Jill Stein was the Green Party’s 2012 candidate for president of the United States. She is an organizer, physician, and pioneering environmental-health advocate. She has led initiatives promoting healthy communities, local green economies and the revitalization of democracy – addressing issues such as campaign finance reform, green jobs, racially-just redistricting, and the cleanup of incinerators, coal plants, and toxics. She was a principal organizer for the Global Climate Convergence for People, Planet and Peace over Profit.
Dr. Stein is the co-author of two widely-praised reports, In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats. She moved from clinical medicine to political medicine, because, as she notes, politics is “the mother of all illnesses, and we’ve got to fix that disease so we can deal with all the other problems that are literally killing us.”
1 How did you get involved in the Green Party? What are some of the issues, actions, or memories that drew you to the party and kept you here over the years?
I began to advocate for the environment as a health issue in 1998 when I realized that politicians were simply not acting to protect our children from toxic threats like lead, mercury, dioxin and pesticides in our food, water, air and consumer products. I was alarmed as new studies began to link toxic exposures to things like learning disabilities, asthma and cancer. I quickly realized that it was hard to get politicians to do anything unless you were a lobbyist writing big campaign checks. The last straw for me was when the Clean Elections public financing law that was passed by voter referendum with overwhelming support, was then simply repealed by the Democrat-dominated legislature on an unrecorded voice vote. I realized then that the change we need will never come from the Democratic Party.
The Green-Rainbow Party asked me to run for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, and I agreed. The life-changing moment for me was when I was invited into a televised debate with the other candidates, including Mitt Romney, and after the debate I was mobbed by the press, who told me that I had won the instant online viewer poll. I suddenly realized that the Green Party platform we were always told was “fringe” is actually what the majority of people want. Since then I’ve kept working to build the Green Party because it has the life-saving solutions that our country and our world need now.
2 What advice do you have for Young Greens about how to best grow the Green Party, and to make sure that we stay true to our guiding principles? What resources will you create to help the Youth Caucus educate new members?
Political movements depend on social movements. Greens are an electoral party, but our strength comes from the activist causes. First of all, we need to be out in the street and building solidarity with frontline communities – for living wages, immigrant and Indigenous rights, climate justice, ending police racism and violence, and so much more.
And secondly, it’s time for the politics of courage, not the politics of fear. Because that politics of fear has delivered everything we’re afraid of. All the reasons we were told we had to vote for the lesser evil – so we wouldn’t get the massive Wall Street bailouts, the offshoring of our jobs, the meltdown of the climate, the endless wars, the attack on civil liberties – all of that we’ve gotten by the droves, BECAUSE we allowed ourselves to be silenced, and let the lesser evil speak for us.
But the lesser evil paves the way for greater evil, because people don’t come out to vote out of fear, but rather to support a vision we stand for. Democracy doesn’t need more silence and fear. It needs voices and values, a moral compass. We must be that moral compass.
It’s time to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good – like our lives depend on it, because they do. Together we can build a world that works for us all, that puts people, planet and peace over profit. The power to create this world is not just in our hopes. Not just in our dreams. Right here. Right now. It’s in our hands.
We hope that everything our campaign creates will be useful to help Young Greens recruit and educate new members. We do plan to create special materials for youth and student organizing, some of which you can already find at http://www.jill2016.com/younggreensrising . We also have student debt T-shirts that say “Bail out students. Lock up Wall Street!” at our campaign store on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/drjillstein .
3 How should the Green Party fight against the rising tide of xenophobia, racism, and prejudice that is emerging in our country? How can the Green Party best mobilize persons of color, LGBT*QIA+, persons with disabilities, and others who face oppression into the Green Party?
Of course, we must continue to fearlessly speak out for the rights and dignity of all who face oppression in our society and around the world, and make the Green Party a safe, welcoming space for all. In addition, we must point out that politicians who attempt to whip up support by getting angry voters to scapegoat vulnerable groups are just turning victims against other victims. By dividing people against each other, they are covering for the corporate predators who are the real source of pain and suffering for us all.
To mobilize oppressed communities, Greens should intentionally go outside their comfort zones and social networks to engage with these communities about how we can organize together to win freedom and equality for all.
4 The Youth Caucus Steering Committee has unanimously endorsed an amendment to the Green Party platform that rejects capitalism in favor of models of economic democracy. The entire Youth Caucus is currently voting on whether to officially co-sponsor this amendment. Is capitalism antithetical to Green values? What should be place of democratically run workplaces in America?
The current system of corporate capitalism puts profit over people, planet, and peace. It’s unsustainable in every sense. We need economic democracy, including democratically-run workplaces and cooperative economic models. My campaign supports not only a Green New Deal to create 20 million living-wage jobs building the transition to a sustainable economy, but actually enacting the right to a job for every American who needs work. We also support nationalizing and democratizing the Federal Reserve, to take control of our economic destiny away from the “too-big-to-fail” banks.
5 The Youth Caucus has endorsed a plan–Green Ballot Day–whereby we encourage our members to stand at the polls on all primary and general election days from now on to collect signatures for ballot access (in relevant states). Will you support this plan? If you are the presidential candidate, would you ask your supporters not only to stand at the polls on Election Day with literature about your candidacy, but with ballot access signature sheets to get a jump start on the next round of ballot access (in relevant states)?
Yes! And Yes!
6 The Green Party supports the abolition of student debt. The Youth Caucus has recently endorsed the Million Student March. What sort of direct actions and demonstrations do you plan on participating in to make this issue visible?
My campaign has also endorsed the Million Student March. We are working with supporters and allies to maximize participation in the march, and to get the word out that the Green Party is the ONLY political party that supports cancelling student debt. We did it for the bankers. It’s about time to do it for the students, and use our campaign as the vehicle for all Americans who wish to cancel student debt.
7 In what other ways would you expand the rights and well-being of youth?
I support generational justice – the idea that the millennial generation must be liberated from the predatory burdens that have been imposed on you – student debt, joblessness, climate catastrophe, and the staggering costs of education. I support cancelling student debt and making public higher education free. I oppose the corporate education reform agenda that is turning our schools into profit centers for Wall Street. Instead of teaching to the test, we need to teach to the whole student for lifetime learning. We also need increased federal public education funding to correct the shameful disparities between rich and poor school districts, and policies to reverse the growing de facto race and class segregation in public schools.
We also must take emergency action to prevent climate catastrophe, protect nature and biodiversity, and eliminate toxic threats to our health and well-being. Our greatest challenge is to ensure that we leave young people and future generations a world where they can not only live, but thrive.
8 Any additional thoughts?
I’d just like to applaud the courage and vision of young people who are standing up to build the Green movement that our world so desperately needs. If you’d like to learn more about my campaign and how you can get involved, please visit us online at http://www.jill2016.com/ as well as http://www.jill2016.com/younggreensrising , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/drjillstein and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DrJillStein . Thank you for all you do to build our movement for people, planet and peace over profit. Don’t forget: it’s in our hands!