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On The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Michael Gibino

Press Release – The Nation

Lisa Owen: Political editor Patrick Gower spoke to Michael Gibino, who ran 1800km to the convention to support Clintons former rival, Bernie Sanders.On The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Michael Gibino and Douglas Smith

Youtube clips from the show are available here.
Lisa Owen: Political editor Patrick Gower spoke to Michael Gibino, who ran 1800km to the convention to support Clinton’s former rival, Bernie Sanders.

Patrick Gower: So you ran, in New Zealand, that’s 1800km. You ran that. You ran that for Bernie Sanders. You’re a Bernie Sanders delegate.

Michael Gibino: That’s right. Bernie Sanders delegate. And I ran it to really help embody the passion and the grassroots movement that a lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters have had and have helped to get him as far as he had and has helped move the political revolution to take on the establishment this far, so far. So I want to help embody that but also raise awareness of income inequality across the country and homelessness as well.

For Kiwis who don’t know the geography, how many states did you come through? Where did you come through?

Sure, so six states, and our states, obviously, are fairly large here. So I started in Minnesota, went through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and then finally Pennsylvania, one of the longest states in the country and also one of the hilliest, going through the Appalachian Mountains, a lot of terrain.

Wow. And where were you staying? How did it work?

So I coordinated housing with wonderful Bernie Sanders supporters. We have this grassroot network that supported people as they volunteered and knocked on doors from state to state. So I reached out to some of the people I know, some people I didn’t know and say, ‘Hey, I’m a Bernie Sanders guy. I’m coming through.’ People were welcoming and opening up their doors and hospitality to me as I went through to Philadelphia.

And did Bernie Sanders get you into politics? Were you political before this?

I would vote in elections, including mid-terms and general elections. I was a little bit involved in the John Edwards campaign back in ’08 and Obama, but nothing like this. Bernie Sanders is a guy who has so much political and personal integrity and authenticity, and when he talks about a message about having the economy work again for the people and not just the 1%, and he’s stood by his ideals his whole career, you can’t help but want to listen to that and help fight for that message. In a time when income inequality is so high, in a time when people are coming into our society and having a hard time making ends meet, I felt it was the least I could do for the middle class and for people who are more vulnerable for me, myself.

So, how did you feel when you got here, and obviously Bernie Sanders so symbolically puts his support behind Hillary Clinton? Did you feel betrayed, like a lot of your fellow supporters did?

I didn’t feel betrayed. I can understand that feeling. A lot of people put a lot of hard work and time. Personally, I ran across the country through very hard times. I had some injuries, and it wasn’t easy. This was one of the toughest things I’ve done in my life, mentally and physically. But it didn’t dismiss the fact of how far we’re come, how far this political revolution has come, all the progress we made on drafting the most progressive political platform. For the Democratic Party, we have $15 minimum wage is what we’re calling for. Things like that that were just unheard of a few years ago. So we have a lot of work to do in our country, but we’ve come a long way. And the Bernie Sanders movement came from almost nothing about nine months all the way to almost taking on the establishment and winning the presidency.

So, where to from here for the Bernie Sanders movement? Where do you see it going?

I see a lot of people willing to stay involved locally, and that’s really how we’re going to keep on enacting change. We have to stay involved, run for office in our local elections, be vocal.

As Democrats, do you think it will stay within the Democrats, the Bernie Sanders movement?

I think there will be a lot of it that stays within the Democratic Party. I think there’s a lot of us that realise sometimes when we’re to enact change that you want, you have to work within the system to change the system. There are people that are going to be working from outside the party now, and there’s people that are just working on specific issues without any party affiliation. And I think those are all important things and fights that we need all across the political spectrum.

What sort of change do you think America needs to fix this broken system? What sort of change do you personally think America needs?

Personally, we need to get the big money out of politics. Until our political system and our economy stop being controlled by major corporations, by the wealthy elite, there’s really no hope for a fair voice for the American people expressing what they want and action taking on that will. So, you know, I think getting the big money out of politics. I would love to see a ranked voting system so that—

Proportional representation?

Exactly. Proportional representation so that any ideas that people have are represented equally in our government.

And on the TPP, you’re obviously anti TPP. Everyone in the Bernie Sanders movement is. Bernie Sanders said he will fight to stop that getting off the Congress floor in a lame-duck session. You’d obviously put your support behind that as well. The whole movement will, I suppose.

Yeah, absolutely, and that’s just like I’m talking about. We need to fight against these bills and these policies that reward the 1% and the major corporations, and the TPP is just that. It’s not just a free-trade deal. What it really is is a corporate Bill of Rights.

Is that the next fight for the Bernie Sanders movement? Making sure… Because it looks like it’s pretty much finished. Is that the next fight for you and the Bernie Sanders movement?

