By Nancy Wallace
Green Party Candidate
On Dec. 25, 2015, I woke up rather late, sleeping in on the holiday. I walked outside from the kitchen patio door, and was shocked. It was almost 70 degrees. Something shifted in me at that moment, and I knew that I couldn’t think of “change as usual” anymore. I have been an activist all my life, trying to improve the world. But at that moment, I realized at the deepest level of my being that I had to shift to the timetable of Mother Nature. Global warming is happening now, at an unimagined, unprecedented speed. I realized that myself, and I believe all people, must dedicate ourselves to coming together with the best of ourselves, to stop and reverse climate change as our top priority. We can do so much good along the way – addressing the tremendous suffering and injustice of our society and government – but we must start now. Our assumptions about comfortable daily life must yield to the greater call of preserving life, this beautiful Creation that is our gift, as the organizing principle of our days and hours.
As co-chair of the Montgomery County Green Party for the past three years, I was well aware that our congressional slot was open. With 14 years’ experience on Capitol Hill representing the national environmental movement, a degree in political science, and a love of politics and people, it seemed obvious for me to run for this seat. However, with a full time job it would be a challenge.
I was raised in a Republican household, and spent 30 years as a Democrat. I switched to the Green Party 13 years ago after realizing that behind the scenes, large concentrations of power were using the Democratic Party just as much as the Republican Party to advance their agenda. Social issues are used as a distraction, and can be important, even critically important in the short run. But underneath, the erosion of power of the individual, the family, and the community has continued under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
For instance, their support for the petroleum, natural gas and fracking industries, with “business as usual” is killing the Earth through carbon emissions. Witness President Obama’s energy policy of continuing billions in tax benefits for those industries, and recently opening up 45 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for more deepwater oil drilling. Support for multi-national corporations is killing our progressive legal protections in the U.S., for instance the global trade treaties that can override U.S. worker protections of the 40-hour work week, environmental regulations, and minimum wage. Witness the Democratic administration has led the charge for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Support for agribusiness is smothering small family farms, along with the local small businesses that depend on them, and covering our soils with toxic chemicals which leach into our waterways, fish, and eventually ourselves. See the recent Food Safety Modernization Act which places undue burdens on small farms, and the “DARK Act” which preempts state authority to require GMO food labeling, although this labeling is supported by 92 percent of Americans. The list goes on and on.
When big money or big power talks, the Democrats and Republicans alike listen, and deliver what is asked. The terribly unfortunate truth, from my point of view, is that the federal government, however unwittingly, has become dominated by the corporate structures in this country to the point where it cannot govern effectively under these two parties.
While representing the Sierra Club and coalitions of environmental, animal welfare, and conservation groups before the House and Senate, I saw firsthand the power of money in politics. I am proud that the Green Party is the only political party in the U.S. that doesn’t take a penny from corporations, PACs, or unions. We do not accept contributions from either right or left political organizations. We only accept donations from real people, so we can honestly represent the best interests of the people and the planet. We follow scientific information and pursue best practices for public programs, such as the 74 percent reduction in violent street crime in Richmond, Calif. under a Green mayor using a combination of new, people-oriented approaches.
Thomas Jefferson’s vision for this country included free public college. If European governments can do it, can’t we find a way as well? In foreign policy, we spend 3 cents building peace – education, democracy, transparency, health care, women’s empowerment – for every dollar we spend on the Defense Department, for violent conflict resolution. We can do better — much better.
Great public policy isn’t a combat between two pre-Civil War parties discussing the same agenda as 20 and 40 years ago. It’s an open discussion including new ideas, successes from other countries, scaling up or replicating state and local programs, to re-orient power and wealth to the local level, with people and communities at the heart of that public policy.
My website, www.nancywallace.us, has many other concrete policy proposals to address these challenges. They are a sample of what we can achieve together. It includes the Green New Deal, a jobs-for-safe-energy program. We also support single payer health care, Medicare for All.
Overall, we must open the political system to new voices, and return to ethics by our candidates and parties. This fundamental system change will lead us in a return to cherishing all life. And we need that change absolutely, unequivocally now.