The Vermont Cynic

Alyson Kennedy is fighting to get her party on the U.S. presidential ballot


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Alyson Kennedy, the vice presidential candidate for the Socialist Workers Party dropped by the The Cynic office during her campaign to be the next vice president of the United States.

What does the party stand for? What is the platform for the Socialist Workers Party?

Alyson Kennedy: I have been a coal miner most of my life and Róger Colero [candidate for President] has been a meat packÂer, so we’re workers and we’ve both been a part of union struggles, the fight to organize unions, we’ve been a part of other social struggles throughout our political lives.

The entire platform is based on representing the working class.

We support immediate legalization of all undocumented workers and all undocumented immigrant workers, with no conditions. We’re for open borders. We also oppose the raids and deportations that have been taking place in this country, the largest of which just took place in Laurel, Mississippi.

The immigrations, customs and enforcement agency of the government, which is le migre, just arrested 600 undocumented workers in a factory in Laurel, Mississippi. We oppose this and we also think that winning legalization is totally tied to getting stronger unions and getting more unions.

I believe that if we don’t win legalization, the unions are going to be crushed in the United States because the bosses use this to weaken the unions, the lower they can drive the wages down of one section of the working class it sets up a situation where they drive everybody’s wages down.

How many states are you on the ballot for right now?

AK: Right now we’ve been certified to be on the ballot in eight states; we just filed for ballot status in Vermont and we filed petitions to be on the ballot in New York State and we’re waiting to hear that we’ll be certified, which we think will be in a matter of days.

What are your feelings on this? Are they adequate requirements or do they hinder any other party than the two bipartisan parties from getting on the ballot?

AK: I think the ballot laws in the US are rigged against the working class. It makes it very, very hard for parties that are not, that don’t represent the capitalist class, from getting on the ballot. In some states, it’s just impossible, like California. To get ballot status in California you have to collect over 100,000 signatures.

Unless you’re a very wealthy party, it’s very hard to do. There are some parties that pay, that employ people, young people, to petition for them. We, the Socialist Workers Party, don’t.

For example, when we petitioned in Vermont, people that support our party helped us petition, working people and others.

That happens in every state, it’s people that think we have the right to be on the ballot, that help us petition. Those are the kinds of people that sign our petitions.

But yes, the ballot laws are very restrictive in this country.

Along the lines of bipartisanship, the big question with third party candidates is when you run against a Democrat and a Republican, are you running because you honestly believe you can win?

AK: Yes, we are running to win.

We believe that, in fact we think that in this election, we’ve gotten a good hearing from working people because of what we are facing.

The Socialist Workers Party nominated Róger and me in January of this year, so we’ve been all over the country: Literally from state to state. We’ve made six international fact finding tours.

To me it’s a contradiction when you look at how wealthy a country that the U.S. is and how advanced the working class is, how productive the working class is and how productive the farmers are.

In my opinion, farmers in the United States have the capacity to feed the world, but what is preventing that, it’s an economic system that’s based on profit that prevents that from happening and I believe farmers would want to do that. I believe that working people would want to go to other countries.

To me that’s a problem, it’s the kind of world problem that I don’t agree with. I think a much different world is possible.

Back to the topic of bipartisanship, there are two major candidates and lots of times in the past, third parties have made or broken the vote. In a perfect world, your party would win the election, but it sounds as if you’re not in favor of either of them, if you had to pick the lesser of two evils, is there a party candidate that you would align with?

AK: No. No. They don’t represent me and my class. Obama and McCain represent the wealthy.

No matter what they say at election time, when elected, they’re going to do what they’re told. I think a big issue in this campaign is that both of them are talking about deeper assaults on working people.

I think that if either of them gets elected we’re going to see more attacks on things like Medicare. Obama gave an interview where he openly said he was for cutting Medicare. He said this.

Both Obama and McCain oppose things like affirmative action; they have no serious proposals to deal with the serious economic crisis that exists in this country.

We’re a student body, a university; the youth vote has come into the spotlight in this election as very crucial. What words of advice do you have for those who are still undecided as a college-age first-time voter coming into this presidential election?

AK: Well, I would encourage any young person to for vote for the SWP. We will be on the ballot in the state of Vermont. And I would encourage any young person to vote for who you’re for and get it rather than what you’re against and get it. But that’s what’s going to happen.

If you seriously oppose the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, then you should vote for SWP, because we’re the only campaign that opposes those wars in this country. We’re calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

If you’re for a clean environment and if you’re for an environment that is not controlled by the wealthy interests, which is what I believe causes pollution, then vote for the SWP.

One thing that’s really come up for us recently is that our student government has urged our president to sign the Amethyst Initiative, which is to seriously consider the drinking age and to look at whether or not it should be 21. Are there any party stances on the current 21-year-old drinking age?

AK: No. In general.

What is the drinking age here?

21.

AK: But then laws were lowered, so I am very much for the democratic rights of all working people, including young people. I think one thing that is clear is that there are more attacks on young people today, there’s no question about that.

I think it’s more likely for young people to be harassed by the cops, for example – and more likely to be stopped by cops driving, because of pure harassment on the part of local police. Not sure if that has to do with what you’re talking about.

Could you tell me about your background, where you come from, your political qualifications that got you to this VP position?

AK: I believe I am the best qualified to serve as VP of the U.S. to represent working people because I’ve been a coal miner since 1981.

I have been a very strong supporter for current unions and have been involved in many strikes.

As a union member in Utah, we’d get in cars and go to big cities and speak before union meeting and organizations. In some cities we raised as much as $15,000. This was used to sustain strikes and feed the families and pay rents.

But I think that what I went through there was kind of a prelude for some of the fights we’re seeing take place today with the fights around legalization, which I very much support.

I think that our party believes, and why I say that I’m the best qualified to represent working people in this election, is beÂcause I believe the working class is the answer to the problems in this country and the world because when you think about what workers could do to solve the problems in this world it’s really something because we work for a living, we don’t own factories or own property even, so we have no interest in this profit system.

We have no interest in exploiting other people, we don’t have any interests in going to war internationally to protect the right of the U.S. to exploit and plunder the world.

So I think that if the working class, our class, was the government in this society, we would begin to reorganize this whole country based on what is in the interest of human needs and I think it could be a much different world.

Sarah Palin, VP candidate for the Republican party, came out of nowhere and she got herself branded as this firecracker. Would you be interested at all in debating her?

AK: Sure. I’d love to debate Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. We’d very much like to be included in these debates. I think one of the reasons why Palin received so much attention was similar to Obama, when he was first announced as president.

A lot of people see there are real problems with the U.S. government so when someone new comes on the scene like that, your first reaction is, “oh, they’re new, they’re not totally bound up in what people see as a corrupt government.”

They have illusions that maybe they can change things, but if you look at the positions of Obama and Palin and Biden and McCain, you see that they are not going to change anything.

Yes, we would very much like to debate any of the candidates.

I’m not so sure that would happen, but if your campus ever has any of the candidates here, we’d love to come and debate them.

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Alyson Kennedy is fighting to get her party on the U.S. presidential ballot