We speak with George Martin, co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party which plans to hold its national convention in Milwaukee this week and Robert Miranda who recently ran for city council in Milwaukee and is Editor in Chief of The Milwaukee Spanish Journal, a bilingual weekly newspaper.[includes transcript]
As John Kerry continues his search for a running mate and rumors swirl about whether George Bush will keep Dick Cheney on his ticket, the Democrats and Republicans prepare for their official coronation ceremonies this Summer at their respective national conventions. The only drama expected at the conventions will be the mass protests planned for the streets of Boston and New York.
But there is one political convention that promises to bring heated debate and discussion and it will all take place later this week, here in Milwaukee when the Green Party holds its national convention. In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader ran as the party’s official candidate. This time around, Nader has said he will be running as an independent with no party affiliation. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t seeking endorsements. In fact, he has already picked up the official endorsement of the Reform Party of Ross Perot. This week in Milwaukee, Nader will be asking the same from the Greens. But that is by no means a fait acompli. Nader is being challenged by Texas lawyer David Cobb for the party’s endorsement. In fact Cobb is seeking to run as the official nominee of the Greens. We are joined now by two members of the Green Party here in Milwaukee.
- George Martin, Program Director of Peace Action Wisconsin. He is also co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party, as well as the co-chair of the national party’s Black Caucus. He is also a member of National Steering Committee of United For Peace and Justice.
- Robert Miranda, Editor in Chief of The Milwaukee Spanish Journal, a bilingual weekly newspaper. He recently ran for city council in Milwaukee.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by two members of the Green Party here in Milwaukee. Robert Miranda is editor-in-chief of "The Milwaukee Spanish Journal" bilingual weekly newspaper. He recently ran for city council here in Milwaukee. We’re also joined by George Martin, who’s program director of Peace Action. He’s also co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party as well as co-chair of the national party’s Black Caucus, also a member of the National Steering Committee of Unite For Peace And Justice. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
GEORGE MARTIN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry for my voice.
GEORGE MARTIN: No problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s begin with you, George Martin. What do you expect at this National Green Party Convention?
GEORGE MARTIN: I really expect a true political convention. You know, as taxpayers in this country, we’re footing the bill, I think, of $12.5 million for each the Republican and Democratic conventions, which are just gathering to pat each other on the back because determinations are already made. Here in Milwaukee, it’s going to be entirely different. As you mentioned, the politics in terms of Ralph Nader and also the politics of many in our party in terms of wanting a home-grown Green as our nominee. You know, someone who can truly articulate and has worked for our issues and that the campaign be our campaign, our issues and that we continue to grow.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Miranda?
ROBERT MIRANDA: Well, the Green Party in the United States—and welcome to Milwaukee, Ms. Goodman—
AMY GOODMAN: Great to be here.
ROBERT MIRANDA: Is out there trying to put its message into the political arena that the voters of the United States, really, they have choices and the choices being, we’re saying, is the Green Party. We see the party as the party that has courageous leadership. It is a party that expresses and espouses the democratic ideals and principles that the two parties have basically, in the last decade or two, given up on. We are a party that is ready to challenge the private interests, the special interests, that have polluted the process in the United States’ political system by allowing big dollars, big money, to come in and dictate the policies of our government that benefit not the people of the United States, but benefit big business, benefit multi-national corporations, benefit the very few and powerful in this country, and the time has come for a political party to come up and step up to the plate and bat for the people of the United States. And the Green Party is that party that is willing and wanting to do that.
GEORGE MARTIN: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the standard argument, the argument that you can stand for all these principles, you will be taking support away from the Democratic presidential candidate?
GEORGE MARTIN: I am so glad that you asked that. You know, number one, there was no spoiler effect in the election of 2000. The Democratic Party analysis of that election speaks to that. It speaks to their campaign weaknesses and especially in the Mid-States, and I, without a doubt, say also look to the National Rifle Association in terms of their impact against the party at that time. You know, thirdly, I say that the Green Party, you know, half of our votes in 2000 came from people who had not voted before. And then lastly, less than half of this country votes. So, the significance of third parties and what we need to do really does not have an impact at that level. In the future, we will be there at that level. But we need the opportunities, and we need change in electoral reform. We need instant runoff voting, which has proved successful in more than 40 countries in the world, a lot of communities in our own country.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that is.
