It is uncommon for politicians to be introduced by their arrest record, but for Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2012 Presidential Candidate, it has become standard. In the packed Portland Senior Center on Sunday, Sept. 8, Stein was met with an enthusiastic audience made up of Green Party candidates, local denizens, and University students. Her Oct. 21, 2012 arrest–the result of an attempt to enter the presidential debate at Hofstra University–garnered her a standing ovation from those assembled.
Stein introduced the Green New Deal, her comprehensive plan for solving economic, health, and environmental issues facing America today. Similar to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Green New Deal will aim to reach one hundred percent employment while focusing on making communities sustainable and healthy.
“A Stanford University study looked at the cost of converting New York State to one hundred percent clean, renewable, and sustainable energy,” Stein said. “They found the cost of decommissioning fossil fuels and instead installing sustainable energy would be fully paid for by the healthcare savings from eliminating pollution. When you do the right thing for justice, the climate and the economy, you also get this incredible health windfall.”
Stein also discussed a number of current events, such as the possible war in Syria and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance.
“Syria is another proxy war for fossil fuels,” Stein said. “But with the Green New Deal, wars like this for oil become obsolete, because we will have secured energy independence. We have a right to peace as well as a right to justice and liberty. The Green Party stands for these rights.”
Ross Levin ’15 organized the transportation of University students to the speech, attracting a wide range of students from veteran members of the Green Party to politically conscious newcomers, including Sonia Max ’17.
“I didn’t know about Jill Stein until after the 2012 election, when I heard a couple of friends talking about her,” Max said. “She really appealed to my environmental side. She’s a great role model; I’m glad I went.”
Stein has had a similar impact on seasoned student members of her party.
“She’s serious about action, something that’s been a problem with the Green Party in the past,” Levin said. “She uses the Green Party as a tool to advance social justice, not just as a political party.”
Timothy McKee, spokesperson and National Committee Member for the Green Party, agreed with Levin.
“She’s one of the more successful candidates we’ve had to run for president as a true Green,” McKee said. “Stein has inspired local candidates to run, as well.”
Levin said that this emphasis on locality is a central theme to the grassroots movement that is the Green Party.
“Electing local officials is an important goal for this party,” he said. “In Richmond, California, the largest city in America with a Green Party mayor, they have been doing a lot of amazing things. They’ve used eminent domain to take property away from the banks and give it back to the people. They’ve got a citywide stimulus package to set up worker owned cooperatives. I think if you had more Green elected officials around the country in local positions you’d see more success like that.”
McKee stated that despite Stein’s popularity and influence within the party, she and the Green Party will have an uphill battle if they wish to oppose other mainstream parties.
“Getting into the debates is key,” McKee said. “But you need to win 15 percent of the vote to get in, which is very difficult without exposure in the debates.”
The Green Party is also at a sizable economic disadvantage compared to the Republican and Democratic parties.
“The Green Party is a low-budget party,” said Green Party of Connecticut Co-Chair Mike DeRosa. “In Connecticut, it costs $350 to get a list of voters in the state. We can’t buy this every month like the other two parties can.”
Stein remains resolute to continue to fight for the social transformation of the country, even after the 2012 November election.
“What if we just designated a couple days or a week when we were all going to get up and do some direct action of various forms, some pickets, occupations and sit-ins and really make ourselves seen and heard?” Stein asked her audience. “We have to stop the whole train that is about to run over the cliff.”