Jill Stein: ‘The Experience of Democracy’ Is More Important Than Being a Career Politician
Jill Stein’s presidential campaign has gone through some seismic changes over the past few months.
For one thing, she named a running mate, noted human rights activist Ajamu Baraka. Stein and Baraka have started to garner mainstream media coverage — for example, they held a town hall on CNN, the first time a Green Party town hall has been broadcast on prime-time television.
READ, WATCH and MORE: She’s No Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — Behind the Scenes With Jill Stein
With the positive change, however, some negativity has also come. Stein has been criticized for her position on vaccinations, despite making clear that she supports the use of vaccines. Baraka has received intense scrutiny for some of his language on race.
Stein and Baraka also have ramped up their own campaign to further the distance between themselves and mainstream Democrats by aggressively contesting Hillary Clinton’s political history, scrutinizing her email scandal and publishing open letters on issues like whistleblowing and the presidential debates.
On Thursday, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer and his team talked with the Green Party standard-bearer in a live conversation streamed directly to our Facebook page.
A recent Truthdig poll found that a vast majority of readers preferred Stein over any other candidate, yet her national poll numbers remain in the single digits. As Election Day draws nearer, we want to know: What makes Jill Stein qualified to be president of the United States? Watch the live stream below:
The conversation began with a discussion on mainstream media bias. Stein was asked what needs to change about media coverage of the election:
“A responsible media…you can’t just turn it on in an election cycle.” What else do you think needs to change in the mainstream media?
— Truthdig (@Truthdig) September 1, 2016
“We need to open up our media so we can have more Truthdigs,” she said at one point.
Then the discussion turned to the topic of political experience. Scheer remarked that Stein is “smarter than most people.”
“I think it’s insulting for the media to question your credentials,” Scheer said, arguing that the news media are “trivializing [her] campaign.” As to accusations that Stein does not have the necessary political experience to become president, Stein said, “What we need in this political climate is the experience of democracy. Experienced politicians have brought us to the brink of disaster.”
The conversation moved to the racially charged comments made by Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka. “I’m not here to whitewash our dialogue,” Stein said, explaining that Baraka’s words were not what she would use.
Then it was on to the Supreme Court and campaign finance.
Now: discussing the Supreme Court. “We need a Supreme Court that understands that money is not speech,” says @DrJillStein
— Truthdig (@Truthdig) September 1, 2016
“The democrats have been more successful for getting fat cat money- wall street money- than the republican campaign.” –@Robert_Scheer
— Truthdig (@Truthdig) September 1, 2016
Finally, Stein was asked about other progressive media outlets and how they’ve changed their coverage since Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. “The so-called progressive media is very confused and very uncertain,” Stein said.
Sarah Wesley: Hi, everyone. Welcome to “Live at Truthdig.” We’re here early on a wonderful morning. We have a very special guest today. I’m Sarah Wesley, communications coordinator here at Truthdig. And today we’re joined with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. She has joined us to talk about everything regarding the 2016 election and the political climate. We’re also joined with Editor in Chief Robert Scheer today, and Kasia Anderson, our deputy editor at Truthdig.
So, Jill, you’ve been in the news quite a lot recently for a number of things, but the most recent is the PBS censorship. So I wanted to ask you how you feel about that, because obviously they cut out a bunch of what you were saying about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and some of your criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. So how do you feel about the censorship in this election and how you’ve been treated via mainstream media?
Jill Stein: Yeah, you know, it’s a sign of the times that the media, unfortunately, has been consolidated and corporatized and is serving the economic and political lead. Surprise, surprise. In a way, the surprising thing to me in this election is that we’ve gotten as much coverage as we have; not very much, but some. We are peeking through. CNN actually did a town hall forum with us; it was our first hour of prime-time coverage on mainstream TV, and we were actually trending No. 1 on Twitter throughout that entire program. They actually extended it to almost an hour and a half of solid what-you-cannot-say on prime time TV, and there was enormous hunger for what we were saying. You know, I think this is the struggle of our, you know, of this election and of this era. Are we going to have a semblance of a democracy, or are we not? And I think it’s really critical that we stand up. We are fighting for more prime-time TV with town hall forums on major networks, and above all, we are fighting to get into the presidential debates, because in America, we not only have a right to vote, we have a right to know who we can vote for.
