One of the things I've learned speaking with minor party candidates and activists is the number of issues they bring to the table that would be popular with voters if Americans ever got the chance to hear them. Issues such as the decriminalization of marijuana, criminal justice reform, and ending the US military's endless engagements overseas, which have gained traction today, have been part of the platforms of the Libertarian and Green Parties for over two decades.
For this week's episode of YDHTY, I published an interview I did with Jo'Nathan Kingfisher, newly minted co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party, just before the New Year. We had a wide ranging conversation on the sovereignty of tribal lands, environmental policy, and the influence of corporate money in politics that all touched on issues bubbling to the surface in mainstream conversations today.
While many people in America have a place they call home, few have as close a tie to their's as Kingfisher. A direct descendant of Albert Conrad Stuntz - one of the original Europeans to settle in Northern Wisconsin - and the Chippewa who inhabited the region when Stuntz arrived, Kingfisher is a literal embodiment of American history.
As with most members of the Green Party I've spoken with, Kingfisher's political journey started around 2000, when Ralph Nader gained traction in the Presidential Election and the Democrats' platform appeared to only pay lip service to issues of the environment and economic justice. Kingfisher's ties to environmentalism also lie in his Chippewa heritage - where preservation of the land is as much an issue of cultural survival as it is physical.
In our conversation, I saw the intersection between economic, social, and environmental justice - where race is literally written into law in the form of tribal treaties, and the government is complicit in breaking them in the name of private interests. Most Americans are aware of the Keystone Pipeline's infringement on tribal lands, yet events like these play out on a smaller scale across the country - such as when the state of Wisconsin gave Gogebic Taconite the OK to mine on tribal lands without getting permission from the tribal government.
While indigenous issues aren't usually part of mainstream political dialogue either in the media or amongst the two parties, they reflect a larger pattern in this country - where those who can afford access to government are able to threaten the health of those that government is supposed to serve.
This problem may seem distant for many of Americans but, with income inequality growing, it may not be long before we see it at our door.