Jill Stein on Government Reform
Green Party presidential nominee; Former Challenger for MA Governor
Yet we could break free from this trap with a simple reform called ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first-choice votes, second-choice votes are factored in and so on. The system removes the fear that a vote for a favorite candidate could inadvertently help a least-favorite candidate. Ranked-choice voting is used in a growing number of American cities and is used on the statewide ballot in Maine.
But despite all their dire warnings about splitting the vote, the Democrats and Republicans have resisted ranked-choice voting and other reforms that would expand voter choice. It's time to stop settling for the downward spiral of voting for the lesser evil.
Jill Stein: We need Supreme Court justices who are ready to stand up for everyday people. That means to end the stranglehold that big money has on our political system. That means not only overturning Citizens United, but supporting that money is not speech and that corporations are not people. We need strong support for our rights as voters. The Supreme Court needs to be strongly in support of women's rights, the rights of immigrants, workers' rights and LGBTQ rights.
Stein: The issue here is that Congress barely has a 10% approval rating yet it is re-elected with a 95% probability. Something is wrong with this picture. One of the problems is that incumbency provides enormous advantages--we need to overturn this system of automatic re-election. Insuring that there will be turnover is one way to help the American people achieve a more democratic result.
OnTheIssues:And what about the number of years? One popular proposal is 12 years in either legislative chamber, which would mean 2 Senate terms or 6 House terms.
Stein: Well, the limit should be somewhere above 1 or 2 terms, but not lifetime incumbency--decades of incumbency is a problem.
Stein: The Confederate flag is a terrible symbol of white supremacy and slavery. It should be removed from all public locations. But this is only a symbol. We need to go deeper to erase the institutional racism that lives on post-slavery--we've had lynchings and the Drug War and discrimination--we should address the incredible legacy of the criminal slave culture, from the criminal institution of slavery. We need to take action beyond changing flags---we need to take action on [racial disparities in] employment and housing, and an end to healthcare disparity. When you add up the impacts of those disparities, the average African American has 14 years taken off their lives. The average African American family had 10 cents on dollar wealth [compared to white families]--and under Obama that dropped to even lower.
Stein: Earmarks grease the skids for corruption and for returning favors to campaign donors.
OnTheIssues: Is full disclosure enough?
Stein: They should be federally overturned; not only disclosed but easily challenged and removed. Currently it's very hard to find out about earmarks.--you have to be a full-time political junkie to figure it out. Earmarks should be disclosed, but there should be a simple procedure to challenge them.
A: [The Green Party doesn't] accept corporate money, and most of the Green parties have adopted a policy where they don't accept money from people who are the officers, lobbyists or otherwise are the surrogates for a corporation. So there's a firewall between us and corporations. If you're a corporate CEO, you can contribute money to the Green Party, as long as you don't hire a lobbyist. Most of our money comes from small donors, just everyday people.
Q: How do we get money out of politics?
A: I personally think it'd be great, if you have to work in the system, to have donors that you don't have contact with because just asking creates an expectation of a repayment. I think it's better that candidates are not in the business of fundraising at all. Anonymous online donations where people donate because they support the cause, not because they think you're going to do something for them or there's some implied payback, are really great.
A: After we passed campaign finance reform in Massachusetts, I was working on that issue, thinking, "Oh, it's the money that stops us from shutting down our incinerators."
Q: You're referring to the "Clean Elections Law"; what year was this?
A: It was passed in 1998. It then got repealed by the legislature after passing on a two-to-one margin via a citizen referendum. The people of Massachusetts passed it by a 2-to-1 vote, so it was an enormous victory and it took two years for the legislature to turn around and repeal it on a voice vote and to me that said, "Okay, we can't even change the system by changing the system--we actually have to throw the bums out." This is a long-term political struggle.
Q: But you need people to actually implement the will of the people if you're going to have a democracy?
A: Exactly. Then the Green Party came to me and said, "Why don't you keep doing what you're doing and call it a campaign for Governor?
A: For us, it's about building and adapting for the future. There were great thing in our founding--we do need to protect our rights as defined by the Constitution. Those rights are perishing quickly right before our very eyes, with the extremely anti-civil-liberties positions adopted by the Obama administration. But while there are great things from America's founding, there are also not-so-great things. We need to be selective about what we worship in the past. We don't need to be arming state militias, for example. We are not counting African-Americans as 3/5 of a human being like at America's founding. And we don't tell women to stay in the kitchen and not be seen or heard or represented democratically.
A: We now have influence-peddling on steroids with Citizens United and the Super PACs. And Obama raising $1 billion for his campaign alone. We have a political system which is completely disconnected with the public, and connected instead with those with deep pockets who can find these campaigns with such extreme amounts.
The people of Massachusetts deserve a clean money campaign system that allows candidates to run for office without selling out to big money interests. Candidates who refuse to take tainted money should be able to compete on a level playing field.
The voters called for fundamental changes when they voted for the Clean Elections Law over ten years ago. Unfortunately, incumbent legislators who were profiting from the existing fundraising machinery repealed this reform on an unrecorded voice vote, opening the way to ten years of continued corruption and scandal. One of my top priorities will be to reestablish a clean money law that gives a fair break to candidates of integrity who refuse to participate in "pay-to-play" fundraising practices.
Special interests are not merely tolerated but are actually an integral part of the regulatory process. If we are to successfully respond to the threats posed by the use and environmental releases of neurotoxic chemicals, we must find a way to insulate public health decision-making from conflicts of interest that can corrupt it.
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