A voter appeal for this election season.
We are in a time of great historical change. Many things are happening in a very short amount of time, and we are all witness to it. From the Arab Spring that toppled dictatorships in the Middle East to the protests against austerity in Europe, a new awakening is occurring to oppose the status quo that has failed everyone for the past thirty years. But in the United States we find that there has been in the last four years a surplus of hope but a lack of change. There were many promises inherent in the election of Barack Obama, but there was also the full realization by those who were observant that his 2008 campaign platform was not as progressive as was imagined by those who ardently supported him. In other words, his supporters were more committed to change than the candidate himself. From that point on, it was clear that he was funded by Wall Street to the same degree as his Republican opponent, and we began to see this influence in the enactment of his presidency and who he surrounded himself with in his administration. The bailouts saved the banks that had ruined the economy with not one person held accountable for this crime. The healthcare bill advocated by the administration, and passed by Congress, had an insurance mandate that is nothing but a corporate subsidy for the insurance companies that will do nothing to improve access to health services for everyone. Instead of being a peace president, and in direct contradiction to his Nobel Peace Prize, Obama has intensified the wars started by George W. Bush with drone attacks that have killed more innocent civilians and assassinated American citizens without a trial. Though he has promised to close Guantanamo, pull back on federal raids on statewide legal medial marijuana dispensaries, and recently spoke out in favor of same sex marriage, the president has been slow on these issues or only given lip service to them. Meanwhile, the government continues to imprison people without trial, raid legal medical marijuana dispensaries, and delayed acting when states have enacted laws limiting gay rights. The signing into law by the president of the NDAA, which will allow indefinite detention of citizens on American soil, is the most recent concrete example of the disappointment this administration has been. Overall, it has been a series of appearance rather than substance in terms of policies for change.
With the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009, a political sleight of hand was performed. This movement funded by the Koch brothers, insurance companies, and energy companies was able to portray a centrist president as a radical socialist despite the mounting evidence that he was in many respects the fulfillment of “Bush’s third term”. Steeped in conspiracy theory and rumour, the Tea Party has made various accusations that Obama is a socialist dictator, a secret Muslim, and not even a citizen of the United States. These rumours and false allegations are deployed to hide the absence of real issues, making the Tea Party appear as the reincarnation of the John Birch Society both in terms of rhetoric and accusations. Setting aside the implicit racism of questioning the paternity and assuming the non-Christianity of a black man, the fact that these people never said anything during the highly oppressive policies and restrictions on civil liberties under the Bush administration speaks volumes of their true intent. The same can be said in regards to the massive accumulation of public debt that skyrocketed during the Reagan administration. They said nothing then, but are very vocal now of all times. Their accusations of oppression have only arisen when there have been calls for rights to be expanded to minorities, the poor, and other marginalized people in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008. But it is never oppression when rights that people in power enjoy are expanded to all people. The hidden message of the Tea Party is a rhetoric of scarcity that maintains that there is not enough for all citizens and thus political and economic inequality are allowed to exist. For them, if you were hurt by the economic crisis through no fault of your own, then you are on your own and pushed further into poverty. The rhetoric of scarcity, and the policies of austerity that express it, allows the powerful to remain powerful. The ultimate goal of this movement, with this rhetoric of scarcity, is to prop up Obama as a patsy and fall guy to discredit alternatives to the status quo that may actually challenge entrenched power. Using words like “freedom” and “small government”, they seek to perpetuate the existing hierarchies in order to better serve those in power and create the illusion that there is no alternative.
As this rightwing ideology continues, through both conspiracy theory and excuses for scarcity, people still find that change is very much needed. People are still unemployed, bankers are still unpunished, and the drive to cut the social safety net when it is most needed continues unabated. In the lack of change found in the Obama administration, the Congress, and the Tea Party there arose the Occupy movement in the Fall of 2011. The Occupy movement, as a return of change to the public discussion, has brought the issues of income inequality, corporate influence on elections, and austerity as social control to the forefront. They have used a specific methodology of encampments as nonviolent civil disobedience as well as the center of an experiment in direct democracy through its General Assemblies. Both the resistance to the status quo and creation of a direct democracy offers a vision and working model for new political and economic forms. Rather than just passive voting, or the limited potential of petitioning the government, the Occupy movement has shown that a new approach is needed to really deal with the structural problems that have been systemic for so long. Framed by the image of the 99% who are affected by the economy and the 1% who are in control, this movement has been an integral part of the period of change that has been going on worldwide for the last few years. But an important factor to consider is that the issues that the Occupy movement has reintroduced has been the main issues of the Green Party for the last few decades. It can be argued that the Green Party is in fact a precedent to Occupy. Because the Occupy movement is fearful of endorsing or aligning with any political party or candidate, due to the real possibility of being coopted and pacified, the Green Party is not the literal party of the Occupy movement. But based on the issues, the Green Party is most definitely the party of the 99%.
