Dr. Jill Stein is the Green Party’s 2012 presidential candidate with vice-presidential nominee Cheri Honkala. Dr. Stein’s campaign is not only discussing the Green Party’s platform, but kindling conversation regarding the place of third party candidates within the nation’s political system.
Dr. Stein visited Seattle on October 25 for a Town Hall event to present her platform including marriage equality, environmental progress and economic reforms. She later spoke by phone with The Seattle Lesbian to further outline her concerns and hopes for the future.
What is your history and current stance regarding marriage equality?
I’m very proud to say that I helped push the envelope in the first state, Massachusetts, to adopt marriage equality. I was the first gubernatorial candidate to make it an issue and push other candidates to move forward. At the time, in 2002, I ran against Mitt Romney and the Democrat’s candidate. Even during the primary, when there were a bunch of progressive Democrats, none of them supported marriage equality. They were mainly still debating whether to support civil unions. I came out at the beginning and went to bat for marriage equality and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. This was an essential step forward and long overdue. I’ve been on the record for a long time and way ahead of the pack in the Democratic party. My campaign is ahead of the curve in standing up for the equal rights that the LGBTQ community deserves.
You also support passing the Equal Rights Amendment to end discrimination based on gender?
I’ve called for an Executive Order to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity or sexual preference. Obama refused to sign such an Executive Order establishing economic equality (in April 2012 despite prior campaign promises). Later he said he personally favored it, but wouldn’t actually do anything to stand up for it – to use the Constitution or federal law to enforce it. Also, with marriage equality, he finally said he personally supported it, but it was late in the game and a day late and dollar short. He waited for the polls to give permission that there was enough public support. He waited rather than leading.
Women’s rights, particularly related to reproductive healthcare, have become an election hot button. What are your thoughts regarding these issues?
It’s horrifying. The Republicans have gone way over the cliff on the issue of abortion, especially in cases of rape and incest. It’s totally looney tunes. However, it goes way beyond that (rape and incest) regarding the denial of women’s reproductive healthcare. The Democrats and Obama have not stood up at all for poor women’s right to abortions. Millions of poor women don’t have the right to an abortion under Medicaid since the passing of the Hyde Amendment in the 1970s (barring the use of federal funds, primarily Medicaid, to pay for abortions other than cases resulting from incest or rape). The Democrats have been looking the other way for a long time. They rightly point to the outrageous policies of the Republicans, but it’s equally outrageous that millions of poor women are denied access. Furthermore, the Obama administration took off the table access to Plan B (the “morning after” pill) as an over-the-counter purchase, which would have made abortions unnecessary to start with. It was supported by over 60 medical and public health organizations, but the Obama administration said they would not support it for political reasons. There is plenty of shared responsibility to go around regarding women’s health issues. While the Democrats talk a self-righteous talk, they still leave millions of women thrown under the bus.
What are you opinions regarding environmental issues and where you would like to see improvement?
Obama is as much a denier as the Republicans in that his actions deny the reality of climate change. The writing is on the wall that this is the time we have to fix it. The clock is ticking. Yet President Obama has embraced the “drill baby drill” policies of (George W.) Bush, opened more offshore drilling, drilling in the national parks and the fragile arctic, has green lit fracking and there is the issue of the Keystone Pipeline. Obama and Romney are competing to see who can be the bigger friend to the fossil fuel industry. The Obama administration even undermined an international climate agreement that was happening in South Africa two years ago.
What are other issues that you feel are not being addressed and/or not very honestly?
There are many issues that need to be discussed and challenged within the Democratic party. The drone war needs to be challenged. The Obama administration’s giveaways to Wall Street. Obama is negotiating more free-trade agreements, which will continue to send jobs overseas. The concept that we’re in an economic recovery – we’re not unless it’s a recovery for CEOs. We’re making excuses about why we’re being jerked around and cheated out of our equal rights, healthcare, jobs, equal pay, environmental protection, attacks on civil liberties and expanding wars. The Obama administration now refuses to say they won’t cut Medicare and Social Security. If that happens, we will see millions of seniors put into poverty. 20 million senior citizens are currently being kept out of poverty – by the skin of their teeth – thanks to social security. All of this has to be challenged, but the Democrats won’t allow it to be debated even within their own primary races. The last election was supposed to be all about these issues, but the reality is the Obama administration has pretty much extended the policies of George W. Bush. There are differences around the margins, but not nearly enough.
Some people ask why not work within the Democratic party? Why do you feel supporting a third party is an appropriate option to consider?
To crunch back into the Democratic party doesn’t pass the test. Consider what happened four years ago. If ever there was an outpouring of commitment, of a 200% effort, people went to the mat for Obama – people who had never voted, never contributed or worked on a campaign before. He and the Democratic party had a mandate from the people, and they couldn’t and haven’t gotten things done. It’s not just Obama, but the party as a whole. Good, principled reformers are elbowed out of the debates and primaries. The politics of fear tells us to be afraid to vote for yourself. The differences between the Republicans and Democrats are shrinking all the time. It just takes the Democrats about two years longer to arrive at Republican policies.
The real way forward is to stand up for the solutions that America is clamoring for. The missing link is courage because we otherwise have all the ingredients for success. We need to demand a real democracy and to implement the will of the people and the solutions they support. It’s not just okay to support a third party, but it’s absolutely life saving, planet saving and people saving to stand up while we still can.
Dr. Stein graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973 and Harvard Medical School in 1979. She is a well-recognized environmental and women’s and children’s rights advocate, particularly in Massachusetts.