Interview with independent presidential candidate Emanuel Pastreich
Independent Digital Journalist
Why did you take the bold move of declaring your candidacy for president?
I have watched the candidates who are allowed to appear on television and I noticed that not a single one is addressing the biggest crises of our time with any concrete policy, and in most cases they are focused on secondary topics.
The complete domination of the political debate by the COVID-19 contagion represents well the precipitous decline of our political culture. It has become routine, standard procedure, to hype this particular virus while remaining silent about the millions of people drinking water contaminated with lead, or with dangerous chemicals from fracking. We, as citizens, have to draw a line in the sand concerning a decadent and corrupt political system.
I felt that we need a voice that is willing to speak the truth. And to be frank, I think that anyone who reads my platform will quickly see that I am the only one out there who qualified to be president. I dare any of the known candidates to debate me.
What do you think about the other candidates?
I am not interested in criticizing the other candidates. They all have crawled through a poisonous political cave to get this far and they have been permanently misshapen by that experience. Donald Trump spoke frankly about 9/11 before the last election and he called for an end to the US wars in the Middle East. But once he entered the White House he was made a prisoner.
To attack Trump is to fall for the classic “good cop bad cop” routine that dominates our politics. The establishment wants you to hate Trump so that you think that the other corrupt politicians whom they put forward are somehow angels in comparison. We call that the politics of “dime’s worth of difference.”
People are drawn to the personalities of candidates. That is how the public relations firms that package politicians want it to be. But citizens need to educate themselves, to debate among themselves about what is best for America, and they must see with their own eyes how the institutions of governance in the US have fallen into decay. The rot in government is so advanced that an election cannot change much at all.
My campaign for the presidency is part of a larger and far more critical movement to reestablish a culture of citizenship in the United States and to encourage real intellectual debate between citizens.
There are other third party candidates out there, but you will notice that they also are not focused on governance or on a scientific assessment of the problems that the United States faces. Those alternative candidates offer us the release of pent up frustration, but they do not offer an organized movement to transform the United States.
It certainly is a clown show. Yet more and more of the general population is starting to wake up to this reality. I appreciate that your declaration of candidacy is the expression of clear ideas, not PR talking points. You present a rational and pertinent position that is not self-serving.
Thank you for taking the time to read my speech. If I had political consultants around me they would never allow me to give a speech like that. The underlying assumption for a politician is that I must dumb down my words to fit on the juvenile and asinine political discussion at CNN or Fox News. We see the great “socialist” and “progressive” Bernie Sanders falling all over himself to pander to the corporate media’s agenda of “the short, stupid and banal.”
But our job as politicians must be to lift citizens up to a higher level, to engage them as people who will have a say in the running of the nation, and not to treat them like consumers to be fed prepackaged political agendas. I want to say “no” to the offensive anti-intellectualism that is strangling this country and I want to tell all Americans that you can do better; you can read books and engage in a deep debate among yourselves about this country’s future.
Speeches were once a big part of politics. I quote George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and others in mine. Mine is an American speech. It draws on the better angels of the American tradition. I do not assume that any one ideology will save us.
It is clear you are serious in your demand for the transformation of society and for addressing institutional corruption head on. Why is the participation of citizens in government so central for you?
The news reports about opinion polls, or about how many delegates have been won, or about how many people are infected with coronavirus, are a cowardly and dishonest manner of distracting us from real issues and from a debate on substantial long-term policy. If citizens start to talk to each other about what we are going to do about climate change, how we are going to end the radical concentration of wealth, or how we are going to limit the negative impact on humans of new technologies, then we have the sprouts of a democracy. No charismatic politician is going to bring us democracy. News and discussion should inform and stimulate deeper thinking.
If, however, we feel that we must convince citizens that they have only one choice: they must vote for either Pepsi or Coke once every four years, and that otherwise they should just mind their own business, then we have a tyranny. Workers, ordinary citizens, are capable of understanding complex policy issues. It is the powerful people who want to keep them dependent on the simplistic ranting of pundits.
Tell us about your background.
I was trained as an Asia expert and I spent many years teaching at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign — which is the part of the country where I grew up.
I studied Chinese, Japanese and Korean because I felt that although Americans at the time did not take these countries so seriously, they were rapidly increasing in their influence and so Americans would need to understand them on their own terms in the future. Having a president of the United States who can read and write Chinese, Japanese and Korean is critical for our future.
We should not be too proud to admit we have a lot to learn from Asia. Humility is a critical character trait for a president, and for a nation.
I think we have a tremendous amount to learn from the Asian cultures, whether in habits, in philosophy or in artistic expression.
