[Updated Thursday 8.11.2016 & 8.24.2016]
Watch the video below friends. In it, Jill Stein, presidential nominee of the Green Party* targets the United States for its exceptionalism, arguing that we shouldn’t vaunt said exceptionalism. Fair enough. As a progressive environmentalist who thinks the American “government’s economy and the economy’s government” have created an empire, I’m somewhat sympathetic to this argument. Who on the left isn’t appalled by our wars of choice, our paltry social safety net, the systematic disenfranchisement of indigenous people and the descendants of slaves, lopsided trade policies, conspicuous consumption and the undermining (literally) of the ecosystems that support us?
Jill Stein, the Green Party, and I agree on these things. But we are disconnected because she seems to believe that using words like “diplomacy,” “universal human rights,” and “climate meltdown” are enough to accomplish geopolitical and climate stability. This is magical thinking.
So pull up the video. Listen to her thanks to supporters, her good intentions, and her hopes. Then read the written statements at the end where she continues with some lighter criticisms of Russia. Note: she is saying this in Moscow where she was, for some amount of time, in the company of Vladimir Putin. Having read former CIA chief Morrell’s statements on Putin and Trump, one has to wonder, has Putin played Stein. He said, “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.” Stein anyone?
Despite the cries of some, this isn’t Red baiting or suspicion of reds under the bed. Maybe for some hawkish Cold Warriors. In my mind, whether Stein has communist or socialist sympathies is irrelevant. Like many on the left and even center-left, I sympathize with socialist policies (not communist or collectivist policies). Putin is not a communist. He’s a kleptocratic oligarch. It’s whether she has the gumption to call out a brutal autocrat who used to be a high-level KGB operative. It’s whether she has the wherewithal to suspect and be advised when she’s being played.
Now, I’m not going to defend American wars or Russian wars, the bombing of Syria, the invasion of Crimea. I’m not going to tackle American imperialism or the ethics of imperial presidencies. One can take radically different approaches to empire by reading Noam Chomsky or George Friedman. Those are worthwhile. But I am going to ask the would-be commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military, the woman who would become the face of the American empire to answer a few questions.
1. Who is working with and advising you on how to realize your foreign policy platform through the executive branch of the United States government? Who is in your network that can credibly parlay with Sergei Lavrov? Who will negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu?
2. How do you compare the actions of President Obama with those of Vladimir Putin on domestic and foreign issues? For example, what are the differences in how they treat investigative reporters or musicians who are critical of them.
3. How will your foreign policy team work with other nations to prevent wars? What tools of diplomacy besides saying the words “diplomacy” and “universal human rights” will you and your team use? (See question #1 again.)
4. What foreign and domestic policy experience do you have? How can we be assured that you can further negotiate at the COP23 and beyond to avert a “climate meltdown?” What tools at the Executive Branch’s disposal would you use to act on later treaties?
5. Who would your allies be in congress to write legislation? Have you contacted or been contacted by them?
These aren’t mean questions. They are the questions we ask our presidential candidates. They are the questions we’d be asking Bernie Sanders if he were still in the race. We need to know what personnel Stein has in place because they will realize the policy.
Personnel is policy. Policies are designed to shape behaviors with the possibility that if they actually work, that they end up shaping beliefs. But when you get to implementing them and crafting them, who does that matters. As far as I can tell, Stein has nearly no one worth listening to close to her except Cornel West. West’s a brilliant radical critic who’s voice is necessary. He has no policy experience to speak of either. On climate change, I’d hope for some members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or prominent environmental voices. You know, someone like my friend Michael Mann. But he was part of the Clinton team. Or maybe Bill McKibben. But he was on the Sanders team. On July 12th McKibben said, “Secretary Clinton, we wish you Godspeed in the fight that now looms.” Serious people back serious candidates.
So with Stein we’re back at no one. We are back to what I can only conclude is bubble gum (organic of course) and unicorns (free range). She has no experience and no credible cabinet.
Now down ballot? Sure. Do it. Build the Green Party. If you live in the 60th, 64th, or 117th districts in Pennsylvania, you can vote for a Green running for state representative. Build its platform. Show its value. I’ll be a Green Democrat in the meantime pushing for progressive reforms.
In the meantime, I’m not voting for Jill Stein. Neither should you.
*I was a registered Green. But I was never contacted by anyone to do anything. Maybe I could have done more?