Profile of a Lobbyist
[King: If you had the opportunity to write one Constitutional amendment, with an absolute guarantee it would be approved by Congress, and then following that, [by] three fourths of the state legislatures, what would you amend?]
I've already written it, please take a look at our website: www.voterocky.org. It's the new Equal Rights Amendment promising that equal rights under the law will never be abridged on account of gender or sexual orientation.
It's time that we have Federal protection for members of our GLBT community, and absolutely prohibit any discrimination on account of gender. That amendment (without the sexual orientation provision) fell by not getting the approval of only three states in this country. It's high time we revive it, add sexual orientation and gender identification, and make that statement as a nation: that we'll never allow discrimination on those grounds again.
[King: Do you think, Rocky, that would pass today?]
I do think it would pass, if the people made it clear that we insist upon it, and there will be a heavy political price paid by anybody in Congress or in the White House who opposes it.
It's really up to us. Major social movements in this country always started at the grassroots level. We're the leaders, let's make them follow us.
There's a famous saying from Alice Walker, that "the biggest way people give up power, is by not knowing we have it in the first place".
In fact there are 90 million voters who are not coming out this election, that's one out of every two voters. That's twice as many as the number who will come out for Barack Obama, and twice as many as the number who will come out for Mitt Romney. Those are voters who are saying "no" to politics as usual, and saying "no" to the Democratic and Republican parties. Imagine if we got out word to those 90 million voters, that they actually have a variety of choices and voices in this election.
And I want to focus especially on those 36 million students, and young people, and recent graduates, who are effectively indentured servants because of the high unemployment rate, and the draconian, unforgiving loans that have been customized especially for students, lacking any consumer protections.
If those students decided to stand up and go to the polls, and come out and vote for free public higher education, for ending student debt, for bailing out the students and breaking up the banks, instead of the other way around -- which is what they are doing -- we could turn politics in this country on its head on November 6th.
I encourage you: go to my website, get the word out. There is a choice in this election -- to take back our democracy, to create jobs for everyone through a Green New Deal, that will put an end to climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. We can do this now, by standing up, and making it so!
Let's legalize marijuana, now!
I am not a hypocrite on this issue; I have drank alcohol, I've smoked marijuana. I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke marijuana. But I can tell you categorically: in no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol. And yet we are arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug related crime. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world: 2.3 million people. Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts, and the prisons is drug related, and to what end?
We're on drugs. We're on drugs.
["We're on the topic of drug policy, so stay on topic."]
It took a cast of political eccentrics with no hope of winning the election, but Tuesday night finally brought a presidential debate that addressed climate change.
After three Obama/Romney debates and one vice presidential debate without a single mention of global warming, three of the four participants in a third-party candidates debate moderated by Larry King treated it as a serious issue.
In her opening statement, Green Party candidate Jill Stein called for a "green New Deal to create 25 million jobs, end unemployment, jumpstart the green economy—and that means putting a halt to climate change and making wars for oil obsolete." Rocky Anderson of the fledgling Justice Party went further, saying that the Pentagon had warned that "climate change is a greater long-term security risk to the United States than terrorism."
The media's fact-checkers apparently had the night off, so suffice it to say that it's unlikely the Pentagon would officially endorse that precise claim today. Still, Anderson is right that the Pentagon has identified climate change as a serious threat on several occasions. Obama and Romney, in contrast, have been mum, probably because neither candidate believes he has anything to gain politically from broaching the issue. (Why the moderators have let them off the hook is harder to understand.)
On Tuesday night, as CNN broadcast an interview with Newt Gingrich, who won't be on any ballots this November, four citizens who have actually won the nominations of their respective parties gathered in Chicago for a wide-ranging debate that was largely ignored. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Libertarian Gary Johnson all voiced ideas that aren't given their due by the two-party system, even as they differed dramatically about the best course for the federal government. To its credit, CSPAN broadcast the event, moderated by Larry King, as did the English-language version of Russia Today.
What do Libertarians, Greens, and Justice Party supporters agree about?
1. It's urgent to rein in the military-industrial complex and reorient American foreign policy away from bellicose interventionism.
2. Civil liberties are being trampled on by Democrats and Republicans.
3. The drug war is a failed policy. Some combination of decriminalization, legalization and regulation is needed.
It says something powerful that people so ideologically diverse agree on those significant points.
As we predicted in early September, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have prioritized criminal justice reform. In fact, they've managed - with the help of mainstream media and the debate moderators - to sidestep completely the discussion of drug policy despite its devastating and racially disparate impact on our citizens and communities, its waste of our tax dollars, and its failure to achieve its purported goals of reducing drug use. Which is why it was so refreshing to see these third party candidates tackle our failed war on drugs head on.
Culling questions for the candidates from various social media outlets, Larry King did not avoid the issue. "In what ways does the War on Drugs impact Americans? How could the effects be reduced? Is there a more efficient way to deal with the issue of drug use in America?"
Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson made his stance undeniably clear: "The War on Drugs has been catastrophic to our country. A waste of national treasure, and [an] unbelievable human tragedy." In two sentences, Anderson managed to encapsulate what reform advocates have argued for years -- that the War on Drugs is an atrocity, and that it must be stopped. Anderson went on to cite specific egregious examples of nonviolent drug offenders receiving decades' long prison sentences, highlighting the human toll of our country's misguided approach to drug policy.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein followed up with their own arguments for ending marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs. Stein, a former doctor, explained that "It is well understood that the health impacts of marijuana are mainly the public health and safety impacts from the illegal drug trade associated with marijuana prohibition." Science, she argued, is missing from our discussion of which drugs should and should not be scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency as controlled substances.
The winners of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation Third Party Debate have been announced!
Free and Equal Elections Foundation today announced that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will advance to the final Presidential debate on October 30 from 9:00 to 10:30 Eastern Time in Washington DC. The debate location will be at RT America’s state of the art studio and facility. RT America will open its studio and offer a live, neutral feed via satellite to interested media. The moderator will be announced on Monday, October 29.
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson participated in the first debate.
The voter’s ranked choices were collected at Free and Equal’s website after the first debate, with a total of 47,836 votes cast.
The votes were tallied via instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV tallies all the voters’ first choice candidates. Then, the candidate in fourth place is knocked off, and the second, third and fourth choices for those ballots are added to the other candidates’ totals.
“The voters have spoken, and we are pleased to announce that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will advance to the second debate,” stated Christina Tobin, founder and chair of Free & Equal.
The first debate garnered national and international media sponsors and worldwide coverage, bringing fresh new ideas and viewpoints to a large online audience. Replays are available on Ora.tv and RT America’s YouTube channels, Al Jazeera’s website, as well as Free & Equal’s website.
Free and Equal @freeandequal
Winners of October 23rd Presidential Debate Have Been Announced #NowThatsADebate Check them out @ http://tinyurl.com/bru8bty
Free and Equal @freeandequal
so proud to be a part of this historic moment.. America, your voice is heard, and no vote is 'wasted' http://twitpic.com/b6x8s5
The first debate was refreshing, lively, and charmingly disorganized. When moderator Larry King blew right through the promised opening statements to start with a question, it didn’t ruffle the candidates a bit. The discussion covered topics far too incendiary for the Republican and Democratic nominee, including the war on terror, immigration, legalizing marijuana, higher education funding, and gay rights.
For voters and news media unfamiliar with the third party candidates, they got to see and hear for themselves that they aren’t threatening, radical kooks with horns growing from their heads. Three of the four candidates in the October 23 debate have served in significant elected positions (governor, congressman, mayor of a major city); the fourth made a serious run for governor.
The tone of most mainstream news media coverage expressed amazement at the sincere interest among many voters nationwide of all political views in the third party candidates and in alternative choices for their vote. Reviews of the candidates’ performances and moderator Larry King have been largely positive, if slightly condescending about the longshot nature of these campaigns.
Why shouldn’t the coverage be positive? All four candidates in the debate are educated and thoughtful, passionate about their views and willing to express them openly and honestly without regard to polling and carefully massaged messaging created by campaign strategists. They also proved that good people can disagree without being disagreeable, focusing on explaining their own views instead of attacking each other.
In the first debate, all candidates except Goode supported legalization of marijuana to one extent or another; Stein proposed a “Green New Deal” that she said would eliminate unemployment by creating jobs in the clean-energy sector; and Goode said he would place a moratorium on immigration until the U.S. unemployment rate reaches five percent. Goode said the United States “should stop trying to be the overseer of the world,” and Johnson said he would cut defense spending by 43 percent and Stein said she would outlaw drone strikes.
Communities at Washington Times will hold a live chat for this encore Third Party Presidential Debate between Governor Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein on Tuesday, October 30, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The first third party debate chat drew our largest audience and liveliest participation of any political chat all campaign season.
[Tuesday's debate] did include candidates who dared to talk abut important issues that never came up in the presidential debates watched by 60 million people. The Free and Equal Elections Foundation sponsored a debate in Chicago last night with four presidential candidates -- Gary Jonson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party.
They discussed the war that the Democratic and Republican candidate refused to discuss: America's longest war -- the war on drugs.
And imagine if Congress passed a bill, that the President signed, that allowed indefinite detention without charge or trial. That would be issue one at any presidential debate, wouldn't it? The media's favorite debate moderator Martha Radditz would have forced a full discussion of that one at the vice presidential debate, wouldn't she?
Well Congress did pass that law last year, and President Obama signed it, and he never mentioned it on his list of accomplishments, in any of the debates. And he was never asked about it -- not by the media's second favorite debate moderator, Candy Crowley, and not by Mitt Romney. It never came up at the two-party presidential debates. No one pressed the president on how he could possibly sign a bill like that into law, and no one pressed Mitt Romney about why repealing that law is not on his day-one list.
If that law worries you -- if it concerns you in any way -- your concern, your interest in that law, is not represented by either of the two major parties. But at last night's debate, that law was called the "very definition of tyranny".
