Subscribe
Live at Truthdig

Truthdig Sits Down With the Green Party's Jill Stein (Video)

The Green Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Dr. Jill Stein, met with Truthdig staff on Tuesday for a live discussion, broadcast on Facebook, about the 2016 election and American politics.

Watch the entire discussion below, although the first video is cut off early because of Facebook’s time limit. The second segment, while much shorter, is a sign-off from Stein and the Truthdig staff.

Sarah Wesley: Hi, everyone. This is Sarah here at Truthdig. Our special guest today is Dr. Jill Stein. Also with us is Truthdig Deputy Editor Kasia Anderson; our Editor in Chief Robert Scheer; editorial assistant Emma Niles, and one of Jill’s personal assistants, Jose Trinidad Castaneda.

First, I would like to say what an honor and a privilege it is to have you here at our office as the California and New Jersey primaries close. We all voted here in the office—

Emma Niles: As Californians.

SW: And this morning, I cast my vote; I walked outside, there was a reporter, and he asked me, “Who did you vote for and why?” And I told him that I voted for Bernie Sanders. He said, “How do you feel about the idea that voting for Bernie could possibly be a vote for Donald Trump?” And with that, I thought really hard …I understand where he was coming from, but something within me has a moral responsibility to vote for what I believe in. So he said, “Who will you be voting for in November? Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton?” … And I told him I couldn’t vote for Clinton. So now what I’m thinking is … who is there as an option to vote for when you don’t necessarily support Hillary Clinton’s policies, and you don’t like who Donald Trump is as a person?

Robert Scheer: Maybe we should take a minute, though, and explain why you would not automatically vote for Hillary Clinton.

SW: OK. Well, I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I’m African-American. And day in and day out, I live the reality of racism, of discrimination; I don’t want to tear up, because it’s really deep to me. But I would say that some of the issues that Hillary Clinton has been a fan of, and she’s voted for—like the 1994 war on crime that under the Clinton administration increased mass incarceration—has come down a lot stronger on African-Americans disproportionately. We have more African-Americans incarcerated than we did enslaved in the 1800s. And that is a reality that I live every single day, whether it’s [because] I’m scared … I get a call that my father’s in jail, one of my brothers is in jail, one of my close friends is in jail, or someone like Sandra Bland, who was just in her car, and she did everything she should to talk to the police officer in the correct way, and she ended up dead in police custody. So that’s a reality for me, and that’s something that was a direct effect of the policies that Hillary Clinton advocated for and voted for. And with that being so close to my heart and to my family’s heart, I can’t vote for somebody like that. And I also can’t vote for Donald Trump [laughter], because he just last week called an African-American “his” African-American, which reminds me of white supremacy and slavery. So I can’t vote for either one of them, and I’m looking for another option. So with that being said, it’s such an honor to have you [Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein] here, and I’d love for you to speak on what you feel you bring to this presidential election as the primaries close, and as Bernie Sanders might not become that Democratic nominee. Please introduce yourself to our voters and to our viewers.

Jill Stein: Great. OK, so I’m Jill Stein. And by training and by profession, I’m a medical doctor. And I used to practice clinical medicine, taking care of everyday people. And now I’m practicing political medicine instead of clinical medicine, because it’s the mother of all illnesses, and we’ve got to fix our toxic political system if we’re going to get to all these other things that are literally killing us. And by that I don’t mean, not only our physical ailments—and we’ve got plenty of them, and we’re getting sicker and we’re dying earlier, and our infant mortality is going up, and women’s mortality is going up, and you name it. We are not doing well in spite of spending more money than any other developed country [on medical care]. But it’s not just our physical illnesses, you know; it’s the illness of poverty, which contributes to physical illness. It is the illness of racism. It is the illness of war, which is depriving us of our hard-earned dollars … over half of which are being spent in our discretionary budget on these many wars.

So it became clear to me as a medical doctor that I was seeing in the clinic things that never used to exist, like epidemics of asthma, and cancer in kids, and heart attacks and strokes at younger ages than we used to have them; the epidemic of diabetes. This is going back a ways, and I said to myself, “Our genes didn’t change overnight.” There’s something else going on here, like our food system has really been industrialized and corrupted, and our social stresses and pollution, which we know is highly linked to most of those diseases that I just rattled off. So at any rate, I began to work with communities to try to clean up the drivers of these illnesses, including poverty and homelessness, as well as pollution and coal plants and incinerators. And you know, we found that after a few initial victories, basically the legislature and the usual suspects mobilized against communities to stop our protecting ourselves, to stop our democratic right to govern how we live. And it became very clear that you needed very deep pockets, you needed big lobbyists to impact the kinds of decisions that the legislature was making.

So to make a long story short, I got tricked into running for office. [Laughter] Starting in the year 2002, I ran against Mitt Romney for governor of Massachusetts. And I discovered when I got into that—and I came to it as an advocate for health, for ending environmental racism, for democratic reforms, campaign finance reform and so on, which we had been very active in in my state—you know, it became clear, we were told we were always the marginal fringe. You know, and that we really couldn’t expect the public to support these things; we were sort of tilting at windmills. And we actually fought our way into a televised debate where I gave voice to our usual agenda of providing jobs as a human right, and living wages. Providing education as a human right, including free public higher education; health care as a human right; cutting the military budget; and putting those dollars back into true security here at home. And you know, those ideas went over like a lead balloon inside the TV studio, which was just the candidates and the moderator. But when I walked out to where the press was waiting, I got mobbed by the press—for the first time and the last time. [Laughter] And they told me that I had won the debate on the instant online viewer poll. Who knew? Who knew that there was an instant online viewer poll? And you can be sure that was the last one that they did. [Laughter] They learned you do not want to know what voters are thinking, you know, and they found all kinds of ways to suppress that and manipulate it.