Robert Scheer: Let me ask you a question. Since the last time you were here, Donald Trump is now officially the candidate, and he has defined himself this week as a neofascist of the kind we’re seeing in the modern world economy. Scapegoat immigrants, scapegoat the other, appeal, you know, address real concerns that American workers have about shrinking wages, but doing it from an extreme right-wing and —I would say, using the word carefully—a neofascist way of finding scapegoats. I mean, after all, immigrants, whether they’re legal or undocumented, did not create the problems in this society; people in the billionaire class that Trump claims to belong to did. And yet, you know, as the Jews or Gypsies or homosexuals were blamed in Nazi Germany, we’re now blaming Muslims, we’re blaming Mexicans, for our problems. So there’s no question, as you have recognized, that Trump is a menace; a menace, a danger. And then on the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who was part of a whole process of creating greater income inequality, which has allowed Trump to rise. And also a very belligerent foreign policy, which Trump now represents as a symptom, but not the origin of, you know, us against the world. So you are in a unique position where you’re the truth-teller, in a sense. And to some degree, your counterpart from the Libertarian side, [are] at least talking about crony capitalism. And it puts you in a difficult but very important position. And so I guess my question to you is, I’m sure you’re finding resistance [even] on the left; The Nation magazine seems split, and there are people cheerleading uncritically for Hillary Clinton, and so forth. What is your basic response? And I would throw in one little footnote: It seems to me the admirable example of Bernie Sanders has been obliterated now. The Democratic Party patted him on the head, forget about him, and all the really important things Bernie Sanders has said are lost now. Now we have the lesser-evil argument, and with the lesser-evil argument we don’t get at the greater truth of how did we get into this mess? So why don’t you sort of give us your overall evaluation of the spoiler role that you have been identified with?
JS: And I think you summarized it very well. We have, you know, we have the terrifying reality of Donald Trump and this rise of right-wing extremism. But on the other hand, we have the very oppressive austerity policies of so-called neoliberalism, what the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party have represented, which has created this economic misery in which demagoguery and right-wing extremism flourish. So we have a choice—if you allow yourself to be goaded and extorted into this notion that we only have two choices. We have more than two choices. What they’re giving us is an example of sort of the, you know, the horror of Donald Trump or the horror of the policies that create Donald Trump and the movement around him.
And I would just say, for those who think that we can postpone the struggle around this, do you for a minute think it’s going to get better? You know, we’re watching both parties lock-step move to the right; we have to engage this battle, we need to build a strong and rooted movement for truly radical, progressive politics, which Bernie Sanders himself said is the only real solution here. It is the only answer. We need to stand up and build it. The longer we wait, the deeper we have dug ourselves into this grave, and it is clearly a race to the bottom between the two evils. I think the moral of the story is, reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it. And I say that in this election, where it’s not only more critical than ever that we get out of this tailspin, but where we actually have the power to get out of this tailspin.
We are in a unique moment in history; we’re looking at the Republican Party, which has basically come apart at the seams; Donald Trump is taking his remnant over the cliff; we’re looking at the Democratic Party, which is welcoming the Republican leadership with open arms, continuing to move to the right, and splitting down the middle, having basically ejected the Sanders campaign and the principled supporters. You know, was it this morning, I think, we just heard how the Democratic Congressional Election Committee is advising people: Don’t give in to Black Lives Matter? Just kind of pat them on the head and be very understanding and patronizing, but don’t actually speak to their critical needs. You know—surprise, surprise—after the email revelations before the [Democratic National Convention], showing how there was collusion behind closed doors to essentially undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Which is nothing new; the Democrats have a kill switch, they’ve been using it for decades. This is what they do.
