More Than a Protest: Why Voting Green Counts

Jill Stein's campaign manager makes the case for a Green political revolution.
By David Cobb
originally published at In These Times

le_cobb_1800.jpgThis November, millions of Americans will vote for non-violent revolution by casting ballots for Dr. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka on the Green Party ticket. Let that sink in for a moment. Millions of people rejecting the politics of fear and embracing the vision that together we can transform society.

The Stein/Baraka campaign (for which I am the campaign manager) is not about mere “protest,” although we are proud of our candidates’ courageous stand at the Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations. It goes deeper than that. It is a movement campaign that is designed to serve as the electoral arm for the growing demands for structural change. Greens know that unless we transform existing social, political, economic and legal systems, we cannot have a peaceful, just, democratic and sustainable future for our children and ourselves.

This campaign is not about idealism. It is about understanding how power operates and the critical role that serious, credible electoral campaigns have always played. Systemic change requires both social movements and campaigns for elected office.

The movements already exist—Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the climate justice movement, the Move To Amend demand to abolish corporate constitutional rights, the Fight for $15, the push for universal healthcare, the call to end the school-to-prison pipeline, and many more. Every day, these movements are larger, stronger and better organized, and they operate independently from the corporate-controlled Democratic and Republican Party leadership.

As necessary as social movements are, they must be accompanied by an electoral expression at the ballot box in order to codify their demands into law. In the mid-1800s, the Liberty Party, Free Soil Party and the newly formed Republican Party brought an anti-slavery agenda to the ballot box, and later, the Equal Rights Party, Prohibition Party and Socialist Party of America championed women’s suffrage. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Socialist Party and progressive parties like the People’s Party, the 1912 Progressive / Bull Moose Party (led by Teddy Roosevelt) and the 1924 Progressive Party (led by Fighting Bob LaFollette), advanced a range of causes, among them Social Security, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, food and drug regulations, the 8-hour workday, ending child labor and the direct election of U.S. senators.

The very fabric of what we consider the bare minimum for a just a compassionate society was woven thread by thread, issue by issue, campaign by campaign by alternative political parties. So if we want to win a new world, we must have the courage of those earlier movements.

Here is another reality: Unaffiliated voters are now the single largest voting block in America. Independents far outnumber members of either of the corporate-controlled parties. The reason is simple; most Americans know that the system is rigged. Principled progressives have been lied to and sold out by the leadership of the Democratic Party, who are funded and controlled by Wall Street, transnational corporations and the wealthy elite. And principled conservatives have been lied to and sold out by the leadership of the Republican Party, who are funded and controlled by Wall Street, transnational corporations and the wealthy elite. 

The Stein/Baraka Power to the People Plan is revolutionary. It calls for deep system change and provides a comprehensive blueprint to move from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy. This plan puts people, planet and peace over profit. It offers direct answers to the economic, social and ecological crises created by the policies of both corporate political parties. It empowers the American people to make real the promise of democracy.

This plan will end unemployment and poverty, and address the climate crisis. It will build a sustainable just economy, and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world. The power to create this new world is in our hands. We simply must have the courage to vote for the future we want, rather than against the future we fear.

The plan in a nutshell:

A green New Deal: Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100 percent clean renewable energy and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture and conservation.

Meaningful work as a right: Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Advance workers’ rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.

End poverty: Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

Healthcare as a right: “Medicare For All” as a single-payer public health program to provide everyone with quality healthcare.

Education as a right: Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization. 

A just economy: Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage. Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve. Reject gentrification as a model of economic development. Support development of both worker and community cooperatives, and small businesses. Create democratically run public banks and utilities. Replace corporate trade agreements with fair trade agreements.

Protect Mother Earth: Lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. End destructive energy extraction: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal and uranium mines. Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.

Racial justice now: End police brutality and mass incarceration. Create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to understand and eliminate the legacy of slavery that permeates our society. Create community policing by establishing police review boards and independently investigating all cases of death in police custody.

Freedom and equality: Expand women’s rights, protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination, defend indigenous rights and lands and create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants. Protect the free internet, legalize marijuana/hemp and treat substance abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal problem.

Justice for all: Terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, end persecution of government and media whistleblowers, close Guantánamo, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Peace and human rights: Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50 percent and close the 700-plus foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament.

Empower the people: Abolish corporate personhood. Protect voters’ rights by establishing a constitutional right to vote. Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation and open debates.

America is ready for a voter revolt. Aren’t you?

David Cobb was the 2004 Green Party candidate for president, and is the current campaign manager for Jill Stein.