In the instantly immortal words of Larry King, "we're on drugs". The media is feeding you a drug called the "two-party system". Big media is incapable of covering a political landscape that is more complicated than the two-party system. Big media does not have the resources, or the interest or the intellectual capacity to cover something more complicated than the two party system. The two-party system and the electoral college have conspired to make most voters feel irrelevant to the outcome of the presidential election.
If, like most Americans, you live in one of the states where the outcome is predetermined, you should feel absolutely free to take a good long look at third party candidates, and pick one whose ideas you want to encourage. Your vote for the Libertarian or the Green Party will not affect the outcome in state where the president or Mitt Romney has a big lead. But your vote will say something important about what you believe.
The bad news about living in state like California is that you're completely ignored in the presidential campaigns, the good news is you can consider voting for a third party candidate without any worry your vote might tip the balance the wrong way in the electoral college.
You will be told "you're wasting your vote if you vote for a third party candidate because the third party candidate is not going to win the presidency". Well, I guess that means everyone who voted for John McCain for president or John Kerry for president wasted their votes too.
Having spent my lifetime in states irrelevant to the electoral college, I have mostly, in fact, voted for third party candidates for president. And I was always told I was wasting my vote. When I voted for Democrats for president who lost, I was never told I was wasting my vote.
I've actually voted for the winner of the presidency: exactly once. So please don't try to tell me that voting for a candidate who loses is wasting a vote in a democracy.
What I am saying is that Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone. Everyone must define their own deal-breakers. Doing so is no easy task in this broken world. But this year isn't a close call for me.
I find Obama likable when I see him on TV. He is a caring husband and father, a thoughtful speaker, and possessed of an inspirational biography. On stage, as he smiles into the camera, using words to evoke some of the best sentiments within us, it's hard to believe certain facts about him:
1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.
2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama's kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.
3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.
In different ways, each of these transgressions run contrary to candidate Obama's 2008 campaign. (To cite just one more example among many, Obama has done more than any modern executive to wage war on whistleblowers. In fact, under Obama, Bush-era lawbreakers, including literal torturers, have been subject to fewer and less draconian attempts at punishment them than some of the people who conscientiously came forward to report on their misdeeds.) Obama ran in the proud American tradition of reformers taking office when wartime excesses threatened to permanently change the nature of the country. But instead of ending those excesses, protecting civil liberties, rolling back executive power, and reasserting core American values, Obama acted contrary to his mandate. The particulars of his actions are disqualifying in themselves. But taken together, they put us on a course where policies Democrats once viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses are made permanent parts of American life.
There is a candidate on the ballot in at least 47 states, and probably in all 50, who regularly speaks out against that post-9/11 trend, and all the individual policies that compose it. His name is Gary Johnson, and he won't win. I am supporting him because he ought to. Liberals and progressives care so little about having critiques of the aforementioned policies aired that vanishingly few will even urge that he be included in the upcoming presidential debates. If I vote, it will be for Johnson. What about the assertion that Romney will be even worse than Obama has been on these issues? It is quite possible, though not nearly as inevitable as Democrats seem to think. It isn't as though they accurately predicted the abysmal behavior of Obama during his first term, after all. And how do you get worse than having set a precedent for the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens? By actually carrying out such a killing? Obama did that too. Would Romney? I honestly don't know. I can imagine he'd kill more Americans without trial and in secret, or that he wouldn't kill any. I can imagine that he'd kill more innocent Pakistani kids or fewer. His rhetoric suggests he would be worse. I agree with that. Then again, Romney revels in bellicosity; Obama soothes with rhetoric and kills people in secret.
To hell with them both.
Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as "the lesser of two evils" is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.
So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he’s a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he’s a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it’s just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it’s important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.
The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings — home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama’s policies severed this link, completely.
This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see “The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship” in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama’s oligarchy.
The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn’t fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what’s best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.
The Case for Voting Third Party
So, what is to be done? We have an election, and you probably have a vote. What should you do with it? I think it’s worth voting for a third party candidate, and I’ll explain why below.
But can a third-party candidate win? No. So what is the point of voting at all, or voting for a third-party candidate? My answer is that this election is, first and foremost, practice for crisis moments. Elections are just one small part of how social justice change can happen. The best moment for change is actually a crisis, where there is actually policy leverage. We should look at 9/11, Katrina and the financial crisis as the flip side of FDR’s 100 days or the days immediately after LBJ took office. We already know that a crisis brings great pressure to conform to what the political establishment wants. So does this election. We all know that elites in a crisis will tell you to hand them enormous amounts of power, lest the world blow up. This is essentially the argument from the political establishment in 2012. Saying no to evil in 2012 will help us understand who is willing to say no to evil when it really matters. And when you have power during a crisis, there’s no end to the amount of good you can do.
How do we drive large-scale change during moments of crisis? How do we use this election to do so? Well, voting third party or even just honestly portraying Obama’s policy architecture is a good way to identify to ourselves and each other who actually has the integrity to not cave to bullying. Then the task starting after the election is to build this network of organized people with intellectual and political integrity into a group who understands how to move the levers of power across industry, government, media and politics. We need to put ourselves into the position to be able to run the government.