We’re not going to get there in this way; we really need to stand up, reject the lesser evil, fight for the greater good. We have the power, we have the numbers, more than ever: 43 million young people locked into student-loan debt. That right there is a plurality of the vote. We could potentially not split the vote; we could flip the vote. Step one is, let’s have an open debate, and then let’s move from there.
Kasia Anderson: I’ve got a question building on that, and also on Sarah’s first opening question to you. Which is that your party, and also you as a leader, have been criticized for, quote unquote, only popping up once every four years. And that’s obviously a perception that is helped along by lack of media coverage or very biased media coverage when you do get mainstream coverage. So if you could maybe show us in your words what it would look like, in your opinion, to have adequate coverage early on in the election cycle. What would be the structural elements that would be better put in place for your party’s policies and for your candidacy to be given a fair shot at the right time in the election cycle, not just when you’ve fought for it and when you’ve finally got CNN’s attention and gotten the town hall coverage, et cetera?
JS: You know, I think that a responsible media, responsible journalism—you can’t just turn it on in an election cycle. This is something that American democracy depends on. And I think it’s not just a matter of covering independent politics and the Green Party as part of that during the election, but it’s between the elections as well. It’s covering our officeholders, like Gayle McLaughlin, for example, in Richmond, Calif., where she was mayor for eight years, where she used eminent domain, turning it on its head to use it against the banks in order to seize under-water mortgages and ensure that families can stay in their homes; doing remarkable things with their police force to essentially demilitarize policing. There, you know, there’s a very powerful political opposition movement which needs to be covered, because the American people have really dropped out of establishment politics; the largest bloc of voters is neither a member of the Democratic or Republican parties. And the Greens are very active; we have officeholders, we are running throughout the election cycle, in between the presidential elections, we are running at all levels of government. And we have people in many levels of local and city government. You know, I think having an open media, having a media which is not controlled by these violations of antitrust laws; you know, I think we need to open up our media so that we can have more Truthdigs. Having one Truthdig, I think, is a tough row to hoe; we need lots of Truthdigs. Isn’t that supposed to be the purpose of the media?
RS: And we appreciate you coming to our cottage industry here, and getting the word out. But let’s not kid ourselves. You’re going to be marginalized, you’re going to be attacked; you already are. And not just you. I would bring up the Libertarian candidate, who you know served as a governor, has great experience, there’s a consistent program. And the whole, this two-party system really is aimed at keeping an establishment in power. And I just want to offer an example. You were kind of savaged by the editorial board of The Washington Post. Now, and you know, OK—and Washington Post has done some things in its career that were valuable; Watergate and so forth. But The Washington Post endorsed every irrational war that we’ve been in. It was unaware of climate change for the longest time, ignored totally the income inequality that was growing in America, the great crisis of people not being able to survive on their income. And they have no shame at all. And now they have been purchased; they were a failing business, and they’ve been purchased by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon. And when I read that interview—which is on Truthdig; we have a discussion of it today—I was appalled that no one at The Washington Post would even think, “Wait a minute, we are now owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon.” Amazon is building the cloud for all of the intelligence agencies, including the NSA and CIA. All of our secret data is now stored on a cloud that Amazon is in—they’re part of the defense establishment that Gen. Eisenhower warned us about, the military-industrial complex. Jeff Bezos also happens to be one of those billionaires—you know, the 20 or 30 people who have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of the population. Yet none of these editors working for Jeff Bezos, these people who grilled you, right, had the honesty to say, “we have our own contradictions.”
And the other thing that bothers me about the marginalization is that in fact you have, in this meritocracy we’re supposed to believe in, you are one of our stellar examples of a highly educated, knowledgeable person, particularly on the issue that most Americans are really confused about, health care. You [have] not only [an] undergraduate and graduate medical degree from Harvard, but you have been a practicing physician, you’ve lived with health care issues, you’ve fought—that’s how you got into politics. And we have a situation where the Democrats say we’ve done this wonderful thing with Obamacare, and a lot of ordinary working people say it’s not so wonderful because of the co-pays, and we’re suffering. So you actually bring great expertise, knowledge, intellectual weight, and they’re trivializing your campaign.
