Green presidential candidate seeks to energize the disenfranchised

Dr. Jill Stein is the likely Green Party presidential nominee.
Steven T. Jones

After participating in last weekend's Green Party presidential debate against Roseanne Barr in San Francisco, which we cover in this week's paper, frontrunner candidate Jill Stein stopped by the Bay Guardian office to chat about her hopes for progressive change in this tumultuous political year.

“The political-corporate establishment should not be given a pass in the voting booth,” the Massachusetts physician told us. “Four more years of Wall Street rule is what we get if you give them your vote.”

She ticked off a litany of bipartisan failures from the Democratic and Republican parties, from reforming Wall Street and narrowing the wealth gap to seriously addressing climate change and this country's wasteful wars, and said people are fed up and want fundamental reforms.

“The rebellion is in full swing, you just don't hear about it from the press,” she said. “With the exception of the Bay Guardian, we don't have a press. We have an o-press and a re-press.”

This is Stein's first run for national office, but she already faced off against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race, garnering just 3.5 percent of the vote but winning praise in the Boston Globe for her debate performance. She thinks both Romney and Obama are vulnerable this year, although she said, “I'm not holding my breath that we're going to win, but I'm not running to lose.”

Her plan is to wage an aggressive grassroots and social media campaign to capitalize on the discontent most Americans feel with both major political parties, and to hopefully catch enough fire to reach 15 percent support in national polls, the threshold for getting into the presidential debates. “If we can get into the debates, we can really change things.”

To get there, Stein plans to reach out to a wide variety of groups on the left and across the spectrum, including supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which she toured last year, visiting 25 encampments across the country, most of them populated by people wary of modern electoral politics.

“When I go to Occupy, I go to support them and not ask for their support,” Stein said, saying that she understood their belief that the electoral system is broken, but that it's important to participate in it as part of a multi-pronged movement for social change that includes presidential politics. “Can we beat back the predator without have an organization? No, we need a party.”

She thinks the Green Party best represents the values of disenfranchised Americans and has the best vision for where this county needs to go, and she said, “We're finding all kinds of networks are really getting energized and promoting us.”