Green Party presidential candidate visits Greensboro

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Jill Stein credit Jordan Greenby Jordan Green

Jill Stein, the frontrunner for the Green Party’s nomination for president, brings her low-key campaign to Greensboro. 

It wasn’t exactly the hero’s welcome that Bernie Sanders, the progressive candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president, received when he spoke to an overflow crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center in September.

Dr. Jill Stein, the frontrunner in the Green Party’s presidential nomination contest, by contrast, shared a dais with three other panelists during an appearance on Monday night at the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium at Guilford College. Compared to the estimated 9,000 people who showed up for Sanders’ appearance, about 40 people — a left-field mixture of Palestinian rights supporters, Black Lives Matter activists, environmentalists, radical gardeners, and single-payer healthcare proponents — filled the auditorium seats for Stein and her fellow panelists. Other panelists included John Heuer, a national board member of Veterans For Peace; Dr. Jonathan Kotch of Healthcare for All NC; and Tony Ndege of Hands-Up Winston-Salem and Occupy.

Stein made the best of the forum, eagerly addressing questions from the audience and looking for ways to rhetorically complement her fellow panelists. When one audience member asked about the most effective way to carry out mass resistance, Stein raised the example of the Syriza party in Greece.

“Syriza was originally the radical-left party in Greece,” she said. “Originally, it was a movement, like the movements in the street with protests and mobilizations. It got really big… and when it created a political party it was actually able to take power. It went from like below the radar to 1 percent to 3, then 7 percent and it was 37 percent. And it was the dominant party.”

What happened next could be a cautionary tail for the Green Party, were it able by some stroke of amazing fortune to break through in the US political process.

“Syriza kind of hit the wall because it was facing this debt from the European Central Bank,” Stein said. “It needed support across borders. Had there been other radical-left political parties in the other states of the EU, Syriza wouldn’t have been stopped. It’s still an ongoing struggle; it’s not over yet. But I think we’re all going where Greece is…. I agree with the sentiment that we’ve got to take the struggle into the realm of politics: We’ve got to fight in the streets and fight in the voting booth.”

Fielding questions during a one-on-one interview in Hege Library before the panel discussion, Stein demonstrated that she has prepared for the inevitable Bernie question.

“He’s doing a great job in the wrong party,” Stein said. “They have a way of exercising the kill switch to stop candidates that challenge the corporate status quo.”

She went on to say that Super Tuesday, with 12 states cued up to hold primaries on March 1, “requires candidates to have hundreds of millions of dollars to run TV ads, and that weeds out the non-corporate candidates.” She added that the super delegates — generally party insiders who are not beholden to their states’ popular votes — act as the “ultimate insurance policy against non-corporate candidates.”

As the Green Party nominee in 2012, Stein is expected to again prevail as the party’s standard-bearer at the nominating convention in Houston next August. In 2012, Stein won the nomination against actress Roseanne Barr.

Tactics aside, Stein says the Green Party differs with Sanders’ social-democratic platform, particularly in foreign affairs. She characterized Sanders’ foreign policy positions as a continuation of President Obama’s interventionist stance.

“We think foreign policy should be based on international law, human rights and diplomacy,” Stein said. “He believes you can fight these things out. Our view is we created ISIS through our foreign policy.”

Stein laid out a foreign-policy stance that would be difficult for any Democratic Party candidate to embrace without exposing themselves to charges of being weak on national security.

“I think military domination is obsolete,” Stein said. “It’s not a choice; it’s coming to terms with reality. We need to be partners in a collaborative approach.

“Russia has provided us with indicators that they’re ready to be partners,” she added. “Russia’s defensiveness around Ukraine should be compared to our defensiveness about Russia putting missiles in Cuba. As a condition of Germany’s reunification, we agreed that NATO would not expand to the east, and we absolutely broke that agreement.”

Stein said the Green Party’s domestic platform is more robust than the proposals advanced by the Sanders campaign.

“We go further than Bernie, who calls for works program that would provide jobs for 13 million people,” she said. “We propose a works program that employs everyone.”

The party’s proposed Green New Deal includes a two-pronged approach to protecting the environment — creating sustainable food systems and enhancing public transportation, including sidewalks and bike infrastructure. Stein says in interviews and campaign appearances that Cuba’s experience producing food after losing access to oil in the 1990s is an example of how the Green New Deal could be economically sustainable.

Predicting that Hillary Clinton will prevail in the Democratic nomination fight, Stein said she expects that Sanders supporters will be tempted to jump ship — to the Green Party’s benefit.

“When Bernie folds into Hillary’s camp, I think there’s a very strong movement that’s going to need a place to go,” she said.

Speaking at Bryan Auditorium, Stein proved equally adept at fielding questions about causes with widespread support among voters and topics that might be more divisive.

Responding to a question about what prevents the United States from adopting paid maternity leave, Stein said, “There are so many things which are basically motherhood and apple pie which are thwarted by the political system, which is essentially fronted by predatory banks, fossil fuel polluters and war profiteers.”

When another audience member asked a rambling question about the United States’ stance on Israel and Palestine, Stein tackled it with equal eagerness.

“We should not be in the business of funding a war criminal,” she said. “As outrageous as that is, it’s even worse that Obama is meeting with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu now to discuss increasing the funding for the Netanyahu government.”