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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dr. Jill Stein’s campaign headquarters in south Philadelphia looked exactly as you would expect – megaphones lined one wall. There was an improvised recycling station. Everyone looked like a hipster stereotype, but older.

Around ten members of the campaign were trying to figure out Stein’s schedule for Wednesday – is it a live stream or a TV interview that they’re doing? They weren’t sure. But they were excited about the options.

The Green Party’s candidate for president had been receiving an unusual amount of media attention thanks to protests at the Democratic National Convention from the “Bernie or Bust” movement.

Her campaign agreed to an interview with me — before the “big” media outlets began calling. Now, she didn’t have much time. Stein was going on Fox News soon.

She spent the day before speaking to former Sanders supporters who are now refusing to support Hillary Clinton, even after Sanders has repeatedly endorsed her. Stein assured them that there’s a third choice in November and that with her, their revolution can continue.

When she joined protesters outside the DNC on Tuesday night, the rowdy crowd surrounded her so closely that she began to feel sick. Stein’s campaign has been fairly small until now, and she doesn’t have the security infrastructure that major presidential candidates usually enjoy.

Gloria Mattera, the campaign’s co-chair, was the one in charge at the scene. While she agreed that the influx of Sanders supporters to the Stein campaign has been significant, she wanted to make sure I knew there were people who supported Stein all along, “even while Sanders was in the race.”

I told her that many “Bernie or Bust” protesters had said that, ideally, they would want Sanders to run with the Green Party, and that I saw reports of Stein being open to this scenario. Mattera conceded that their campaign has made several attempts at reaching out to Sanders, not just now but throughout the years, but “he’s never responded.”

When I asked her the question of the week — “What about those who think a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump?” — she said, “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Jill Stein. Nobody owes anybody votes, in terms of any political party.”

I asked why Stein seemed to be taking closer aim at Clinton than at Donald Trump, who Sanders and many progressives consider to be an “imminent threat.” Mattera answered that she believes most people see Trump, and “see what they see,” but Clinton is “an insidious evil.”

And what about Meleiza Figueroa, the campaign’s press director, a prototypical Sanders supporter that Stein is hoping will typify other converts to her camp? The young Californian has been a Sanders supporter for a long time. She registered with the Green Party when she was 18-years-old, but became a registered Democrat this year so she could vote for the Vermont senator.

“I knew that Bernie was going to get crushed,” she said about her decision to move on to Stein’s movement. “I saw this as the next battlefield.”

Stein’s campaign staff seemed only slightly unrealistic at first — Mattera believes that Stein could just use executive orders to cut defense spending in half and move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 — but then I spoke to one of Stein’s “advisors.”

Adrian Boutureira’s card said he was a “field director/foreign policy advisor,” but he clarified that he was actually foreign policy advisor for Latin America and Palestine, or at least “one of them.” Wearing combat boots and a fedora, the Uruguay native looked more like a Brooklyn artist to me.

I asked what his policy qualifications were. He said he had been working on “Latin American solidarity issues for 25 years,” serving as co-founder of the “No War On Cuba” movement and doing other community work.

He moved to his foreign policy advice for Stein — a mix of convictions about America’s covert anti-progressive actions abroad, including against Venezuela and Cuba, two of the most, apparently, “progressive governments” the U.S. has tried to destroy. Then he called President Obama “the fascist with a heart of gold — there is no such thing.”

Finally, the woman of the hour arrived at her campaign headquarters. An ABC local reporter was finishing setting up her equipment for an interview. Sporting the highest credentials in the room, she was first on the list to interview Stein. A group of filmmakers trying to document the “revolution,” and I sat back and watched the scene.

I met Stein for a brief moment — she has the charisma of a politician, up close. But the scale of her previous campaigns was evident in Philadelphia.

I was taken aback when Stein arrived because she was carrying her own bags and wearing a tank top. I had seen her the previous two days at rallies wearing a similar outfit, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the huge differences between her and the other woman in the race. There’s no way Hillary Clinton has ever finished getting ready for a TV appearance in front of a camera crew — at least, not in decades.

It gave me pause — this was the operation to carry Bernie’s torch? I thought of my best friend, who came to this country when he was 7-years-old and has never known another life. As a “DREAMer,” his future would be in jeopardy if Donald Trump becomes president. So are reproductive rights, equality for minorities and women, gun control, college affordability… these are Sanders’ issues, and Clinton’s issues, and Democratic issues. Philadelphia served it’s purpose, for me: The choice is clear.

 

Photo: Fabian Ortiz

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