AUDIO: Robert Scheer Speaks With Jill Stein About the Green Party and the 2016 Election
In this week’s “Scheer Intelligence,” the Truthdig editor-in-chief’s podcast on KCRW, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Read the transcript below.
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Bob Scheer with “Scheer Intelligence,” an attempt to find intelligence with our guests, and insight. And I’m really fortunate today to have Jill Stein, who has run for public office as a Green candidate. And probably many people know her, having gotten the most votes any woman candidate for president has ever gotten, even though it was three-tenths of 1 percent of the votes when you ran last time. And the reason I’m so happy to have you here is I think you’re going to be a real big deal in this election. And the last person I interviewed for the show was Ralph Nader, and the interesting thing is, Nader was vilified; he cost, you know, Gore the election and so forth. And I was on a Nation Cruise with him a few months ago, and the crowd was still divided—is Nader a good guy or a bad guy?—despite a lifetime of incredible work and brilliance and courage and, you know, saved three and a half million lives from automobile accidents and everything else; still, some people were not ready to forgive him, you know; you—the court, the court, the court. So I would really like to find out, because the subtext of—what makes you tick—the subtext of this show is “American originals.” And I’m interested in people like Ralph Nader, but many others; a cast of people who make an incredible contribution to this society, who are genuinely an original product of American culture and the melting pot and what have you. And so I look at you, you know, and I look back at your background, and I think, OK; you’re a person who, by the standards of American success, is enormously successful. You, quite early on as a woman graduating from Harvard when they opened up the living situation, you get your undergraduate degree; you get your medical degree there. The Harvard Crimson interviews you and points out you’re in a long line, you know, from Franklin Roosevelt on through Romney, who ran for President—and Obama himself, of course, with the law school—of this being an elite institution. And it’s interesting. I just, my own connection with Harvard, never liked the place very much; I went to the City College of New York at a time when Harvard was still discriminating against Jews from New York. But aside from that, I spoke at the Kennedy School a couple of years back when I wrote a book called “The Great American Stickup,” on the banking meltdown. And my opening statement was a question: I said, “How did Harvard get to be such a den of inequity?” And if you look at the creation of wars, the rationalization for war, you look at the banking meltdown, you look at how we came to be a society of such privilege, you know, Harvard—Harvard has dirty hands. And at the time I was speaking there, Lawrence Summers was the head of the school, and of course he, as secretary of the treasury and before that as deputy secretary under Robert Rubin, had done a lot to do the radical deregulation of the economy and reverse Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legacy. And I notice you’ve adopted the New Deal for the Green Party. I’m going to ask you a lot of questions about the Green Party, the viability of your campaign, but right now let me just begin with Harvard. And you were there, I believe, in ’69. And tell me how you came to be a Green Party candidate rather than the head of the AMA or something.
Jill Stein: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Or on the board of Davos, where I think the board is dominated by Harvard graduates right now; or the World Economic Forum, you know, the rich and powerful and the corporations of the world are meeting and continuing to corporatize our future and render democracy irrelevant. And so when I get introduced as a Harvard grad, I usually ask people, please don’t hold it against me, you know. I was in Harvard at the time of the occupation of University Hall, where the protests were raging against the Vietnam War, and we actually shut down the university. And we had a People’s University for many weeks, and that’s how we closed out, I think, my freshman year. So I didn’t have your usual Harvard experience, but you know, I will say it’s really, um, it’s kind of emblematic of what’s happening to higher education as well as to our economy, the way that Harvard and other institutions have really become, now, extreme servants of the economic elite. So you know, how did I get from there to here? You know, like, what’s a nice doctor like you doing in a lousy place like running for office?
RS: Well, first of all, let me ask you how you became a nice doctor. Because after all, it was Lawrence Summers, the head of Harvard, who said women aren’t particularly good at science and we shouldn’t expect it. And clearly you went from a liberal arts undergraduate to become a successful and highly respected doctor. How do you view Lawrence’s comments in that—?
JS: Oh, you know, he’s sort of a symbol, a really unfortunate symbol of what so much of Harvard has become. When I was there in the late ’60s and the early ’70s, it was a very different place. And it was really, there was a thriving women’s movement there; it was the point where Radcliffe, the women’s college, integrated with Harvard, and there was a feeling that, you know, we are taking on the world, and ain’t nothin’ going to stop us. And it was an era of incredible empowerment. And for me it was a huge transition from kind of the mindset of the ’50s and ’60s, and sort of the suburban mode of privilege, really—American exceptionalism and privilege. But all that began to unravel in a big way with the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement and the turmoil of the assassination of Martin Luther King. So you know, it was really quite a great awakening; and that was really my, that’s what really molded my sense of community and responsibility and social change. And I was very much wedded to that, really even before I got to Harvard, but my experience there just solidified that. So I didn’t know what I was going to do, and in fact I, I majored in sociology, anthropology and psychology just to sort of, like, get a handle on what was going on in the world and trying to understand it. But what was really compelling for me at that point was that, you know, the world really needed to change in a big way. And things like the Vietnam War were symbols of where our government, left to its own devices, was going to take us.
