This is the written and expanded version of remarks I delivered at two well-attended and engaging events. The debate/panel “Debating the 2016 Presidential Elections and the Key Issues of Our Time” took place on February 5th and 6th in Oakland and San Francisco. Speakers included:
Black Agenda Report, special guest Glen Ford
Democratic Party, for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: Tom Gallagher and Peter Olney
Peace and Freedom Party, and its presidential nomination process: Marsha Feinland
Party for Socialism and Liberation, presidential candidate Gloria La Riva
Green Party, for presidential candidate Jill Stein: Laura Wells
Socialist Action, the convener of the events, Jeff Mackler.
Before I start I want to extend an invitation to all who agree corporations and the 1% should not rule our country. You are invited to declare your intention to vote for people who take no corporate money. Here’s the link: https://www.nocorporatemoney.org/.
It is fitting that I am representing Jill Stein. Many people have come up to me and said, “I know who you are! You’re Jill Stein!” No, but thank you. Jill and I have something in common. We were both arrested outside debates for offices for which we were candidates, presidential and gubernatorial. The specific charge against me in 2010 when I ran for governor pretty well described what I was doing — guilty as charged: “trespassing at a private party.”
Jill Stein is working to make it a “public party.” Her campaigns in 2012 and already in 2016 have helped to smash a chink in the armor of the private parties, and helped make debates and elections more public.
The big question about the 2016 election is this.
“What are the supporters of Bernie Sanders going to do when the Democratic Party does not nominate him?”
The institution of the Democratic Party has very different values from the people who register as Democrats and who vote for Democrats, and that institution has all the power it needs to push Bernie to the side. They instituted superdelegates who will not be on Bernie’s side, and they have big media. Added to that, I learned tonight about Glen Ford’s prediction that the huge voting block of black Democrats in the South are enough to derail Bernie. Blacks want to back whoever is most likely to defeat the “White Man’s Party,” namely, since the 1970s, the Republican Party.
So, what are Bernie Sanders’ supporters going to do when he endorses the Democratic nominee, likely Hillary? She is the embodiment of all the lousy domestic values Bernie has been attacking so effectively. People may go from feeling the Bern, to feeling burned.
People Power: we have more power than we realize
I have a recommendation for people who are feeling the Bern, and who want very much to reduce the power of the 0.1% and maximize their own power and the power of the 99%. My recommendation is based on maximizing people power.
Ironically, the 1% knows better than we do that our votes are a big power they don’t have. They are happiest when we don’t vote at all, and happy enough when we vote for the two parties they fund and control. Don’t make them happy.
People power means we can organize in solidarity and take to the streets. People power also means we can vote, and change our voter registrations. Yes, voting is important. That’s why they change laws and elections to create more hurdles and restrictions for voters and for independent political parties. That’s why they arrest us. That’s why they flaunt their financial power to make us back away of our own volition.
My recommendation if you’re feeling the Bern
(1) NEVER REGISTER DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN. In California, registering “No Party Preference” allows people to vote for Bernie in the Democratic Party primary.
(2) WAIT as late as possible to switch to No Party Preference. MAYDAY, May 1, is safe. The California deadline is May 23. Why wait? Because if Bernie has already been pushed aside, stay in your independent party, Green Party or Peace and Freedom.
(3) AFTER THE PRIMARY, change your voter registration to an independent party, like the Green Party or Peace and Freedom. By Independence Day, be independent of big money. A majority of people want strong parties outside of the Democratic-Republican Party. Here’s how third parties get strong: you vote for them, and you register in them.
(4) IN NOVEMBER, VOTE, but do not write in Bernie Sanders! He is not a movement, he is an individual. We can use as building blocks what Bernie has brought to the table, like injecting the term “socialism” back into our national dialogue. What this country needs now are organizations, including political parties that serve as the electoral arm of the social movements, that take no corporate money, and that are not controlled by the 1%.
There is a world of difference between registering Democrat-Republican and registering “independent” or No Party Preference. And there is another world of difference between No Party Preference and registering Green or Peace and Freedom. You may see the small parties as imperfect, but to blame third parties for their weakness is like blaming poor people for their poverty. Yes, we’re imperfect and make mistakes, but it’s the system that makes people poor and independent political parties weak. People power makes us strong, and breaks up the two-party system that has given control of our government to the 1% and their corporations.
(5) IN NOVEMBER, DO NOT VOTE DEMOCRAT. Glen Ford’s description of Obama as the more “effective evil” rather than the “lesser evil” is right on point. A link is here: http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/why-barack-obama-more-effective-evil. Sometimes it takes a Democrat to accomplish a conservative agenda, like deregulating and then bailing out Wall Street, and implementing trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP/Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Supreme Court!