It’s for the Bernie Sanders movement, it’s for me, and I hope it is for a bunch of other Bernie Sanders supporters. I hope we focus all this energy that we have in protesting the election process — that maybe some of us feel like there was maybe some fraud going on there as well. I hope we focus all of that energy into fighting against this TPP, because the TPP, really, it gives corporations a free rein over our laws.

Will you guys stop it? Will you guys stop the TPP?

My plan is yes. I hope we do. I think we can, but we have to stay organised, we have to stay united in fighting against it, and we have to do whatever we can.

Lisa Owen: Douglas Smith is a former Secretary of Homeland Security in the United States and a former aide to Bill Clinton. Patrick Gower spoke to him about the email scandals swirling around the conference.

Patrick Gower: Well, Douglas, thank you for joining us and thank you for coming on New Zealand television.

Douglas Smith: Thank you so much for having me. It’s just a fabulous country, which I actually travelled to in 1999 with President Clinton, where I did my first and only bungee jump. But what a place to do it.

Now, Hillary Clinton’s side has accused Russia of taking emails out of the Democratic Party machine. Is that realistic? Because a lot of people in New Zealand look at it like a conspiracy theory. Is it realistic in your mind?

Unfortunately, very realistic. Both Russia and China have incredibly aggressive hacking operations, and the thought that they hacked the DNC — completely realistic in my mind.

Yeah, well, you did work in the homeland security area. You know about this sort of thing, I take it?

Absolutely. They are incredibly sophisticated hackers. They hack international secrets, whether it be the Australians, the New Zealanders, the United States. The thought that they would hack into a private enterprise — totally believable.

Turning now to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Donald Trump is against that, but also we’ve seen that every member of the senior Democratic leadership except Barack Obama is pretty much against it. It looks like the TPP has burned up on the political fire that is raging here. What do you make of that?

I think the challenge with talking about trade is very complicated. People understand taxes to improve schools, to build better roads. Talking about international trade pacts is a very, very challenging thing. When I worked on NAFTA with President Clinton, it was a tough story to sell. And I think against this very caustic climate, you’re probably right. For the short term, has it been pushed to the backburner? Yep, most likely. But the reality is the Republican-led Congress in this country is voting on nothing, let alone a complicate international trade pact.

You don’t think it will get off the floor of the Congress, even in the lame-duck period, the TPP?

I’d be highly shocked. They can’t get simpler thing like naming a post office off the floor, let alone something like this. I mean, the important work such as Barack Obama’s appointee to the Supreme Court who won’t even get a hearing, which is very simple and a very black and white issue, they can’t even act on that. So the notion that the Republicans would lean forward and try to talk about an issue that takes some explaining — foreign trade issues are difficult to understand — I just don’t see it happening.

You don’t see it getting past in the lame-duck period? You don’t see the TPP moving?

I don’t, but mostly just because I don’t see them moving anything.

Do you think Hillary Clinton is pro trade? Do you think she’s pro TPP but she can’t do it in this environment, in the environment that we see now, this sort of political warfare?

I think first and foremost what Hillary Clinton is is a believer in global engagement, and she understands the world we live in. When I was at Homeland Security, I worked very closely with her, particularly around issues of travel and tourism. With the invention of the aircraft, with the internet, we are all just a click away from so many things, and I think she understands that is the global environment that we live in. We can’t live in isolated silos, and I think when she becomes president, one of her first things to do is better explain the importance of global engagement. Almost every single state in the United States exports to overseas. Foreign trade is critical to the strength of the US economy.

My question is — do you think she can’t do that now in what’s happening, the kind of debate that is happening here? Do you think she can’t have that role now? She has to leave that?

I don’t know if it’s as much as she can or can’t now. She doesn’t really have the ability to do it. I mean, President Obama is the president, and it’s his job to push that through at the moment. She is a candidate for president. She isn’t holding an elected office, and there’s no way that this Congress is going to try to do anything to give her assistance one way or the other. They’d rather just sit on their hands and see what happens with the election. So I think unfortunately, for the rest of the world, we’re in a bit of a holding pattern until the dust of this election cycle settles down.

And when we look at this, when we look down here, to New Zealanders, the political scene here is just so different. It’s mad, it’s crazy. Do you think this election, in your mind, is crazier than any other before in American politics?

I think it’s crazier than I ever remember, but I think it’s also against the backdrop of all the new things out there. Social media — you know, in 140 characters on Twitter what I could say; I could post it up on Instagram; I could Periscoping right now as I talk to you and stream around the world. Information just goes so quickly that all it takes is one silly thing for a candidate to say and it explodes the world over. It’s fascinating to me. As a young man, I lived in England and became very keen watching the English political system. What just happened there? This catastrophic vote happened. Within a week, the prime minister resigns; new prime minister in. As an American, oh my God, it’s just shocking what we’re seeing here. This has been going on now for two years, and we still have 100 more days till the election, and it is only going to get uglier, my belief, before November happens.

Right, that’s a very good place to leave it. Thank you for joining us, Douglas.

Thank you for having me.

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