RS: You know, it’s interesting. I happened to speak at Harvard, I think a year or two years before you were a freshman. And I was a guest of the Kennedy Center, as was Robert McNamara, secretary of defense. And the demand of the demonstrators of Harvard [Student Event Services] was that he debate me; I was the editor of Ramparts Magazine, which played a leading role in criticizing the war. And I would have thought, you know, we wouldn’t be in that kind of situation this many years now, where we’re defending really idiotic wars that make the problems much worse. And you had blowback and all the things Chomsky and others have written about eloquently. And you operate in that environment, right? You still live in Massachusetts, you’re around these people and so forth. Is there any sense—because you’re always up against the lesser-evil argument, or what Jerry Brown, our governor, once when he was running against Clinton called “the evil of two lessers.” But you know, this is going to haunt you right up through November if you get the nomination—and I’ll ask you about the Green Party and getting the nomination, but assuming you do—and you’ll be up against it in the Supreme Court, and the lesser evil. And I’m assuming Hillary’s going to get it; maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and we’ll actually have a real election, and I’ll ask you about that. But what gives with that sensibility? Why do they still support stupid wars? Why is there so much indifference to income inequality? It’s just startling. Why is it such a center of privilege? After all, this—Harvard, just like [University of Southern California], where we’re recording this, started as basically, started as basically religious institutions with at least some reference to everyone having a soul, and the worth of every individual life. How has privilege gone so nutty?
JS: Right, I know. We’re, like, time is out of joint right now, you know; the system cannot hold, and it is not holding. And for me as a medical doctor, how I got actually politicized—because, you know, it was, once—it was kind of an easy step to go from Harvard to going into medicine. And that was kind of like a very expected thing to do. But what was very challenging was to go from medicine into political action. And I, you know, the way I explain that in a nutshell is that I used to practice clinical medicine, taking care of patients; now I practice political medicine, because it’s the mother of all illnesses. And literally, if we’re going to fix the things that are actually killing us, we need to fix the corrupt and failing political system. So we need transformative change. And that’s what sort of brought me into this world to start with. And just very quickly by way of background, I got recruited early on by parents and communities to be a doctor advocate for communities that were fighting against things that are making our kids sick. And let me just start with that as sort of the basic revelation to me; that suddenly we are surrounded by diseases, and as I was the mother of small children at that time, you know, I saw it in my kids, their friends and our schools, as well as my practice—although I take care of young adults, or I did take care of young adults; I’m not a pediatrician, I’m an adult doctor—but everywhere, there were these epidemics of asthma, learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, heart attacks and strokes. You know, things that we didn’t used to have—although heart disease has been around for a while. But not at the ages that we see it; you didn’t see kids developing high blood pressure early on, and you didn’t see kids afflicted with obesity and diabetes. And you know, it was just clear to me that our genes didn’t change overnight; there were other things driving this. And I didn’t feel good just dispensing pills and pushing people back out to the very things that were making them sick. So I began to work with Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, Toxics Action Center, and so on—these groups that were actually trying to change these engines of our destruction around us. And I became involved in shutting down incinerators and cleaning up coal plants and protecting kids from mercury exposure and stuff like that. And I found that in spite of having really good solutions, like creating more jobs in recycling centers, or in energy conservation and weatherization—you know, we could offer solutions that would create more jobs, be better for the economy, be terrific for our health, and protect the environment; but that didn’t matter. You know, the bottom line was what kind of money you were bringing to the legislators, to the elected officials. So we got together, built a broad coalition, passed campaign finance reform and public financing in Massachusetts. And it was the Democratic legislature—85 percent Democratic; they could have passed any law and overridden any veto—they wouldn’t touch it. We passed it as a referendum by a huge margin, a two-to-one margin, and they repealed it on a voice vote. And it was right around that time that I was tricked into running for office for the first time by the Greens, who came and said, “We buy your agenda—just run for governor, and call that your political campaign.” Which I was foolish enough to believe, thinking that, you know, I could just do that and run for office; it’s different from that. I never would have taken that step had I not been kind of fooled into it. But having taken it, discovered there was so much public hunger out there for a real conversation; for, you know, for someone who didn’t look like a rat and talk like a rat and smell like a rat. People are busy, they don’t have time to research, the details; but they can tell if you’re on the take. And Green politics really appeal to people so much that when we fought our way into a televised debate—and this was running for governor against Mitt Romney in 2002—we fought our way into a debate, because the demonstrations were huge, and people were irate that real human beings were being locked out of the debate. We got in, I articulated the usual Green agenda of greening our energy system and our economy, living wage jobs, cutting the military, putting our resources back into true security at home, health care is a human right—you know, the usual litany. It went over like a lead balloon inside the TV studio, with just the candidates and the moderator; nobody even bothered to rebut those ideas. But when we walked out, I was mobbed by the press—for the first time and the last time, because they’ve since been otherwise instructed—and they told me that I had won the debate on the instant online viewer poll. And for me that was the revealing moment. And I realized, we are not the lunatic fringe, as the political establishment would have us believe. This is really where the values and the vision of the American people are, but it’s a political system which is thoroughly hijacked and corrupted by big money that’s got a stranglehold around the two political parties. Since that moment, I have really understood—and I think the course of history has really vindicated this—it’s not getting better, folks; it’s only getting worse, in spite of the talk that Democrats will talk. And there may be differences around the margins on social policy, but on the basics of the economy, on the crash of the environment—and we don’t have time to wait around on this; it’s now or never, folks. This is the Hail Mary moment. We need to get it together on the climate before the next economic crash; the attack on our civil liberties, and these massive wars for oil that are blowing back at us with failed states and greater terrorist threats and massive refugee migrations. We cannot continue to do what has obviously failed us; we cannot keep talking, ah, we cannot keep voting for these sweet-talking parties that then basically throw us under the bus. We need to reject the propaganda of the lesser evil; we need to stand up and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it, because they do.