SW: I think part of that is because she hasn’t held many offices in politics.
RS: But that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
SW: That’s a good thing, and that is part of her—right, but some of our readers are actually wondering, why not run for Senate first, why step into the presidential atmosphere without that experience? So a lot of our readers are actually wondering what makes you qualified for this position over—I mean, we understand Hillary Clinton’s policies sometimes aren’t the best to a lot of our readers and a lot of the people that are watching. But for you, your policies do sound great to a lot of the readers, especially the Bernie supporters. But what makes you qualified for that position without that experience in the Senate or House of Representatives?
JS: Great. So, you know, I’ll say that Donald Trump hasn’t had any experience whatsoever; Dwight Eisenhower came into the presidency having held no experience whatsoever in electoral politics. You know, my experience is actually in democracy, as opposed to inside of the political establishment. And my experience is—although I have actually held office in my local town; I was an elected member of town meeting. And more than that, I’ve been a watchdog of the political process for decades. And I think not having the experience of going behind closed doors, not having the experience of being bought out by your campaign donors—you know, this is an experience that the American public desperately needs. I think we’ve had all the great experience that we want. Experienced business managers, experienced officeholders, experienced party-builders within the establishment—and what have they brought us? You know, they have brought us to the brink of disaster. What we need in this election, in our political climate, is an experience of democracy. And that’s really where my experience rests—in building broad coalitions of citizen advocates to actually work together across many movements to get things done.
So my experience—you know, I began, really, in the world of environmental racism, fighting for environmental health. Because they’re basically the same thing; when environmental health is abused, it’s predominantly on communities of color and low-income communities. That’s where I began cleaning up coal plants, shutting down incinerators, working to safeguard against toxic waste sites. And then, importantly, experience building a statewide coalition to end the capture of our democracy by big money: We passed campaign finance reform. We passed public financing for elections in our home state. And guess what? It was repealed. Our referendum was repealed by our legislators with all of their experience being hijacked for the economic elite. Campaign finance reform was repealed in Massachusetts by our Democratic Legislature. If that doesn’t tell you in a nutshell why we need people from outside of this corrupt system, you know, I don’t know what does. I think this is exactly what we need.
KA: Building on that, again, outsider or no, anyone who wins the election is going to face considerable challenges from a Congress that has shown over and over again that it knows very well how to create logjams, legislative and otherwise. And so part of the task of the next president, and I assume many others down the line, will be to deal with—even if you can get past—the two-party deadlock in terms of who gets elected to be president. You’re going to face a lot of the deadlock effect in Congress. Do you have any ideas about how to deal with the inevitable obstacles that will be presented to anyone who occupies the Oval Office?
JS: Yes. So, if I were to get elected and we turn the White House into a Green House and make the world a better place, it will be a completely different political landscape. So the obstacle most of all is, I think, opening up the debates. Because if we open up the debates, there is a plurality of the American vote that is clamoring for something other than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. If we get past that obstacle, and we actually get into the White House, we have enormous political momentum. If we’ve been able to win office, that would also elect a lot of down-ballot candidates, both Greens and progressive Democrats. So it would be a different political environment in Congress, but it would—
KA: Sorry, just to clarify: You say that that would happen by the time this election cycle is through, or would it take some time for the next, you know, couple of rounds—
JS: It wouldn’t be a majority; it certainly would not be a majority, but there would be strong momentum carried into Congress. But beyond that, I think it would be the first time that we actually had an organizer-in-chief in the White House, who could actually encourage public participation and encourage public input. We should be the engine of our democracy; we, the people, should be in the business of instructing our representatives to actually represent us, not the lobbyists, not their campaign contributors. There is no doubt who they take marching orders from. If Greens were in the White House and some of Congress, we would have a very different atmosphere, in which the public would be engaged to very aggressively be instructing their representatives, at risk of recall campaigns, not just opponents in the next upcoming election, but actual, active recalls. And we would have a president who would be helping to engage people one issue at a time.