And it turned the lights on for me: that we are living in a rigged system, a rigged political system. And it’s really not against us; in fact, we who regard ourselves as the proponents of basic human values and basic community values, we’re told we’re the odd man out, you know? We’re the weird guys that are really at odds with where the American public is. But what I learned in that debate was, no, it’s the other way around! It’s just that the political predators are quaking in their boots that we get to the microphone. We no longer have to convince people; I used to think you had to really convince people and make all these arguments to get people to stand up for justice, for ending racism, for dealing with the climate. And in fact that’s not true; people really do have a sense of these basic human values. Our job is not to change people’s minds; history has changed people’s minds. The devastation of the economy and the climate has changed people’s minds. Our job is to organize that public will. In the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. Our job is to recognize our power and to step up to the plate, organize it, stand up for it, don’t capitulate. In my view, our job is to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it, because they do. And the minute we stand up, we will discover that those who are on this team for justice—economic, racial, labor—there are so many of us that there’s basically no one left sitting down. We have the power the minute we flip that switch in our own brains from powerless to powerful. And we need to do that now, because the clock is ticking.

EN: Yeah, and there are so many issues that have been happening over the last couple of years that have been really emphasized, I think, in this election season. Like, speaking of environmental racism, we’ve had the Black Lives Matter movement and even Flint, [Michigan, with the toxic water crisis], I think, are such strong examples of people getting really outraged and mobilizing. Do you think that that has brought people to your party, or do you think the Green Party has raised awareness? Like, you guys are the party for those issues—

JS: So, I would say on those issues, and even on the basic issues of economic justice and living wages and greening our energy system, we’ve been ahead of the curve. And Bernie’s agenda this time was my agenda in 2012, except for where we differ on the war and bailing out students, and a few things like that. Where I think he’s been sort of restrained by the Democratic Party that just won’t allow him to go there. And if Bernie were liberated from the Democratic Party, I think he would begin to embrace this agenda. But the point is, you know, Bernie, I think, reflected where public opinion is. He didn’t have to convince people. It’s like, there was a movement there, and suddenly the movement had a voice.

So in my view, people are now discovering why it is that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counter-revolutionary party. It’s hard to do that. And what happened in Nevada at the Democratic Convention is kind of what we’re seeing rolling out, even before, after and going into Philadelphia; this is what it’s going to look like, but kind of on steroids, really. That conflict is, you know, shaping up to be quite the event. But the party has dug in. And the resistance they’ve put up against Bernie is the resistance they put up against every progressive candidate that’s been out there for decades. They have a strategy: It’s called “fake left, but go right.” Because even while they’ve allowed Bernie to be seen and heard, and Dennis Kucinich, to some extent; Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson—they sabotaged each of them in a very purposeful and outrageous way. So those of us who’ve been kind of watching from afar have not been surprised at all to see things roll out the way they are. And I think the lesson is, this is why we need a political party that actually supports a revolutionary agenda so that that campaign doesn’t get sucked back in to the Hillary Clinton campaign that represents the opposite of what Bernie and the movement stands for. That campaign and the movement should not go into the graveyard of the Democratic Party; it needs to live and recognize the power that it has to carry this fight forward. There’s no going back now; we can’t, because that clock is ticking too fast. I think it’s just an incredibly exciting moment. And as you say, Bernie is there; the movement is there, and the public is there.

SW: Right. And I’d like to elaborate on that a little bit, because I do see a lot of similarities between you and Bernie Sanders, and I think our viewers are interested in knowing, what are the differences between you and Bernie Sanders? And specifically for us [the younger generation], we’re very interested in student debt and about canceling student debt. So if you could go a little bit further into that.

JS: Great. So you know, I’d say there are two major differences. One is student debt, which in my experience is not a small issue. [Laughter] This is a life-changing issue. This is like debt slavery; and I don’t like to use the word “slavery,” because that’s just a monster to which nothing compares. Maybe it’s more like debt servitude. It’s like being an indentured servant but not really having an opportunity to work your way out of it. So, look, we bailed out the crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean we around the table. I mean our fearless mis-leaders who decided, much against public opinion—because they were hearing, like, 99 to 1, “Don’t bail those crooks out,” but they went ahead and did it—with Barack Obama and the White House leading the charge, but Democrats and Republicans in full support. And they bailed out Wall Street to the tune, now, of what amounts to $16 trillion, if you’re actually counting; much of that was free money just as a loan and it had to be paid back. But much of it was a giveaway in the form of quantitative easing; about $4 trillion, maybe a little bit more than that, in the form of quantitative easing. Which basically means a magic trick performed by the Federal Reserve, and there’s really nothing more to understanding about it than that the Federal Reserve can disappear that debt digitally. It sort of amounts to expanding the money supply, if you want to go into the weeds on it.

But the bottom line is, it’s OK to do that if the economy expands and the productivity expands. Which it didn’t! It just enabled them to carry on with more reckless gambling, basically at taxpayer expense and at taxpayer risk. So if our government somehow saw fit to do that for the crooks, isn’t it about time to do that for the victims of that waste, fraud and abuse on Wall Street? Because young people, a generation, was basically entrapped in this deal that said, “You work hard, you graduate, you do your responsibilities, your homework.” You work, meanwhile, to pay your living expenses., which many people have to do in addition to their tuition and all that. So people got these loans [and were]entrapped into the idea that there were great jobs at the other end. But what happened to those jobs? Well, Wall Street crashed the economy. So the jobs we have that have come back, as everybody knows, are low-wage, part-time and temporary, insecure jobs without benefits.

So essentially, there’s a younger generation, as you well know, that is basically very busy working two and three part-time, low-wage jobs—if they’re lucky—or they have no job at all. And there’s no end point here. Because the economy is not getting better; it still remains in a state of emergency. This month there were like, what 38,000 jobs [added]—this is an absolute catastrophe. But that’s not news to most people. The economy’s really on the rocks; young people are left hanging out to dry here. This is not just bad for young people; this is a problem for all of society. Who is it that usually leads us forward in social change? It’s always been the younger generation, whether you’re talking civil rights or Black Lives Matter or the anti-sweatshop or living wages, the Fight for 15—that’s who leads us forward. The Vietnam War—I mean, this is built into the DNA of society that it is young people who create transformative change, and we need transformative change right now. We are not going to get transformative change—we’re not even going to get the economy of the future, because you need young people who can do what they’ve been trained to do. They went to school to get these skills, but they’re not even able to use these skills.

