Can Jill Stein Capitalize on Alienated Sanders Delegates?
TRNN’s Kwame Rose interviews Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on the last day of the Democratic National Convention about why she thinks she can mobilize voters who were inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign
KWAME ROSE, TRNN: Kwame Rose for the Real News Network here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the last day of the Democratic National Convention. I’m joined now by Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein, how has this week been for you and the Green Party, with a number of Bernie Sanders delegates walking out of the convention at some points? There was a mass arrest last night at the entrance. How has this been for you?
JILL STEIN: It’s been pretty world-changing. And I think we owe the Sanders supporters such a debt of gratitude for starting this rather revolutionary movement. And then for refusing to be silenced, because at this moment of truth, when the real true colors of the Democratic Party came out, and it was revealed in these emails that in fact the Democratic Party was colluding behind closed doors between the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary’s campaign, and the corporate media, to try to sabotage Bernie’s campaign. It wasn’t just talking bad. They actually did these things and tried to undermine him.
And this is what–it sort of confirmed the worst suspicions all along. And when the delegates kind of learned about this, coming to the convention, and then we’re told to just be quiet and go into that campaign that had just stabbed them in the back, they basically said no, and their resolve only grew. They were told to sit down, and they stood up. They were told to be quiet and they only got louder. And I think they are setting such a, a wonderful example for all of us here in this country, to stand up and demand the future we deserve.
Sanders’ campaign really had the force of change behind them and was winning all of the head-to-head polls. Winning on the issues. You know, it’s really what the American people support and are clamoring for. The only problem was this was a revolutionary campaign inside of a counterrevolutionary party. And they got shafted. But they refused to stop. So they’re moving on, and we welcome them with open arms. And I think it’s so exciting, I’m just, you know, it’s like, pinch me, am I dreaming? Did this really happen?
ROSE: We talked to several Bernie Sanders delegates who say they’re fed up of the Democratic Party and that they’re going Green. The Bernie or Bust movement had a press conference this morning and announced they’re all going Green and supporting your candidacy. How realistic is it, how realistic is it that you get to that magic number of 15 percent and be on the national debate stage come this presidential season?
STEIN: You know, the reality is we’ve come up from invisible, just totally below the radar, and then we were at 2 percent about six or eight weeks ago. And then we’ve come up as high as 6-7 percent more recently. So we’ve tripled our numbers, at least, before having any coverage, really, to speak of from the corporate media.
So what’s going on here? It’s word of mouth. And as we begin to get more coverage we can certainly double our numbers again, and get to 15 percent. I would really encourage people, if only for the sake of polling, and if only for the sake of an open discussion, to support our campaign so that we can have the debate that we must have if we’re going to hold power accountable. In the words of Frederick Douglass, power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. We have to bring that demand into political discourse, or it’s just the two corporate parties kind of giving each other cover, and you know, carrying on with these outrageous policies that are harming workers and the climate, and war, and peace, and healthcare, and education, and all the rest.
What our campaign offers is what people are clamoring for. That is, an emergency jobs program that will solve the emergency of climate change, that will provide healthcare and education as human rights, and importantly, that will cancel student debt like we did for the freaking crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy. So there are very powerful things that we can do right now and get the word out about it to bring people up. 42 million people locked into student loan debt.
ROSE: Dr. Stein, a large reason, or a big reason why Bernie Sanders wasn’t able to grasp enough delegates to get the nomination for the Democratic Party was because he wasn’t able to mobilize black voters. How confident are you that you’ll be able to grasp at least some of the black voting bloc and forward your campaign?
STEIN: I have a different kind of campaign than Bernie Sanders. I have a very grassroots campaign. I’ve been there with the Black Lives Matter movement from the start. I’ve been to Ferguson. I’ve been to Washington, DC with the mothers of murdered sons who were murdered at the hands of police. We’ve been visible and there to support the Black Lives Matter movement. And we have been really working in collaboration from the get-go.
From long before I was running as a candidate, the Green Party has been working to actually ensure that we have racial justice against the prison system. Hillary Clinton is taking the money of the private prison industry. We condemn the private prison industry. We call for ending, ending the war on drugs, and for legalizing marijuana, and treating drug use as a public health problem, not as a criminal problem. We are committed to pardoning the hundreds of thousands of people, largely African-Americans and Latinos, who are incarcerated wrongly for mere use of recreational drugs. I am committed, if I have the honor to serve, one of my first acts, which the president has control over, executive control over, is to instruct the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, to actually use science in deciding what substances are listed and not. This would, essentially, legalize marijuana. Marijuana would be taken off the list of scheduled substances. And then we can pardon all those people who should not be incarcerated to start with.
So my campaign calls for not only ending police violence, for establishing civilian review boards so that every community is in control of their police instead of having police in control of their communities, we call for investigators that are available to all communities so that every case of death at the hands of police is investigated. We call for a truth and reconciliation commission. We call for reparations.
So we have a very different–.
ROSE: That was a topic that a lot of black voters were turned off with with Bernie Sanders, was that he wasn’t for reparations.
