Green Party Convention, Chicago, Illinois, July 12, 2008
The Green Party is making history today. According to one source, 45 women have run for President in primary elections in the United States in the 20th Century; 22 have made it on the ballot in at least one state in November. Thank you, Green Party, for pulling this history train from the station.
But we make history today only because we must. In 2008, after two stolen Presidential elections and eight years of George W. Bush, and at least two years of Democratic Party complicity, the racket is about war crimes, torture, crimes against the peace; the racket is about crimes against the Constitution, crimes against the American people, and crimes against the global community. The racket is even about values that we thought were long settled as reasonable to pursue, like liberty and justice, and economic opportunity, for all. Ö.
I celebrated my birthday last year by doing something I had done a dozen times in my head, but had never done publicly: I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every threat leveled, every civil liberties rollback, every child killed, every veteran maimed, every man tortured, and the national leadership that let this happen. At that pro-peace rally in front of the Pentagon, I noted that nowhere on the Democratic Partyís Congressional Agenda for their first 100 days in the majority was any mention at all of a livable wage, the right of return for Katrina survivors, repealing the Patriot Acts, the Secret Evidence Act, the Military Commissions Act, or bringing our troops home now. Nowhere on the Congressional Democratsí agenda was an investigation into the Pentagonís ìlossî of $2.3 trillion that Rumsfeld admitted to just before September 11th. And nowhere was there any plan to get that money back for jobs, health care, education, and for veterans. Not even repeal of the Bush tax cuts that have helped to usher in, according to some, levels of income inequality not experienced in this country since the Great Depression. And instead of Articles of Impeachment to hold the criminals accountable, impeachment was taken ìoff the table.î
There is no doubt that the people of this country and in the global community are suffering from Washington, D.C.ís policies today.
Even as the ice in the Arctic Ocean reportedly was melting, the United States was obstructing an international discussion of climate change goals-setting for 2020 at the recently-concluded G-8 Summit. Even as George Bush has made himself an international climate change villain by not signing onto the Kyoto Protocol, his own scientists at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program have predicted more heat waves, intense rains, increased drought, and stronger hurricanes to affect the U.S. due to the worsening effects of climate change.
Public policy can be our friend or it can be our foe in understanding and working through the immense changes our planet is undergoing. We the voters, the activists, the policy wonks, the candidates, and the elected officials all have a role to play in making public policy. As I have said so many times during this campaign for the Green Party nomination, politics is not a beauty contest; it is not a fashion show; it is not a horse race. Politics is the authoritative allocation of values in a society. Politics is about values being reflected in public policy. It is about having power over public policy. And we engage in the political process because we want our values reflected in public policy.
Had the Green Partyís values been reflected in public policy since the beginnings of the Green Party in this country, the United States would have long ago implemented a livable wage; there would be no civil liberties erosion; diversity would be respected, appreciated and welcomed; education would be interesting and relevant to studentsí lives and no student would graduate from college $100,000 in debt in a Green Party USA because education, not incarceration and militarization, would be subsidized by the state. In a Green Party USA, health care would be provided for everyone here through a single payer, Medicare-for-all type health care system. We would have no homeless men and women sleeping on our streets and everyone who could work would have work. Rebuilding our infrastructure, manufacturing green technology, retooling our economy so that those who protect us, train us, heal us and prepare us for tomorrow are compensated in what is their true value to our culture and our society, based on their contribution to our civilization. Vietnam War-era veterans would be our last war veterans because we would never have been engaged in war and occupation against Afghanistan and Iraq. We would forego imperial designs on our neighbors to the north and south, never building any wall of division, not ever encroaching on their geographic or cultural sovereignty.
In fact, if Green Party values were now reflected in U.S. public policy, our country not only would not be engaged in war and occupation, there would be peace in the Middle East based on self-determination, respect for human rights, and justice. We would strive to perfect our democracy at home through election integrity and no one would be denied their rightful place in our Union due to discrimination. Our neighbors in the global community would look up to us for our cultural and technological accomplishments. We would have apologized for genocide against the indigenous peoples of this land and the abomination of chattel slavery. Our country would have dignity on the world stage and in every international forum, and no one in this country would be made to live in fear.Ö
Our quality of life today is the making of the Democratic and Republican Parties. What our country has become through their public policy is reflective of their values. We will never get a United States that is reflective of different values if we continue to do the same thing. Those who delivered us into this mess cannot be trusted to get us out of it.
Thatís why I signed up to do something Iíve never done before so I can have something Iíve never had before: My country, made in the likeness of the values of the Green PartyÖ.
It is hard to not hear the warning signs of a new war: a war against Iran. Dick Cheney told us to expect war for the next generation. The Republicans launched this war economy and their presumptive nominee said that we could stay in Iraq for the next 100 years and even sang a song for the bombing of Iran. The Democratic majority in Congress just voted to fund the war into 2009 and has 200 sponsors on a bill that declares war on Iran by calling for a naval blockade. A naval blockade is a declaration of war. The Democratic presumptive nominee wants to increase the size of the overused military and the budget for an already-bloated and wasteful Pentagon. I am the only candidate who has consistently voted against the Pentagon budget, voted against the war in Iraq, and I voted against the bills that funded it. The Green Party was against the war when it started, is against the war now, and is against any military action against Iran that might take place tomorrow. The Green Party is a peace party. A Green vote is a peace vote.
Not a word has been mentioned in this political season about the disparities that exist within our country with the recognition that public policy can erase them. And even though for the first time a woman and an African-American were being taken seriously in national primaries, a real discussion of race and gender has been studiously avoided on all sides. At a time when the United States is under review, itself, by the United Nations for its poor record on domestic respect for human rights, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a real discussion of race and gender is needed now more than ever. On some indices, according to United for a Fair Economy, the racial disparities that exist today are worse than at the time of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Right here in Chicago. Hull House reported that it would take 200 years, without a public policy intervention from elected leadership, for the quality of life experienced by black Chicagoans to equal that of white Chicagoans.
Women are still the overwhelming profile of the minimum wage worker in this country. 65 percent of all minimum wage workers are women, according to 2005 statistics. Despite the law, women still go to work every day, performing the same tasks as men, yet bring home less pay than their male counterparts. Asian-American and Pacific Island women make 88 cents for every dollar earned by men, but African-American women earn only 72 cents and my Latina sisters earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men. Overall, according to 2007 statistics, women with similar education, skills, and experience are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality for working women in this country. And the glass ceiling is all too real.
Twenty years ago, Green party activists saw through this two-party box that voters have been put into in this country and started the Green Party here. And what we have to remember is this: whatever it is that we want in the realm of public policy, we can get if we have the right elected officials in office. Nothing for us is impossible. Politics is about shared values being reflected in public policy. And these Green party candidates standing with me are the right kind of people who will implement the right kind of public policy that reflects our shared values.
We are in this to build a movement. We are willing to struggle for as long as it takes to have our values prevail in public policy. A vote for the Green Party is a vote for the movement that will turn this country right side up againÖ.
Thank you, Green Party, for granting Rosa and me this supreme honor. Now letís go out there and get busier. Weíve got a lot of work to do.
Power to the People!