"For us it is the Democrats that are the party of workers, of the poor, of the weak and the victimized," wrote Thomas Frank of liberals in his celebrated analysis of working-class conservatism. Critics on the left condemn the GOP as a pack of crony capitalists, out to hoodwink the innocent and under-informed into voting against their true economic and political concerns. But Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein thinks there are negligible differences between the two major parties. In my conversation with Dr. Stein last week, she noted, "Predators have the electoral system by the throat," and neither party will betray its corporate interests to serve those of voters. She won't be America's next president, but Stein intends to "win back democracy" by "reinserting the voice of the public into political discourse."
Stein faces the predictable hurdles thwarting third parties from achieving a political foothold: an exclusive electoral system, disproportionate funds for advertising and the unwillingness of conventional media to cover her campaign. Yet her most vexing challenge is convincing progressives who agree with her message and support her platform to vote for a Green Party candidate. Stein describes how voters compromise their values and interests by choosing "the lesser evil" -- in their fear to stand up for themselves, they manifest their worst nightmares. What she calls the "Politics of Fear" is aided and abetted by the Democratic Party's spin-doctors, who paper over a legacy of kill lists, drone strikes, and Wall Street bail-outs to convince the voting public of its righteousness.
Stein is particularly galled by the "myth" of Obama as a "Peace President" and advocate for the American worker. Despite the employment crisis at home, U.S. multinational corporations continue to hire abroad and voters across the political spectrum are incensed. Yet few officials have the efficacy of former Ohio governor Ted Strickland (D), who banned the use of public funds for offshoring and outsourcing in 2010. While the president decries Mitt Romney as an "outsourcing pioneer", Stein lambasts Obama's administration for continued wage depreciation, exporting American jobs and ratifying George W. Bush's planned free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama in 2011.
When describing her economic strategy, Stein uses words like local, regional, renewable, and sustainable. Instead of continued investment in global conglomerates, she proposes grants and loans to green small businesses and cooperatives, to circulate wealth on the community level. Through the creation of a sustainable economy anchored in infrastructural refitting and expansion, renewable energy, organic food systems and clean manufacturing, she claims her "Full Employment Program" would generate 16 million jobs. With its emphasis on shrinking the federal government, strengthening local agencies, empowering individuals, and supporting families, Stein's agenda often dovetails with that of conservative voters, whom she claims have been more receptive than progressives to the idea of voting for a Green Party presidential candidate.
Stein is gratified by support from unexpected quarters, but it hasn't allayed her frustration with the "Politics of Fear." Practicing what she calls "political medicine," Stein encourages her natural allies to heal themselves from a "sadomasochistic relationship to corporate politics" by acknowledging their agency. Leftists' reluctance to embrace the Green Party has translated into funding hardships. Nevertheless, online donations continue to trickle in. Stein is close to meeting matching funds thresholds by the 30 June deadline, and she is optimistic that her campaign's ballot access drive will provide 95 percent of Americans with a Green Party choice.
Stein's campaign hasn't reached a desirable level of visibility through mainstream media or advertising, but she's been a conspicuous presence at numerous Occupy sites. Even as she acknowledges that Occupiers maintain critical distance through non-partisanship, she laments that some will refuse to participate in the upcoming election in protest against the compromised nature of the electoral system. Quoting Alice Walker's dictum, "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any," she urges Occupiers to "not neglect this important tool for asserting democracy."
Binarism afflicts American politics, and voters too often perceive the race between Democrats and Republicans as the battle of Good versus Evil. Seeing beyond the two-party structure is as difficult as imagining an economic model outside the Capitalist-Socialist dichotomy, yet neither duality adequately contends with current economic and political crises. Stein believes it will take mobilization on the scale of World War II to reverse climate change and avert further economic catastrophe, and "the Green Party offers the only lifeboat."
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