Rocky Anderson is very much aware of the "spoiler effect" that a third party candidate can have in an election. But he is also aware of how much influence a third party candidate can have.
After much thought, the former mayor of Salt Lake City created the Justice Party, and he aims to stir up a revolutionary campaign that rests on social media and grassroots organizing rather than big money.
"Every major public policy disaster in this Country is attributable to the corrupting influence of money," Anderson told Patch during a round of talks and meetings in Santa Cruz.
Backed by Ralph Nader, Anderson believes that there must be an end to what he calls authoritarianism and plutocracy in the United States.
While on his way through Santa Cruz on Saturday, Anderson met with Occupy protestors, mingled with locals at India Joze, and visited the Resource Center for Non Violence.
“He makes a lot of sense," said landscaper Ken Foster. "The question about the spoiler issue, that seems to be an important one, and I do think that just to think that we have to vote for the lesser of two evils, that’s kind of sad, and I think that Rocky is an alternative to that so I appreciate that.
"I’ve also been very much excited by the Occupy movement, and he speaks that language.”
India Joze owner Jozseph Schultz thought Rocky was more than a spoiler. He was someone who could wake up a lackluster party.
“It doesn’t even matter if he wins, we need to put pressure on the Democrats from the left,” he said.
Check out his campaign video, and see below what he had to say.
Santa Cruz Patch: Well, I have to ask: Aren't you afraid of taking votes away from Obama?
Anderson: No. And that’s a great question. The whole spoiler issue, is something that I’ve given a lot of thought, and it’s part of why I didn’t start all of this much earlier, but I’ve finally arrived at the conclusion that as long as we let the fear of the lesser of two evils not getting elected prevent us from choosing an entirely different way, then all we’re doing really is moving around the players, Democrats and Republican, within a very corrupt and perverse system, rather than take the leap for real change in a different system where government finally is representing the public interest rather than simply the interest of those who pay for the campaigns and pay for the lobbying.
Patch: Why did you choose to create the Justice Party, rather than go with say, the Green Party?
Anderson: We actually had a lot of discussions with Jill Stein and some of the people from the Green Party before we started the Justice Party. I think the Green Party carries very negative baggage, the perception that they’re only a thin slice of the left wing of the Democratic Party, for instance, and they’ve been around in this country for 10 years and have lacked for poor organization. I think there are a lot of really good people with the Green Party, but at the same time, there are a lot of places like Utah where the Green Party is completely imploded from a lot of in fighting.
On the positive side of the reason we felt that we needed to create a new party, was because this is such a pivotal time and we need to take such a new and different direction. I mean, there is such tremendous dissatisfaction across the politcal spectrum with the way that things are going right now, both the dominant parties, that we felt the conditions were right for creating a powerful movement that could grow quickly and on a sustained basis have tremendous impact on this country. Whether we win or lose this race, we have a tremendous opportunity to change this country.
Patch: What can you say to young people who are discouraged by politics and feel powerless and betrayed by the President Obama's failure to follow through with promises he made before taking office?
Anderson: I think he [Obama] had an extremely detrimental effect on people, particularly younger people, just getting involved in politics, because they all had real hope, and now realize they’ve been completely betrayed.
Once we resign ourselves and become inactive to the point of complacency, then we become part of the problem. There have been very discouraging moments in the nation’s history where passionate, determined people rose up and said ‘we’re not going to take this anymore,” and they made incredible changes, all for the better. And we can do it again.
Patch: Mitt Romney ran for Governor of Massachussettes as a "Pro-Choice" politician, and now he is anti-choice. President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay but never did. I have to ask, what makes you any different from these other candidates who made promises they could not follow through with once in office?
Anderson: That’s a really good question. I’ve always said that instead of looking at peoples’ promises during campaigns, and getting sucked in by slogans like “Hope” and "Change," take a look at what they’ve done with their lives, what they’ve committed themselves to do, what their core is, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and all I would say is my record’s there for anybody to examine.
I was president of the board of the Utah Civil Liberties Union, I was on the board of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, I was on the board of Common Cause fighting for campaign finance reform, and a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators. This was all on my own time.
When I was mayor I was fighting against invasion and occupation of Iraq even before the invasion, and I continued with my efforts throughout the Bush administration and into the Obama administration. I was the only major city mayor who advocated impeachment of President Bush, and I didn’t do that just in one speech, I actively pursued that all around the country.
[Anderson's other accomplishments are many, including recieving the World Leadership Award from the World Leadership Forum for his environmental programs in Salt Lake City, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 31% in three years]
Patch: What about the war on drugs?
