Dr. Jill Stein, the leading contender for the Green Party presidential nomination, joined me this morning to chat about why she believes her message fits for Americans. Stein is campaigning for “A Green New Deal for America,” which she expects to create 25 million jobs established through a green economy.
Stein is a mother, housewife, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate. In 2002 she ran for Governor of Massachusetts with the Green-Rainbow Party. She went on to run for State Representative in 2004 and for Secretary of State in 2006. Her career in politics has led her to the presidential race during a time when many voters indicate they are in need of change.
Stein will be in Denver tomorrow, as a keynote speaker at a rally in Civic Center Park.
Jill Barth: You’ve written two reports on the impact of environmental toxins on the human body, what prompted you to follow this line of study?
Jill Stein: As a doctor in the clinic, and as a mother of young children at the time, I was alarmed by the rise in asthma, cancer, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder etc. that I was witnessing. I knew our genes weren’t changing overnight. Yet these diseases were rising in frequency. I set to work with other doctors and concerned community members to find out what was going on. We saw the science linking these and other diseases to conditions in our communities—everything from pollution to poverty to a deteriorating food system, polluting automobile transportation etc.
We wrote the book to help translate the science into everyday language so that everyone could understand what was happening. And importantly, so people would better see how to protect themselves and their families from the terrible, avoidable toxic threats. And so we could insist on better public health protection from policy makers. That part didn’t work so well, which was why I became involved in the political process.
Our elected officials weren’t—and still aren’t—protecting us. They’re too beholden to the lobbyists and campaign contributors with deep pockets!
Barth: What are the most important things you’d like our readers to know about the Green Party that they don’t know already?
Stein: People think of the environment when they think of the Green Party. And they’re right. What many people don’t know is that the Green Party is also the party for people, and for democracy. We don’t take money from lobbyists or corporations, so we don’t owe them favors when we get into elected office. We’re “of, by, and for the people”. That is why we are for “people and the planet”.
We are the only party that support health care as a human right for everyone, specifically through a “Medicare for All” system. And we are calling for creating good wage jobs through a “Green New Deal” that will end unemployment while jumpstarting the green economy and ending climate change.
We are also calling for free public higher education and forgiving student debt. If we bailed out the banks who caused the economic crisis, we can bail out the students who were the victims of that crisis! And of course we call for bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military bases in over 140 countries around the world where we don’t need to be. That—plus requiring the rich to pay their fair share in taxes—is how we can pay for all of this.
Barth: Do you ride a bike? You are heading to Denver tomorrow, close to elephant journal’s home town, bike-loving Boulder.
Stein: I have a 160-pound Great Dane, so I tend to walk with her a lot.
Barth: Great Dane, not the type of dog you leash up while on two wheels!
Stein: But I love to ride when I get a chance.
Barth: Politics aren’t pretty. Any positive surprises, any signs of human kindness since you’ve entered the fray?
Stein: Once you get away from establishment politics—which is predatory—the political experience is totally transformed. For the Green Party, politics is all about building community, and connecting with people. So my experience of it is quite uplifting.
As a candidate, my role is to help people get informed and empowered to create a better world, and to hold elected leaders accountable to us everyday people, not to big corporations with deep pockets. When people discover what democracy is about, and that there is a party where they come first, it’s very exciting.
I was at a rally in Washington DC on Tuesday with restaurant workers who are terribly underpaid—they get a ‘subminimum wage’ of $2.13 per hour. They were so happy to learn that there is a presidential candidate—and a party—who believe they deserve a living wage like other workers; and that the minimum wage itself ($7.25 per hour) needs to be raised so workers can get out of poverty. It’s like giving out candy at Christmas to tell people about my campaign, because what we’re offering is what most people want: peace, justice, community and a green future.
Barth: What is the question you’d most like to be asked, but no one ever approaches it?
Stein: Hard to answer because I get asked just about everything imaginable. I like to talk about the big picture—and often in a campaign, people focus more on particular issues. I like to talk with people about how solutions converge. What works for people works for the planet and for the economy. It’s not a choice between your job and the climate.
We deserve jobs that protect the climate and make our communities—and us—healthier at the same time. Jobs in green energy, local organic food, public and active transportation—like bike paths—etc.
Barth: What topic do you think will turn on potential voters that don’t currently think they have a place with Greens? Maybe someone who’s not feeling “pain” right now, but is open to listening to a new story?
Stein: More and more people are feeling the pain, unfortunately, so that is a wake up call of its own. But even those who aren’t feeling the pain are seeing the climate change, and that moves people to action. Likewise, when people see others around them getting sick – with rising rates of diabetes, obesity, Alzheimers, asthma etc., it’s eye opening. As the science shows growing links between our health and conditions in our communities (pollution, toxic chemicals in consumer products, poverty etc.), it makes people realize we’re connected, to the planet and to each other. And that creates a whole new world of solutions.
Barth: Thank you for your time today. Safe travels on your way to Denver.
Stein: Wonderful talking to you. Upward!
For more on Stein’s Denver appearance, please visit the rally’s Facebook page. She’ll be speaking around 3:30 pm tomorrow, April 20th.
Jill Stein for President offers more on Stien’s presidential run, her history and philosophy and the nuts and bolts of her Green New Deal.
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