I Refuse to Fall In Line: An Interview with Jill Stein
Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein recently spoke to her crowd at a rally here in Houston at the Last Concert Cafe, this of course following the party’s national convention at the University of Houston back in August. Caught in the midst of a “media blackout,” she and Vice-Presidential running mate Ajamu Baraka have sought to go directly to the people with an ample amount of town halls, protests, and Facebook livestreams.
Following this interview was the third and final presidential debate for the 2016 election, which Stein and Libertarian candidate Governor Gary Johnson were not asked to participate in. During her recent stop in the city, Dr. Stein spoke with Free Press Houston about her platform, the current situation with Russia, and why change is crucial.
Free Press Houston: Dr. Stein, I’d like to thank you for taking time for this interview. I’d like to preface by saying that this is your second time in Houston within the last three months, your first being the Green Party Nation Convention back in August. What is your main purpose for being back here so close to election day?
Dr. Jill Stein: Well, Houston is like the rest of America: struggling, facing real challenges for working people. The jobs we have are not the jobs we need in order to support a family’s. This being a right-to-work state, it makes it all the harder for workers to eke out an existence here, so systems are being privatized and shut down, underfunded, a generation is locked in debt. In Houston, you’re certainly facing the issues of climate change, you know, aside from being the fossil fuel capital of the world. [laughs] That fight is being played down here. I was actually here about a year ago when the oil refinery workers were on strike and I was supporting their fight for decent jobs and safety. You have the Tejas — the communities organizing against 30 plants and chemical refineries and cancer alley. I guess you could say that the struggles of our current fossil fuel economy — where working people, students and elders are struggling to survive — that’s all happening in Houston.
Basically, the Green Party is making real inroads here. We were at an event in El Paso yesterday and it was just incredible, especially with the large immigrant population. On the border, you have all of the inequities of our economy and immigration policy that are getting played out. There’s a lot of economic suffering here, but there’s also a lot of energy for change, and we’re seeing that in the interest of the Green Party all over the state.
FPH: Everyone is in agreement that this election in particular is so crucial, but why specifically is this the right time for the Green Party of the United States to take the highest office and what is included in the first 100 days of a Stein presidency?
Stein: In this race, this is the highest rejection rate of the establishment candidates, ever, with the highest levels of dislike and distrust for the two leading candidates. The largest voting block is independents and it’s something like 57% of voters are saying it’s time for a new political party. It’s like the house of cards is coming down, politically. People are sick of the rigged economy and they’re sick of the political system. It’s only like 72% of voters that have ever heard of my campaign, so it’s no wonder we’ve been kept down, but even without coverage we’ve began to come up. I don’t know if you saw the Fox poll that was released a few days ago, among independents, that show in the course of one week we went from 4% up to 12%, among independents — actually switching places with Gary Johnson — as people begin to find out more about our policies, and it’s especially Millennials who are discovering that there are actually a way forward under a green vision.
So, what will we do in office? The first thing that we would do is bail out a generation of young people who are held hostage by predatory student debt, who bailed out the bankers on Wall Street who crashed the economy. So isn’t it about time we bailed out the victims? It would cost a whole lot less than what we made available to Wall Street. So, that’s number one. In addition, we would make public higher education tuition free and ensure that there are affordable loans for private higher-end education. We’d call for an emergency jobs program with living-wage jobs for basically everyone as a human right, and that would be part of mobilizing to fixed the climate crisis, which is really an emergency. And the science tells us it’s now or never, you know? We need to really start mobilizing. We’re calling for a war-time scale mobilization against the biggest threat that humanity has ever faced. We would create these 20 million jobs in the area of renewable energy, healthy, sustainable food production, public transportation, as well as restoring ecosystems like wetlands and the coastlines, which, traditionally, have been a barrier to storms and things like that. We would restore our river systems, cleaning up, for example, this toxic waste site that you’ve been fighting around Houston: the San Jacinto River waste pits. It’s a superfund site that the EPA has recently agreed to clean up. There are so many places like that, and then there’s cancer alley in the area. These toxic sites need to be shut down, as part of the emergency energy conversion, and they need to be cleaned up.