We must start with the basic assumption that the United States is behind and that we must be ready to learn from other countries. Telling ourselves we are “number one” does no one any good. But we also must recognize that this dangerous extraction economy, this insane consumption and growth economy, has to end. That flawed assumption about economics has spread its tentacles around the world and is not only an American problem.
My candidacy is meant as a challenge to the existing global consensus that refuses to even consider that the warming of the Earth will mean that simply producing food will be ten or twenty times as difficult in the near future. This is a fact, but even the so-called progressives are totally silent about it. But the future of agriculture is a plank in my platform.
Ideologically, what socioeconomic/political system do you favor?
My speech and platform is meant to be profoundly American. It is meant to be accessible to all citizens and to treat them as thinkers, not as ignorant masses to be force-fed the political equivalent of a Burger King advertisement .
I do not use the terms “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “fascism,” or “socialism” anywhere — not because I take the threat of the economic and political collapse lightly, but because those terms can be ambiguous and they are unfamiliar to many citizens. We can find the traces of good government in our past and we should use that as an inspiration to move us forward. That is what George Washington and Abraham Lincoln did. Part of that process demands, however, that we first recognize just how serious the situation is today.
How do you plan to get your message out? What sort of support have you found so far?
I guess you could say I am pursuing a coronavirus strategy for my campaign. I created a powerful message using carefully crafted language that is different from anything any other candidate is saying. I am assuming that if Americans recognize that the political system is so corrupt that it is impossible for anyone to even get a chance to speak the truth, then the truth I speak will spread like virus, and will do so even if the entire media is dead set against me.
There is a small, but growing, group of Americans who are responding to our message. I am not interested in gimmicks designed to get attention in a corrupt media system. The media has nothing but contempt for me and I welcome its contempt. I am calculating that there are Americans who will respond to this message precisely because the entire system is teetering on the edge of collapse.
There are many Americans looking for sane, sincere leadership. We have been denied that for so long that many assume that praying before the false idols of corporate power is the only way to play the political game. The fact that there is a jokester in the White House is par for the course.
Literally all progressive politicians in Washington D.C., including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spend most of their day raising money through the corrupt Democratic Party machine. All of them bow before the false idols of Washington D.C. Do you think either of them is going to insist on an international scientific investigation of the 9.11 incident? Come on! The entire system is rotten to the core.
You offer hope in that you are an American citizen and you are actually trying to run for president, no matter what they do to block you.
The situation is paradoxical. I am less qualified than others in that I have not served as a politician in Washington D.C. and therefore I do not know all the ropes. I was never invited to those insider briefings and I have no security clearance. But in that I am willing to state that the entire system is corrupt and that all the other candidates are unqualified from the start, I have a chance to reshape the entire political dialogue.
Some people want to force me into the Democrats corral, or into the Republican corral. They want me to embrace the bankrupt hymn “Anyone but Trump.”
My response is that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party do not appear anywhere in the constitution. The two parties’ influence over the formulation of, and implementation of, policy has been usurped in an illegal manner (and is illegally delegated to consulting firms and lobbyists). The recent giveaway of trillions of dollars of tax payer money to investment banks and other corporations as part of “operation corona bailout” is indicative of this corruption. A trillion here, a trillion there and soon you are talking real money.
I hope that this move to address real issues in a coherent and comprehensive manner will take off. But I am not that optimistic.
Our hope is that the contrast between what I am saying and what everyone else takes for granted will become so great that the mainstream political discourse will appear ludicrous and that the vacuum formed thereby will draw me into the discussion. Other politicians are not talking about anything substantial, but rather they are lost in a baroque discourse defined by the talking points handed to them by PR agents.
Because corporate backing is required to become a viable candidate (which means being allowed on television), they are all beholden to the hand that feeds them.
They all know their master’s voice: investment banks, sovereign wealth funds and a handful of avuncular billionaires who spend piles of money to appear harmless to the public that they are destroying. It would be funny if it were not so tragic how the average American has zero support in Washington D.C.
What do you think is the best way to start delivering the truth to the psychologically battered population who are now being economically battered?
Well, the day of reckoning is quickly approaching. Citizens are going to be paid in worthless currency (if paid at all) forced on them by an unregulated Federal Reserve. We have a bankrupt nation locked into an extraction-based economy on our hands. The government cannot not even promise survival for citizens in an age of extreme climate change.
It feels that we are approaching a 9/11 moment. It was a tragedy that was compelling, that created broad empathy around the world. But it was quickly redirected towards endless foreign wars and massive corporate funding.