RS: Right. And I agree with much of what you said. And I think that message will, for some people, will be compelling as we get closer to November if Bernie Sanders loses. I think that I’m interviewing you at an interesting moment, because there’s still the hope, certainly one that I share, that Bernie may surprise us all. And I do personally see a great deal of difference between what Bernie’s saying and what Hillary Clinton stands for, and what Bernie has stood for—Bernie Sanders, I don’t know him personally, but I’ve followed his career for a long time. And I just wonder how you’re handling that; you know, this is Bob Scheer talking to Jill Stein, truly an American original, about something that doesn’t seem so promising right now: the Green Party campaign for presidency; you’re not even officially the candidate yet, you have to win that. And I do want to talk to you about what is the Green Party, how can it be built, how can it become a part of American political life that you have to take seriously. But before we get to that, certainly when you were running last time, the presence of Bernie Sanders was not complicating the situation. And much of what you’ve just said, Bernie Sanders has said; there isn’t really that much difference between what you stand for and what Bernie does. Except on one point, and I discussed it with Ralph Nader in a previous podcast. And that was his decision to say he will support the candidate of the Democratic Party. And so one has the prospect if he loses, and if he loses it’ll [be] because these debates are rigged, they’re held at times when nobody can watch them, or will watch them, and money will talk and so forth. But the fact is that since he made that commitment, your time may really come with a vengeance, unfortunately. You know, if it is Hillary, you’ll have a much cleaner line to demand an accounting and a voice be heard. And the last time you tried to do that when you ran for president, they held you, right, in a room when Romney was running, the very person that you ran against—
JS: In a secret—in a secret, ah, detention facility—
RS: —secret detention facility, so that’s what happens to a presidential candidate who has something different to say; you’re seen as a physical threat to the security. But nonetheless, I plan to re-interview you as we get closer to November. Because I think you’re going to be very much in play, the way Ralph Nader was. And I don’t think we’re going to get much, if it is Hillary, we’re not going to get the kind of interesting discussion that we need. And so how do you feel now during this period? What is your view of Bernie Sanders, what is your view of how we get from here to November?
JS: We have a lot in common. Where we differ is more on foreign policy and on the role of the military in our economy and in our foreign policy. And we can go into that as a separate issue, but we have so many things in common, basically, on our agenda for economic justice. Domestically we have, you know, there are fine points; we support canceling student debt; we’re the only campaign that will stand up for that. And that, by the way, addresses 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are locked into debt. Now—
RS: Well, you’ve called them indentured servants.
JS: That’s right, because they are, you know; and the jobs that are available are not sufficient to keep a roof over their head, let alone also pay back their debt. Now, if those 43 million people alone heard that they could come out in November and cancel their debt by voting Green, we will win the election, regardless of who’s running, because—in, for the Democrats. So I just want to point out that the system is very quick to make resistance futile; you know, resistance is futile, don’t even think about it. You know, don’t think of an elephant; you’ve got to support the system as it is. So it’s important to reject the propaganda in the many forms that it comes. But so, I just want to say that there is potentially a path to victory. Am I holding my breath? No. Am I ruling it out? I’m not ruling it out. We need to build to where we have a politics that is of, by and for the people, that’s capable of creating jobs. And my worry—I wish we had a system that could elect Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party; I don’t believe the Democrats will allow it. They’ve demonstrated they have a kill switch; it’s not just the money in politics; they, you know, changed their structure so they have Super Tuesdays and they have superdelegates, and Hillary is rapidly, you know, monopolizing those superdelegates. So even if they go into the nominating convention with Bernie ahead, Hillary will still win it. And they also have their smear campaigns, which they have used over and over again for—you remember Howard Dean and the “Dean Scream,” when he was doing very well, they sabotaged him with a PR smear campaign. They did the same thing to Jesse Jackson. You know, so—
RS: Sister Souljah, Bill Clinton, attacking him because there was this one woman writer and rapper who he was blaming on [omission]—so the Sister Souljah campaign was an example of that, where—not that she should be smeared; she’s turned out to be an incredibly useful writer and novelist, and should not have been made the enemy; but Jesse Jackson was, I guess, attacked for that. But let me ask you—
JS: Well, just to drive that, conclude that point, that the Democrats know how to sabotage a campaign, and they’ve done so consistently for, you know, ever since George McGovern’s election, basically. You know, so for decades they have shown that they can beat back great candidates who have really good campaigns.
