Will the ‘Berniecrats’ Help Progressives Take Power in November?
At the Green Party national convention in Houston, Green Party candidate for senate Arn Menconi says he choose not to work within the Democratic party because of its record in enabling corporate power and disastrous foreign policy
DHARNA NOOR: I’m here reporting for you from the Green Party Convention in Houston. Just a few yards away, a bunch of folks have gathered to greet Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party Nominee and her running mate Ajamu Baraka. But I’m here with Arn Menconi who’s actually running for US senate. How are you today Arn?
ARN MENCONI: Great.
NOOR: So tell me a bit about what your just impressions are of the convention. What you’ve sort of taken away from the workshops and the press conferences that you’ve seen thus far.
MENCONI: Well after being in Philadelphia, it’s much smaller and much more humid here than Philadelphia. But I haven’t had a chance to go to too many workshops. What I’ve been really trying to understand here is just the makeup. This is my first Green Party Convention. I left the Democratic Party in January to run for US senate.
So I’m seeing people from all over the United States. I’m watching people who are very, very dedicated and have been very, very dedicated for a long time to their causes and the whole idea of how this is a party that doesn’t take special interests money. There’s no lobbyist here. There’s no corporate parties. Those type of things.
So people are diving in. Last night I was at, there were 2 break off groups talking about socialism and how the Green Party has to respect socialistic economies. And then there was one I went to in terms of what does it mean to be black in America. And when you hear how deep the conversation is, for me it’s just mind blowing because my development goes way up with each of the conversations.
NOOR: In this election cycle specifically, issues like that of socialism entering US rhetoric in the mainstream, issues like police brutality and the black lives matter movement have taken a really strong role and a number of people have actually become so disenfranchised with the two party system. Despite this, so many people still continue to vote either democrat or republican. Why?
MENCONI: Well, things are changing so rapidly that we now know that more [millennials] consider socialism to be something that meets their needs more than capitalism. We know that Bernie was able to stand on the shoulders of Occupy Wall Street, the $15 an hour wage movement, the black lives matter movement, the Free Palestine movement, and be able to get the glass ceiling broken so that we know that it’s about representing the 99%.
So I think what’s becoming very apparent in just the last 24 hours is listening to Jill Stein talk about who’s interviewing her right now. She’s been getting mainstream media attention in the last couple of days. She’s raised over a half a million couple of dollars since Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, which means a lot of Berniecrats broke with what Bernie was saying to do and went to go find third party alternatives. And we also know that she’s going to have a CNN town hall on august 17th. So what I’m trying to catch up with is this fast moving wave that I’ve been following obviously but I’m wondering if it’s going to turn into a tsunami in the next 95 days.
NOOR: So the issues that you’ve spoken about, you know the raising of the minimum wage, police brutality, have been often talked about here at this convention. But as we’ve spoken about before, something hasn’t really been addressed as much is US foreign policy. Why do you think this is? Why has there been so little discussion of, for instance the US’s view of terrorism abroad, of the wars that we’ve started abroad, etc.?
MENCONI: Well I think we’ve got to point to a lot of things. The media isn’t covering it. War has now become very sanitized, where we don’t enlist soldiers. We don’t even really use soldiers. We contract out soldiers. We don’t use pilots. We use drones. When we bomb Syria and 89 civilians are killed and we don’t hear about it. When the United States government releases how many civilians were killed by drone attacks and the number is so low we know it’s a lie, at 169 when it’s probably in the thousands. When Barack Obama is bombing 7 countries and the media is not covering it.
And to a certain extent, I think another issue is, it’s complicated. That’s primarily what I try to study. If I become, when I become a US senator I’d like to serve on foreign relations and armed services and I would like to attack the defense budget which gets voted on as early as now and then it gets put into an anonymous bill.
But no one wants to follow that because it’s what’s, well, we’re in a weapons based economy. The military as [Ray McGovern] will call it, it’s the military industrial congressional security media complex with the Israeli neocons. So what we’re seeing in the republican and democrats is an evaporation of the distinction between the neocons and the liberal interventionists. So that’s another part.
The other thing is and this is maybe to me and I don’t want to be [pajoric] to people but the saddest part is when we’re killing people 5,000 miles away for 15 years and spending trillions of dollars and hundreds of millions of people are losing their lives, what does it take for the American people to feel in their heart the suffering that is going on.
If a dentist kills a lion on a hunt and it becomes front page national news for a week but we could somehow be complicit about the mass murdering that we’re doing that we could go ahead and allow our government to give Israel upwards of 4 billion dollars, this new contract that they’re going to sign for the next 10 years when Israel is an apartheid state. We have to look to ourselves because the stations like the Real News is reporting it on a consistent level. And if people would turn to the alternative media and independent media, they’d start to wake up and then they’d start to talk to their politicians about it.
NOOR: So what you’re saying sort of is that media attention actually does help draw attention to issues that hit so close to home for so many of us. It’s undeniable, right, that the duopoly that democrats and republicans get more media attention than the Green Party candidates for instance. Despite this you’re deciding to run as a Green. Why is that?
