By Bill Boyarsky
“Would you kindly give me a call at your earliest convenience?” Rocky Anderson, the Justice Party presidential candidate, wrote me in an e-mail last week.
I hadn’t seen Anderson since I interviewed him in April when he was competing for the nomination of Americans Elect, an odd organization of secretive rich people who had devised an incredibly complicated way of choosing a centrist candidate on the Internet. They wanted Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Anderson, former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City, was too far left for them. But nobody understood their nominating system, Bloomberg wasn’t interested and Americans Elect faded from view.
So, too, has the left. In a campaign dominated in the final months by the efforts of President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney to win the middle class, the left and its agenda have been ignored. So have its candidates, Anderson and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.
I had found Anderson to be an intelligent, engaging man and welcomed the chance to talk to him again. He has no chance of winning. Neither does Stein. But it’s rare—actually unique—for presidential candidates to ask me to call. So I called him immediately.
As in April, Anderson was determined to stick it out even though most media have ignored him. He’s so opposed to President Barack Obama that he would vote for himself even if he, Anderson, were a swing state voter and his action could help cost Obama the election. That’s not so far-fetched. Remember Florida?
In our conversation and in a subsequent phone interview, we discussed the matters that occupy his campaign and that of Stein. There’s something of a rivalry between the two, but I’m not going down that road. I could go crazy trying to explain the slight differences that divide the left.
Anderson and I discussed most of the country’s problems, ranging from the growing police state power of the federal government to poverty. The latter interested me the most.
Anderson spoke of the “great disparity in wealth—the greatest since the 1920s” and how it didn’t exist when the liberal movement was strong.
There’s not much about this in the mainstream campaign. Instead, the Democrats and Republicans have directed their efforts toward middle-income people living in the so-called battleground states that, under our electoral system, will determine the election.
For someone like me, living in an urban area in the non-battleground state of California, it’s been disappointing that the campaign has not dealt with what has troubled me most—the issues caused by differences between the wealthy and the growing number of poor.
I’d like to have heard a major candidate propose solutions for the many people waiting for care at community health centers and county hospitals, and the long rides to those destinations on public transportation. I also would have liked to have seen a candidate from a major party give a nod of appreciation to the doctors, nurses and volunteers working so hard at these facilities.
I have not heard anything from Obama and Romney about foreclosure victims, now in rented homes or apartments or even homeless. The discovery of former donors getting help from the food banks they once supported was a troubling sign of the times as I traveled through Southern California this election season looking for stories that would illustrate the nation’s travail. It took Sandy the superstorm to call the nation’s—and the news media’s—attention to something happening in non-battleground states.
“What about that storm?” I asked Anderson.
“The storm has finally gotten it across to a lot of people that there are catastrophic consequences of not dealing with” climate change, he said. “It’s like having 10 Pearl Harbors and simply ignoring it. … It will have an impact for many generations and [it’s] conceivable for thousands of years.
“Politicians,” he said, “some of them bought off by the fossil-fuel industry, simply turn a blind eye.”
After our conversation, I wondered again about the value of fringe candidates like Anderson.
What they do is present an alternative liberal view, one much different from the centrist campaigns carefully tailored to appeal to a middle-class electorate in swing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado.
“There are differences around the margin,” candidate Stein said of Obama and Romney when she was interviewed by Truthdig Radio. But “while there may be differences in how these boats are sinking, the Republican and Democratic ships, they are both going down whether it is a Republican captain or a Democratic captain, they are going down.”
Aside from a national discussion of poverty, I would have liked to have heard more about the growing federal disregard of civil liberties and the resulting police state, our overly slow withdrawal from Afghanistan, and climate change.
Anderson and Stein have been talking about such matters—but only to their few supporters and to a small number of journalists. Getting an e-mail from Rocky Anderson and talking to him on a cellphone was an interesting experience, but it is no substitute for national debate on all the country’s troubles.
AP/Douglas C. Pizac
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.