So, the bottom line is that there are jobs here for everyone, whether you have a PhD or you haven’t graduated high school, there’s an enormous amount of work that needs to be done if we’re going to zero-out fossil fuels by 2030, which is what the science says we have to do if we want to stop the ice sheets from breaking up. And the science on that is, James Hansen, who’s the foremost climate scientist, and he’s never been wrong yet, and his prediction now is that we’re looking at 10’s of feet of sea level rise as soon as 2060, so in your lifetime. That means devastating flooding which, you know, there goes Houston, Florida, the Island of Manhattan. This is not something we’re going to recover from, so it’s really critical we do the right thing and ensure it doesn’t happen.
What’s especially cool is that it pays for itself, because we get so much healthier zeroing out fossil fuels that the savings in healthcare alone are actually enough to pay the energy transition. And there’s one other form of self-pay here: by going to 100% renewables, we no longer need the wars for oil and we no longer need to protect our many sites of oil supply in other nations by shoring up tyrannical oil monarchies or protecting the roots of transportation, so we can cut the bloated and dangerous military budget and put the hundreds of billions of dollars into real security here at home. All of that is, sort of, a win-win-win. The Green New Deal, which is what this plan is called, would revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change, and make wars for oil obsolete. That would be another part of our major priorities.
You’re obviously not going to accomplish that all in the first hundred days, but we can begin enabling legislation. We really see the student mobilization as the most critical thing, because it’s always been young people who lead the charge for transformative social change, whether you’re looking at the Black Lives Matter movement, the Climate Justice movement, or the $15 minimum wage movement. it’s all been — as it has been historically, whether it was the Women’s movement or the movement to bring the troops home from Vietnam, the Environmental movement — a young person thing. And right now, millennials are missing in action, working two or three jobs, struggling to keep your head above water and maintain your health, let alone your loans. It’s not happening. We’re saying first thing’s first here, let’s liberate the generation, and once we’ve done that, then we can begin to move things forward with the rest of the agenda.
FPH: Your plan for “transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030” has faced its fair share of criticism, and even Greenpeace, according to a title of a piece they’ve published, “Energy Revolution 2015,” argues that there is a 20 year difference between the two plans. What makes you correct and Greenpeace wrong?
Stein: Well, the science says that they’re wrong. Put it this way, I think they know what the science says, but they’re trying to persuade politicians. We’re trying to persuade politicians to throw the bums out and bring in a whole new crop of politicians that is accountable to people and accountable to a younger generation, not accountable to the fossil fuel industry, which is who’s running the show right now. Most of mainstream politics and public interest groups and nonprofits all say mid-century, which is a good start, but there was a report that came out about two weeks ago from Oil Change International that Bill McKibben picked up on saying, “we have 17 years to zero it out.” Some are saying, even at [17 years], we’re pushing it. I think any responsible and informed policy maker would have said, “we should have well been on our way to zero now, if we didn’t want to be flirting with disaster.” It’s not the mistake we can afford to get close to. This is where precautionary action really indicated where the results could be absolutely devastating — you don’t get a second shot, you know? You really want to be on the safe side here. One thing I should point out, when Pearl Harbor was bombed outside of the second World War, it took us six months to transfer our economy. We went from zero to 25 percent GDP on a wartime footing because people knew it was an absolute all-out national emergency. What we’re facing now actually makes Pearl Harbor look like small potatoes. That was one harbor. We’re talking about all harbors, everywhere around the world and all coastal population centers.
It’s predicted that there will be 600 million climate refugees if we allow the 10 foot sea-level rise. We’re at 60 million right now. That’s absolutely tearing apart the Middle East and Europe. This is really not a survivable hit. Just imagine what happens to all of the oil infrastructure here at the coast, it will all go to toxic waste sites, you know, and all of our coastal areas will become toxic waste sites, essentially. It would devastate our fishing industries, and forget about foreign trade and TPP, because there won’t be any trade at all. It’s really inconceivable, what this means. If we could mobilize after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we could mobilize, if the public has the benefit of understanding things. One is that this is a dire emergency, and we could actually solve it, and we could put people to work. How great is that? People could have a good job being part of this national mobilization.