COVID-19 is without any doubt Trump’s 9/11. 9/11 was made into a media carnival, an opportunity to push through the Patriot Act that gave trillions to corporations in the name of security and remade the entire government in the name of terrorism. But terrorism turned out not to be the serious a threat in the way it was endlessly described in the media at the time. More grotesquely, the actual terrorism of 9/11 was never investigated.
This time we have a rush to promote this new “plague,” but we know that none of these politicians care about public health. Millions of Americans can barely feed themselves, are forced to eat processed foods at work that undermine their immunity systems. If we want to protect citizens from viruses, they should be allowed, encouraged, to eat healthy food, to sleep well and to reduce stress in their lives. They should be given time to exercise. None of this is ever mentioned in the policy debate. The massive prison population and homeless population also never comes up in the 24/7 corona fest. Seems like there is some other agenda besides health.
We are heading for hyperinflation after the 6-trillion-dollar corona bailout. And this new law also makes economic decisions about how the government helps banks secret. If the Patriot Act made diplomacy secret, this is the launch of what we might call a “classified economy.”
What will happen if Trump rolls out a new “Department of Pandemics” and demands billions of dollars to reduplicate through corporations what the Federal government was supposed to do already? My guess is that when the Federal government gives billions to pharmaceutical companies from classified budgets, Bernie Sanders will just demand that the “Department of Pandemics” should better address the needs of the middle class. He will never question the assumptions behind the system.
How do we start a positive cycle out of this negative trend of the last twenty years?
Telling the truth is a good first step. So far, those who have done so in America have been entirely marginalized because establishment people, even middle class people, found it easier to cling to illusions about what the United States was before than to admit that the system has been fundamentally corrupted.
9/11 was gangrene. We needed to cut off that finger immediately and brutally. But we just slapped a band aid on it and ignored the stench. Now the entire body politic is gravely infected.
My administration will be about the scientific method. That does not mean overpaid specialists from Harvard make all the decisions. It means that we will assess what we need to do according to objective scientific principles. We will take a disease like COVID-19 seriously, but we will not hype it up at the expense of other serious concerns. We most certainly will not use COVID-19 to mask a rigged financial collapse.
I am certain there are many people out there listening to us who are intrigued by your message but they are not sure how they should perceive you.
People ask me constantly, “Are you serious about this campaign?” I think that the question suggests that they are not serious about politics.
If we work on the assumption that unless you have raised millions of dollars from corporations and the rich you are not serious, that unless a corrupt and biased network like CNN interviews you, you are not serious, then yes, every serious candidate will be eliminated from the start.
But if you look at what I do, if you read what I write and if you think about the gravity of the situation that we find ourselves in today, then I think you will come to the conclusion that I am the only serious candidate.
I am addressing the real dangers we face in my writings, whether it is the reemergence of slavery, the negative impact of technology on citizens, or the destruction of serious discourse by PR firms and their commercial advertising.
There are many who could take my place right now. They have more experience that I do working in government. But they are not here speaking the painful and necessary truths like I am. Why do you think that might be?
The answer is simple:
They are afraid that if they start to discuss real issues, then their funding will dry up, then they will not get that next juicy lecture at a corporate seminar, then they will no longer be invited to be on prime time TV news.
But those who have had the chance to receive a good education, to have the benefits this country offers, have an obligation to ordinary people who have not been so lucky. Flattering the rich and powerful is not their job.
We have most of these politicians making out like bandits with corporate money and now it seems to everyone that doing so is okay. I am here to say that it is not okay. It is criminal, it is unethical and if everyone is doing it, then maybe everyone should be out, now!
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Declaration of Candidacy for
President of the United States
“I shall fear no evil”
February 24, 2020
There are turns in the river of history so dramatic, even overwhelming, that we must demand more than progressive adaptation, we must demand a fundamental restructuring of every aspect of our society.
This moment is such a moment and I declare my candidacy for president of the United States not because I desire the perks that accompany that position, perks that have grown gaudy as that institution has decayed, but because there will be no hope of stanching the flow of our nation’s lifeblood unless those who have benefited the most from our finest traditions are willing to throw themselves into the battle.
The time has come for a politics founded in truth, and not an appeal to whim or to fleeting emotions. We cannot look away from the profound moral decay that has laid waste to our beloved United States. We must combine a deep empathy for the sufferings of ordinary people with an inspiring vision for what this country could be.
This campaign does not offer you glittering false promises. Until we restore a discourse in politics that is honest and we reestablish a government that holds up an ideal, and implements that ideal, promises made by politicians, whether they call themselves “conservative” or “progressive,” will not mean much.