Dr. Stein, MD, is the candidate for the Green Party, running her second pro-environment and anti-big money campaign. She first ran in 2012, bringing in just under 400,000 votes, not anywhere near enough to make her a contender...but hardly no one, either. This cycle, she’s back, voicing the idea that both political parties have been too corrupted by corporate money to serve the needs of the American people and fighting for open access to the major party debates — and a spot on the ballot in many states.
Refinery29 sat down with Stein to discuss why she's in the race despite such long odds, why she thinks differences between the two major parties aren't big enough, and why voting for women isn't enough.
You talk a lot about the similarities between the Democratic and Republican parties. Obviously, there are areas where they support the same thing, but there’s a huge split on things like reproductive rights and judicial appointments. Is there really no difference?
"This politics of fear tells you, 'Don’t dare stand up for what it is you really need.' It tells you that you need to vote based on your fears of the worse guy, knowing the Democrats might do a couple things right.
"The Democrats may appear to be more sympathetic, but they haven't done the job when they could have. They could have passed an Equal Rights Amendment. They could have ensured that we have equal wages. Their solutions tend to be sort of marginal.
"On reproductive rights, poor women have been denied abortions for a long time. The Democrats manage to do it for more privileged women, but they're not taking care of the women who are in incredible need. I don’t think they really have distinguished themselves on women's rights. On some areas they're better, but they don’t really deliver."
Our current politics tell you to vote based on your fears of the worse guy, because the other side does a few things right.
A lot of ideas — student debt relief, raising the minimum wage, tackling police violence — have moved from the political fringes to the mainstream. Do you think we’ve reached a place where we can take promises from candidates on these issues seriously or do we need to do more work to hold politicians accountable?
"This is the question of the hour: Are we going to be channeled into irrelevant endeavors as the parties keep marching to the right, or are we going to stand up and establish an independent political base? Our job is to be as organized as we can, to bring as many people as we can into a unified movement for people, planet, and peace.
"The Green Party needs to be that electoral voice because we are the only national party not poisoned by corporate money. The differences between the parties are not worth what we lose by surrendering our power.
"Look at what we achieved under as regressive a president as Richard Nixon. We got women's right to choose by public pressure on the Supreme Court. We got the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the E.P.A. and started bringing the troops home from Vietnam. The name of the game is it's not so much who is sitting in the White House, it's who's protesting outside. If we allow ourselves to be talked into being cowards in the voting booth, then everything we do outside the voting booth basically counts for nothing."
"It's not so much who is sitting in the White House, it's who's protesting outside."
What should we be asking for when it comes to what kind of candidates we want, besides, "It would be great to see a woman running?"
"You know we need a diverse set of candidates that looks like the American public, so we need half women. And whether it's exactly half or not, it doesn’t matter, but women's voices need to be represented and there are a diversity of women's voices.
"We need to have African American women and Latino women and Caucasian women and women across the spectrum and working women, as well as middle class and wealthier women. You know we deserve the same diversity that others do.
"And by the same token, we also need candidates who are standing up for the issues that matter to women. And I think we shouldn’t be satisfied with simply checking off one box with simply superficial lookalikes in the way that Barack Obama did not represent our stand up for the needs for African Americans, who went from having 10 cents on the dollar of wealth."
There are a ton of grassroots groups doing work right now, Black Lives Matter, Strike Debt, Fight for 15. What kind of connections have you been able to make with them?
"I was invited to speak at a rally in March with the mothers of young men who have been killed — young African American men who were killed by police. They were getting together for the first time in Washington D.C. on Mother's Day, so I spent Mother's Day with other mothers. And though I was one of a handful of Caucasian people there, it felt like we were able to bond around just being mothers who were ready to take nothing less than justice for their sons, for everyone's sons, and calling for the kinds of changes that I think our campaign stands alone among presidential declared candidates now.
"We’re calling for standing investigators who routinely investigate all deaths at the hands of police for citizen police commissions, for not depending on grand juries that are already deeply tied to their police forces. Also, we called for economic investments in these communities. We want nothing less than full employment."
I was recruited by the Green Party and I said, 'Well, everything else has failed, why not try this?'
What brought you into politics?
"I came into politics as a mother above all, seeing the world of my children being absolutely thrown over the cliff. My background is as a medical doctor and I had worked in a clinic. I became involved in community issues and in health advocacy.
"I totally distrusted the system. I voted, but that was about all I did. I was an advocate on health and jobs and things like that, but not involved in the political process. I was recruited by the Green Party in my home state and I said, 'Well, everything else has failed, why not try this?'"
Have there been times in your life where you had to deal with sexism?
"In terms of my own experience, you know it's hard for me to separate out what's been kind of bias against me as a woman and bias against me as a public interest candidate, but in my view, those two go together.
"When we fought our way in the debates in the 2010 Massachusetts governor’s race, they did things like give me trivial questions, and they wouldn’t ask me fundamental questions about the economy and jobs. I can tell you they were not on the key issues that I really wanted to speak on. And they didn’t give me the same amount of time or the number of answers. They then cut me out of the reporting on the debate. The picture of the debate was the three guys — and not the woman."
If there were one piece of advice that you could give to millennial women, what would it be?
"Be as powerful as you are. Don’t let them talk you out of your power. Your vision, your sense of family and community as our priority is absolutely right. We're not only half the population, but other oppressed groups, people of color, Latinos, working people who've been thrown under the bus, the minute we get together, we are unstoppable.
"We’re here for the long haul. Our job is to get as far as we possibly can in this election to build an independent power base that actually reflects our values and our power to move that forward. Don’t take no for an answer. Our lives depend literally on standing up for the future that we and our children deserve."