Truthdig, April 28, 2016
An Alternative After a Likely Bern-Out: The Green Party’s Jill Stein
by Bill Boyarsky
With Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign falling short, his followers have limited choices. Many would support Hillary Clinton. But the cadre of activists and political newcomers, including the young who have flocked to him, may not accept that choice. Perhaps they’ll retreat from the 2016 election battle. Perhaps they’ll find another candidate.
They would be welcomed by Dr. Jill Stein. The physician-activist is favored to win the Green Party presidential nomination this year after heading the party’s ticket in 2012.
“The whole reason for having an independent third party that cannot be silenced is there are 25 percent of Bernie’s voters who are not going into that dark night to vote for the No. 1 cheerleader for Wal-Mart, for Wall Street, for an endless war,” Stein said in a telephone interview this week. “They are looking for another place to hang their hat.”
Whether hers is a winning place is questionable. In 2012 Stein received 469,501 votes, or 0.3 percent, according to the Federal Elections Commission. In the current election, the Green Party is on the ballot so far in 20 states comprising 55 percent of the population. Stein said the party “is aiming to get on the ballot in every state.” She is campaigning hard, traveling around the country for support for the Green nominating convention in Houston, set for Aug. 4-7.
But winning or losing is not what’s most important in discussing the Stein campaign. Stein is providing a place for the left to engage in a serious argument about liberal solutions to the nation’s problems that have been ignored by the two major parties.
I told her I’ve written about police, racism, homelessness, the decline of labor unions and the difficulties of the poor. I don’t see these issues reflected in the presidential campaign, except when there is some especially horrific police shooting, and then Black Lives Matter is cautiously brought up. She agreed.
I was most interested in the portion of her platform designed to create jobs, including blue-collar occupations that have been ravaged by overseas competition, mechanization and the loss of trade union power. She has offered a jobs program that includes a “Green New Deal,” in which fossil fuel-powered plants, homes and transportation would instead be powered by solar, wind and water.
Stein has proposed other ways of providing jobs. One is to strengthen unions. “The decline of the unions and the decline of the Democratic Party have gone hand in hand,” she told me.
It must start with the president. “You can start by getting out there on the picket lines,” she said. “If there was support coming for striking workers from the White House, it would be mind-boggling.” In addition, she would press for legislation removing current restrictions on union organizing.
Like Sanders, she would get rid of the free trade agreements the United States has with 20 countries, which she said cost many jobs.
“A President Stein would renegotiate them?” I asked.
“That’s right,” she said. “Slow them down and reverse them, even before they are renegotiated, based on (countries’) violations of human rights, and environmental and labor standards.”
Stein’s solution to the decline in manufacturing, which has shuttered factories across the country, includes the formation of worker cooperatives--enterprises owned and run by workers. These could replace abandoned plants.
She said: “Now, if workers want to start a cooperative, it is an uphill climb to get the financing, to get the technical assistance, educational programs and so on. There should be systematic development so they can get the financing they need, the technical know-how in order to develop.”
She cited the Mondragon Corp. in the Basque region of Spain. It employs more than 80,000 people in finance, industry, retail and knowledge-based, tech-related enterprises. It is the seventh-largest Spanish company and a presence overseas.
In the United States, this kind of organization would be part of an effort to create millions of jobs through initiatives that would be financed with federal funds but locally controlled by community organizations. A 50-percent cut in arms spending would help finance this.
And Stein has other ideas.
“Stay tuned,” she said. “We are still developing the how-to. We are focused on the broad outlines.”
Of all of Stein’s ideas, the most intriguing is the Green New Deal, modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
“There would be a wide variety of jobs,” she said. “We’d declare a state of emergency, a climate emergency and an economic emergency. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, we declared a state of emergency, and we transformed the economy.”
Stein has a plan.
“Our aim will be to transform the economy into clean energy by 2030, 15 years to transform our energy supply,” she said. Along with this, she said, would come a “healthy sustainable food supply; an energy efficient transportation system, which includes safe walking and biking paths, a major health transformation. This pays for itself when you include massive improvements in public health.”
It would take a lot of labor to build and maintain this green infrastructure, both in the public and private sectors. Government and new green companies would provide jobs. Job seekers would find vacancies posted at their local employment offices. Financing would come from the government, much of it from Stein’s 50-percent reduction in arms spending.
Her ideas are supported by a study by Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson; University of California, Berkeley, researcher Mark Delucchi; and other scientists. Their study is published in the online edition of Energy and Environmental Sciences. They advocate a complete shift to renewables -- hydroelectric, wind, solar, geothermal and even the tides. It would, they say, combat climate change, eliminate air pollution deaths, create jobs and stabilize energy prices. Washington state, they noted, is well on its way to converting to renewable energy sources, as is California.
Traditionalists write this off as dreaming, as do the oil and coal industries. But as I watched a solar-powered plane fly over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on a round-the-world flight recently and see electric cars on the road, green energy looks more like the future than a dream.
Jill Stein’s presidential campaign is making such a future part of the 2016 campaign debate.