RS: Right, but every once in a while there’s a crack in the system, or some candidate can surprise you by using their victory in good ways. We haven’t had that in quite a while. But you mentioned—it’s interesting, the slogan of the New Deal, Green version. And the fact is, you know, we did have a time when a Democratic candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, surprised people; he was a wealthy person, he was a person not particularly left in any way, but he recognized the system was in serious disarray and had to be saved from itself and from its own greed. And there had been some hope this would be one of those moments; maybe if an Elizabeth Warren from your own area had run, maybe she would be such a person. Maybe Bernie could win and be such a person. So let me just go back to something you said before, your own disagreements with Bernie, and you mentioned foreign policy; what are your disagreements?
JS: Well, for example, Bernie has said that the solution to our involvement in the Middle East is to let the Saudis get their hands dirty; you know, let the Saudis do the work for us. Well, unfortunately, we’ve been partnering with the Saudis in creating this mess from the get-go. You know, Bernie supports the F-35 weapons system, for example, because it brings jobs to his state and many other states. You know, it’s a total boondoggle—
RS: That’s the, ah—universal stealth bomber, the fighter—
JS: Yes, which is a very fallible bomber to start with; I don’t know, it can’t fly in cloudy weather or something, or it’s detectable on World War II-era radar. You know, so it’s a boondoggle even before it’s off the production line; it’s cost almost a trillion dollars, it will cost another half before it’s done. This is not where our tax dollars should go. We support a foreign policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy. And not fighting these wars for oil, which in fact we have the power to stop. We have the power to essentially stop [Islamic State] in its tracks. And to, you know, to participate in this, in this public delusion that we’re going to fix [Islamic State] by dropping more bombs and bullets on [Islamic State]—that’s what created [Islamic State]. Hello, what do you think we spent $6 trillion over the last 14 years on, killed over a million Iraqis, lost tens of thousands of Americans killed or maimed, and we’re going to do more of this and expect it to work? What new resources exactly are we going to bring to the table that’s going to pummel, you know, the terrorists out of this? The problem is, we have a direct conduit to the Saudis; we’ve sold them over $50 billion worth of weapons in the last five years alone. The Saudis are then a conduit to any terrorist group that happens to be their terrorist du jour; the Saudis’ own Wahhabism has basically inspired international terrorism; we and the Saudis created the mujahedeen, which led to al-Qaida, which then led to [Islamic State], and it’s now a global movement. So we don’t need to do this anymore. We need a peace offensive, is what we’re calling for, not more war, whether it’s at the hands of the Saudis or the hands of the U.S. So that’s where we differ from Bernie.
RS: Yeah, but I think Bernie would probably accept most of what you just said. But the problem—
JS: I don’t know, he says directly contrary to that, and he does support the weapons systems—
RS: Well, let me bring up, let me bring up the third-rail issue that some people have brought up about Bernie, and that’s Israel—
JS: There you go, yep.
RS: And some people have asked me, because they knew I was going to interview you, what is your position and are you willing to talk about Israel in any kind of clinical way?
JS: I actually do talk about Israel quite a bit. And I often talk about it in the same breath as Saudi Arabia, because we need a consistent policy where we are not carving out exceptions for certain kinds of war criminals and tyrants, whether they’re Saudis or whether it’s Netanyahu. We need an international policy based on international law and human rights and diplomacy. So that means we don’t supply Israel with $8 million a day to conduct its war crimes against, you know, against Palestine. Period. And same thing for Egypt; you know, they don’t get $3 billion a year either, and we don’t sell weapons to the Saudis. So you know, we need a consistent policy; this is what’s generating the crisis that we cannot spend enough or throw enough weapons into in order to fix.
RS: This is a little personal footnote that I keep bringing up here, because we’re recording this at the University of Southern California, a great university, I must say, and where I teach. But one of the people who got his doctorate here in engineering, [Mohamed] Morsi, is in prison in Egypt. And what is his crime? He won an election, fair and square; he won that election, and now he’s sitting in prison. And I hear hardly a word anywhere, not just on our campus, about this guy, and why is he in prison facing the death penalty? But let me take it back to domestic issues and your unquestioned expertise—not that you’re not expert in all these other things; certainly as much as anybody running for president—but on the medical issue and the question of health care. And you wrote an article with a fellow physician that we published in Truthdig, I think a very important article, taking issue with the debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on health care. And the reason I found that important was that many of the people I run into tell me they can’t effectively—in fact, a couple of my own children—effectively use the health care system because the deductibles are too high, the costs are too high, and so forth. And it’s all about cost, cost, and that nothing was done, either under Hillary’s original plan, under Romney’s plan, or under this plan, to really hold back cost. And that was sort of a point of your article. So let’s speak a little bit about health care and the Democrats, because this will be trumpeted again, as in the lesser evil, the Republicans want to reverse the Affordable Care Act, and so forth and so on. What is your take on it?