So how about we liberate them and enrich ourselves by unleashing this generation of skilled and trained workers who are ready to re-envision the future and ready to re-envision our economy? It’s not going to happen without you. This pays for itself many times over when you look at paying forward for public higher education. We know that from the GI Bill: For every dollar we put in, we got back $7 in return. So it pays for itself. The question is the back debt. And on that front, it’s so clear we can do a quantitative easing here, which doesn’t cost anybody a thing; it expands the money supply in a way that is—it’s not only justified—it is like the stimulus package of our dreams, to reinvigorate our economy with the vision of the future. Especially from a generation that has been put through the wringer by a predatory economy. So this is a generation that brings the experience of having been on the short end of the stick of a predatory economy. So it really brings with it a whole agenda of justice as well.

RS: OK. But let me ask you—we have several generations here; I’ll be the old grump. And my experience [is] that the mood has really changed. We are speaking at a moment when we don’t know how the election results are going to go. And maybe there will be a Bernie victory in California and that will, I think, open up the Democratic convention. But it’s hard to win a big state; it’s hard where money counts; we have past familiarity; I mean, Hillary Clinton has a big reputation. So let’s assume that we get to the Democratic convention. And there’s these two narratives: There’s the Trump narrative, which is basically a neofascist view that immigrants and the “other” [are] responsible for the problems of an otherwise great America. You know, there are echoes of that in Europe; there are echoes in the decline of Europe and its disintegration between the first and the second World Wars. So there’s a lot of reasons to fear Trump, and to worry about his getting into government.

On the other hand, there will be a lot of people who will say, this is our great opportunity to break the glass ceiling. This is our great opportunity to put an enlightened woman in power. Now, let me just ask you: You worked for the Feminist Majority—

Josh Scheer: Bob, can I jump in with a question for Sarah? Because it’s something that I’ve been sitting here very interested in. And it’s the comment that you read from African-Americans, because you brought up your African-Americanism, the idea … the fact that, you know, because there’s a lot of authors who have written about this, this idea. And I think Jill should talk about this too, the idea of voting with the Green Party as voting with privilege. And that it matters to vulnerable populations, that African-Americans, electability matters; even if it’s incrementalism, it matters, because Donald Trump might do far worse. And that’s been an argument. And I wanted to know your take on that as an African-American woman, because you brought that up in the beginning of the discussion. How that affects it, and how it affects it if we end up with Donald Trump, you know; what would happen to the vulnerable populations such as African-Americans and Latino-Americans.

SW: That’s actually a great question, and it’s something I’ve thought long and hard about, because I obviously do not want Donald Trump in office, for many reasons. But I don’t know if you guys have seen one of our first Facebook Live videos, and Editor in Chief Robert Scheer brought up a great point. Hillary Clinton is no angel, and what she has done to the African-American community is, to me, it’s devastated communities across the nation. And I don’t really know who’s worse. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Donald Trump is worse than Hillary Clinton. I think, face value, Donald Trump is a lot scarier because he incites this sort of white supremacist emotion in people who already have it, but now they’re a lot more vocal about it; with Hillary Clinton, she kind of goes behind the scenes. It’s like, would you rather be bitten by a snake that you see coming, or a snake underwater? So with that being said, I have to resort to my deepest values. And my mother always told me, principles only mean something when you stick by them during inconvenient times. And this is an inconvenient time, OK? And I have to stick by my principles. And also, if everyone were to believe that voting for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump, we’re not going to get anywhere in this nation ever. There will never be a revolution, there’s never going to be a transformation in the way we see our politics handled. So it has to start somewhere, and I think right now is, it’s always a perfect time to start. And I’m going to vote with the person I feel I’m the most attached to, and who represents my interests by far the most. And that’s how I take it, and that’s how I would hope that many African-Americans see it. And also, if you are African-American or you’re a minority, I really do encourage you to do the research, and not just on mainstream media, but just Google and find documents, real documents where you can see who voted for what bill. And then go out and read more about that, read more about that bill. Go on forums, get real accounts and figure out for yourself if you would have voted for that bill, and look at the people who did vote for them, and then determine who you want as your presidential candidate.

Sebastian: Can I speak as a Latino here? So, I’m a second-generation Mexican-American. And as we all know, Trump has made some very racist statements against Mexicans. He has proposed to build a wall. And while that’s all concerning, we have to remember that Obama is now the deporter-in-chief, and he’s deported more immigrants and undocumented people than anyone else in history. So we have to remember that, and remind ourselves that that will continue; that policy of deporting people will continue under Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. And so in no way am I going to trust anyone who is not really acknowledging that we need very deep, intrinsic immigration reform. And that will not come from the Democratic Party; I don’t feel like, even Bernie Sanders, if he were to be nominated, that the Democratic Party would allow for him to make those sweeping changes. And for me, that’s why it’s so crucial to think about third parties, because we have to really acknowledge that, like, millions and millions of Americans, undocumented or not, need a pathway to citizenship.

RS: So can you just say something about the Green Party? [Laughter] You know, we’ve been so traumatized by the notion, first of all, of two parties, and then the notion of the lesser evil. And it’s not new with Trump. I mean, you know, Barry Goldwater was supposed to be the great evil, and many of us, including progressive organizations, supported—I remember SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] had a slogan, “Part of the way with LBJ”—

JS: Halfway, “Halfway with LBJ.”

RS: You know, and LBJ was going to do the poverty program, he was going to care about—well, the fact is, the war in Vietnam squandered all the resources that were going to go to fight poverty.

JS: That’s right.

RS: And Barry Goldwater, in retrospect, doesn’t look so awful. Richard Nixon was the most evil of the evils, and yet Richard Nixon ended a war the Democrats expanded; he is the one who negotiated peace in Vietnam. He’s also the one who advocated a guaranteed annual income. He’s also the one who did the Environmental Protection Agency—that came under, believe it or not, “Tricky Dick” Nixon. So I would like to know, first of all, are you the Green Party candidate, and is there a convention; is this party real; how many states are you on the ballot; will these people get a chance to think about voting for you?

