Thirty questions on (mostly) domestic policy.
Alex DiBlasi is running for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District as a Green.
1.) What is your stance on Black Lives Matter? How do you propose ending the patterns of racial discrimination in the justice system?
Black Lives Matter is a necessary force in a society where the historic trend of institutional racism has become institutional white supremacy. We have a President endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. I’m worried people forget this.
Since the election of Donald Trump, we have seen in our state and city an increase in bias and hate incidents. Oregon and Portland both have an ugly history of racism, as well as a not-so-recent history. We need to confront it honestly and move forward with an eye towards equity so this beautiful state and its wonderful cultural capital city are welcoming and inclusive for all.
In our justice system, proactive measures need to be made to end the school-to-prison pipeline that exists in Oregon for students of color. It begins with reducing suspensions in our schools and favoring the Restorative Justice approach. Restorative Justice favors community building over punitive measures. It has proven successful in reducing violent incidents in correctional facilities as well as in schools. Its guiding philosophy is noble, and I have plenty to share on the subject. We need to end for-profit prisons and do away with our embarrassingly high incarceration rate by getting to the root causes of discord, crime, and violence.
I want to see an end to grand juries and Measure 11.
2.) Have you heard of the Green New Deal?
Yes, and I fully support it and pledge to make it a central talking point in my campaign. It will be my first priority, when elected, to propose the Green New Deal as a legislative solution to our current climate crisis. I believe in this idea as one that will revolutionize energy, labor, and transportation, while also ending our dependence on fossil fuels.
3.) Do you support Sanctuary Cities?
Wholeheartedly, but there’s a snag: there is currently no legislation or ruling establishing a definition of “Sanctuary City.” This is why and how, in our self-proclaimed Sanctuary City and Sanctuary State, families are still being torn apart due to deportations. I have asked city leadership to work towards a resolution defining what it means to be a Sanctuary City, rather than have these words remain hollow.
4.) Should we have military bases overseas?
No. Full stop.
5.) Do you support single payer healthcare?
I absolutely support single payer healthcare. We needed it in 2009, and it was the Democrats who allowed it to be negotiated off of the table.
6.) What is your stance on cannabis?
I enjoy cannabis, and so do many of my fellow Oregonians. Unfortunately, this referendum-voiced right does not exist across the country. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws has resulted in life imprisonment for peaceful pot smokers. It is still listed as a Schedule I drug at the federal level; I would seek to change its classification so as to better facilitate research.
Mom and Pop pot operations shouldn’t fear a loss of livelihood from the influence of big money, nor from the Office of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once said about the Ku Klux Klan (again with these guys), “I thought those guys were okay until I heard they smoked pot.” Out of state big money should not be setting the tone of our homespun pot industry, neither should the whims of compromised leadership at the federal level.
I would also like to see the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon and would support any local efforts to make this happen.
Until we see the day where marijuana is legal across all 50 states, it should be legal to transport across state lines into states where it is also legal.
7.) Do you support DACA? What is your position on border security?
I totally support DACA. No one who grew up here and is pursuing an honest living should face deportation, and neither should any undocumented person who commits a crime here.
The situations in Mexico and its southern neighbors — Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, among others — are egregious human rights violations. Political dissidents get disappeared. The government opened fire on a gathering of teachers on strike in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Environmental activists and the journalists covering them are getting murdered. Gangs are working with the police in many parts of Mexico. That we are sending mothers, fathers, families back into these living nightmares should be regarded as a crime against humanity.
Our border security situation is sick and it is rooted in racism. Border patrol agents regularly sabotage food and water left by activists for people who are crossing without documentation. An already difficult situation becomes one of life and death. Those agents should lose their jobs and face criminal penalties.
8.) Should we have a wall on our border with Mexico?
No. Full stop.
I am more interested in us using diplomacy to address the issues that have created mass-wave migrations out of Latin America into the U.S. It is sad to think our country can meddle in elections, topple regimes, and steal resources from nations across the globe, yet we can’t even be a good neighbor.
