Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

US Elections: Interview with Green Party Presidential Candidate Kent Mesplay

Candidate Questionnaire:

1. As we can see, the system presently is heavily weighted against 3rd parties. What steps do you think need to be taken to break the stranglehold of the 2 party system?

The first step will be to allow candidates equal time and access to media coverage. Right now, most coverage is purchased by the wealthier candidates. Running for office is a money-grab, with back-up provided by committees in the two parties that accept funding and direction from corporations (e.g. debates are not regulated as "in kind" expensive contributions and are corporate-driven in content and appearance). So, getting the money out of polics is important, such as by publicly funded campaigns. Still, rather than just have taxpayers subsidize advertizing agencies it would be better to reinstitute equal access laws. Also, having proportional representation and, as a step to this, preferential voting such as I.R.V. will help improve representation and alternative party access

2. Why do you think American voters are unwilling to vote for candidates who are neither Republican or Democrat, (according to the Green site "corporate" parties)?

People who are disgusted with politics in this country do not vote (a silent, invisible vote against the system). The way forward is to have a rapidly moving campaign that begins to look like it can succeed. It is possible, even for higher-ticket races, for Greens to be elected (although generally improbable). Currently, there are over 200 elected Greens to office. These tend to be local positions, including mayor-ships. Voters will vote for an "underdog" but only if it does not look like the underdog is moments away from being steam-rolled flat. So, there is a chance of electing a Green president or senator, but it is slight under the current system. A full-out, organized "protest" vote engaging celebrity support and the youth is a good way forward. It's not that the voting public tend to like the candidates of the two main parties: they tend to enact "lesser evilism" voting in which they vote for the least offensive candidate. Changing the system through preferential voting, in which one ranks candidates, will go a long way toward improving this process.

3. The media makes exposure difficult for 3rd party candidates. Don't you think this situation should be legally challenged?

Yes. Nader and others have law suits taking place, such as around the blocking of a candidate in Pennsylvania and in the illegal blocking of Nader's campaign by Democratic-party operatives in 2004. It is practically illegal to participate in politics in this country outside the rigid two-party structure (that behaves as one party on key issues).

4. The problems with the US election system leave much to be desired when preaching to other nations about democracy. Please comment about the current fixation of the administration to "spread freedom and democracy" which frankly has people worldwide rather cynical regarding US motivations.

The "freedom and democracy" rhetoric used by the U.S. government is only a cheap selling point used to buy the support of supposed patriots who are really the ones, through their lack of critical thinking, selling out this country. Our country invades and then proclaims itself the "good guy." It's not just "worldwide": we are getting sick of this within the U.S. as well.

5. What would be your first order of business were you to be the President of the United States regarding how the US would tackle global warming and its dependence on oil? What about US use of depleted and enriched uranium, is this not an ecological disaster of horrendous proportions?

The United States needs to declare a state of emergency and use all available resources to improve our energy efficiency and move entirely toward sustainable, renewable energy. It is for lack of separation of big-business and state that we do not have this. Our government is run by corporations. Nader recently said every branch of our government is run by business: even the labor department. Our government is border-line fascist, and I mean this in the loose, lay-man sense of the term denoting a dangerous confluence of business and government, especially regarding the business of war. Yes, I fully agree regarding the release of depleted uranium: another "verboten" subject in the U.S.

6. Moving on to international affairs, what is your position on the proposed US missile shield in Eastern Europe?

I am opposed to the U.S-and Polish-backed proposed "missile shield" in Europe (10 missile defense interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic). Although I believe in defense, the manner in which this program is being discussed is offensive to the Russian government and people, to U.S. taxpayers and to Iran.

Understandably, Russia does not want to be encircled by U.S. forces. For this to work, the U.S. and Russia would have to undergo a joint program of command and control, with Poland and the Czech Republic still being problematic. Also, the E.U. would properly be heavily involved. Moreover, the question asked by wary U.S. citizens and by world citizens is "what is next?" following the U.S. 2001 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The current U.S. administration is belligerent and is trying to fan the flames of a "new and improved" war with Iran. Iran is not the threat it is made out to be. Even if extremists there remain in power until they develop the ability to afflict wide-spread damage with missiles in a suicidal manner, is the U.S. really going to refuse to talk to them (the Bush approach) or are we going to engage in vigorous diplomacy to try to better understand them?

Poland is already the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in Europe. There are many domestic issues in the U.S. deserving of taxpayer support (e.g., education, post-Katrina relief) currently not adequately addressed by the U.S. federal government. Additionally, over-reliance on technology at the expense of diplomacy is a recipe for failure. The missile shield cannot be trusted and it represents yet another give-away to and by the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex.

7. What is your opinion of US policy in the Balkans, is it an honest fair policy?

Regarding U.S. policy in the Balkans, there are questions of fairness. U.S. government support and recognition of an independent Kosovo is inherently unfair to Serbia. The question of fairness to Serbia raises many issues, particularly since Milosevic is now long gone, and again goes to the question of how one conducts foreign policy: are we as a nation willing to listen to, and negotiate with, all responsible actors, or are we only interested in forcing our agenda on others?

I would prefer that the United States be more active in engaging in dialogue with both Serbia and Kosovo, together. As a Green, I recognize and appreciate diversity and the need for people to form their own representative governments. My personal, romantic view is that separatists everywhere have strong arguments for wanting their own country. We see this, for example, in Israel. However, rather than forcing policies that divide in a divisive way my party encourages "one state" solutions in which the diverse players are encouraged to find less inflammatory ways of recognizing and celebrating their differences.

