CounterPunch: Jill Stein offers a progressive choice

CounterPunch, May 4, 2016

The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits

by Leslie Scott

Even with support from the thousands that pack his speaking engagements, pundits continue to count Bernie Sanders out once the 2016 Democratic National Convention rolls around in July. This rhetoric should not be taken lightly. History reveals how candidates, who are unpopular with their own establishment, have been taken down by the powers-at-be even as they gained popularity in the polls. Green Party presidential frontrunner Dr. Jill Stein noted how this occurred with Dennis Kucinich, who was redistricted out of an election, with Jessie Jackson, who was branded an anti-Semite, and with Howard Dean, who was taken down by a public relations campaign. Despite the back talking, Sanders’ delegate count is the primary predictor of his success in the 2016 primary races. Sanders is trailing in pledged delegates and he must win nearly 95 percent of the remaining delegates to get the democratic nomination. Despite these nail biting odds, Sanders’ supporters have an alternative choice if he falters.

In Sanders’ campaign he offers a promise, to the 99 percent, unlike any of the other candidates from the two major parties. Sanders supports the unions, he supports healthcare for all, he recognizes the oppression of the Palestinians, he promises relief for students in debt and most importantly he promises to take power out of corporate hands and give it back to the people. These are the ideas that led to the surge of Sanders’ popularity, but they are not unheard of. Green Party Member Jim Brash, said all the things Sanders is saying, Stein has been pushing since she first ran for president in 2012. The Green Party has done many firsts, Brash added, “Jill Stein was there from the beginning to support Black Lives Matter and we were the first ones to come and support $15 Now.”

Brash, who ran for an assembly seat in the New Jersey State Legislature in 2015, was among three dozen people who attended the Green Party New Jersey Annual State Convention at Rutgers University. The keynote speaker that afternoon was Stein. The Green Party, he said, “is not just people running for offices but activists that are members of groups such as Food and Water Watch, $15 Now and Decarcerate Garden State and they do this not to just give lip service, they do it because they actually believe in these causes.” Like the Green Party members Brash mentioned, Stein was an activist who advocated for environmental-health and promoted green local economies, sustainable agriculture and clean power, prior to getting involved in politics in 2000. The Green Party supports the working people, Brash said, “People think that the Green Party is just environmentalists and tree huggers and animal lovers; no, we are people lovers. We love people and the Green Party is about putting people and their environment before profit, that’s what we are about.”

In her campaign Stein advocates much of what Sanders is offering plus more with her Green New Deal plan, which will create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture and conservation. This Green New Deal will also immediately get the country out of the endless wars for oil that is costing the taxpayers hundreds of trillions of dollars.

Having a third party to choose from is as important today as it was in the past. Stein said this was evident during the New Deal, which got the country out of the Great Depression. “The labor movement and everything that we rely on to protect working people came out of the Socialist, the Communist, the farm labor and the progressive parties. When they merged with the Democratic Party during the New Deal coalition, all forward movement stopped and at that point the New Deal began to unravel the moment it was passed because there was no power to counterbalance the enormous power of concentrated wealth and money and that’s always pushing to the right. If you don’t have a counterbalance, progress is actually pretty hopeless. So it’s not just, are third parties ok, they are absolutely essential to counter that balance.”

Both the Democrat and the GOP parties make laws and decisions that favor their big-pocket donors, so the concentration of wealth is playing a factor in policy now more than ever before. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sander’s campaign stands out this election season because it is not taking funds from big-party donors. This helped Sanders boast that he will not be influenced by the big corporations. But Sanders also said if he did not get the nomination, he will put his support behind Clinton who is funded by those very groups, so what does this truly say about Sander’s commitment to his constituents? Stein’s campaign is genuine because it puts the people and the planet before profit and it does not take donations from big corporate sponsors. “Therefore we are the only political party that can actually stand up and tell the truth and put the real solutions on the table,” Stein said.