JS: Well, what we need to expand is Medicare for all, which can be expanded really in the blink of an eye; we can move to a very simple and streamlined system, we can take the profiteering out of health care, and we can make health care a human right and join the community of developed nations that is already doing this at half the cost or less of what we’re paying with far better health outcomes by simply doing that. So administratively it’s simple; it saves so much money by streamlining this complex, private health insurance bureaucracy. By streamlining that with a Medicare for all, simple, single-payer system, we save so much money that we can cover everyone and cover you completely so that health care is essentially free at the point of use. And we pay for it progressively through the tax base, but for—I think the statistics are something like 90 percent of Americans—we save an enormous amount of money, because we’re paying for health care and health insurance through the teeth right now in so many ways, including outrageous, skyrocketing premiums and copays and so on. So this is a win-win.
RS: But isn’t that pretty much what Bernie says?
JS: And in fact our article says that Bernie is on target. His latest plan, which he just released before the last debate, is what was needed, which is—well, actually, he hasn’t filed legislation for it yet. But it has the characteristics of the bill that’s in the House, the so-called HR 676. The one place we differ from Bernie on health care is by defending the Affordable Care Act, or saying that we’re going to build on the Affordable Care Act, because that’s the mythology that the health insurance system uses, that we can grow our way incrementally to a single-payer system. And you can’t; you really have to kiss it goodbye and expand Medicare in one fell swoop, which can be done very quickly and efficiently. But it’s this myth that we can keep adding layers of complexity to this private insurance bureaucracy that’s used to forever forestall doing what we need to do. And the health care system is in collapse.
RS: OK. I’m going to assume that if Bernie wins, we’re going to have a different discussion, and I’ll have you back and we’ll have a discussion. Because I do think that would certainly be worth for progressives to test. If he is the candidate running against a Republican, I think we’ll have a different conversation. But let me assume that Bernie is going not to make it, because of the role of money, power of superdelegates, and all the things; and that in fact you’re going to have what Ralph Nader predicts, a very, a disillusioned group of people, particularly younger people, who put a lot of faith in Bernie. Because by the way, on all the points of difference between you and Bernie Sanders, I suspect a good talking-to with his staff would probably find a lot of agreement on these and—
JS: Oh, for sure.
RS: All right. So you’re saying a—I don’t want to have to go back over the tape; you’re saying definitely and for sure, right?
JS: That our agenda and Bernie’s agenda mostly overlap. We have so much more in common relative to the differences between my campaign and Bernie’s campaign with Hillary, or Martin O’Malley, for that matter.
RS: OK, so in the time that remains, there’s two things I want to get to, which is I’m going to assume that Bernie doesn’t make it—and if he does, then we’ll have another conversation—but what about the Hillary race? And then secondly, assuming that you’re not going to be happy with the Hillary choice, how does one build alternative parties in the United States? I want to use what time remains for us for those two basic questions. And so on the question of Hillary, you’re, you know, what I hear a lot of is two things. I hear how important it is to break the glass ceiling, and that we finally have a woman; and secondly, I get a lot of giving Hillary a buy on certain, on really important issues, like her support of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, or support of wars even worse than Bill Clinton. Or, I mean, I could go through the litany, and yet it’s the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court. Or she really loves children, or she’s really one of us; or it’s really important to have a woman, and it is. And then I suggest, yes, but what if that woman is really Margaret Thatcher, which is how I happen to see Hillary Clinton; then, you know, you get the pushback. So how do you deal with the pushback as a strong woman, and I assume a feminist? How do you handle the Hillary question?
JS: Yeah. I mean, I encourage people to really look at the facts and look at the record. You know, Hillary is full of talk, but who’s gotten more money from Goldman Sachs and the banks? And even her policies on banking—she won’t support Glass-Steagall; she won’t—you know, and her husband repealed it, and she has supported those policies. On war—she didn’t just support the war policies, you know; she led the charge as secretary of state into the disaster of Libya. And she supported the charge into Iraq and the disaster that came out of that. So if you actually get beyond the propaganda to what Hillary’s track record is, she’s been on the wrong side, I’d say most of the time. And that when she does stand up, it’s on marginal—you know, it’s more like, she’ll support child care, or she’ll support parental leave or something like that. But she won’t, like, support a decent wage. You know, she’ll support equal wages for women, but not decent wages for everybody to start with. So—
RS: Well, let me go further, since this is a conversation as well as an interview. I happened to cover Bill Clinton a bit at the end when he was governor of Arkansas; I interviewed him when he ran for president. And he and Hillary were talking about a program called Project Success and their welfare reform, and advocating ending warfare as we know it. And there has been no program that has done more damage to poor women; you know, 70 percent of the people on welfare were children, Aid to Families with Dependent Children; they ended the major federal anti-poverty program, came in with a, you know, targeted, so-called targeted program that very much reduced support, left decision-making up to the tender mercies of the states with no federal adult supervision of how this was done. And it’s been a disaster, and it isn’t discussed in this election, something I would expect your campaign might raise as an issue. Because it really cuts to the class component of feminism; you know, do we care about the most vulnerable women in this society? And you know, I was shocked that Planned Parenthood would break its tradition, or at least one branch of Planned Parenthood that’s allowed to endorse, and endorse Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, who’s certainly much better on all these issues as far as the well-being of women, and poor women.