Now we’re working on bailing out students in debt. And let me just say a word about that, because that is really—the engine of social change has always been an engaged younger generation, which is doing a great job right now, but they got two hands tied behind their backs. Working two and three part-time, low-wage, temporary jobs. They need to be liberated to lead our social transformation. And by keeping that front and center, we engage, I think, the real leading edge of political change by giving them a reason to stay involved and to lead the charge.
RS: You know, if I could jump in here, and I think these are all good questions—
KA: Thanks, Bob! [laughter]
RS: —but I think we’re falling into a trap. And the trap—and you get it on all these talk shows and everything, you know, there’s expertise and so forth. The fact is, our system of government wasn’t based on the notion that you would elect experts. No, you were supposed to elect people who were farmers, craftsmen, you know; that was the whole idea, a citizen republic. And this whole—and I’m going to have to say, in my own, since you’re not the first presidential candidate I interviewed; I interviewed Ronald Reagan, and I interviewed Bill Clinton, and I interviewed George, both Bush, well, the first President Bush. I’ve interviewed a lot of these folks, people who made it and who didn’t make it. And I’ve interviewed you. And I think you’re being—you know, you’re smarter than those people. Come on, they couldn’t become a doctor from Harvard. You know, you show it in the meritocracy. And I think it’s insulting, frankly, for the media to question your credentials. You know, what are we talking about here? Hillary Clinton went in, why, because she was the spouse—she was married to Bill Clinton, the governor of a small state, and she goes in and designs a health care reform that caved to the insurance companies, you know, caved to big medicine, big pharmaceutical, was a failed program, and she did—why was she put in charge? Because her husband got elected president, you know. And then you come in, and they aren’t even asking you serious questions about the health system, which you are unquestionably the best prepared candidate we’ve ever had to deal with what many Americans think is our outstanding problem: How do we deliver health care? So let me ask you about that: What’s being left out in the debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton about health care?
JS: Ha! And what’s being left out in this debate about everything, you know.
RS: Yeah, but let’s start at one where they can’t challenge your expertise, OK?
JS: Yes, yes, indeed. I mean, the answer here is not rocket science. The answer is what every other civilized and developed nation has discovered: that we can provide health care as a human right. In fact, it costs them far less than what it costs us. For the same money we are paying right now, we could cover everyone comprehensively, head to toe, cradle to grave, everybody in, nobody out, pharmaceutical companies stop practicing extortion where they can charge $400 for an EpiPen that contains one dollar worth of medicine. This is the poster child of our health care system, and this is where our health care dollars are going. Simply by redirecting that half-trillion dollars of waste every year into health care rather than into paper-pushing bureaucracy and pharmaceutical extortion. Instead, we put those dollars into health care, end of story. Simple.
This is not a hard thing. This is about taking the political predators out of the business of running our government and driving us into the ground. If we are not in the debate, we will not only fail to hear about how we can solve our health care crisis; we will fail to hear about how we can solve the climate crisis, how we can solve this crisis of expanding an endless war, which is bouncing back at us with a vengeance. We will not hear the solution to the expanding crisis of immigration. We will not hear a solution to the crisis of nuclear weapons; we are now engaged in a hot-or-cold war that I think we have been—potentially at any time—
RS: And we’re modernizing, under Barack Obama, our nuclear arsenal so we can make these weapons usable. That’s what’s going on. It’s insane. Ronald Reagan, by the way, who knew next to nothing about nuclear weapons or foreign policy, had the wisdom, had the wisdom once he got inside, to say hey, this is madness, and he negotiated a deal with Mikhail Gorbachev, in effect ending the Cold War and trying to do something about nuclear arms. We dropped that ball.
JS: And we now have 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, and Hillary Clinton would like to start an air war with Russia over Syria. That’s her solution. So you know, I think the name of the game here is we need to stand up—
[Video stops and restarts]
SW: That’s pretty much what your platform is representing. And I have a question, speaking of actual issues and giving you a platform to talk about that. In terms of renewable energy, one of our readers, her name is Samantha, she’s asking how you plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by year 2030. And that specifically is difficult for us to understand because there’s obviously so many cars on the road that use gas and oil and we have diesel—I mean, this entire country and world is powered by using nonrenewable energy sources. So how do you plan to implement that by 2030?
