While Mitt Romney trips over his tongue with hysterical predictability and Barack Obama persists in calling America's economic criminal class folks, the two leading progressive candidates for president are putting it on the line, in Dr. Jill Stein's case boldly crossing it.
Less than a month after securing the Green Party nomination, Stein emerged from a Philadelphia jail on Aug. 2 declaring that a night behind bars should be "a required experience for anyone in public office." Both she and running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested the day before for protesting foreclosure policies at a Fannie Mae office on the city's Banker's Row.
And in a lengthy Q&A with The Nation's Sasha Abramsky, Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson called the Democratic Party "irredeemable" and Obama a "phony" on the issue of gay marriage.
"His position on equality was evolving?" the former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City asked incredulously.
Preliminary echoes from the 2012 presidential campaign don't bode well for social, environmental and economic justice in America, yet again. President Barack Obama is, with cynical predictability, adopting populist rhetoric on justice issues like student debt, gay marriage and immigration. But after four years of his pursuing moderate Republican policies, progressive voters find it impossible to take him seriously. Mitt Romney is the quintessential 1 percent candidate who instinctively parrots plutocratic doctrine, no matter how contradictory on its face.
On the alternative party front, Dr. Jill Stein, who once opposed Romney in a race for Massachusetts governor, garnered enough delegates in California's June 5 Green Party Primary to clinch its nomination at the Green's July convention in Baltimore. But what little media coverage there was of Stein's achievement focused on Roseanne Barr, who lost to Stein in California and then announced she will continue her candidacy and form a new party called the Green Tea Party.
While Jill Stein and the Green Party build on their infrastructure and now have 2012 ballot access in 20 states, Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson is seeking a third way for his alternative-party bid -- direct nomination via the online Americans Elect process.
"Americans Elect provides a unique opportunity to third-party candidates," Anderson said in a March 14 news release. "It gives the American people the ability to select their choice for president without worrying about the corporate investors backing their campaign. Declared candidates of Americans Elect are selected based on their qualifications rather than the size of their campaign war chest."
Americans' faith in the two-party system of governance may have plummeted to the point where alternative candidates and parties like Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party, former Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and his new Justice Party, renegade Republican Congressman Ron Paul and/or his former Libertarian Party, or the Socialist Party USA just might have a impact.
"The mood of the country is toxic," Daily Beast contributor Douglas Schoen wrote on Feb. 14, 2012, echoing a growing conversation about the roles "third parties" might play in this year's presidential election. The day before, Huffington Post bloggers Sheri and Allan Rivlin posted what they called a "bold" prediction that there will be multiple alternative party surges before votes are finally cast on Nov. 6.
In the days since the U.S. Green Party's (GP) Feb. 1 announcement that two candidates - Dr. Jill Stein and comedian Roseanne Barr - had filed the necessary paperwork to meet party requirements for its presidential ballot, the Massachusetts physician has emerged as the odds-on favorite. Even Barr, who insists her candidacy is serious, accepts Stein as the nominee apparent. On Feb. 2, the National Journal reported a Barr tweet:
"I will run until the convention in July in Baltimore - I fully expect Jill Stein 2b the nominee & I will support her, but til then - I'll serve."
Rocky Anderson is always deferential to Occupy Wall Street when asked about the movement, most recently in a Jan. 31 interview with the online environmental magazine Grist. Occupy has been a "very healthy thing in this country," and there’s an "enormous convergence" between its concerns and his. But for inspiration, the Justice Party candidate points to Tahrir Square, not Zucotti Park.
"One of the great inspirations for us was what we saw in much of the Arab world, where people were intent on overthrowing their nations’ dictators," he told Grist's special projects editor Greg Hanscom during a wide-ranging Q&A. "… They put their lives on the line, utilizing democratized means of communication through social networking and engaging in classic grassroots organizing — and they succeeded."
In late December, Green Party (GP) Media Coordinator Scott McLarty said he hadn't heard from declared candidate Kent Mesplay in several weeks. Two months earlier, the Boston Globe quoted fellow GP candidate Jill Stein saying his campaign was "not particularly active." Indeed, the San Diego County air quality inspector did not attend the California State Green Party meeting in early December. And he hasn't yet qualified for the 2012 ballot.
But when Mesplay joined Stein for a live-streamed party response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 24, he confirmed he is still in the race and called on the party to embrace the youth and their issues, especially student loans.
"Since Washington likes to bail out bankers, we ought to be bailing out students from having to pay their student loans," he said, adding that, at a minimum, they should be relieved of the excessive fees and fines charged by the banks.
The Green Party's Jill Stein embellished her reputation as the first "Occupy Wall Street candidate" on the American political scene in the days leading up to the Jan. 20 Occupy the Courts demos, as she carried her presidential aspirations to protest gatherings in the D.C. area.
"My hope is to leverage and support and promote the incredible inspiration and power that we're seeing here in this field today," the Lexington, Mass., physician said on Jan. 17 at the Occupy Congress event across from Capitol Hill. "The effort to occupy Congress I think is all about occupying our economy, about taking it back, taking back our democracy, and that includes occupying our elections."
Watching Newsweek's Eleanor Clift confront the question "Are most political reporters simply insiders?" is a discomfiting experience. Her struggle to defend the indefensible unavoidably inspires compassion for her uneasy predicament. But the case she makes so proves the point that any sympathy engendered morphs quickly into cynicism.
The political reporter appeared on a Dec. 29, 2011, panel discussion on Al Jazeera, subtitled the question du jour. Joining her were Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, of whose candidacy Clift knew nothing. Al Jazeera devoted a third of the half-hour program's opinions to the former Salt Lake City mayor. Clift apparently had never heard of him.
"I think Rocky Anderson is running probably to get his issues out there, more than from an expectation that he might necessarily win," she awkwardly speculated aloud, unsure about the Justice Party's name, no less.
Seven weeks before Jill Stein declared her candidacy for president, the Lexington, Mass., physician outlined her priorities in a plan she called the "Green New Deal" – jobs, climate change, universal health care and peace. When she announced her bid for the Green Party nomination on Oct. 24, 2011, the Chicago native presented herself as an alternative to the two "Wall Street parties.”
“They’re privatizing education, rolling back civil liberties and racial justice, plundering the environment and driving us towards the calamity of climate change,” she said in a news release accompanying her announcement. "… We need people in Washington who refuse to be bought by lobbyist money and for whom change is not just a slogan.”