We seek commonality and an end to war. The challenge for all nations is how to honor our individuality without threatening the very existence of people who are different. Here in the U.S. the issue of indigenous sovereignty has never been dealt with in a fair manner. (I say this as someone having "Indian" blood.)

8. How would you propose conducting relations with Cuba and your other southern neighbors such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia? What about Iran?

I believe in normalizing relations with Cuba and creating better diplomatic ties to the other southern neighbors mentioned. Especially with Fidel Castro stepping down there may be an opportunity for thawing the chill between our countries. Cuba has invested resources in living sustainably and now has much "green" experience that may be valuable for other countries such as the United States that need to cut their waste and live more within their means. Foreign leaders critical of the Bush regime are immediately villified in our press.

Hugo Chavez is not the villian he is made out to be. Iran is not the threat that our government would like us to believe it is. Especially after our invasion of Iraq I am extremely critical of our presidential administration's grasp of reality.

9. Re ending the occupation of Iraq:

The policy concerning Iraq needs to be a presidential-level apology to the people of Iraq, apology to U.S. service personnel and their families, apology to other U.S. citizens and world citizens. The stated goal needs to be unconditional, immediate withdrawal (which may take six months to fully implement) together with a parallel "surge" in diplomatic efforts. Politically, an international body such as the U.N. is needed to help with transitioning toward a more peaceful society.

Informants and others friendly to "coalition" efforts need expedited VISAs so that they can leave the country. U.S. high-level diplomats need to work tirelessly in the countries surrounding Iraq to form a coalition of politicians, celebrities (authors, musicians, sports personalities, etc), tribal leaders, religious leaders and a cross-section of the youth who can help lead the region toward becoming stable. At the very least, such a coalition would have a visible advisory role, but more appropriately would have a strong role to counter the business-driven policies of the U.S. government and would act in a manner representing the needs of the Iraqi people, not our war investors. Finally, a U.S.-sponsored clean-up needs to be conducted to address environmental damage and war reparations need to be offered in an effort at real justice.

10. There are many possible methods of implementing universal health care. The Green Party advocates single-payer health care in which the government is responsible for insuring and ensuring that ALL citizens within the United States are covered.

I would like the policy extended toward non-nationals who are here visiting or working illegally. If rare illnesses are brought into the country by people seeking work, it is important that they, too, receive adequate health coverage to stem the spread of disease. We are a wealthy enough country to provide health care for all. Forms of "universal" health coverage that allow competition and depend on private insurers, such as the plans I have seen offered by Democratic Party candidates, tend to leave people uncovered.

The Republican Party is opposed to anything but free-market health coverage, which leaves over 40 million people without coverage for some time of the year in the U.S. Health care in the U.S. is sporadic, expensive and exclusionary. We can change this. A feature that I would like would be for allowance of regional specialization with clinics scattered about for ready access, rather than the current model of fewer, larger, more distant hospitals.

For security purposes, it is important to have strong regional health care. Also, I would be friendly toward policies recognizing and encouraging complementary or alternative health care, such as by recognizing the importance of working with healing plants and ancient "energy" practices. Western medicine has much to learn. Because of corporate influence (pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, advertising companies) the trend has been toward abolishing health care that is rooted in community wisdom and practice. I would like a blend of "old and new" with our medical practices, with a balance of standardization and respect for diversity. I study with Native healers and others who do "energy" healing.

11. Why did the Clintons experience difficulties in implementing their health care plan?

The difficulty experienced by the Clintons in producing a reasonable health care plan in the United States came from the business sector, which treats health care as a business from which short-term profits are to be derived. Our elected representatives first and foremost represent business interests. There is no separation of business and state in the United States, which gets in the way of representatives being able to actually solve problems in various sectors, including that which ought to be considered a basic human right: health care.

12. What are your chances of being the nominee?

Someone once told me to always run as though I am winning. At present, other Green Party candidates have more votes and nominating delegates than I have. I have not done a strict delegate count, in part because there are so many "fluid" parameters in the Green Party race, but I think it would be safe to say that by the time of the July convention I will be in third place or better. At present I am somewhere in the middle. The two most famous candidates are currently in the lead, but our most famous one (Nader) has not declared himself a candidate as of this writing. My strategy is to pick up my campaign and be a solid third or better and to be the second-choice pick of most of the delegates.

In 2004 I was told, after the nominating convention, that if our rounds based upon preferential voting had lasted longer I would have been the nominee since I had so much "second place" support. Depending on what happens in between rounds of caucusing and voting at the nominating convention I could win if one of our two front-runners drops out of the race and I attract their delegates. This is not as unlikely as it sounds. In 2003 Nader requested that his name be taken off the primary ballot in my state of California prior to the primary race. It is not at all clear what the man is doing this time around, but it is creating dissention within the party.

13. Anything else?

Yes, thank you for the interview. The Green Party is a truly international party. The reader is encouraged to read about our key values and be advocates for their favorite ones: be it decentralization, post-patriarchical values, peace and nonviolence, social justice or environmental health. In the United States we are at a critical time in that our government is sliding toward totalitarianism in a way that is invisible to many people. Because of the fear promulgated by our "leaders" another 9/11-type event could be used as an excuse to impose martial law and cancel the presidential election. Many people here do not realize how many of our rights as citizens have disappeared under the current Bush regime. We need perestroika and glasnost, American-style, here in the U.S.: restructuring and openness.