JS: So, great question. And number one is, we need to be clear with the American public that we are facing a national emergency. When Pearl Harbor was bombed at the outset of the Second World War, it took us six months to transform the economy. Zero percent of GDP was focused on the war and the defense economy; in the course of six months, we went from zero percent of the economy to 25 percent of GDP—was transformed in the course of six months, because people realized it was a matter of national survival. Right now, Pearl Harbor is small potatoes compared to the loss of all harbors that we are looking at, and the loss of all population centers with what we are now on track for, where the latest science is saying we could see as much as nine feet of sea-level rise as soon as 2050. This is a civilization-ending hit. So we have no choice but to mobilize very quickly. Now, the fortunate thing is that we do this transition by meeting our economic crisis. So we create 20 million jobs—good wage jobs in clean, renewable energy; wind, water and sun; also in a healthy, sustainable food system; creating public transportation, and restoring critical ecosystems. So we create jobs; people are desperate for good jobs, because we’ve got lousy, part-time jobs—are the ones that have come back since 2008. So by putting the solutions to these two crises together, we make this, you know, it’s just—it’s an irresistible win-win. Add to that that it also allows us to make wars for oil obsolete, so we can cut our bloated and dangerous military budget and actually put those dollars into true security here at home. And the final thing is that we are very sick in this society; 200,000 deaths a year from fossil fuels alone, from the pollution. We get so much healthier by moving to clean, green energy that we save enough money that it actually pays the costs of the transition. So this is a win for the economy, a win for climate, a win for foreign policy and security, and we get healthy enough to pay the costs.
RS: Well, let me ask you a question again about The Washington Post interview. They hit you very hard because you wouldn’t condemn your vice presidential candidate over his Uncle Tom remark. And again, you know, taking off a journalist hat and just talking about somebody reading it—it ticked me off. Because one of the unaddressed questions is about what happened in our economy thanks to the radical deregulation that Bill Clinton signed off on. A Democrat, but yes, the Republicans wanted to do it. They weren’t able to, under Ronald Reagan, they were not able to deregulate Wall Street. It took President Bill Clinton to sign off on the two major acts—we’ve discussed this before, the Financial Services Modernization Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act—that unleashed Wall Street.
In terms of this Uncle Tom comment, Barack Obama comes in and he does exactly what George W. Bush does: He throws the money at the bank, and so forth. The result is—Federal Reserve study of St. Louis—the hardest-hit groups were black and brown college graduates. College graduates were the market targeted most viciously by the swindlers, the banking swindlers. And so black and brown college graduates lost 70 percent of their wealth. This was done by Barack Obama. I think the Uncle Tom label may fit, if that’s what we’re—
SW: Well, I have something to say about that. Because my issue with the Uncle Tom comment specifically—because I grew up in the South; I grew up in North Carolina and then moved to New Jersey. So I have a little bit of both experiences, especially as an African-American woman. And when that term is used, it’s racially charged, and it’s not OK. And I think the reason why a lot of people felt like that was an issue is because Jill Stein’s campaign has been run on positivity; it hasn’t been a Donald Trump campaign, where they’re splurting out different racial slurs to other people. So for that to happen, it was almost like we were a little betrayed by that sort of comment being intertwined amidst your campaign. So that was our issue with it.
And then on top of that, I personally, I—the reason that I like you and Bernie Sanders supporters like you is because you’re very honest; you’re not like a typical politician when you talk about issues and you’re asked these questions. But when you were asked about your running mate’s comment about the Uncle Tom, I heard more of a politician speaking. I mean, it was like, you didn’t really say it was wrong; you didn’t really say it was terrible; you didn’t say it was—I mean, you said other things were derogatory, but you didn’t say that specific comment was derogatory. So my question is, do you agree with that term “Uncle Tom,” and is this what we should expect from the Jill Stein campaign in the future, these kinds of comments?