STEIN: He said it was divisive, you know. That’s exactly the wrong thinking. We have to talk about the crisis of race. We have to talk about the continuous line of racism that flowed from slavery to lynchings to Jim Crow to, to redlining and segregation, and mass incarceration and then police violence. This is a very deep and ingrained cultural problem. If we don’t talk about it, we’re never going to fix it. Talking about it is not divisive. Talking about it is how we heal.
ROSE: Speaking of talking about it, not only are you as the Green Party candidate polling at record numbers, but also Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is also polling at record numbers. It’s a little unrealistic to think that there will be two third-party candidates on the national debate stage. Would you be open to debating Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson in a third-party debate, in basically trying to establish as much control of getting to 15 percent as possible?
STEIN: Absolutely. In the last race Johnson and I debated each other as part of a third-party debate. And we should do that again as soon as possible. And you know, I’ll acknowledge that in those debates, which were largely run by libertarians, I was actually voted the winner of those debates. Because in many ways, my campaign is not corporate. And many of the grassroots libertarians don’t want big money in politics. They don’t want corporate control of, you know, of our lives. Getting rid of government just to give control over to corporations is what a lot of grassroots libertarians are also afraid of, and very much identify with our agenda that calls for decentralization and for grassroots democracy. That’s what it ought to be. But we say let’s not give it over to corporations, too.
So yes, we should definitely have this debate. I also think, though, that the American people are really entitled to know about every candidate that could potentially win the office. So if a candidate is on the ballot in enough states that they could win the election, don’t the American people have a right to know about them? I don’t think that four candidates is too much for the intelligence of the American voter. And there would be balance in that kind of debate, too, so that one of us wouldn’t be accused of spoiling it just for one other, you know, for the Democrat or the Republican.
I think, you know, there are going to be four candidates, and only four candidates, who are on the ballot for just about every voter in the United States. So we say the voters have not only a right to vote, but we have a right to know who we can vote for. We think that the debates should be opened up to independent third parties that have done the work and have the base of support, that they actually are a potential viable choice for the voters of the country.
ROSE: We heard after the nomination of Hillary Clinton, after it was confirmed on Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, that there was a strategy being passed around by Bernie Sanders supporters and delegates. It was a swing state strategy that basically said only vote for Hillary Clinton if you’re in a swing state, and vote third party otherwise. Is that strategy a win for you in your eyes? Or are you really looking at a legitimate candidacy to president?
STEIN: I think people have to do what they’re comfortable with. And some people may only be comfortable casting a vote for themselves where they feel they’re in a safe state. Personally, I don’t think any state is safe in the era of climate change. In the era of the new nuclear arms race. In the era of expanding wars. In the war on terror, which is creating more terror, that’s blowing back at us. I think it’s a mistake to be lulled into thinking that we are safe when we have candidates who are funded, or a president who is funded and supported, by the war profiteers, by the fossil fuel corporations, and by the predatory banks.
I would feel terrible if Donald Trump was elected, and I would feel terrible if Hillary Clinton was elected, and I feel most terrible about a political system that pretends all we have is two choices. And those are two deadly choices. We could actually pass rank choice voting right now, which gets rid of the fear, it gets rid of the splitting of the vote. We could pass that right now in any state legislature across the land. The legislature could convene in an emergency session and pass this voting reform that’s used across America from San Francisco and Oakland through the Twin Cities to Portland, Maine, and in countries around the world. It lets you list your top choice as number one, and your second choice as number two. If your first choice loses, you automatically get your second choice. Your vote is reassigned to your second choice. So there’s no splitting of the vote.
They won’t pass it. My campaign helped file this bill, this legislation, in the Massachusetts legislature when I first ran for office back in 2002, running for governor against Mitt Romney. They would not let the bill out of committee, even though it was 85 percent Democrats. They could have passed that bill to protect, you know, to protect the vote and prevent any spoiling. They did not pass it, because they knew that if they allowed people to actually vote their values and not their fears that people might very well start voting for my campaign in very large numbers.
They rely on fear. The fact that they rely on fear tells you something very important. They are not your friend, and they don’t intend to do what it is that you want and need. That ought to be enough right there to lose your support for them.
We’re in a very difficult moment in history right now. But it’s, you know, it’s an unprecedented moment in that we actually have the power right now. There are 42 million young people, and not-so-young people, who are locked into predatory student loan debt, who do not have a future, do not have jobs, cannot have a place to live, or a family. Who do not have a climate to live in in the future. If those 42 million people get word that they can actually cancel their debt by coming out to vote Green, we could see enough people turn out that it’s a winning plurality of the vote.
So we actually do have the power, not to just split the vote. We could flip the vote. And the underdog, which is the American people right now, could become the top dog, and could actually have an economy and an America and a world that works for all of us, not just for the powerful few.
ROSE: Thank you, Dr. Stein. I know you have to get back on the campaign trail and you have a flight to catch. Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us, and congratulations, as you’ll be nominated officially as the presidential candidate of the Green Party next week in Houston, Texas.
Thank you so much for viewing, tuning in. I’m Kwame Rose from the Real News Network, here live at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were just joined by Dr. Jill Stein. Thank you so much, and we’ll see you soon.
STEIN: Great talking with you. Look forward to seeing the Real News at the convention.
ROSE: Thank you.
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