FPH: Two of the three debates have already taken place, and as it stands right now, you and Governor Johnson will not be able to participate in the third and final this coming Wednesday. With that being the case, how can the average, undecided voter find out about your policies, even those with limited internet access?
Stein: First, internet media is very critical, and that’s why, I think, we’re coming up in the polls. Some of that is happening just by word of mouth. With Millennials and Gen-X’ers alone, there are about 40 million people locked in debt and it spreads like wildfire when people find out there is a way people can vote to cancel out their debt. They can liberate themselves from a lifetime of inescapable debt servitude. That stuff spreads through people who are well-networked online. Just by getting the word out on this growing momentum, it’s possible that that alone is enough to get the word out from neighbor to neighbor, if not on the internet as well. I think it’s knowing that we’re here and that there is a surge going on right now that people are really hungry for this and furthermore that we have the numbers that this is actually winnable. We could see a voter revolt come out of left field here that we could completely take the results by surprise on election day. Most polls don’t tap Millennials, they don’t really tap our biggest base: immigrants, African Americans, and Millennials. The disenfranchised majority, basically, which has been wiped out here. We’re showing 12% now among independents, but that doesn’t show Millennials, because these polls tap “likely voters” opposed to the “unlikely voters” who create an unlikely election result. There are many levels of goals, at the end of the goal, I’m in this as a mother on fire that I’m not going to give up. [laughs] It’s what parents do and what caring members of society do. We don’t give up when there’s real threat to survival. There are so many ways we could breakthrough and get the word out that this can happen. We’ve come up suddenly, it’s starting to go in a large way and we will be in an alternative debate, by the way. We will be answering the questions live. During the debate, we will be live-streaming via Facebook. There is also a large number of corporations that will be carrying the debate. We’re getting it out to a lot of independent media and public interest organizations.
There are people whose issues are being swept up under the rug here while there’s this incredible outrage over whether or not Donald Trump is a sexual predator. All of this stuff is going on behind the scenes now while Hillary Clinton is very busy as the economic predator, locking things in place now to ensure that the economic elite are going to continue to make out like bandits, leaving everyday people to continue to be starved of the resources that we need for education, funding, getting out of debt, healthcare, etc. Some of that was contained in the recent WikiLeaks trove that included the plans that are being made to protect this 2.4 trillion dollar in overseas resources, they want to bring them back at a pittance of what is owed and use that to lock into a dirt low tax rate for offshore profits. This is like the dream come true to tax evasion tax-dodgers. This is like the Panama Papers on steroids here.
FPH: Speaking of WikiLeaks, I think that it’s fair to say that, if Hillary Clinton would’ve been running against someone like Rubio or Kasich — ones that have, at least appeared to the mass public, been rather moderate and sane — Julian Assange and Co. would have utterly destroyed her campaign with the ample supply of leaks. However, she is versing Trump, so it doesn’t seem to matter much. With that being the case, are these continuous leaks necessary? Should WikiLeaks refrain from continuing these actions?
Stein: I think this is the $25,000 question, because we the people are being dragged through the mud right now on jobs, on debt, on climate survival, and on the next crash of Wall Street. The banks are bigger than ever and more prone to fail that 1 in 3 Americans cannot afford health care, even though we have the “great” affordable health act, which is not affordable at it’s not caring if you’re actually sick, and people are just strapped. Even if they have insurance, they can’t get the care they need because of the co-pays and the deductibles. So what’s wrong with this picture? This doesn’t work. These politics of fear that tell you to vote your fears rather than your values — it has basically delivered everything we were afraid of. In this election, we’re not just deciding what kind of world we’ll have, but whether we’ll have a world. In looking at the climate, the expanding wars, and in particular, looking at nuclear weapons. As horrific as Donald Trump is, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that life would be secure with Hillary Clinton. Not only because of the economic predators that she has served traditionally, the banks and the big manufactures, pushing down wages in Haiti, supporting NAFTA, supporting Wall Street deregulation, which laid the ground for the crisis we have now.