JS: You know, I think what you should expect from my campaign is a diverse discussion that draws on a lot of dialects and draws on the different experience of America. And you know, I’m not here to whitewash our dialogue. And I hear the pain in what my running mate, Ajamu Baraka, talks about. And I cannot presume to speak for him. And what I’ve said when I’ve been asked about it is that that’s not language I would use. And—but I would not tell him not to use that language, because that is true to his experience, which I think reflects what Bob was saying; his pain, and what he sees as the pain of an African-American community that he feels has been betrayed by the administration of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. I would not use those terms; I do not, you know, that’s not how I frame things or how I think about things. But I am committed to an open dialogue, which may be painful and may be difficult, but I think that’s one of the key things—you know, the unique things about our campaign is that we are not trying to duck the pain that exists in our society right now; we’re trying to make it possible to have this conversation and to create a framework for building on that conversation. To tell the truth, even when it’s painful—
SW: But I think you can tell the truth without using certain terms.
JS: Well, I would encourage you to talk to Ajamu Baraka. Because I feel like it’s really presumptuous for me or for a white person to say—to tell black people what words they can and can’t use.
KA: I’ve got a question on a different note, since we’ve only got a little time here. Another “if you were to occupy the Oval Office” type question. Which is, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and their supporters are all acutely aware of the hot-topic issue of the Supreme Court, and the necessity to appoint a successor to [Justice Antonin] Scalia and to, you know, to lay the groundwork for rulings to come, as well as to deal with a lot of loose ends that that missing person has created on the court. So what would be your approach to considering who should fill that seat, and also thinking about, down the line, what the Supreme Court’s priorities would be if you were president?
JS: Yeah. I mean, the Supreme Court has been on the wrong side of history so much lately. We need a Supreme Court that understands that money is not speech, and that corporations are not people. We need a Supreme Court that vigorously defends our right to a vote, ensures that we are restoring the Voting Rights Act, that we are vigorously ensuring that the right to vote is not degraded by anyone, anywhere, any time, and that is protecting our civil liberties, and that understands the nature of citizenship. That citizenship in the 21st century, as part of defining citizenship; that immigrants in many ways are sort of the victims of U.S. policy, in many ways; that we have generated these crises of migration.
So, you know, I think we need a movement and not just a Supreme Court. And I guess I just want to guard against Supreme Courtism, you know? Allowing the court to take precedence over all other issues—we need to have a planet which is living so that the Supreme Court’s rulings actually are relevant and mean something. You know, we have a big agenda and we have to resist the efforts of conventional politics to get us narrowly focused on Supreme Court appointments. I’d just say, remember what happened under Richard Nixon; we had a very vigorous and engaged electorate, and we told the Supreme Court that we wanted women’s right to choose, a very—which, by the way, yes, that should also be a key issue for the Supreme Court, is protecting women’s right to choose and our reproductive health rights.
But above all, that has to come from us. And if we allow ourselves to be silenced and intimidated into supporting the lesser evil, it doesn’t matter who the Supreme Court appointments are, because, you know, our future unfortunately is going to be overshadowed by climate change, by endless war and by nuclear catastrophe that we are plunging into.
RS: Let me just throw in a footnote on this, by the way. The Democrats, if there had been a more reasonable Republican opponent—say, Jeb Bush or something—the Democrats were going to rely under Hillary Clinton very heavily on Citizens United and the court particularly. And the fact of the matter is, the Democrats have been more successful in getting fat-cat money, Wall Street money, than the Republicans have. John McCain actually adhered to campaign finance reform, and Barack Obama didn’t. He actually—Barack Obama went into Wall Street and scooped up an enormous amount of money in his first campaign. Hillary Clinton is now setting an all-time record for getting the money of billionaires; she spends all her time in the Hamptons, getting these collections. And it seems to me there’s a trap in all this. In a campaign—everybody talks about the lesser evil, what will you do if you’re—but campaigns are also supposed to be educational. If we don’t have an informed electorate, if people don’t know what the issues are, OK. Now, with Bernie Sanders dropping, not winning, and endorsing Hillary, getting very little return—and hats off to Bernie Sanders for having run a good campaign—the issues Bernie Sanders raised, which you [points to Sarah Wesley] were quite motivated by, as I recall—Bernie —the fact of the matter is they’ve dropped off the table. We don’t hear about income inequality, we’re getting only the most tepid criticism of Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness, and so forth.