According to Stein, America has depended on the two-party system for far too long and things are getting worse under it. Since the financial market collapse, it is now being reported that America is in a recovery, but this recovery is only represented under the wealthy one percent. For the other 99 percent things are pretty much the same: salaries are stagnant, corporations are pushing to drive workers’ wages and living standards down, the climate is on a meltdown, a topic that’s still under debate at the federal level, and there is the war on terror that is only creating more terror around the world. There are no agreements outlined on the table to halt any of these issues. The only option Americans are given to combat the problems they face and fear is to support the lesser evil, but this has not helped the country progress. Stein said, in supporting the lesser evil we got the massive bailout of Wall Street, the off-shoring of jobs, the attack on civil liberties and the expansion of the prison industrial complex. “All those reasons we were told we had to vote for the lesser evil, well what did we get, all of those things even under a Democratic White House with two Democratic Houses of Congress.” Stein added, “the lesser evil paves the way and really makes inevitable the greater evil because people stop coming out to vote when they have been betrayed by the lesser evil, which is what lesser evilism is about. It’s about making that deal with the devil whereby the corporate money and powers are basically pulling the political strings.”

Stein said the public has, “the power to turn this around the minute we stand up with the courage of our convictions and that is the name of the game because the current powers-at-be rely on two things; they rely on silence by keeping (third parties) out of the press -- thanks to their friends in the corporate media- keeping (third parties) off the ballot, keeping (third parties) out of the debates and they rely on silencing political opposition.” The powers-at-be also rely on fear, said Stein who added that they use, “this fear campaign that you have to vote against what you fear rather than for what you believe, but in doing so, the politics of fear has delivered everything that we were afraid of.”

Stein explained how things are spiraling out of control under the current two-party system. Black lives, she said, are in the firing-line in the number one incarceration nation on the planet, immigrants face mass deportations, there are 43 million students deep in debt who can’t find jobs to pay it back, and the superrich are richer than ever and the two-parties are, “basically their handmaiden and not only are [the two parties] not making things better, they are actually making things profoundly worse by inflicting austerity on everyday people -- while [the two parties] squander trillions of dollars on wars for oil, Wall Street bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy.”

Stein’s plans will transform all the problems America faces. Her Green New Deal will create millions of living wage jobs that will save the planet and the economy. Under this plan, she said, within 15 years the country can completely transform the energy system to 100 percent wind, water and sun by 2030. The Green New Deal, she said pays for itself through military savings and by making fossil fuel needs obsolete. “How else can you justify over a 1,000 [military] bases in over 100 counties around the world, except to safeguard fossil fuel supplies and their routes of transportation. All of that becomes a thing of the past, freeing up hundreds of billions of dollars in our annual budget.” The Green New Deal also ends the destructive energy extraction that includes fracking, offshore drilling, mountaintop removal, and uranium mines, which will also protect public lands, water supplies and biological diversity.

Stein’s plan creates a welcoming path to citizenship and with this there will be a halt to, “invading other countries and overthrowing democratically elected presidents. We need to stop forcing people to become refuges from poverty and war and then criminalize them when they get here.” Stein will set a foreign policy based on international law and human rights. America will become a lead-nation on nuclear disarmament and it will also stop supporting and allowing arm sales to human rights abusers. “Israel is in violation of international laws on many fronts; if you look at the apartheid state, the occupation, the home demolitions, the assassinations, the nuclear weapons; you name it, Israel is in violation of international laws, so Israel will be put on notice along with “our friends” the Saudis, who have their own equivalent going on right now in Yemen.”

Stein promises to end student debt and make public education free, she opposes the privatization of schools and will look to end high stakes testing and encourage teaching to the whole-student for lifetime learning. There will be an end to the war on drugs and an end to, “the racist violence that not only inflicts policing but it is also endemic in our courts, our prisons and throughout the economy at large.” She also has plans to end poverty, to set a federal minimum wage of $15 and establish an improved Medicare for all, single-payer public health insurance program that will provide everyone with healthcare.