GEORGE MARTIN: Instant run-off voting—it’s referred to as I.R.V.—means that, for example, in the 2000 election, if I liked Nader but was worried about Gore not getting in, I could place Nader as my first preference and Gore as my second. If Nader did not get a majority, then my vote would go to Gore. And that is a very effective way to have national elections. You know? Secondly, we have to look at campaign finance reform. Not just on a token basis. You know, in — as we — as this congress, both parties, you know, voted for pre-emptive attack, they also tacked on a bill to say that consumers could not sue pharmaceutical companies. We have to really look at the system. That is why our party is not for sale. That’s why we take no corporate dollars and we don’t take more than $3,000 from an individual. That’s difficult in this era of massive dollars for campaigning. But the principles and the ethics in this country have to change.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Miranda, what do you make of one of the — I believe it is David Cobb’s view — of not running in the swing states? ROBER MIRANDA: In my opinion, I don’t agree with that. In my opinion, that this is the Green Party. The Green Party needs to grow and it needs to step on anybody’s toe. The Green Party is a party that espouses the ideals of democracy. It is a party that is there to protect the people and both of these parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, specifically with people of color in this country, have failed us. They have abandoned us. All through the 1980’s, during the Reagan era, here in Wisconsin, the Tommy Thompson era, the Democratic Party did not step up to challenge and articulate the arguments against the kind of tax cutting schemes that the Reagan era promoted, the kind of tax cutting schemes that even the Bush Administration before Clinton and even — they didn’t even challenge their own administration, Clinton, for allowing some of the policies and laws in the federal government, especially in the areas of higher education, to pass. They didn’t push for the protections and welfare rights for women. Clinton adopted the Tommy Thompson policies of welfare reform for the United States. And we know that in Wisconsin, that this welfare reform that Tommy Thompson implemented in Wisconsin is detrimental specifically to black women and women of color here in Wisconsin. So as far as I’m concerned, the idea that the Green Party should not affect anything to do with the Democratic Party, I disagree with. I think that the Green Party needs to move forward, grow, and be the party of the people, for the people, by the people.
AMY GOODMAN: The two of you gentlemen have military in your blood. Your father, George Martin, a soldier, a veteran. Robert Miranda, you, yourself. Can you talk about this in relation to what we’re seeing today?
ROBERT MIRANDA: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your history.
ROBERT MIRANDA: Well, I grew up in the south side of Chicago. Actually I grew up in the neighborhood founded — where the Young Lords were founded. In 1980, I went to the United States Marine Corps, became a marine, and from 1981 to 1989, I was a sergeant in the marines. An epiphany happened to me while I was in the marines. I was questioning the campaigns I was involved in. In the early 1980’s, you had Grenada, you had Lebanon. Then we started doing things in Central America, and I’m thinking to myself, "How is this affecting our national security? What’s going on here?"
AMY GOODMAN: Were you involved with Grenada?