JS: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s a testimony to how inside the box now many of the major nonprofits have become. You know, and the same is true for many of the large unions and so on, that they’re mostly staying the course, and they’ve also been talked into this lesser-evil mindset, where they settle for crumbs because they’ve been told to settle for crumbs. So let me address that broader issue, because I think it applies to those who are celebrating Hillary without really looking at her record, and without recognizing that their own lives have been devastated. You know, I mean, household wealth has crashed by 40 percent in the last 10 years. And remember, Obama had two houses of Congress that were Democrat while he bailed out the banks to the tune of $16 trillion, according to the General Accounting Office. You know, he makes George Bush look like a wimp, if you actually compare policy-by-policy, whether you look at the expanding wars, the attack on our civil liberties, the deportation and vilification of immigrants; NAFTA, and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Hillary Clinton has also been a proponent of until she recently became a convert, at least, you know, for the purpose of this election. You know, the record of Democrats is, ah, is terrible. And our lives have been seriously put in jeopardy, whether you look at the economics of our survival; if you are an immigrant facing deportation; if you are an undocumented American. If you are an African-American talking about the legacy of the Clinton administration, how about, what was it called, the Omnibus Crime bill, the “Three Strikes, You’re Out.” The creation and the worsening of this war on drugs, which is a war on African-Americans; the militarization of our police and police brutality; the housing crisis and the homelessness, which just exploded under Obama, and he chose to bail out the banks rather than bailing out the homeowners or holding the banks accountable. So it’s really important to actually look at the record and not the rhetoric, and that’s how I deal with it; I encourage people to actually look at what happened to try to get above the propaganda, but then to go beyond that. Because a lot of people—it’s hard to change people’s minds with the facts, because people tend to get dug in based on longstanding commitments and traditions and so on; you know, family religion, almost; politics is a religion. And I tell people it’s important for us to play the role of therapists, political therapists, and to help our friends break up with an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship [laughs] with the Democratic Party. What has it done for you lately, exactly? Except tell you about its great values; but if you actually look at what it’s accomplished, it’s a pretty terrible track record. And in the same way that, you know, we strive to be in healthy relationships in our everyday lives, we need a healthy politics that is about respecting us as people, and actually advancing us towards healthier and more secure lives.
RS: OK, so let’s that address that in the few minutes that we have for this podcast. And when I was a kid in New York growing up, there was a multiparty system in New York, because we had proportional representation. And believe it or not, we even had a couple of Communists on the City Council; I forget their names, Peter Cacchione, or I forget his other name; we had, Vito Marcantonio had the support of all the parties from Democrat over; we had a Liberal Party, we had an American Labor Party. And so growing up as a kid in New York, yeah, Franklin Roosevelt was our god, because you know, we suffered a lot in the Depression and he did a lot. But the Democratic Party was in alliance with these leftist parties, and independent parties, and even on the Republican side you had independent parties, and like you even could have a party now, a Libertarian Party that represented some consistent attack on crony capitalism and protection of privacy and so forth; you could see an interesting politics. One of the points Ralph Nader made in the interview we did for our podcast here was that the game is rigged to prevent that from ever happening. And that it’s so hard to get on the ballot. And he compared it to, say, you’re running—I’m talking to Jill Stein, who’s potentially the Green Party candidate; you haven’t sewed it up yet, but people think you’re the front-runner, so that’s fine—but you know, in Germany, when the Greens came along, there was room for them to operate and grow and actually become part of a coalition government at some point, because you have proportional representation to a degree. And if you get more than 5 percent of the vote, you get 5 percent of the seats, or something, in the Bundestag. And so for all of our proclamation being the center of representative government in the United States, aside from the Electoral College and the role of money in Citizens United and everything, we also have laws that both parties favor that prevent someone like Ralph Nader or Jill Stein from getting on the ballot. Now, first of all, how are the Greens doing? Where will people be able to vote for you in the general, if you get the nomination? What is the Green Party? How is it organized? Does it have any successful track record? I mean, this is the time to toot the horn of this party that you’re hoping to get the nomination from.