9.) What is your idea of sensible gun legislation?
I am a Green who supports the 2nd Amendment. Despite what Democrats think, this is a nuanced issue. Historical examples of the state confiscating weapons and then enacting martial law abounds.
I believe if you want to own a gun, you should have to go through a process similar to that of acquiring a driver’s license. There should be training, safety classes, and a mental health screening before taking a licensure exam.
Assault rifles shouldn’t even be in the hands of any military, and yet here we are, with open carry laws allowing people to tote AR-15’s with them to the grocery store. This is not okay. One can claim the necessity of personal defense as justification for owning a single-shot firearm such as a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. Semi-automatics serve no purpose other than to kill en masse. You don’t need an AR-15 to take down a deer or a bear. They are incredibly helpful to people with violent tendencies to wipe out as much life as possible, as demonstrated by our horrifying trend of mass shooting events.
Assault rifles should be banned.
10.) What are your thoughts on gender inequality?
I hate it, it is archaic and gross, and it needs to go away. Misogyny, sexism, and rape culture are interconnected.
Women still make 78 cents on the dollar relative to their male counterparts in the same profession. The Equal Rights Amendment to our Constitution needs to be ratified, it has been waiting since 1972, and its lack of passage speaks volumes about how our culture views women.
11.) How have you served the community you are seeking to represent?
I am an educator, writer, and activist, and enjoy working in the community to spread what I think is the greatest force on earth: music. With Ethos Music Center, I have been blessed with the opportunity to do what I love for a living. I am a strong proponent of arts education. Fostering creativity boosts empathy, and cultivating empathy has been linked to higher IQ’s. There are some fascinating studies being done connecting the act of drumming with the mitigation of the effects of trauma.
In the past, I have worked with Portland Public Schools’ Pioneer Program and with Transition Projects. Pioneer serves students with behavioral and mental health needs. During my time with PPS, I received training in Collaborative Problem Solving as well as Restorative Justice practices. I became aware, working in an alternative school program with a disproportionate percentage of students of color, that the ugly face of racism is present in our education system. My time at the Pioneer Program prompted me into community activism. My time working at Transition Projects helped hone my focus on issues related to inequality, anti-racist efforts, and how the state treats its most marginalized peoples.
In 2017, I marched a group of protesters to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s home in Portland, with the demand that the city end its financial ties to Wells Fargo through divestment for their funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Admittedly a risky strategy, I read Wheeler a statement demanding City Hall be accountable, accessible, and transparent in their dealings, that petitioners cannot be locked out of halls of government, and that deploying the riot squad on a protest march is unacceptable.
12.) Do you support employers citing religion as grounds to discriminate against customers?
Only if those customers are denigrating the employers’ religion. Religious freedom is a cause very dear to me, as my first foray into social justice issues was with my friends at the Sikh Coalition in Manhattan.
Religious diversity should be accepted as the norm.
13.) What are your thoughts on the Democratic Party?
Forgive the crudity, but I think these major parties are simply two cheeks on the same rump. The differences exist, but they serve the same end.
Most of the Democrats currently in our government are milquetoast, inconsistent, flip-floppers who regularly race-bait to get votes from people they have no intention of serving. Barack Obama likened himself to a moderate Reagan-era Republican while media outlets were trying to convince the average viewer that he is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist (which, frankly, could have made for an awesome eight years), even though he put us into war with four more nations, launched drone strikes (each one a mini-war crime), and enacted mass deportations. They use manufactured panics around social issues to create a fog so as to conceal their own tendencies towards militarism. In the last Presidential election, they rigged the game and still lost.
Hillary Clinton is a Democrat In Name Only, and her election to the Presidency would have been, as Dr. Cornel West put it, “a neoliberal disaster.” She was a College Republican, sat on the board of Wal-Mart and was a union-buster, called black youth “super-predators,” and ran a disgusting campaign against Barack Obama in 2008.