But her position, her war record, is absolutely terrifying. Not only having led the charge for the disaster of Libya, laying the groundwork for the explosion of ISIS which alse grew out of Iraq, which she also approved. But now, Clinton’s calling for, basically, war with Russia. That’s what a no-fly zone in Syria means. It means we are declaring war against Russia, you shoot down the airplanes. As much as we don’t like this, Russia and the recognized government of Syria, as reprehensible as it is, we do not have the authority to go in and violate international law and declaring war doing so. We are two armed nuclear powers with 2,000 nuclear weapons with hair-trigger on alert. The former head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, said that we are closer to nuclear war then we have ever been. This is all being very downplayed in the U.S. press, but it’s very frightening with the troops on Russia’s border, missiles have been moved surrounding Russia. This is like the Cuban missile crisis in reverse, and we’re not recognizing what’s going on here. Imagine Russia moving missiles into Canada or Mexico and they have troops on our border. We, meanwhile, have been dropping fake nuclear bombs in the desert in Nevada, ready for potential exchange. This is not something to be casual about, it’s not something to be secret about. It’s important that there be real opposition, and Clinton and Trump agree on too much about serving the economic elite and betraying workers and immigrants for that matter, as well. Clinton gave the thumbs up to the coup in Honduras and said “bar the gates from these dangerous woman and children who are fleeing the crisis, which she approved.
It’s a really serious election and we need to have a serious debate. Not about mudslinging between these two very corrupt candidates, against whom there is a lot of mud to sling. I really encourage everyone to tune in to our campaign and stand up against this propaganda that tells you you’re powerless. You’re not powerless. In the words of Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” We actually do have it, and we have the numbers that could win this. Whether that’s the 40 million plus young people in debt or the 27 million Latinos that vote. In this race we’ve seen that the Republicans are the party of hate but the democrats are the party of deportation, detentions, and night raids. The public is begging for something else, the system is working overtime to try to blackout the other options that are there, and our campaign is the only one that is actually free of Super Pacs, lobbyists, and corporate money. We can actually talk about how to fix this right now, and don’t throw away your vote on a failed two-party system, invest your vote in the real secure future we deserve and the social movement to get there.
Another thing I should mention, aside from having the numbers that could actually break through and win this, which I wouldn’t rule out — it’s not the likely scenario at this moment, but who knows how things could change very quickly if we begin to break through the media blackout. The inconvenient truth to Hillary and Donald is that there is an honest alternative. By getting to just 5% it’s a major game changer because then we get to have a recognized political party, we get 10 million dollars to just start organizing out of the gate. It doesn’t mean just four more years, it means we have money to support candidates, support growth of the chapters, and be a real organized entity with staff. We’ve been a volunteer entity for most of our existence, so this would be a major breakthrough at a time this is exactly what the American public is calling for.
FPH: Thank you for time. I wanted to conclude by mentioning that Free Press Houston has a huge focus on music, so could you give an update to your fans on a new Somebody’s Sister record?
Stein: [laughs] Yep, I was a musical activist before I was an electoral activist. You can Google it and find it on the web. I’ll say we also have music on this campaign now. We have an amazing hip hop poet activist. He’s not going to be in Houston, but he was with us yesterday. There’s a lot of stuff on our Facebook page that will have his songs as well as a music video that, in a more contemporary form — my music is a little retro — his name Kor Element. His song is called “Power to the People” [“I refuse to fall in line, you can’t have my vote because I’m voting for Jill Stein. No more fear based voting for the lesser of two evils, I’m going green to bring the power to the people.”] It’s a really dynamite song, it gets people charged up. Get ready to get that one viral. As it gets out, it really is the breakthrough tool. What’s the point of a revolution if you can’t dance to it? That’s where the dancing starts to happen.