JS: All really important questions. So, the Green Party is currently on the ballot in, I think, 22, maybe 23 states now. But those are all the big states, so if you look in terms of Electoral College votes, if the election were carried out today we would have the capacity to actually win the majority of the vote. We are currently on the ballot for a majority of voters. In the last race, in 2012, we were on the ballot for something like 83, 84 percent of voters; this time we will do better than that, could be 90, could be 95, maybe even 100 percent of voters. So we have very active ballot drives going on right now.

In terms of “What is the Green Party,” as I describe it, it is the one national party that is not poisoned by corporate money. We do not take corporate money, and we don’t take money from the surrogates of corporations, their lobbyists, their CEOs—that is, of for-profit corporations that have lobbyists and therefore have a vested interest in the process. So, no corporate money whatsoever; and we don’t have super PACs. We are a party of, by and for the people, so we have the unique privilege and honor of just speaking truth, and talking about what everyday people want. Many people think of the Green Party as the environmental party, and it did start off as an environmental party, although it also began, actually, as an indigenous-rights party as well. So it was always more than just environmental justice; it was other kinds of justice, indigenous justice, and then social justice, and then racial justice, and labor justice. And in the U.S., because we are the one national-scope party that is a public-interest party, we’ve sort of absorbed many of the smaller parties; people who used to be in the Labor Party, the various socialist parties, because we can provide ballot status. So we work together and we collaborate. We are not just green for tree-hugging, although we do think tree-hugging is very important. [Laughter] And not just hugging trees, but nature and biodiversity and the rest of it. But we also believe in hugging people, and that the welfare of people is inseparable from the welfare of the planet, which is inseparable from peace. And our motto, if you had to sum it up, is people, planet and peace over profit. Because right now it’s the other way around, and we have two corporate-sponsored political parties that are funded by predatory banks, fossil fuel giants, war profiteers and the usual suspects. And those are the policies which are being delivered by those parties. So we are, you know, a party of, by and for the people, and that’s what we’re calling for in this race.

And we’re also saying, this is an emergency! You know, we have the power to actually turn this around. If 43 million young people decided not to keep that a secret, that debt liberation was available for checking the green box—and that could very well be a little secret that gets out. And this is a generation that has proven it knows how to organize, how to self-organize, on the internet and on social media, and has accomplished amazing things when it was told resistance was futile. Like saving the internet, for example; like the campaigns of Black Lives Matter; like stopping the Keystone Pipeline; like delaying the Trans-Pacific Partnership into an election, and so on. So it’s not impossible; we should not doubt for a minute our capacity to actually own our democracy. Because if democracy existed, it would be the likes of the Green Party that’s leading the way. And I’ll just add one other thing: It took a Green to beat back a neofascist in Austria. The conventional parties were not capable of standing up to the neofascists, but the Green Party candidate did, and saved the necks of the people in Austria by defeating that candidate. So we are in an entirely different era right now, and hold on to your hat.

SW: So I love the way that sounds, and I think our readers do too, because it is a progressive point of view. And it’s one thing to get into office, but then once you’re in office, how much influence does the Green Party have with a House full of Democratic and Republican representatives?

JS: So, we would not get into the White House unless there was really a massive groundswell. And I wouldn’t rule that out, because we’ve already seen that with the Sanders campaign. If that groundswell were to attach to our campaign, such that we had a majority of the electoral college votes—first of all, there are many down-ballot Green candidates, including many congressional candidates, including one in San Francisco who could potentially wind up in a two-person race against Nancy Pelosi. Which is a very interesting campaign [laughter]; we’ll keep our fingers crossed on that. But we have a number of Senate—Margaret Flowers, who you may know of as a major proponent for Medicare for all, improve Medicare for all. So we have some really great people who are running for office who would benefit from this groundswell. So we would have people voted in. We would also have many people who actually do believe in this agenda, who have been constrained by the realities of Washington, D.C., which would change dramatically if we turned the White House into a Green House. [Laughter] Which would be a wonder to behold. So it would be different, but I think most important is that there would be a massive set of ground troops, which existed, for example, certainly for Bernie; for Barack Obama—you know, he had a massive grass-roots campaign, but he put it on a shelf when he was elected, because it really wasn’t his real agenda.

So in the same way we mobilized to stop the Syria bombing campaign—you may remember, that was about the chemical weapons in 2013. It was like, “Don’t even bother to resist; we are going to start bombing Syria, and it’s not even going to Congress.” And people stood up and screamed. And then suddenly, “Well, OK, we’ll put it through Congress.” And then suddenly, it was, “Well, all right, we’re not even going to try to put it through Congress.” Just because we self-mobilized! And we did not have the media; you know, we didn’t have the political parties; we just did it. And you know, that’s the model of a president who would be an organizer-in-chief, not just a deporter-in-chief or a commander-in-chief, but above all, an organizer-in-chief so that we could actually use democratic power. And I think an incredible awareness.

We’re in this existential moment right now. We’re not only deciding what kind of a world we will be, but whether we will be as a world at all. Whether you look at climate or you look at this new nuclear arms race—again, engaged by who? A Democrat. You know, Barack Obama, who is spending $1 trillion—or has called for it, this budget of $1 trillion over the next couple of decades—to re-engage a whole new generation of nuclear weapons and a whole new generation of modes of delivery, like we really need this? You know, and then Hillary Clinton, who helped us redefine our new big enemies, being China and Russia—over what, exactly, you know, are we really fighting about? You know, we’ve invented their aggressiveness, which is actually hard to demonstrate. So the point is, we can fix this; we’re in a critical moment; and people feel that moment, and in my experience, are so exhilarated to hear their thoughts and their feelings and their vision about where we can go together.

Kasia Anderson: I was a newspaper reporter in New York in 2000, and I remember from seeing all the daily headlines on the front page every day of various papers, including where I was, at the Daily News, all of the Bush versus Gore hoopla. But obviously, another big subplot of that election was Ralph Nader and his involvement as a third-party candidate. So what I wondered from your perspective, what’s different now from 2000, in the Green Party representing that kind of alternative for voters? And do you feel like there’s more room now, or do you feel like it’s another kind of divisive instance?