JS: Great. So the Greens are an American party and we’re also an international party. And we have that point of view; you know, when the astronauts were up there looking back at planet earth, that did a lot to stimulate social change and the environmental movement and political change. And it was around that time that the Greens were formed in response to nuclear disasters, actually, in Germany is where the Greens came out of. And they were advocating for clean, renewable energy, in part in response to the dangers of nuclear energy. Which we’re seeing demonstrated again, by the way—in so many ways, but including in this disaster out in California, which is the underground natural gas, which is now apparently also spewing radioactive material related to disposal of some prior nuclear accident. Anyhow, it’s not altogether clear what’s going on there exactly. But the Greens were ahead of the curve on energy, and in Europe they, because they have a multiparty system, the Greens have enabled Europe, by challenging the establishment, they have really been able to move things along. So they’re way ahead of us on green energy and on sustainable economies and things like that. In this country, Greens have held hundreds of offices at the local and county level; mayors, city councilors, and so on. And to look at Richmond, California, for example, which had a Green mayor and Greens on the City Council, they really showed what a principled, noncorporate government can do. They transformed jobs, they transformed the relationship with their big, polluting energy refinery, Chevron, which has a big base there and which exploded and sent thousands of people to the hospital. They forced a cleanup, they sued Chevron; they’ve promoted the development of small and local businesses, they’ve massively reduced police violence and violence in the community. And they’ve also sued the banks, basically; they used eminent domain, they turned it on its head. It’s usually used against people; they used it against the banks in order to stop evictions and to stop mortgage foreclosures. So Greens are doing great things all over the country; we tend to get not covered because we are a threat. In the same way that I was removed from those debates that I mentioned, the minute I won the first debate that I was in in the governor’s race back in Massachusetts in 2002, I was removed from the debates because we reflect where public opinion is; we reflect the solutions that people are hungering for, and we actually have quite a bit of experience on the ground at the local and the county level making this happen. We are now working on ballot access; you know, independent parties have to fight their way on every election. We are ahead of where we were four years ago; four years ago we were on the ballot for almost 85 percent of voters. We also have two court cases now suing the Commission on Presidential Debates, which the League of Women Voters has called a fraud being perpetrated on the American voters because it’s a private corporation, basically, that restricts debate.
RS: I know, and it used to be that the League of Women Voters was the organization that sponsored the debates—
JS: And they should be.
RS: –and now it’s left up to Fox TV or CNN and—
JS: And the parties themselves. Yes.
RS: And so, ah, here the Democrats have been basically able to make the debates relatively unimportant to the selection of Hillary Clinton, because Bernie was a threat, or anybody else. But, so come November, if it’s a Hillary-versus-whoever race, ah, and you’re going to be on the ballot in 85 percent?
JS: We hope 100 percent. So, yeah, we’ve raised the bar. And I’d encourage anybody who’s interested in more voice and more choices, and not being stuck with two corporate candidates, go to Jill2016.com and join the team. This is a grassroots effort. Because voters not only have a right to vote; we also have a right, you know, to choices and to know who those choices are. So hold on to your hat; there will be some exciting action coming up to try to open up these debates and get real choices on the ballot. You know, the latest Wall Street Journal poll, and this goes back to the summer, showed that 21 percent of American adults now identify as Republicans. Twenty-one percent; that’s a minority party. Twenty-nine percent identify as Democrats, and 50 percent have rejected them both. So you know, while there’s interesting struggles going on within each of the parties, there are a lot of people out there who basically don’t buy it anymore; who don’t care about the rhetoric and really see what the results are, and they’re looking for something different, including those 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are indentured servants with student debt, with no way out, even under a Sanders policy. So if word gets out to people who really have a stake in this game, that they can fix it—in fact, one of our realizations is that the lesser evil unfortunately keeps paving the way to the greater evil. Because when the lesser evil is just one shy, one step shy of awful, people don’t come out to vote. And that’s what happened in 2014. That’s not the case with Bernie; there would be a lot of enthusiasm there. But with Hillary, or other Democratic candidates, the candidates that are likely to be supported by the Democratic Party and get the nomination are lesser-evil candidates that are not going to bring out the vote. So in that way, the lesser evil keeps paving the way to the greater evil. That’s why Congress flipped under Obama, because people were so bitterly disappointed. In 2014, 80 percent of young people did not come out to vote; the Democratic base didn’t come out to vote, and we saw so many states flip from being blue states to red states. So it’s really important that we stand up, that we not silence ourselves as a favor to the status quo, and that we take our future back into our own hands and stand up with the power that we actually have, and the numbers that we have—if those 43 million young people come out, that’s a plurality of the vote right there. We can take back our future and create a world that works for all of us. We can put people, planet and peace over profit. In the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. Well, the numbers suggest we have it. This is about rejecting the propaganda that tells us we’re powerless, and standing up and defining our future. This is the Hail Mary moment; it’s time to stop doing what has gotten us here.
