The Jewish Presidential Candidate You Don’t Know
Why do you feel it’s important to operate outside the two-party system?
We’ve had this two-party illusion—that two corporate parties are all that are legitimate, and that anything else is dangerous. That actually turns democracy on its head. Voters are supposed to have choices; choices belong to us. In fact, by giving up those choices, by allowing there to be two major parties, you ensure that you get bought out by corporate America and Wall Street. That’s been the case now for several decades, as the Democratic Party has continued to hang its agenda on the shelf so that it’ll say one thing and do something entirely different. If you look at the last four years, there are marginal differences, of course, between Democrats and Republicans, but if you look at key policies, Obama effectively embraced the policies of George Bush and went beyond. Look, for example, at our civil liberties. People said you can’t vote for a third party—look at what Bush or McCain would do for our civil liberties. But actually Obama has codified all of Bush’s violations and has gone even further, so this president is now the keeper of the kill list, which can include and has included American citizens. We’re on a lethal trajectory right now, and we’re accelerating. Under both Democrats and Republicans, we’re accelerating off a cliff. Our answer to this politics of fear, which tells us to be quiet, is to say that the politics of fear have brought us everything we’re afraid of. We need to replace that politics of fear with the politics of courage, and it’s the politics of courage that has always moved us forward. Going back to the abolitionist movement, you had a social movement together with a small, independent political party. First it was the Liberty Party, which influenced the little independent Republican Party, which became a majority party with the election of Abraham Lincoln. It’s always taken an alliance of a social movement on the ground with an independent political party, which could articulate the vision and drive the demands forward and push real solutions into public discourse. Because without that independent party, all you have is corporate spin, which is not going to promote your solutions.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing as a third party candidate?
We are all living in an unresponsive political system, so it puts us in a position of being an underdog. We’re in a fight, but with very good company. Many of the usual channels are closed off to us. It will be very hard to get into the debates based on these completely anti-democratic rules, arbitrary rules that have been set by the Commissioner on Presidential Debates—which is run by the Democratic and Republican parties, so of course they’re going to make rules that effectively smother opposition voices. The real opposition is Independents who are not sponsored by Wall Street and corporate politics, and that’s what’s threatening to them, and that’s what their rules are intended to discourage. So how do we work around this? Think Tunisia; think Egypt. They did not have political parties, and they certainly didn’t have the support of the media, but they had the Internet, they had social media, they had the power of their voices to sound the alarm.
What do you say to people who may agree with your positions, but who don’t want to “waste” their vote?
That’s been the drumbeat for the last ten years after Ralph Nader—you don’t dare vote your values, you’ve got to vote your fears. But look where it got us: The expanding war, the massive Wall Street bailouts, the attacks on civil liberties, the undermining of wages. This is a public relationship campaign created by corporate parties to silence opposition. Silence is not an effective strategy. It’s because of that silence that we’re surging to the Right. We need to be heard as loud and clear as we possibly can in November, because if you go into the voting booth and you vote for either Wall Street-sponsored candidate, your vote will be used as a mandate for four more years of Wall Street rule. Your vote will do that—it will be used as a weapon against you. It’s really important for us to not raise the white flag of surrender over the voting booth. To do that effectively destroys everything we’ve worked for outside the voting booth. On a recent Washington Post poll after the turn of the year, about 49 percent of people said they didn’t support either party, they felt we needed a third party, and they would seriously consider voting for one. Well, if a third party vote put in 49 percent of people, that leaves the other two parties dividing what’s left. This fight does not end in November. Because the policies that have brought us here are not going away—whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican—we’re going to have to continue to fight for our lives here, and fight for our jobs, and fight for our right to education, to fight for our civil liberties, which are increasingly off-limits to us.
You ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, the same year Mitt Romney ran. What was it like to run against him? Do you have any anecdotes you can share? Do you think his views have changed in the past 10 years?
It was like running against a robot. His campaign kept doing things like dressing up to pump gas. He would do a photo-op, that Romney pumps gas. I think another one was waiting on tables. That was how Romney showed how much he understood what it’s like to be a working person. He basically bought the election, which is what he’s trying to do now. His lines didn’t change. Romney’s line was that we needed to run Massachusetts like a better business. My response was that we needed to run Massachusetts not like a better business, but like a better democracy, and I think I was proven right. Running the country like a business is not the answer; it’s the problem.
If you were president, what would your relationship with Israel and Iran be like?
A foreign policy in which we are spending a trillion dollars a year in a bloated military and security complex isn’t working. We need to elevate human rights and international law as the basis for our international policy. And we need to ask everyone, our allies and our traditional adversaries, to star raising the bar for respecting human rights and respecting international law. So that means asking Palestinians, Hamas and Israel, as well as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, to end the violations of human rights, to end attacks on civilians, and to respect international law and for those who are warring parties, we need to get them to sit down at the table and start building trust and peace. We want to work especially with groups on the ground in Israel, and among the Palestinians, who are beginning to build trust and who are beginning to build respect for human rights and for peace, and to ask them to lead the way in continuing to build trust and build peace and move forward from there.
What is your message to American Jews?
We can have an enormous influence going forward. That means really approaching this with a new openness, and a new awareness that this entrenched conflict is not getting solved. We all need to come together using our highest values as Jews, and our respect as Jews for human rights and for civil liberties, which we understand as well as anybody because of the anguish and the catastrophes we have experienced repeatedly. We need to be the leaders here in elevating human rights and civil liberties for all people. And we need to understand that our security as Jews cannot be separated from the security for all people, from persecution and from the violation of human rights. We can take a lead based on the lessons of our history; we can take a lead in pushing forward to a new frontier of peace and international relations based on law and based on human rights.