Josh Scheer: I want to add something to that too, because I’ve thought about it a lot: Nader, whether he’s a spoiler or not, this is a debate that’s gone on now for, what, 16 years? … If we end up with Trump and they call you a spoiler, is this something that you’re able to handle? Is this something that you’re willing to risk? Because certainly Ross Perot in ’92 was a real spoiler and got Bill Clinton in the White House; is that something you could handle over the next decade or plus until, however long we have Donald Trump?

JS: So let me just say that “spoiler” presumes that democracy is bad and that choices are bad. And actually, what’s really different from 2000 is that voters are saying, “Screw this system,” you know? Throw it under the bus. And not only the system, but the candidates. [Laughter] And even the supporters of the candidates don’t really support them. We know from a recent CNN poll that the majority of Hillary’s supporters don’t really support Hillary, they just oppose Trump; and the majority of Trump’s supporters don’t support him, they oppose Hillary. So what’s wrong with this picture? You know, this is not what democracy looks like. And, people are clamoring for independent parties and independent candidates and more voices and more choices. So that’s one thing that’s really different from Nader’s era, although you still have the corporate pundits and the political operatives who are trying to exercise selective amnesia: Would people please forget about everything that’s happened since Nader-Bush-Gore?

KA: Onset selective amnesia, right?

JS: Yes, exactly. We can remember what happened then, but we can’t remember the past eight years, and how basically, the Democratic White House with two Democratic houses of Congress—so you can’t pin it on the Republicans—how they massively expanded the war effort. Really resisted Bush’s deadline for removing the troops—you know, Obama fought that tooth and nail, to be able to extend the war, and then surged into Afghanistan, and now droning everywhere, and then went into Libya at Hillary’s direction. Or the Wall Street bailouts, or the offshoring of our jobs; you know, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA and then it was Obama who has been pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And let me just say a word, please, about all-of-the-above energy policy. Because it’s actually been far more devastating to the climate than “drill, baby, drill” was. This has been “drill, baby, drill” on steroids, because it’s been delivered with a smile and a lot of reassurances and a very gracious personality. So people have, like, oh, we got more renewable energy—well, yeah, a couple percentage points; it’s doubled, but it was pretty tiny to start with. That’s not nothing, but nature doesn’t really care about renewable energy. People care about renewable energy, but the climate doesn’t. The climate reads C02 in the atmosphere, and methane. And looking at what’s happened under Obama, the lid flew off of that. And we are fracking and offshoring and on the public lands and into the Arctic, and he just blew open the devastation. So let’s not pretend that it’s just been the corporate Republicans that have been devastating to the cause of justice, as you were pointing out, or the cause of the climate.

And aside from the track record, the idea that we fix an impaired democracy by making it less democratic is wrong. How about we just fix the system? Well, it turns out there’s a really simple way to fix it. In fact, we could do that right now. If we mobilized—if Bernie’s campaign, in fact, decided to mobilize right now, to create ranked-choice voting, we could pass it at the state level. We could also pass it at the congressional level. It does not require a constitutional amendment. What this means is that you don’t have to—you could take fear out of voting entirely. Why don’t we just fix the problem? Ranked-choice voting says you get to rank your choices. You can put your underdog, risky choice as No. 1, knowing that your vote will be reassigned to your No. 2—if you have a No. 2—your vote will be reassigned. So it completely eliminates fear. First time I ran for office, we filed that bill with a progressive Democratic legislator in the Massachusetts Legislature, and said, let’s eliminate any fear factor; let’s eliminate any possibility that I could “spoil” the election. We can fix that right now. Of course they wouldn’t pass it! They wouldn’t let it out of committee. Why not? They rely on fear to constrain your vote. Now, why do they know that they have to rely on fear? Because they know that at the end of the day, they are not on your side. They’re not on your side, so that right there should just fundamentally erase your vote for them. They’re not on your side; this problem is a concocted and created problem; it needs to be fixed with a true democracy fix, not by adding, not by suppressing more voices, which is only going to further reduce our democracy.

Josh: But this is something you’re ready, though, to—

JS: Great. So let me say, I will be horrified if Donald Trump is elected. And I will be horrified if Hillary Clinton is elected. And I think the greatest terror of all is that we have a political system that says to us, here are two deadly choices: Now pick one. And that’s all you get. I say: Above all, we need to get together and change that system. Otherwise, it is a continuing race to the bottom, and we’ve gotten way closer to the bottom. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made an announcement at the Annual Conference of Insurance Industries—this wasn’t much covered in the press, and you’d only know about it if you read the online journal of the insurancejournal.com or something like that. But what was reported by this senior scientist from NOAA was that they had just gotten an “oh-my-God” report rom the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, an oh-my-God report that we can expect to see nine feet of sea level rise as soon as 2050. And this confirms what Jim Hansen had found last year.

So we need to take this seriously, declare an emergency, and the minute we do that, we can actually fix this. Because when Pearl Harbor was bombed at the outset of the Second World War, we mobilized as a national emergency; we totally transformed our economy in the course of six months. So in six months we could really undertake a massive effort, certainly get to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030, maybe even before that—if we really understood the terms of this crisis. We can fix this crisis. And that’s why I am not going to feel one bit bad if we have stood up, and if I have been part of standing up. I will feel horrible if I allow my kids and my family, and everybody’s kids and everybody’s family—if I haven’t done everything in my power as a mother and a medical doctor to fight this surefire, assured mutual destruction. This is a path of assured mutual destruction that we are on right now. And you need to be outside of the corporate box in order to acknowledge that and in order to fix it. But it’s eminently fixable, if we begin soon. And remember, within that nine feet of sea level, there are about 16 nuclear power plants. It takes a while to decommission them. So either we need to start shutting them down immediately and figuring out where we’re going to put the spent fuel—we have no place to put it—or we need to get to work right now greening our economy as an emergency measure, which would be a wonderful thing. And there are all sorts of spinoff, wonderful benefits. It’s not like this is a bad road to go down—this is a wonderful road to go down, that puts everybody to work, gives everybody a job, cleans up our communities, improves our health, and makes the friggin’ wars for oil obsolete.