Anderson: I think the war on drugs is a total failure, betrayal of the interests of everybody involved, except for the cartels, it’s really good for them. If we treated illicit drugs the same way we do alcohol and tobacco, regulate it, tax it, and treat all substance abuse as a public health problem rather than a criminal justice problem, the cartels aren’t around anymore, because they have nothing to sell. Just as the mob disintegrated in large part, after alcohol prohibition is eliminated.
We’d be emptying a lot of our prisons and jails, police that are making busts wouldn’t be facing the threat of violence that they face today. There was another police officer I read about today who was just killed, and we’ve had several officers killed recently in Utah, on a drug bust. None of this makes any sense, we’re spending billions of dollars on drug intervention, on source control, and putting people away in prisons and jails for insanely long terms.
I’m a firm believer in making public policy on the basis of the real evidence, rather than peoples’ prejudices.
Instead of being worried about whether people like you, or whether you’re going to be re elected the next time around, worrying that you did the right thing, trying to provide real leadership rather than get led around by the polls.
Patch: You said in one interview that “It’s like we took out a credit card in our childrens' names,” and I’m wondering what you meant by that and also what you think about all of these kids going to college, and going into major debt, just to be jobless.
Anderson: First of all, student loans should have never been categorized as being non-dischargeable in cases of bankruptcy. Non dischargeable bankruptcy is supposed to be reserved for really extreme cases like fraud or child support. To say that we all can take out credit card and have it discharged in bankruptcy, students who take out loans to get an education have these horrendous debts hanging over their heads the rest of their lives.
These financial institutions have taken such an enormous advantage of American people, in so many ways. The majority of Americans are still reeling from it.
The people that were responsible for public policy are still those surrounding President Obama, he’s kept them on, and those in the private sector, they’re still stuffing million dollar bonuses.
There’s no question that there should be a financial transaction tax imposed to help pay off the bailout and help finance an initiative for relief for students and homeowners.
Patch: If you had to choose between Romney or Obama, who would you choose?
Anderson: That’s not as easy of a response as you might think. Because with President Obama in the White House, he has basically neutered the Democratic Party as an opposition party.
If we had George Bush, or Mitt Romney in office, I don’t think they would have been able to sign off on the NDAA Provision allowing the indefinite detention of anybody including U.S. citizens, without charges, trials, legal representation, or the right of habeus corpus. We basically have no opposition party in this country that will stand up to these kinds of abuses. That legislation is the most Anti-American, subversive piece of legislation ever signed into law. And yet we don’t have a major political party standing up against it?
I think if we had a Republican president in office, the Democratic Party would be standing up in opposition, and I think people would have been out in the streets making sure that wasn’t able to be passed into law. The same thing with targeting U.S. citizens for assassination.
We’ve now become a country that can send unmanned drones targeting United States citizens with zero due proccess. And we’ve killed U.S. citizens: Almar Alawaki, we knew that he was on an assassination list. And that made it into a few newspapers, it wasn’t front page headline news the way it should have been, but then two weeks later, his 16-year-old son, was also killed by an unmanned drone. You didn’t read about that in the newspapers. He was also a U.S. citizen.
It’s a very, very different country than the one that I grew up in, the one that I was so proud of as distinguishing itself from these civil and human rights abusing tiranies elsewhere.
Patch: Finally, your campaign hopes to seek its momentum through social networking and grass roots. I’m wondering what your inspirations are and how you think a campaign could actually work without being backed by big money?
Anderson: Well I think the greatest inspiration can be drawn from the Arab uprising. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, there were people that felt so strongly about changing their country that they put their lives on the line, organized in grassroots and they utilized the democratized means of social media. We’re certainly capable of that in this country, to overthrow the dictatorship of corrupting money. If we have the will. If people simply embrace the possibility and envision what we can really achieve together.
There’s also a lot of inspiration to take from our own nation’s history, social projects like the antislavery movement, the womens suffrage movements, civil rights movement. There was a lot of money on the other side of those movements, and yet they succeeded, because the grass roots were willing to hang in there and fight until they accomplished their objectives.
If we really mean what we say about getting the government back from the worst it’s ever been in terms of being beholden to those who pay for elections, and throw millions upon millions of dollars at their lobbyists, we can do it.
But it’s going to take organizing, it’s going to take everybody playing their part. Nobody can sit back and just expect others to do it. And nobody can just sit back and say “Well, I’m so disappointed and so cynical about it I’m not going to take part in it anymore.”