Editor’s Note: José Negroni is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone.
Uncertain as to who to vote for, diehard (if a bit eccentric) Bernie backers met in hipstery (& bankstery) Bedford-Stuyvesant last night to watch CNN do a special on Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka.
The viewing party took place on a particularly humid evening inside a ridiculously expensive, renovated townhouse featuring exposed brick, vaulted beam ceilings, and hardwood floors with recent varnish. To make an effort at nourishment, gluten-free, vegan, and raw food was served.
There were about 25 guests sprawled out on the floor and seated in the living room, sighing and looking at the screen while Dr. Stein breathlessly explained her ideas.
The organizer, Sam, once upon a time indelibly aligned with Bernie Sanders and now searching for another candidate, beckoned guests through Dr. Stein’s website, his house party being one of 150 nationwide listed for this televised appearance. But he decided he’d rather not be fully named in the article for fear of a backlash from his friends in the Sanders camp who, voting for Hillary Clinton, despite her Wall Street connections, feel it’s the best strategy to avoid finding out what’s really hiding under that toupee.
One environmentally-minded guest showed up with a derailer broken on his bike. Another was dressed in traditional First American manner (Ohlone, Esselen, and Salinan), and it wasn’t a show for tourists. You could sense a salt of the earth mentality in this crowd that barely exists in the developed world. Or Bed-Stuy, for that matter, where if you want business criminals, hipsters, poor people of color, foodie culture, you’ll find it there.
Theoretically, guests were here to decide whether their level of disdain for politics would lead them to vote for a candidate with no hope.
“I fell in love with Bernie,” said Richard Swensson, a local resident. “But now I’m looking to fall in love again. I’d like to support a candidate who shares the one common goal of creating love.”
There was also discussion, led by Harrison Schultz of Bushwick, on Dr. Stein and financial reform, where Mr. Schultz brought up the need for fractional reserve banking and how the government can issue its own currency, part of the Green Party platform. And yet, the trading of thoughts quickly shifted to wondering if Mrs. Clinton actually cooperated in the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
“I’ve lost friends from the Bernie campaign, even co-workers of mine are upset with me for not supporting Clinton,” said Parisa Vahdatina. “However, I’m ready to make that pivot to Stein. If she receives five percent of the electorate, she’ll receive millions of dollars in federal funding for the next cycle. She’s our best hope in repealing Citizens United.”
Other Sanderistas there felt that Dr. Stein on CNN was actually surprising to watch. Voters in general may now jump on the Stein bandwagon, they speculated. Kudos to them for being optimistic, and yet I think a big weakpoint in the blue cola/red cola public is that they can’t see through their favorite softdrink selling the portion of the corporate/finance hustle most likely to be bought by their side of the constituency.
So liberals go in for government-sponsored college subsidies while conservatives go in for college privatization. This creates private enterprises that aren’t subject to the rules of the marketplace, i.e., you can’t sell something to people who can’t afford it, unless the government gives them a loan. Same dynamic with agribusiness: liberals go in for farms subsidies and conservatives give support to corporate farmers. Take the mortgage crisis “access to credit for the disadvantaged” coupled with deregulation. Same for healthcare, and even foreign policy (help them economically develop and free them from oppression/defeat our enemies.)
As Dr. Stein’s high elastic voice and eyes occasionally pushing out like a Chihuahua’s animated the screen, there was talk among guests that a Stein administration would pardon Edward Snowden, whack the budget by ending all the wars and closing foreign bases on day one (you’d immediately have a surplus), appoint Noam Chomsky, Cornell West, Anne Waldman, Glenn Greenwald, Brooklyn’s own no impacter, Colin Beavan, and Chris Hedges, to her cabinet, and yet while they’re all great thinkers, it’s like a fourteen-year-old nerd playing fantasy football. Never going to happen.
And while it was nice to see someone lay out the progressive version of reform on CNN, Dr. Stein, unlike in her 2012 campaign, failed to mention how leading up to the 2008 meltdown, Wall Street bankers knowingly and willfully committed fraud and there was documentation of such, like emails reading, “The security is crap!” before they sold it.
Back then, she and Ron Paul were the only candidates who would not have bailed them out. She would have allowed all those banks to collapse and then game over for fraudsters.
Conversely, last night she seemed to focus more on the horror of student debt, while advocating for the students’ own bailout. Never even considering some fault on the part of the debtor, like a degree that does not lead to a high-earning job.
Her solution to have the Fed pardon all debtors to increase their purchasing power was faulty math, at best. Here’s the solution, but it won’t happen and you won’t hear it from Dr. Stein: stop subsidizing student loans, then lenders would have to consider whether $50,000 worth of debt for a humanities degree will get paid back. Thing is, who will fight for this solution? The students? The Greens? They will cry victimization and austerity.
At roughly midnight, three hours after the party had gotten underway, guests started filing out. Quite simply, it was a relief from taking sides in all the claptrap.