Because the Supreme Court is often presented as an incontrovertible reason to hold your nose and vote Democrat, I’ll spend some time on that question. Ask your friends to do some research. In fact, two Supreme Court justices often regarded as the worst could have been stopped by the Democratic Party. When bad boy Antonin Scalia was up for approval, every Democratic Senator, including Al Gore, voted for Scalia. It was unanimous, 98 to 0. As to Clarence Thomas, Democrats gave him 11 votes which pushed him to victory with a 52 to 48 vote.
Bush was elected by the Supreme Court in 2000 — you remember, that’s when the powers-that-be added anti-Naderism to McCarthyism in order to program people into thinking there is no alternative to this capitalist system and its political parties. The Supreme Court voted for Bush 5 to 4. Did you know two of those who voted against Bush were Republicans? I thought it was a partisan vote, but no.
In the last half century, five of the best judges were those nominated by Republicans: Earl Warren, Walter Brennan, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, David Souter. Researching the facts shows the Supreme Court is not a good reason to vote Democrat.
So, when Bernie is knocked out by the institution of the Democratic Party, what candidate will people vote for?
After the first of the two Presidential Elections panels, people came up to me and said they liked what we all had to say, and why don’t we combine our efforts this year? Can we Greens, Peace and Freedom, and Party for Socialism and Liberation run together? Yes, actually, and we often have. We’ve essentially run slates together; we’ve cross-endorsed; and we’ve run the same candidates. Maybe this year we will run the same presidential candidate in the same year.
I was encouraged to hear that Jill Stein is one of the really fine people who are seeking the Peace and Freedom nomination this year. I would encourage people to rally around Jill Stein — not as a celebrity individual — because she is not that, but as a dedicated, committed person who has done a lot of organizing behind the scenes as well as being a person who is willing to be in front of the camera and microphone. She has not stopped reaching out to build a long-term movement.
Jill Stein and the Greens have strengths that could be put to very effective use this year.
- Greens have elected hundreds of people across the country including mayors and some state legislators. Elections aren’t everything; we must have strong social movements and labor organizations too. Elected officials do have a big effect, however, as shown by the Richmond Progressive Alliance in California. Long-time community organizers ran as Greens, Democrats and independents, all agreeing to take no developer and no corporate money. When they got elected — against Chevron’s millions — they began to effect the changes they had been fighting for.
- Greens are international, one of the largest political parties in the world.
- Presidential candidate Jill Stein achieved ballot status in 2012 in 37 states covering 82% of U.S. voters. Her 2016 campaign is also on track. The struggle to be on the ballot requires a huge grassroots organizing effort across the country.
- In 2012, Jill Stein qualified for federal matching funds in July. This year she qualified earlier, in January, through individual donors in more than 20 states.
- Greens never take corporate and developer money. (As to the other notable ballot-qualified political party in California, I’m sure corporations have a policy to not give Peace and Freedom any money.) See No Corporate Money campaign, HERE. .
- Jill Stein nominated as her 2012 vice presidential running mate anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala, a founder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
- Jill herself was practicing medicine and realized the political system was the cause of much ill health. Now she’s practicing “political medicine.”
- Jill Stein made a lot of headway in getting media, including real-time debates on “Democracy Now” during the airing of the 2-party debate “shows.” She also participated in debates moderated by Larry King, and lots of other media.
- To continue mobilizing the larger movement, Jill’s team made a great start in creating the nonpartisan Green Shadow Cabinet. The Cabinet is filled with wonderful issue-oriented people working on Public Banks, healthcare, peace, justice, Marxist economy, and more.
- Greens have been out ahead in addressing climate change and environmental destruction, and in pointing out how it’s all linked together: the environment, social justice, peace, and real grassroots democracy, the kind of democracy that de-centralizes power and enables people to have the power they need to make decisions that affect their lives.
Already in 2016 Jill Stein’s campaign is ahead of the game on multiple fronts. Many people who had put their hearts and souls into Obama’s campaign are working with her to see how much headway the electoral arm of the movement can make this year.
In summary, 2016 is a great year to work together to use all the power we have. Let’s not give our money to the 1% and their corporations — as much as we can avoid it! And let’s not give them our voter registrations and our votes.
The basic question “What can we do?” is likely the most frequent question after speaking events. There are many great answers to that question. On Saturday, my response was this:
EMPOWER WOMEN. And always remember that empowering women does not mean dis-empowering men! It’s an additive process. It’s been stated over and over again that if you want a revolutionary movement to succeed, you’ve got to have women strongly engaged. I’m happy to see so many empowered women in this panel and in this room. Also look at the Zapatistas — I just finished reading a book called Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories. Look at Black Lives Matter. Look at the Kurdish Women’s Movement in the Middle East. Look at the Peace and Freedom Party, where four fine women, including Jill Stein, are seeking to become their 2016 nominee for president. Look at Cuba and look at Scandinavia, more than 33% of their legislatures are women. This country is way behind. Let’s mobilize.