And so I want to ask you a quite pointed question. We’re very eager to have you come and lay out your positions and so forth. What kind of reception are you getting from the rest of the progressive media? Are you getting a fair—is The Nation magazine inviting you? I know they actually seem quite torn, and they’re cheerleading for Hillary Clinton. What about MoveOn? What about the rest of the progressive blogosphere? Are they open to—you know, just from an educational point of view. And by the way, I would point out this Green phenomenon, Green Party thing, this is not new. All of Western European politics were fundamentally altered by the existence of strong Green movements. You know? Right across the board, and as a result, we’ve had a much more—a healthier politics. So here you are, coming along with what I think cannot be dismissed as clearly a sensible, thoughtful, whether people agree with you or not. What kind of reception are you getting in progressive circles?
JS: Um, well, you know, “Democracy Now!” has featured us several times. They—we’re actually one of the headings at the top of the banner.
RS: So, check one for Amy Goodman, who is terrific, we all agree.
JS: Yeah, and we’re getting some coverage on The Real News Network. You know, but it’s not a long list. The so-called progressive media, I think, is very confused and very uncertain about what to do. It’s interesting; we’re getting some reception by mainstream TV right now, who was just actually beating down our door. And maybe that’s because they are shocked by a presidential candidate that’s actually willing to go on live TV and to answer questions. So it’s a mix right now. But I will say this: when we go out there in the public now, it’s just, it’s overwhelming, the amount of support that we’re getting. And I think the polls, which now rank us around five percent, are reflecting more expected voters, as opposed to registered voters or potential voters. That seems to be where there’s a lot of buy-in right now, is from people who feel locked out of the system; who feel absolutely hopeless, but who have now connected to our campaign, both by virtue of my running mate Ajamu and the issues that we’re talking about. So a lot of millennials are absolutely swamping our events. Last night in L.A. we had an event at the Bernie Cafe [laughter]. We had an event which was posted for three hours on Facebook, and it was just packed wall-to-wall and people overflowing outside. Hundreds and hundreds of people are coming out now with very little notice who are just desperate for what we’re talking about, and they are missionaries to cancel student debt, to make higher education free, to ensure that Black Lives Matter and we put an end to police violence. People are just so invested right now in our being the only campaign that actually provides them a way forward in the future. So I’d say, hold on to your hats. And there’s a lot of energy to get us into the debates. I think that needs to be the focus right now. Go to Jill2016.com if you’re not already there, or @DrJillStein, and join our campaign to open up the debates, and let’s see where it goes.
SW: Absolutely, this is an exciting time, and for sure the Bernie Revolution has paved the way for so many people to be interested in what you’re saying, and to believe that this is a reality, to have renewable energy, to focus on foreign policy in a more nonviolent way, and many of the other things that you discussed tonight. So thank you again for joining—this morning, actually. Last time it was at night. So thank you again for joining us. I do want to let you know, though, what’s really interesting about our polls, is that we did a poll on Truthdig and actually 76 percent of our readers would vote for you in the election. So that’s pretty cool.
JS: Wow. That’s pretty cool.
SW: So thank you again for all the Truthdig people who have tuned in to—
RS: What were the other 24 percent thinking? [Laughter]
KA: We still have time, we still have time, Bob—
SW: We’ll work on bringing it to 100 percent, and we’re happy to provide this platform for you.
JS: Thank you so much.
SW: Of course, because you don’t get as much coverage as the other two candidates, and that’s obvious.
JS: Appreciate it.
SW: So thank you, everyone, for tuning in. I’m Sarah Wesley, communications coordinator here at Truthdig. This is Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Editor in Chief Robert Scheer has joined us, and Kasia Anderson, deputy editor. Thank you again, and make sure you share it with your friends.
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