Challenging the duopoly - Page 2

Green Party presidential candidates lay out their visions during a debate in the Mission District

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The candidates also came out strong in their support of labor reform, slamming NAFTA and suppression of workers' rights. Stein called for "fair trade" over "free trade," faulting the Obama administration for its recent free trade deal with a "union-destroying country" like Colombia. Barr choked up when she told the audience that she is able to "represent the people from whom I came," quickly adding "and I'll fight hard too—I've got balls bigger than anybody." Women's rights also drew fiery proclamations from the candidates, with Stein vowing to "resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment," and Barr stating flatly that "patriarchy needs to go."

The signature issue of the Green Party—the environment—was a minor if constantly underlying thread to the discussion, emerging as a topic only later in the debate. While Stein repeated Barr's jabs at Monsanto and pledged to "deny the Keystone Pipeline on Day 1," Barr grew solemn, acknowledging the possibility that it might be too late to save the environment from impending catastrophes. We would need to learn, she said, to create "a new system that is not money dependent."

Both candidates broke debate protocol on time limits and turns of speech, but the atmosphere was collegial and supportive, with Barr chiming in "yeahs" to many of Stein's remarks. Each woman repeatedly said she "agreed completely" with what the other said. "Our greatest weapon," Barr said, is to "resist the fear they force-feed us," linking her remarks to Stein's claim that "the politics of fear has brought us everything we were afraid of."

Stein railed against a mainstream press that has effectively sequestered discussion of political alternatives. "We do not have a functioning press," she told the audience, "We have an o-press. We have a re-press." She repeated her call for Greens to mobilize online to get the word out about alternative party movements. Barr said that she was being very careful not to bring any discredit to the Green Party. Though biting and at times sarcastic, Barr said she her campaign was "dead serious. And the message is dead serious too."