05 Nov 2012, Posted by admin in Packages,Uncategorized, No Comments. Tagged activism, Cincinnati, Green Party, Hamilton County, issues, journalism, New Media Bureau, politics, University of Cincinnati
Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are running for national office because they believe neither major party has the country’s best interests at heart.
Story, photo and video by Keith Bowers
A long line of early citizens wraps itself around the building of the Hamilton County Board of Elections building on Broadway Street in downtown Cincinnati. Supporters for such campaigns as the “Frederick Douglas Republicans” and “Ohioans for Obama” hand out flyers to those waiting, drawing amiable cheers or opposing grumbles.
Standing across the street stands a small band of dissenters – from the Green Party.
Dorsey Stebbins of Forest Park holds a sign: “To Protest, Vote for Jill Stein.” He is not alone in his passion.
The group has gathered in support of Stein, a physician from Massachusetts who is running for president under the Green Party platform with a single mother, Cheri Honkala, as her vice-presidential running mate. The two women are among the few independent candidates in the national race.
Gwen Marshall, co-chair of the Hamilton County Green Party, says, “Jill has been doing a really great job trying to raise issues.” Marshall, a teacher by trade, started the group in 2000 after being a foreign trade activist for the better part of the 1990s.
The Green Party’s platform focuses on a whole range of issues, with their main concerns being environmental degradation, corporate oversight, personal liberty and, this election, the healthcare debate. Their view is that neither of the major parties has the country’s best interests at heart.
“When both parties are controlled by the corporations with an agenda that’s money first and people last, neither party is working for us,” Marshall says. “Corporations aren’t people… A corporation is just a thing. It doesn’t care if the air is not breathable and the water is not drinkable. It consumes its people for resources.”
Although many consider the Green Party to be to far left, Marshall says, “We are mostly financially conservative. We don’t believe you just throw money or resources at a problem; you figure out what is the best way to use these resources.”
Pressing issues left to the wayside
Stein began her political career 20 years ago while working with environmental issues. She entered the Massachusetts gubernatorial race of 2002. Her national campaign took off just last year.
“I came to activism very late in life,” Stein says. “I was 40 years old, practicing medicine, had kids… and found myself feeling as though it wasn’t enough to be giving people pills and medical procedures and pushing them back to the things that were making them sick to start with.”
“As someone who hadn’t been involved in politics, I thought our elected officials would be interested in these issues.”
However, the political system wasn’t as she’d hoped. Stein says she slowly came to realize that special interests and the influence of those in power were hard to overcome. She says she saw pressing issues left to the wayside for political expediency, leaving grassroots activists and citizens with a feeling that their voices don’t matter.
“You run in place for about 10 years before you realize that the political system is there in order to protect the powers that be, basically,” Stein says. “That was a big wake-up call for me.”
The race is personal for Stein, who hails from the state where Mitt Romney and his version of the Affordable Healthcare Act was enacted.
“It makes it very familiar,” she says. “I got involved in this election never having been involved in national politics. I was very locally focused, you know, fighting incinerators around my community… from there I worked on state politics, but always with the viewpoint that we had to start at the grassroots level and build up from there. I was never interested in national campaigns at all.”
Stein says she and Green Party supporters went on the offensive after congressional filibustering and negotiations turned into wholesale concessions regarding healthcare.
“A year ago, last August, when President Obama started putting Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid on the chopping block as a solution to the debt ceiling crisis, which we didn’t need to have in the first place, I felt like we could not allow that to go unchallenged,” Stein says.
“The same healthcare battles that are being fought in Massachusetts are being fought in California and everywhere else,” Stein says. “Although we’ve adopted the Affordable Care Act, we call it Romneycare; it’s the same thing.
“We know that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t work. It’s been well studied by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the results are not good,” Stein says. “It helped some vulnerable groups, but hurt other very vulnerable groups. We do have a way to fix this, which is Medicare for all.”
Offering hope for some
The speech at the rally becomes louder as the chill of the fall evening begins to set in for the jacket-less speakers. Voters are still in line and listening to Stein and Honkala answer questions, while curious strollers stop for a few moments before continuing to the polls.
Election Day is drawing near, and, with only four percent of the population being declared as undecided voters, the chances of the Green Party’s success are slim. Even with this as a reality, the campaign trail has offered hope for some.
“I got into this race thinking it would be the hardest, most vicious, bitter race imaginable and that I would be the persona non grata, and it’s been exactly the opposite,” Stein says. “It’s actually been like handing out candy because there’s been such a wake up.
“It wasn’t at all like the mythology says it is. So many people were on the same page, and didn’t see themselves as red or blue, or politically labeled. They saw themselves as locked out of the system that was hijacked and predatory, really.”
The notion that the system is rigged and recent reports that elections are being interfered with via voting booth technology has perhaps created disillusioned citizens. Stein says she has found there are many who share her views and that the alternative political movement is growing.
“People were looking for a politics they could trust that didn’t have all the trappings of self-importance and the economic elite and all that we had become accustomed to – what politicians look like and what they talk like,” Stein says. She views her campaign as straightforward, with a no-nonsense attitude. She wants people to ask for transparency from their leaders.
Because, in the end, the choice should be clear. Laughing, Stein sums it up:
“Basically, if it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, talks like a rat – it’s a rat.”