EN: I’m curious, because one of my biggest fears about this election season is I have never seen so many of my friends and people my age getting excited about an election and being really passionate about it and voting. And I’m so worried that even if we get the right person into office—say you became president this fall—around the midterm election, and I know we were talking about this before a little bit, but if you had a Congress—I mean, there are still Republicans out there who don’t believe that global warming is real. And obviously it would be amazing if this grass-roots push, and if at local elections and at the midterms you got your people into offices. But if you were the president, and we had a divided Congress like that, how would you go about compromising with them, or getting these super-necessary things passed, to people who don’t even see what the problem is?

JS: This is why student debt is a gateway issue. [Laughter] Because right now you’ve got 43 million people who are locked in labor—low-wage, lousy jobs, two and three of them, who have basically been excommunicated. They don’t have time to participate in society. But you liberate them from debt—which we can do by, basically, executive action—so you have liberated a massive army for pushing on social and racial and climate justice. And we move the bills one by one. There are also many things that can be done by executive action. For example, breaking up the banks. You don’t hear a lot about this, but Bill Black, who wrote [“The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One”], he actually has a whole plan, having been a Wall Street regulator himself—he has basically the plan for how the president can actually do this by executive order. And essentially, you can create these minimum capital requirements and enforce them, so the banks are over and done with. We nationalize them, create national banks, whatever, if they’re not willing to downsize. So we can downsize them, massively reduce their influence; that’s just another example of what we can do, like bailing out students. We could actually undertake a Green New Deal through executive action if we needed to. And again, I’m told by some of our economic advisers that there is maybe three or four trillion dollars’ worth of expansion that could be undertaken in the money supply; that means quantitative easing. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the U.K., he’s been calling for, actually, a people’s quantitative easing. Money, as you may know, is a social contract. [Laughter] There are many ways that you can create money. Right now, creating money is the—it’s the property of private banks. And there are other ways to do this. And Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, created greenbacks. So it is possible to do a quantitative-type easing program that would initiate the Green New Deal; that is, converting our energy system to 100 percent wind, water and sun; to create a healthy food system, which is a key part of greening our energy supply, or our energy footprint; and public transportation, which is renewably powered and energy-efficient, and restoring ecosystems, which are a critical part of the picture. And it turns out if you do that—and various models have been created that show you can actually do this for something around half a trillion dollars—less than the cost of the initial stimulus package of Obama’s. So for less than that cost, we can actually create far more jobs because these are sort of directly created jobs.

But here’s the rub: As you do this, you have two sort of self-funding mechanisms by which this pays back in very short order. One is as you clean the air, we get enormously healthier. It’s not just asthma; it’s also cancers, and it’s heart attacks and strokes. And the numbers have been run on this, coming out of Stanford [University]; there have been a whole bunch of studies done by this guy Mark Jacobson that show that we get so much healthier so quickly that the savings in our “sick-care” system are so great they actually pay for the green energy transition. And that payment begins almost immediately. This happened in the country of Cuba, so it’s not just a modeling study; this actually happened when Cuba lost its pipeline in the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Suddenly Cuba had no pollution; they had to switch to an organic, healthy food system; and people used muscle power and public transportation. Their death rates from diabetes went down 50 percent within a couple of years; their death rates from heart attacks and strokes went down 25 to 30 percent, 35 percent, I believe. So we spend $3 trillion a year now on the sick-care system, and we’re only getting sicker. So when you consider that 75 percent of those expenditures—well over $2 trillion—is spent on chronic diseases that would be averted if we were actually providing people healthy food, and that’s what was subsidized instead of the crappy food that really makes you sick. And we had clean air to breathe, and kids could walk to school and bike. You know, it’s a health-care system of our dreams; it’s a preventative health-care system, and we’d save a ton of money from the chronic diseases—50 percent of Americans now have a chronic disease, whether it’s diabetes or high blood pressure. Most of us are walking around with chronic diseases, paying big bucks for the pharmaceuticals that don’t make us well; they just make us bankrupt and give us all kinds of side effects. There’s actually a win-win here—

SW: Coming from the doctor. [Laughter]

JS: Yes, exactly! We don’t have to have this crazy, mixed-up system that’s making us bankrupt, making us sick, condemning us to wars for oil—we could actually have an economy, a climate, and a system of international peace.

RS: OK, but the reality is we do live in a crazy, mixed-up system. There are centers of power and manipulation and so forth. And the amazing thing in this election is that establishment has been swept aside in a very basic way. … On the Republican side, the establishment has been discredited by, basically, angry working-class people who were sold a bill of goods. That if we just got into these big wars, and patriotism flourished; if we got rid of labor unions, if we got rid of lawyers and drowned all the lawyers; you know, if we held back brown and black people, build a bigger wall—you know, this wall [along the U.S.’ southern border] is not new. We’ve been building a wall with Mexico ever since I’ve been alive. And so this neofascist, jingoistic argument only works when the establishment has failed. And what I say to people when they say, what about Trump? I say, wait a minute: Trump didn’t create Trump.

JS: Yeah, exactly.

RS: OK? This is a real mistake to think a Trump or a Mussolini—any of these folks, these demagogues—invent themselves and suddenly they have these tactics for manipulating people. No! They’re able to manipulate people because people are desperate; they’re angry, they’re upset. And what Trump has been able to do is say, “Hey, the system’s not working, and all the other guys on this stage are part of that system that has betrayed you.” Now, what’s happened on the Democratic side is that Sanders—you remember there were other candidates. One was a governor, and one had been a senator—they got nothing, they didn’t even get 1 percent, 2 percent. This grumpy old guy from Brooklyn by way of Vermont comes along, and he calls out the Clintons. Calls  em out, calls out the speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, what their foundation does, and so forth. And provides a progressive alternative for people who are hurting, who don’t want to go the reactionary route. Now the issue for that generation is something that we can see as a split in this room. Because you got the young folks over there, here [laughter]; the rank—what do you call yourselves now, some generation—

SW: Millennials.

RS: But it’s got to be something new coming along. And then we got these three folks over here, the thirty-something, forties, you know, gettin’ up there.

