A few weeks from now, Green Party candidate Jeremy Cloward will face several other candidates in a contest to represent the 10th congressional district of California in the United States House of Representatives. The special election was triggered when Ellen Tauscher resigned the position in order to accept a position within the U.S. Department of State.
The following is a transcript of a conversation between Cloward and Irregular Times.
I want to start by asking how this special election is working in terms of timing, because I see that your site lists the election as happening on September 1st, but other sites that I've seen list that as just a primary election, with the general election taking place on November 3rd. Can you help those of us who aren't from California to understand how this system works, especially given that you're the only Green Party candidate in the election?
Sure. The idea is that if no one in gets fifty percent plus one in the September 1st primary, or election, that it will go to the general election on November 3rd. So, some people are hoping, I'm sure, that they will get fifty percent plus one of the vote and we won't have a general election. The other candidates, there are actually 14 people who qualified, so there are three or four Democrats who are fairly well known.
Do you have to get a certain percentage in that election to go on to the general election?
No, actually, you don't. The only thing you need to do is to be the top vote-getter for your party. So, the top vote-getter for the Democrats will go on to the November 3rd election, the top vote-getter for the Republicans, the top vote-getter for the Green Party, et cetera, will go on to the November 3rd election, if there is in fact a November 3rd election.
What are your strategies and perceptions, given your background in the Green Party? If I'm understanding your background correctly, you've been both a student in political science. I'd like to know what some of the insights are you take from that background, and how those insights would lead you to campaign in a way that other candidates haven't in the past.
My objective of running with the Green Party, is that it has been the one third party that has given a legitimate chance of being attractive to the voters and actually getting people elected. In terms of strategy, what I think the Green Party needs, and has needed, and you see it I think with some people, but one of the things it needs as much as possible... it needs people who are serious enough, and I think this is important, to wear jackets and ties when they meet people publicly. By doing that, by looking serious, I think there's a better chance of people taking the Green Party seriously.
The Green Party has good ideas and a good political philosophy. Who knows the numbers, but 80 percent, 90 percent of the population, would support it, but I think a lot times, people see representatives of the Green Party, and they don't see themselves as being in there. So, it's a strategy that would work, to dress well.
Now, beyond that, as far as a strategy of connecting with people, that approach literally takes the campaign into the streets, and what we mean by this is to literally pass out pamphlets, and this is probably not so different from other Green Party members, but pass out pamphlets, with a local organization near the mass transit and in that area, with a picture of us on it, and a handful of ideas from our campaign literature, and I can actually talk to people. So, that's our strategy. Get the word out.
You were talking about wearing a suit and tie as a way to show that the Green Party is serious. What are some of the other things, small, practical elements of your campaign, through which you indicate that message?
That we're serious? We present ourselves as best as we can, that we discuss ideas that we believe are relevant to most people. For example, one of the ideas that we have discussed, one of the policies we're proposing is universal day care. This is something that we're proposing that is practical to many people in this district.
The universal day care, and also the larger educational initiative that you were talking about, having the government assist people in their education all the way up through an undergraduate degree - is that correct?
Through a graduate degree. We think that one of the practical concerns that people have would be universal day care. Most of us do have or will have children at some point in our lives. It is essential that they are cared for in a way that we feel good about. Most of us, the reason we have kids in day care is that we're at work, so while most of us already have day care centers at school, most of us pay for it.
What we propose is taxing corporate profits, over six trillion dollars in 2007, tax it at one percent, and from that one percent, we would generate six billion dollars. You need roughly 85,000 dollars for every each of our 60,000 to 70,000 elementary school to middle school kids. So, this is a practical program that we think many people would respond to, as well as, as you mentioned, universal education, which we think should be the highest aim of any society.
We have universal education K through 12. We do support, and we have a proposal for, universal education K through graduate school. It's not that difficult to imagine. Poor, third world countries like Cuba have universal education. Not only do they have universal education, kindergarten through graduate school, but they provide medical education, graduate medical education to poor citizens of the United States who can't afford to go to medical school in the United States.
The money for this, in case there's any concern that it's going to come from taxes, would actually come from a reduction in military spending. The military budget is currently at 690 billion dollars per year, and just to put this number into context, that is actually more than all other 193 countries combined. Second, and they're not really close, second is China. China spent roughly, their reported military budget is 59 billion dollars.
So, we support, and we are proposing a policy to reduce military spending by six sevenths, and transfer that money to more constructive programs, and one of those would be education. We would take that 690 billion dollars that's currently allocated to the military and use it to pay for college and graduate school for all people. This breaks down to roughly ten thousand dollars per student per year. These are constructive ideas that we think will appeal to many people.
So, you may have noticed that current members of Congress have been reacting very strongly in resistance to efforts to reduce even military programs that are obviously wasteful and unnecessary, like the F-22. I'm wondering, in comparison to that, what kind of reaction you're getting from the citizens in your district. Is it like what we see with the members of Congress, or is it something different?
The military, we don't hear too much about that. People responding to that, they don't see much wrong with that, I would say. There is resistance, and there are obvious reasons I'm sure you know about that members of Congress don't want to defund those programs, but that's not something that we hear that much about.
One of the things that we have gotten some resistance to is that we're also proposing a living wage of 20 dollars an hour. Some people say that they ought to be able to pay just minimum wage, ten or eleven dollars or whatever it may be. So, that's one thing we're seeing resistance to, in our district, surprisingly. It's worth noting that one person this objection came from was a business owner. A business owner did not like the idea of us imposing a living wage, and as part of that living wage putting a cap on how much corporate executives can make. They didn't like it so much, but that's part of our political philosophy, and our campaign slogan, which we actually believe, it's not just put out there in order to attract people, although we hope it does that, is that we're trying to create a more just and equal society. This is one of those policies that will help us work toward a more just and equal society.