MENCONI: Because I have a conscious. Why would I want to take blood money? Why would I want to take money from corporations that are lying to us? I mean how many times do we have to–Vietnam war. True or false? Was it a false war? Was it an unjust war? It was an unjust war. Was Iraq an unjust war? It was an unjust war. Why would we not think that what’s going on–if Barack Obama’s going to sell almost 200 billion dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia and in less than a year Saudi Arabia practically decimates Yemen, a country of 22 million people.
NOOR: But in local elections, do you then think that it’s never worth, sort of even just for tactical reasons, running in the Democratic Party?
MENCONI: Well I was an elected official. I was a county commissioner. I ran as a democrat. I could have run as a state office but why would I want to go to a statehouse so I could pass Italian American license plates and not have a budget when our senators are stealing money and giving it to corporations?
It’s about making the movements matter. It’s about realizing that if you move up like me in the Democratic Party with a progressive opinion, you’re always going to be asked to go to the back of the bus thinking that if you carry a little bit more water, if you shuck and jive a little bit more, or if you cave and compromise, and I don’t want to do any of those things. A Green Party allows you to fast track to the people and let it be the power of the people not working for the powerful.
NOOR: Despite the fact you lost media coverage.
MENCONI: Well you know what? 6 years ago when my opponent ran for US senate, people didn’t use social media to the extent that they did today. I could spend a little bit of money on Facebook and I could reach out to 20 thousand people in the matter of a day.
My opponent doesn’t have a message. I am in a little bit of a twitter war right now with Rocky Mountain PBS because they won’t include myself and the libertarian candidate in their discussion, not their debate and they said they’ll have more–this is a public broadcasting service that won’t put all of the candidates and inform the public. So yea you’re going to run into the political bigotry but you have to, there are so many different ways that you can go out there and message yourself.
The biggest thing I’ve seen in the last year is the Berniecrats have created the infrastructure for progressive movement between now and November 8th. They’ve come over to me and say we’re going to get you elected. That’s worth millions of dollars. Because when I was a democrat, they would have to spend that money and usually it only went to the top of the ticket. If you were down ticket like me as a county commissioner, I still had to run my own race. Or if I was a senator I would still have to go out there and raise 485 dollars from individuals.
The Democratic Party’s not going to help you do that. And the media’s not going to be there. 40% of the public knows Joe Bidden is their Vice President. Most people aren’t even thinking about who they’re going to vote for. My job is to get out there and create the counter narrative. Let them know that they’re stealing the election from me and get more media coverage.
NOOR: And also you’ve kind of explained there what success would look like in your campaign. So my last question is then in terms of the presidential campaign in the Green Party, what does success look like for this movement during this election season?
MENCONI: Well I couldn’t have picked a better year to run for it. It’s a historic year. Donald Trump is a whack job. Clearly a sociopath and a neofascist that is scaring people out of their minds. And Hillary Clinton is faking left and running right and she’s taking all this corporate money.
So we’re seeing the movement change. I think what you’re going to see in the next month or two is this 5%, 10% that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson is getting is probably going to double. The question is going to be, will there be a tipping point? Will there be enough people, come after Labor Day? A belief that their vote really matters. And both Gary Johnson and both Jill Stein are very seasoned in being able to message to people that they can do that.
We’re watching mainstream media starting to take it because mainstream media is about the ratings. The things I hope they talk more about that would resonate with people is that the voters that I’m talking to are very much against the specific partnership and we have to get to the message out there because people really want to hear that their candidates are going to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership.
NOOR: But it’s actually Donald Trump who’s been sometimes really outspoken about ending trade agreements like not passing the TPP or even ending NAFTA. So what’s sort of your response who are choosing Trump for those reasons?
MENCONI: Well I don’t know if that’s why they’re choosing Trump. I think they’re choosing Trump because he’s speaking to the bigotry, the chauvinism, and the racism of America in very much different terms than how George Wallace was able to do that.
The other thing is that the TPP is something that Barack Obama said this week that he said thinks he could pass in 10 days and this could happen in a lame duck congress. So we’ve got to make sure that the people are holding the politicians today’s feet to the fire and one of the ways to do it is to lean on Hillary Clinton who is vacillating and no one’s–she’ll say what she needs to say in order to get votes. And the question is, will she fight against the TPP?
One thing I’d like to cover real quickly, in Colorado most of the voters are unaffiliated voters. 1.4 million are unaffiliated. 50% of them are under the age of 40. So you have the gen y and the millennium generation, a very powerful vote that’s woken up and you only need 600 thousand votes. So if you’re listening and you want to see history made, let’s get me elected as the first Green Party candidate to be represented in the US senate with only 600 thousand votes. It is very attainable. We don’t need to raise tens of millions of dollars from corporations in order to do that.
NOOR: Great. Thank you so much.
MENCONI: Thank you.
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