Josh: Well, I would actually argue this: … the reason that Bernie has done so well with millennials is because millennial is not really about an age; it’s about what you say and how you say it. So the fact is, Bernie’s a millennial too, because he’s pure and he’s, whatever you call it, privilege or purity, that Bernie actually speaks to the millennials because he is speaking from his heart. Like, this isn’t a political game in which he’s thinking about every maneuver. So that’s why millennials respond to him. So at any age, you can be a millennial if you do what is right, and [when] what you see going on is not right, you talk about it, then you’re a millennial.

RS: I think that captures something, but I do want to make a point, because there’s other folks who are going to be watching this, and I know—I teach four or five hundred students a year, I’ve been around the block. And this group here—let’s put them at 35 to 40 or something—that group, they came to believe in the illusion of the dot-com world, or what I consider the lottery. You know, we have our managing editor here, Eric [Ortiz], who has a wonderful app, and product of Stanford, and Stanford funding, even, of the app, right? From Silicon Valley and so forth. And the idea, if you’ll just work hard, this new economy has such opportunity because of the internet, new technology, new ways of thinking—you’re going to hit it. And instead, most of these people end up being Uber drivers. [Laughter] They don’t have the security of their father who was a taxi driver, right, who at least had a union, had some regulation and so forth. So the odd thing that’s happening in this election is that a very small number of people who actually made it, generally by being good thieves—by being able to rip off banking systems, by being the one who was at the business school, all that sort of thing—are able to buy the Democratic Party, the way I read it, defeat a Bernie Sanders who is offering what Josh says is actually a very pure—

Josh: I’d like to piggyback when you’re done.

RS: —and they’re saying, no. The illusion of the dot-com world, of the perfect app, is not real. The jobs are not there. The newspapers are crumbling. Here we have journalists—the jobs are not there, right? Now, what is your opinion?

Josh: I want to ask this specifically of Jill, because she’s running for president, and none of us else are. [Laughter] This neoliberal idea, this idea of entrepreneurship, of yeah, you’ll build the big app and everything else—obviously Republicans have talked about small businesses for as long as small businesses have existed, and Hillary Clinton in this election has mentioned entrepreneurship over and over and over again, which has ended up being a big debt trap when the Small Business Administration is not giving enough. And so as a small business owner at one point who’s closed that business, what are you going to do for small business owners? Because again, this is a part of the population, I don’t know, that the Greens have really reached yet, because the Republicans talk to business owners; the Democrats, the neoliberal model, is to more entrepreneurship and that sort of business. How do you convince entrepreneurs and small business owners, and large business owners, to go green?

JS: They need to be relieved of their burden of health care and health insurance. That should be provided to everybody and taken off the backs of small businesses, one of the most crushing burdens that they have. We need to have small, community-based banks that are there to support small businesses. And not just small businesses, but also cooperatives; community cooperatives, and worker-owned cooperatives. We need a diverse economy; we need a local economy. So the green vision of the economy is the localized economy. It’s fundamentally about small-business enterprise, and it’s about providing the supports that they need. They are being crushed. You know, they’ve been really in decline, massive decline, for a long, long time. And we’ve been giving away the store to the big banks and corporations. We need to withdraw the benefits that they’ve had to basically take over our economies. So most people now—I forget what the numbers are exactly, but it’s a huge portion of the population that depends on the Wal-Marts and the very big, corporate employers. We need to recreate a diversified economy, and that’s part of what the Green New Deal does; it redirects resources. So it’s nationally funded but it’s locally controlled by participatory decision-making at the local level, as to how people want to spend those dollars, what kinds of businesses and co-opts and government services do people need, and the guidelines to create a sustainable community. Not only sustainable in energy and food, but also socially sustainable.

RS: But they’re not going to do that—and this is where I do think there is a positive role for the “spoiler.”

JS: [Laughs]

RS: I do. I have apologized publicly to Ralph Nader, because I debated him on a cruise of The Nation magazine; I was a big Obama enthusiast; I thought Nader should have been; he wasn’t. And I now realize that I was drinking the Kool-Aid. Because what Nader has represented throughout his life is the very thing Josh mentioned, a purity of vision. Ralph Nader would never sell out. All the other folks, including many people who started as greater Naders, end up being honchos in a Clinton or Obama administration. And I think the idea of not selling out, of actually standing for something, having integrity—because you’re not supposed to be running, right? You were a Harvard undergraduate, Harvard medical school, you’re a winner! Right? You’re supposed to sell out with some big pharmaceutical company and represent that company to the world about how great we are, we’re going to do great things in Africa, and the Clinton Foundation will give Jill Stein a lot of money to end one disease after another in Africa. And there you come along, potentially this wonderful young lady we used to know at Harvard, is now going to be a spoiler and the Clinton dynasty taking over again. And I would stress the spoiler role—if there is not a spoiler, why should power ever pay attention? If the Democrats get back into power in the White House again, and in Congress, what’s to hold them accountable? I was there with Barney Frank when they were debating financial deregulation. People drank the Kool-Aid. Every Democrat—this is where she nails Bernie; yes, there was an omnibus bill, and every one of them voted for the thing; the lobbyists are that powerful, the government was that acquiescent. So why not boldly embrace the role of the spoiler? The naysayer?

JS: You know, as Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand; never has, never will. I my view, “spoiler” doesn’t begin to do the role justice. The abolitionists, for example, when they became political and they started with the Free Soil Party, and then I think it was the Liberty Party, and then it became the Republicans—they were called “spoilers” for standing up for the abolition of slavery. I feel like “spoiler” is a pejorative term, and I reject the notion that this is bad. I think it’s a truth-telling role, it’s a power role—

RS: Well, you’re spoiling their party. You’re raining on their parade. You’re denying that they were always great.

JS: And—

Josh: Well, but also, in terms of Ross Perot—sorry to interrupt—

RS: No, you’re not. You love interrupting. [Laughter]

Josh: In terms of Ross Perot, at least, you could argue Ross Perot [inaudible] in 1980, that it’s the spoiler in that they’re not going to win the nomination, but Ross Perot dropped so much money that there was no, he was clearly taking votes from Bush, from the father, that he changed the system, that—

JS: As if the system was a good system? It’s not a good system. And “spoiling” suggests that you are doing a disservice to somebody, and I don’t think we are.