ROBERT MIRANDA: I was involved in Grenada. I was in the Second Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune. Our unit was there right before the October bombings in 1983 of the marine barracks in Lebanon. Actually the unit that I was involved in was going to replace that unit. Then what started occurring to me was there’s something going on here. Finally, there was this captain and, you know, I have to say that this captain was enlightening. When I asked him, "What are we really engaged here? What is going on here?" He turned me to this book and it was a book written by a very famous marine general, Major General Smedley D. Darlington Butler. The book was called "War is a Racket" and he gave me this book and it was a paperback all torn up and said why don’t you read this book while we’re on our way to the Middle East. So you know, we had plenty of time. So, I’m reading the book and, you know, as I’m reading this book, this is a marine general who was celebrated in the marine corps as the most highly decorated general in the armed forces, in the history of the armed forces and with two medals of honor, this individual wrote this book upon his retirement, gave a speech in Congress where, you know, what really struck me was that when he talked about his career, he said he could have taught Al Capone a thing or two about how to run Chicago. Where Al Capone may have ran three districts in Chicago, he was operating out of three continents, and I was thinking to myself, "Whoa, this is the guy who the marines are telling me to idolize, but yet in this book he’s telling me that what he was engaged in during the early 1900’s, the 1920’s in Latin America, Nicaragua and other parts, he felt they were wrong, and it was not in the best interest of the people of the United States, but more in the best interest of the people who were operating out of Wall Street." And so when I was looking at this, I figured out, holy cow, you know, we’re not here for the democracy. We’re here for the plutocracy. We’re here for the people who are controlling Wall Street, our economy. And then in this issue of the "Forbes" magazine, you’ll see Steve Forbes, in his little spiel there for his news magazine, he’s even arguing that the war on terrorism should be tied into the economy. And I’m thinking to myself, we’re building an economy that should benefit off the misery of other people around the world, and this is exactly what General Butler was talking against. And that’s what committed me to the Greens. That’s why I went to the Greens, because the Greens understand this very, very intuitively, and for people of color in this country, especially the Latino community, the Black community, we need to start analyzing and realizing that what we’re being used for is fodder for the people on Wall Street who really don’t care about us.
AMY GOODMAN: George Martin, you’re the son of a soldier. You are also one of the leaders of Peace Action, which is also having its national convention here in Milwaukee.
GEORGE MARTIN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts now on the war.
GEORGE MARTIN: I’ll tell you. I have so many thoughts on the war. As I was raised within our family, you know, the ails of militarism, the racism with militarism, I understood very young. I was drafted out of Marquette University and went to my draft board along with a friend who was drafted, and we shouldn’t have been. And right next to us, they said, "You are going," to me. And they said to him, "It’s ok, you can stay in school." We’re looking at that kind of racism in terms of any draft and with the upcoming draft, and young people should be aware of it, and it is a whole other topic. On the other end, I have served homeless veterans in Milwaukee and this state and nationally for 18 years and I continue to do so. We have homeless vets who served in Iraq, already living on the streets of Milwaukee. You know, the whole concept of what’s happening, we know the ails to the Iraqi people. I was there in January and I talked to hundreds and hundreds of people and listened. I was there on behalf of United for Peace and Justice.
AMY GOODMAN: In Iraq?
GEORGE MARTIN: In Iraq, in the occupation watch. And I’ll tell you, when the opportunity was there to talk to our troops and understanding the psychology of it, and the psychology of being on military alert for a year and the stress, and then being the attackers and doing horrible things in the process, and now being the police under occupation and being the targets. You know, suicides are up 69% all in Iraq last year. Nurses report that they’re at 20% to 30% rates in terms of self-inflicted wounds that they treat. More of the truth is coming out. And every one of our men and women that I talked to there said, when we were in private, said the same thing that we saw on the day that Baghdad fell on TV. They said, "I want to come home." You know? And out of United for Peace and Justice, we say end the occupation, and bring our troops home.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it matters whether it’s George Bush or John Kerry sitting in the White House?
GEORGE MARTIN: I’ll tell you, not only to those involved in our organizations, but I hear it constantly from other people who are questioning, you know, what Kerry would do. You know, and I’ll tell you. We work on a nonpartisan basis in some organizations, and some we’re very political. But we’ve got the push on to both him and signed on by hundreds of organizations, along with Danny Glover, Howard Zinn, Susan Sarandon, and many other people, and non-partisanly, also to say to Bush, to end this occupation, take a stronger stance in terms of ending this war and bringing our folks home.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. George Martin, who sits on the national steering committee for United for Peace and Justice. Robert Miranda, editor-in-chief of the "Milwaukee Spanish Journal," a bilingual weekly newspaper, recently ran for city council in Milwaukee. Both of the Green Party, which is having its national convention this week in Milwaukee. Thank you.
GEORGE MARTIN: Thank you.
ROBERT MIRANDA: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!