Bernie Sanders has some great ideas, many of them lifted from the Green platform. When he entered the race — not as an Independent, but as a Democrat — I smelled a rat. I wanted to believe he was real. However, I urge people to lean in and look closely. He essentially ran a Green campaign, eschewing big money and adopting a grassroots aesthetic, and his bid in closed-primary states unfortunately shepherded many Greens to register as Democrats to cast their votes for a man who was essentially the controlled opposition. CNN in 2013 referred to Clinton’s then-potential bid as a “coronation,” and the leaked DNC emails from the eve of their convention suggests that such an arrangement was made.
I’ve witnessed a growing fracture within the Democrats between Bernie supporters (“Berners”) and Clinton supporters, who believe Bernie ran to undermine Hillary’s bid (the exact opposite of what I think is the truth) and will continue to do so while grooming another Kennedy/Obama.
There are fine Democrats out there, both among the electorate and as elected officials. I can think of a few politicians that I call “Teal Democrats” because they’re essentially Greens who play with big money donors. But I would ask any of them what they are doing as Democrats and urge them to consider joining the Green Party.
14.) How do you feel about Trump, his political allies, his vocal supporters, and his voters?
Donald Trump is vile. Decorum prohibits me from using my full vocabulary to describe him. He is a white nationalist, if not by name, then by deed.
He has lowered the bar on political discourse to the point that I am concerned about the future of this country. He has mocked the disabled, sexually assaulted women (and bragged about it), denigrated Muslims and Mexicans, called undocumented persons “animals,” referred to Colin Kaepernick as a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police violence against his community, befriended dictators like Rodrigo Duterte and Narendra Modi, asked Russia to hack his opponents, voiced his support of torturing detainees, urged a gathering of law enforcement officers to use excessive force, and defended the Ku Klux Klan in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. All this without even getting into tax cuts and that wall.
I firmly believe he and his administration is exemplary of being the opposite of the Green Party’s platform.
Watching Trump go from candidate to nominee to President-elect, I saw many leaders in the Republican Party reject, then embrace, Trump’s frightful platform. Shame on them.
Despite my strong words for the man and his political allies, I understand why many chose to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton. Bernie would have won, but the game was also rigged and that was kind of the idea. (See above answer.) Trump’s vocal supporters — namely those on the Alt-Right — are echoing a demented message rooted in white nationalism. Their memory is selective, as they fail to recognize they are living on stolen land.
That said, not everyone who voted for him espouses his toxic mentality. I have talked with people who voted for Trump — and I also know people who would distance themselves from me for doing so — and aside from the diehard “MAGA” types, there is a large number of voters who simply could not bring themselves to vote for Clinton. I believe many of these voters have the potential to be Greens.
15.) What is your stance on unions and allowing union members to not pay dues?
I support unions. I worked with Young Democratic Socialists in college, and we owe a lot to the labor movement for creating humane work conditions. Many gave their lives for us to have five-day work weeks and to end child labor. There are not enough public tributes to these individuals or their unions. (And yet Confederate statues loom over cities across the US.) As we are still fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage — which I think needs to be adjusted for inflation and raised to something closer to $22.50 — many laborers can’t afford to part with excessive union dues. Union dues should be “pay what you can.”
16.) What is your opinion on socialism?
I do not support capitalism. It is a cruel, murderous economic system meant to build empires. I support workers controlling the means of production. I also recognize that we are embroiled in a class struggle. Beyond that, I find much of Marxism is quaint and he in fact believed Socialism to be a means to an end, not the end itself; rather, the end is Communism. Scientific Socialism makes much more sense. I believe Anarchist writers have theories of worth — my two favorites are Emma Goldman and Murray Bookchin, godfather of Libertarian Municipalism (which has little in common with the current Libertarian Party platform) — as well as Vedic Ecologists such as Vandana Shiva and Ranchor Prime. Subcommandante Marcos, leader of the Zapatistas, has a fascinating idea about our current global conflict that deserves amplification. (As a Frank Zappa fan, both of his words and his music, perhaps I am a Zappatista?) I also embrace the ideas of black thinkers like Dr. Cornel West, Ajamu Baraka, Dick Gregory, and Teressa Raiford.