RS: Yeah, I just—this is Robert Scheer, this is “Scheer Intelligence”; I’m talking to Jill Stein, who doesn’t have it sewed up yet, but quite possibly or most likely will be the Green Party candidate. I just want to make a personal observation. I’ve spent quite a bit of time interviewing people who became president or who were president. I even have a book out on the subject, and I just happened last night to be re-reading my interview with Bill Clinton talking about poverty and his promise to do something about it, and he opened the floodgates of greed. I interviewed Richard Nixon; I interviewed a lot of people, the first President Bush, Ronald Reagan and so forth. And so, just in this short interview—there’s no question in my mind that you’re every bit the equal or superior to all of the presidential candidates that I’ve talked to; you’re also credentialed very highly, you know, maybe you can’t separate Siamese twins, but you obviously can save lives and you can deal with complex scientific matters by virtue of your medical training. And you’re also, you know, an appealing candidate in every respect; I mean, you’re not, there’s nothing about you that would put people off; you’re actually the person that most people, if they meet you, would admire and want to follow as a leader. And yet you’re marginalized so easily. And I think that’s the critical thing that happens; it doesn’t matter if everything you say makes perfect sense, if everything Hillary Clinton says makes no sense. And I would argue—I would agree with you, because I’ve followed these issues very closely. But on the economy and on war and peace and so forth, Hillary Clinton is, as far as I can see, a disaster. And then people promise me she’ll be less so, she’ll move over; no, most likely in a general election she’ll move to a more war-like position, and all that. And it must drive you nuts, in a way, how easily you’re marginalized. You know, I know, because I mean, here I am on a campus, and I say well, I’m going to interview—oh, but why, why is—is there a Green Party? And so forth. And that’s what mass media can do; that’s what money can do. It can rule out what should be a common-sense position. I really want to end on this question to you: What is radical about this? I mean, now they’re even describing Bernie Sanders as radical, and he even uses the word “revolution”; we need a revolution—yeah. You need a revolution if by that you mean you’re going to get rid of the power of big money to control everything; yeah, that’s the kind of revolution the Founders had in mind. But if you think about what is common sense, what is obviously true, what obviously needs to be done—clearly the kind of health care that you’re advocating is the common-sense, conservative position, right?
JS: That’s right, that’s right, yes.
RS: I mean, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it’s—
JS: Yes, yes.
RS: And just, again, looking at your trajectory of great success as a student, as a scholar, as a doctor, you’re able to—you know, this is a difficult terrain to climb, to get to be a graduate of Harvard and of Harvard Medical School and all these things. Doesn’t it just—how do you handle this thing of—you’re now, how old are you? I’m sorry—
JS: I’m 65.
RS: Yeah, OK. And yet people can somehow look at you and say, no, some babbling idiot who’s pretending—and most of them seem like babbling idiots right now—they’re real. You know, Donald Trump is real, or Hillary Clinton is progressive, even though despite her—and yet you can be marginalized. What is your short answer to how you keep going?
JS: Well, my short answer—well, you know, I feel like I’m incredibly privileged to be able to do this. And that my struggle as a candidate is small potatoes compared to the struggle of African-Americans who are just trying to walk down the street, you know. Or immigrants who’ve been forced to migrate here by the crisis we created—the U.S. government created through NAFTA, through our drug wars that have killed a hundred thousand people in Mexico; you know, through our military invasions. And they’ve come here, and now they’re criminalized and they’re locked up, and then they’re going to be sent back to the death squads in El Salvador. I mean, to me, the plight of growing numbers of people—and add to that the economic plight, which is like, people are barely keeping their heads above water; or young people who really put their best feet forward and they did their best, they studied hard, they worked hard, they got their degree, and now they’re saddled with this predatory debt and they don’t have a job. You know, and they’ve got this mortgage to pay, just starting off in life, but no house to show for it, and no job. So I feel like this is the responsibility of those of us who have the capacity to struggle; this is an all-hands-on-deck moment, you know. We are looking at potentially a climate meltdown that will terminate civilization as we know it in our lifetimes. We’re looking at the next economic crash, which will make 2008 look like small potatoes. We’re looking at the breakup of the ice sheets that could cause sea level to rise by 10, 20, 30 feet in the next couple of decades. So to my mind, the struggles of a candidate to be heard are—they don’t hold a candle to our struggle as a community to survive, to recover our democracy. And what I find really encouraging is that when we have stood up and stood together as a broad coalition for justice, we win. And we have done this; we stopped the FCC from privatizing the Internet; we have stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership from passing thus far, and we forced it into an election year, which is going to really tilt the tables against it. We have had many victories. We stopped the war in Syria in 2012 when it was a done deal, forget it, you know, don’t question it. So we have power. This is the time to use it. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s only for the good that we’re able to do this now and we have a really magical moment where we can turn the breaking point that we’re facing into the tipping point for the peaceful, just, green future we deserve. We got to do it now.
RS: Thank you, Jill Stein. And I’m sure we’ll have you back between now and November on another podcast of “Scheer Intelligence.” Josh Scheer, can you give me the outro? That’s it for another edition of our podcast, “Scheer Intelligence.” My guest has been Jill Stein, a potential Green Party candidate for president. Our producers are Joshua Scheer and Rebecca Mooney. Sebastian Grubaugh at USC at the Annenberg School was the recording engineer on this show, and Mario Diaz as well at KCRW. See you next time.
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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