In terms of your positioning, do you see yourself as positioning primarily against the Republicans, or against the Democrats, or not against any other party but just as a Green?
Our plan, our proposal is to make ourselves as attractive as possible, and by doing this we hope to attract as many people as possible. The reality of the 10th district of California is that it is fairly, it is heavily Democratic, and the Democrats, if you believe what you see out there in the media, will be the ones that more than likely, to paraphrase how it's usually put in the papers, are more than likely to win the 10th district seat.
We don't see ourselves as necessarily positioning ourselves against them, but we know that that is someone that we're definitely competing with. We hope that we will attract some of the voters from the Democratic Party who have become disillusioned with the Democratic Party, because they realize that the issues that are important to them simply will not be realized by the Democratic Party itself. This has proved true again and again, but many people still go back to the Democratic Party, to vote for the Democratic Party. So, those are the people we need to attract, and that is our hope, that they will be disillusioned enough to go in a direction that is consistent with their interests.
What are some of those Democratic Party constituencies, say the top two or three, that you see that are becoming disillusioned, and along what issues?
Hopefully, they recognize that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not likely to be ending any time soon. President Barack Obama has made a commitment to ending the wars, but there's no guarantee that that's going to happen. We have a specific policy to end the war. One of the greatest powers in the Constitution, for the United States House of Representatives, is the power of the purse. Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not necessarily a matter of negotiating and debate. Instead, it's more of a matter of just cutting the funding for the war, just as it was in Vietnam, and that will effectively end the wars. Let the Iraqis and Afghans get on with putting their own countries back together and establishing their own governments.
Another one, and this one is fairly obvious. While we're willing to say that maybe the verdict is still out on the wars, and maybe there's some chance that they will end, to use the issue of universal health care while it's being actually addressed by all the top candidates in the district, Congress is unlikely to pass a genuine universal health care system. In fact, that's not even being considered. What is being considered is a part public, part private health care program. The Democrats, who are being led by President Barack Obama, who of course is a talented person, have used those words, universal health care, to mean something that they're not supposed to mean. They're basically using it to mean part public, part private.
Even Obama's program, which is not universal health care, is meeting resistance in the United States Senate and in the United States House of Representatives, particularly from the conservative Democrats in each house. There was just an article in the paper this morning discussing that the health care proposal is unlikely even to be voted on before the fall. So, that's another issue that is having a difficult time being resolved in a way that is going to cover all 47 million Americans who right now do not have any health care coverage.
What about Prop 8? How do you see that issue evolving during the course of your campaign in California, with respect to yourself, and to the other candidates?
You know, it's not talked about as much as you would think. There is an effort to try to put it back on the ballot, to overturn the ban. It is notable that we have one candidate, a Democratic candidate in this race, that is openly gay, and he obviously opposes Prop 8. I don't want to say anything bad about him, but I haven't seen him say much more about it than that. As far as I know, it's not one of his three or so major planks in his platform. Gay marriage is not talked about enough, is not talked about that much, in general and in particular with this race. It certainly is, I know in other places, away from the campaign and the classroom, it is talked about fairly regularly. I haven't heard that much discussion about it during the campaign.
What's your perception about why that is, given that it's so recent an issue and so particular to California?
That's a good question, and I don't know. I don't know why, other than, well, the reason that the Republicans are not talking about it is that they're not interested. Obviously, their constituents are not going to support it. Then, my guess is that the Democrats don't see it as an issue that is going to help them. So, they're not necessarily going to bring it up. The vote was fairly close, and so it's not an issue that they're going to be interested in taking up.
Of course, we have taken it up. That's what politics should be, that you say what you think and then let the people decide whether they want to be with you or not. We support overturning Proposition 8, and recognize that people who are 18 years old or older should be allowed to marry who they want to.
It's really just a few weeks until that Septemeber primary election. What kind of events are going to be taking place in your campaign between now and then, and are those going to be your sort of classic campaign events, or are you doing other things to, as you said before, take the message directly to the people there?
As much as possible, it will be classic campaign type of stuff. We'll try to have a couple of events. Interviews, of course, we'll be doing to get the message out as much as possible. Those are the main ways, and as we talked about earlier, we're going to be literally going to the people with our campaign literature, and as much as you can in this short amount of time, talk to them.
What about for Greens who are outside your district, or even outside of California? What can these people be doing to help you out with your campaign, given that it's, in terms of its timing, so close and so outside of the ordinary campaign schedule?
That is a good question, and the absolute number one thing that anyone can do for the Green Party in general or for any one campaign specifically, is to donate money. The reason why I say that is that the reality of politics, and the reality of the American political system, is that you have to have money to get your name out.
For two reasons, we're trying to go around this. We're trying to go around this to introduce the campaign to people ourselves, one, because we think we should, but two, because it's cheaper. But, in order to put some signs up, and in order to, if you're lucky, have some radio advertisements, it costs money. That's just reality, and the Democrats in this district, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, I've heard that they've said it to at least one newspaper anyway, that they have at least $300,000. Most congressional races cost $500,000 for any one candidate, and they've got $300,000 for a special election. They had a shorter time than usual to raise that money. That's the reality of what the Green party has to deal with, is money.
We might like our ideas and think that they're good ideas, but other people have to know them.
Is there anything else that's on your mind that you'd like to say?
Thank you for the interview, and we think that our platform is consistent with the interests of working people, and people can look for it at our web site, JeremyCloward.com.
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