to run for governor and actually debated eventual winner and now presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In 2004 she ran for state Rep., again on the Green-Rainbow Party ticket, then for Secretary of State in 2006, in which she received over 350,000 votes—the most ever in that state for the party.
“We’re sort of at exactly the right time in history now, where people are ready to rise up and take all this back so again,” she said, addressing the Arab Spring, Occupy Movement and other progressive actions happening both stateside and across the world. To prove this point, Stein mentioned her place in Western Illinois mock presidential election this year, in which she made her six-minute case, then earned 27 percent of the vote from college students across the Midwest—after coming to the university polling at 3 percent.
“It’s important to get the other side of the story,” she said, “which is, if you don’t vote your values, you’re giving a mandate for more of the same, for the corporate sponsored candidates who will continue to send you over the cliff, which is what they are doing.”
Civil liberties are disappearing, she said, even in the midst of a presidency which was supposed to champion progressive causes. She mentioned both what she called the president’s “support of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]” and his signing of the Defense Authorization Bill as evidence. Many have argued the latter allows American citizens to be detained without trial, indefinitely. Congress’ introduction of House Resolution 347 (and the president’s signing of it), which some have argued would make protesting illegal, is of equal seriousness, she said.
“Let’s briefly run through some highlights we’re dealing with,” she said after introductions concluded. “Massive bailouts for Wall Street, layoffs for main street; attacks on Medicare and Social Security.”
She says the latter two issues made her go “bonkers,” especially when those entitlements were “put on the chopping block” during last summer’s debt ceiling debacle—“a concocted crisis” she said, that “didn’t have to happen.”
Other problems she mentioned: Wars for oil, the “prison industrial complex,” the “racist war on drugs,” climate change and the need for voter reform.
That’s why, she said, she’d like to introduce something she’s calling the “Green New Deal,” a plan based on FDR’s New Deal of the 1930s, “which got us out of the depression,” she said. The claim: her plan will immediately put 25 million people back to work.
That will happen, she said, by investing federal money in organic agriculture, breaking up banks considered too big to fail (“too big for jail,” she said), investing money in wind and solar energy (“Things that would make wars for oil obsolete”) and bringing back the manufacturing sector for green technologies.
This is different from Obama’s stimulus plan, because it would direct money straight into communities instead of using it to provide tax breaks, she claimed. Where the money goes within those communities would be decided by a democratic process, similar to “community based budgeting.” And some of that money would come, she said, from taxing CEO’s of bailed-out banks bonuses at 90 percent.
At that point, everyone clapped, and some said, “99 percent.”
“We’ll take that into consideration,” Stein answered with a laugh.
Other parts of her plan include Medicare for all, getting money out of politics, strict regulation of derivatives and re-signing the Glass-Stegall Act, which, originally put into place in 1933, separated commercial and investment banking.
Her ideas on voter reform were particularly interesting and relevant to the Green Party’s decade-long problem with Democratic voters. She said the United States needs to “have our votes counted in a system that actually gives those votes meaning, so you don’t have a system where someone who gets 34 percent of the vote gets 100 percent of the power.”
Like many other countries, Stein believes the United States should hold run-off elections when candidates don’t receive 50 percent of the vote (which some states/cities already use) and a system in which voters are assigned their second choice if their first comes up short. That way, she says, if someone voted for Nader in 2000 and Nader did not reach a threshold, their vote could have been reassigned to Gore, an issue the Green Party has been suffering through since 2000.