RS: Let’s drop the word “spoiler.” What I’m saying, though—

JS: I would say a transformer.

RS: Let’s just say—

KA: Disrupter, in the common parlance.

RS: > Let’s just think about raining on the parade, might be a better way. Here you’ve got an argument going, a stupid argument where Trump says he’s going to make America great again, which implies it never had any problems; and in fact the reason America is as wonderful as it is, is because we had labor struggles, we had the abolitionists, we had the workers’ movement, we had all of this dissent. Which brought about progress. Otherwise we’d just be white men in a slave society; a few powerful ones, even the whites who didn’t have land wouldn’t have any power. So we know that history; we know it’s a history of struggle? And then here comes Hillary Clinton and this triangulation. And what I find so offensive about it—there’s one statement she made, drove me crazy. She said, “I want for every child in America what my grandchild has.”

JS: Oh, my God.

RS: Well, what does that mean? Think about it. [Laughter] Think about what contortions you have to do. And the reality is that progress comes about—and I understand you and Chris Hedges and others are planning a demonstration at the Democratic Convention, and Chris has an article in Truthdig this week. And you know, I don’t always enjoy reading Chris Hedges. You know, because he makes me feel guilty. I want to watch the Warriors game. [Laughter] I’ve got a lot of other things that bring enjoyment. But there’s a truth to what Chris has been saying, and I’m very proud that Truthdig has provided a forum for America’s greatest journalist that The New York Times basically fired, and doesn’t even seem to be accepted well at The Nation and other places. But I think there’s a message there, which is that—and I take your point about “spoiler”—that it’s the establishment that has been the spoiler.

JS: Exactly.

RS: They have spoiled a great experiment that needed to keep expanding. … They gave us this elitist society. And I think the bottom line, and it may be what we should sort of direct the ending of this discussion to, is this lesser-evil argument. [California Gov.] Jerry Brown once told—well, he told a number of people, but my wife, Narda Zacchino, quotes him in her new book that’s coming out about California. He ran against Bill Clinton, and in that election in the  ’90s, he said, “Everybody keeps talking to me about the lesser evil, but it’s the evil of two lessers.” And I think there’s a powerful truth in that. Because the real question is—let’s say Hillary Clinton wins. Let’s say the Democratic Party goes—do we have any doubt that the people who are now behind Trump will even be larger in numbers? Angrier? That’s the real issue. Where does the energy come from to solve problems that, if they are not solved, you will have a fracturing of the society? That’s what it’s all about. And so what I’m wondering is—here I can ask my media experts. These people have all been journalists—well, Josh left [laughter], but Eric and Kasia here worked, ESPN, Daily News, and everything. Do you think that Jill Stein as an independent candidate, can get a message? Will people recognize her? Will they know her? And it’s not just Jill Stein, because I personally think the Libertarians are very interesting. And a sincere Libertarian view of attacking crony capitalism, really talking about Adam Smith and not concentration of power and so forth, is also a powerful message. But it seems to me there’s a joining of ranks in the establishment. And we see it with The New York Times; I found it appalling that The New York Times would have a front-page story today—on the day of the biggest election of the primary, in New Jersey, California—basically saying if you believe in human progress, you have to thrill to Hillary Clinton’s victory. That’s what that story says, that Hillary Clinton represents the path of human progress. You know? And why? Because here is a newspaper that, as wonderful as it has been at many moments in history, has been the voice of the establishment. And it is that establishment that is under assault now by reality. It has failed. And then the question is, what do you get in its place? It’s like the failure of the [inaudible] republic. So the real question I’d ask you people—

Josh: I want to jump in with some breaking news, actually, if we can. Because Bernie Sanders—from The New York Times, this paper of record, the establishment, is saying that he’s planning a large layoff of his campaign staff within the next day or so.

JS: Oh, my goodness. Are there preliminary results?

EN: Oh, yeah. In New Jersey, Clinton won; and Sanders won in North Dakota; Trump has won Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota; and California polls have not closed yet, so that’s really—we’re going to keep our eyes on it.

KA: I don’t want to lose this question for Eric; why doesn’t Eric answer that one?

EO: Absolutely this message and what you’re talking about resonates with the people. Just based on the comments, reading here, it’s refreshing; people would love to hear more of this; and I think being able to provide this for people is a great thing and we need to do more of it.

RS: So what are people saying who are commenting? We haven’t broadcast—

EN: We’re getting all sorts of comments coming in. Lots of people are really—

RS: Let’s keep it clean, you know.

EN: They’re all clean. Lots of people are just—not going to lie, lots of people are rooting for a Jill-Bernie ticket.

KA: How about you [Jill Stein], are you rooting for that, too?

JS: Definitely. And I have to say that I’m not—well, the weak link here is Sen. Sanders. And I hope that he will respond to my public offer. I wrote him an open letter, would you please come and talk. Because if we talk, there may be ways to achieve rules changes in the parties. So it would not be simple, but it is potentially possible if Bernie were to convince the party—and this would not be so hard—

RS:This is the Green Party.

JS: Yes, if Bernie came to the Green Party, based on our discussions, and said, “I’ve had a life-changing experience; I really understand what this third-party thing is about now, and that we really have to build a revolutionary party if we’re going to have a revolutionary campaign; I really understand that, and I am now working to build the Green Party as the only show in town for building a national, independent party of, by and for the people.” If Bernie could make that case to the party, the party, probably at the convention, could potentially change rules and create a possibility for him to run at the ticket in either of the slots. It would be harder to run in the top slot than the bottom; it would require more rule change. But I wouldn’t rule it out. And I personally am very interested in this discussion and would love to have it. It would mean kind of a change in Bernie’s ga

Now you can personalize your Truthdig experience. To bookmark your favorite articles, please create a user profile.

Personalize your Truthdig experience. Choose authors to follow, bookmark your favorite articles and more.
Your Truthdig, your way. Access your favorite authors, articles and more.
or
or

A password will be e-mailed to you.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles and comments are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.