17.) What are your thoughts on Antifa?
They have my full support. Desperate times call for drastic measures, and I don’t think it is at all wrong to out someone who espouses ideals of racial supremacy or inferiority. I believe those people should be outed to their employers and to their communities. Hatemongers deserve no platform. Free speech does not protect words that promote violence, aggression, or hate.
18.) What are your thoughts on the Alt-Right?
I experienced my formative years with George W. Bush in the White House. I thought his administration was as racist and imperialist as the Republican Party could get. With the arrival of Obama, I had believed the Tea Party was simply lunacy’s last gasp. I was wrong. They grew in numbers, they appointed leaders, and they’ve removed their hooded robes in exchange for dapper outfits and college-bred vernacular to conceal their racism.
19.) Do you think white supremacy is a problem in the Pacific Northwest? In the United States?
Yes, and yes.
20.) What is your stance on free trade?
I am opposed to NAFTA and to the TPP. We should engage in fair trade that respects the planet, the worker, and the consumer.
21.) What forms of renewable energy do you think present the most sustainable future?
Solar, wind, and hydroelectric.
22.) What Green Party leaders do you follow on social media/in the news?
I read Ajamu Baraka’s articles for the Black Agenda Report with regularity. As the person behind the Portland Green Party’s Twitter feed, I am connected to Greens across the country.
23.) Do you vote Green?
I do and have since 2012.
24.) Should Portland be part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force?
If they were investigating hate crimes and combating hate groups, I would say yes. However, it has been demonstrated plenty that the JTTF infringes on people’s civil liberties, including warrantless surveillance, wrongful arrest, and harassment of our Muslim neighbors. So, this is a no. Full stop.
25.) Do you support rent control?
Yes, the dramatic rise in rents is causing homelessness, even though developers of mega-condos (a friend of mine in NYC calls them “yuppie projects”) often struggle to find tenants. People are making an awful lot of money from these construction projects, and there needs to be extensive oversight.
26.) How would you ensure most new housing is affordable?
There should be a greater percentage of units set aside with the affordable designation, and at rates that are actually affordable. It should not cost as much as it does to have four walls and a roof.
27.) Do you support abortion rights, free from restrictions?
Yes, free from restrictions. However, I want women legislators dictating the specifics.
28.) Do you believe sweeping homeless camps is an acceptable practice?
No. It is inhumane. I’ve served people who have endured sweeps, multiple times.
29.) What are your thoughts on freeway expansion?
I know there is some controversy surrounding the expansion of I-5 near the Rose Quarter, where it becomes a two-lane freeway between a busy exit (Broadway) and the on-ramp for I-405. It produces a bottleneck during rush hour, as does the current bridge crossing linking Portland to Vancouver, Washington. I favor ecological wisdom, but I also see this as a practical issue that impacts everyone who uses that road, not just locals but commuters (from Vancouver, the drive can take upwards of two hours — over a mere distance of ten miles from one downtown to the other) but also travelers and commercial drivers who are simply passing through.
I’d like to see more crossings over the Columbia, perhaps something similar to the car-free Tillikum Crossing in Portland, which caters to cyclists, pedestrians, and transit, but not civilian vehicles. This would require cooperation with Washington, but we’ve needed it for years.
30.) What is your transit plan?
We need nationwide rapid transit, akin to what is in place in Europe. The rail network across Europe allows people to easily traverse the continent. Cities and towns should invest in infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. I’ve traveled across this country, visiting 48 states, and even in the so-called “bike friendly” cities, there is much room for improvement. A car-less reality is probably further away than we want to think, but it requires these vital steps to bolster alternatives for transportation.