The foundation of the Green Party is the Four Pillars of peace, ecology, justice, and democracy which has been expanded into the 10 Key Values here in the United States. The 10 Key Values are environmentalism, nonviolence, grassroots democracy, community economics, decentralization, social and economic justice, feminism, respect for diversity, local and global responsibility, and future focus. The Greens are an authentic alternative to the restriction of the two-party system. Over time, the Democrats and Republicans have become more and more identical on economic issues due to the fact that both parties are funded by the same corporations. Going back and forth in support from one to the other has created an atmosphere where no real progress or reform can occur. The result is that people are willing to vote against their own interests based on ideological propaganda rather than vote on the issues. Our votes are therefore taken for granted, and they assume that certain portions of the population will always vote for them. Each is guaranteed being in office in one form or another, and the only minor differences are in cultural issues. But these cultural issues become insignificant when a corporate controlled economy affects most of our lives and directly to our disadvantage. Over time the American public has also come to the realization that thirty years is enough. And this year there is a candidate for president that can be the best agent for change that we have been waiting for. Her name is Jill Stein, a real choice and the actual expression of the issues of Occupy.
Jill Stein is from Lexington, Massachusetts and has been a medical doctor for over twenty years. She ran for Governor of Massachusetts twice, in one case actually debating Mitt Romney. As a doctor, she was witness to the detrimental health effects of climate change, pollution, and the preponderance of toxicity in products while many are unable to have access to adequate healthcare. So she decided to practice political medicine in order to deal with the structural causes of our problems instead of just treating the symptoms. Her candidacy is a direct rebuke to the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling that sanctioned an inequality of free speech due to the inequality of ability to donate money to campaigns. The monolith that this ruling has supported makes it easier for the poor to be blamed for the crimes of big banks, corporations, and Wall Street because the poor no longer have a voice or influence. Jill Stein is a direct challenge to this structure, a structure that makes change impossible if voters are shepherded into voting either Democrat or Republican. Like the well known scenario of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, each time being promised that it would not be pulled away, voters have been trained to only vote for the two-party system with the promise that this election will be different. Dr. Stein has already demonstrated that we can do better. She has chosen for her running mate Cheri Honkala, director of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and former Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia on a no foreclosure platform. Cheri Honkala has been a mother who has been homeless, and has a direct experience of what the American population has gone through that neither vice-presidential candidate from the two major parties could ever know. Both Stein and Honkala have been to many Occupy encampments, demonstrating through action that the Green Party cause is the Occupy cause, and therefore both are the true American cause.
The Green Party is known for introducing innovative new ideas, and this presidential campaign is no different. Titled the Green New Deal, Stein has a direct approach to unemployment, climate change, and the prevailing private debt that most people are under. Instead of a chronic unemployment that continues to linger, she has a plan to create 25 million new jobs. Combining a jobs program like the 1930’s W.P.A. with community-based employment offices and active support for cooperative businesses, new jobs can be created to rebuild our infrastructure, make it more sustainable, and meet the needs of communities. Instead of people being kicked out of their homes, she has a plan for a moratorium on foreclosures and a renegotiation of mortgages. The houses that are owed more than they are worth can be transformed into rental property so that people do not have to be put out into the street because of the banks. Instead of people being forced into debt in order to survive, she has a plan for free college education and universal single-payer healthcare. In the example of the G.I. Bill, for every dollar spent on college education there was a return on investment of seven dollars in the economy, and this principle must be applied to all young people so that they can contribute to the economy rather than be subject to debt servitude. Universal single-payer healthcare, also known as Medicare for all, will allow necessary medical procedures to happen without being blocked by the ability to pay, and therefore making sure that poverty is not a death sentence. Instead of never ending wars that feed the military industrial complex, she has a plan to pull back on our wars, end drone attacks, and close international bases. It is possible to defend ourselves without taking on the role of an empire. You will not hear these ideas or proposals from either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and if the election was only these two candidates then it would seem impossible that needed change could ever occur. That is the vital importance of alternatives and voting for what one wants rather than what one fears. Jill Stein has shown that the field is wide open. A more exact summary of her platform can be found at http://www.jillstein.org/summary_green_new_deal.
For a long time, voters have been trained to treat their citizenship as if they were consumers making choices among commodities rather than making public decisions that directly affect their lives. This has diminished their range of choices, making it far more difficult to actually choose things that can directly improve the society. The market mentality is one of precluded choices, choices where minor differences and distinctions are amplified such as the wide variety of breakfast cereals that anyone can find at the supermarket. This precluded choice only results in a structural reproduction where no major change is possible. On the other hand, real democracy is about original choices, choices that can decide what form of social organization can be implemented and how it affects human beings. In this respect, democracy is about choosing new ideas and policies that result in real change. Market choices are only of those things that already exist, while democratic choices are of things that could be. The market mentality has degraded what we have thought about democracy so that it seems normal for us only to have two choices for president. And while this has happened, Americans find themselves at a dead end both politically and economically, feeling powerless to do anything. Jill Stein has shown that real choices are possible and we must break beyond this strict limitation, understanding that we as citizens must choose the conditions of our society rather than pick superficial particulars and marginal change. The promise of our democracy is that we can do better, and our choices are more open than what we have assumed for so many years. It doesn’t have to be this way, and if we vote for what we want then we can start to actually get it. The promise of our democracy is the right to decide on things that directly affect us. Now more than ever, it is time for us to be a real democracy and fulfill that promise.