Columbus, Ohio (TFC) – Robert Fitrakis is a prominent member of the Green Party in the state of Ohio. He is a Professor of Political Science at Columbus State Community College and has been the editor of The Columbus Free Press since 1993. Fitrakis has run in numerous political campaigns in Ohio, including an independent run for Governor and as a challenger to current Ohio Governor John Kasich in the 12th Congressional district in 1992. Fitrakis has also served as an independent elections monitor and is a prolific author. He has been published widely in the independent media, including Truthout, Common Dreams, and Counterpunch.
Fitrakis is currently running for Franklin County Prosecutor in Ohio. You can read a full biography of Robert Fitrakis here, and learn more about his bid for county prosecutor on the official campaign website.
Eric Scott Pickard: You’ve been a member of the Human Rights Party in Michigan and were a founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. What drew you to the Green Party, and how would you characterize their political beliefs in comparison to other parties of which you have been a member?
Robert Fitzrakis: I was Governor Jerry Brown’s platform spokesperson in 1992, and argued against the Clintonistas on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the death penalty issue. I was concerned at the time of the rise of mainstream corporatist free trade Democrats taking over the Democratic Party. By 1996, it was clear that Clinton had embraced “law and order”, putting a million more police on the street to federalize the War on Drugs, and that he was expanding the prison industrial complex. I began to explore other options, voting for Nader in 2000. But after 9/11 I felt both major parties had accepted a post-Constitutional United States based on the world’s largest spying apparatus and an endless war on terrorists. When Bush attacked Iraq in 2003 and Democrats like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for the war I knew we needed an anti-corporate pro-peace party in the United States. So I began to try to build one in Ohio, first by running for governor as an independent Green-endorsed candidate in 2006. The Green Party is a Party of values that is guided by re-localization, eco-socialism, peace and participatory democracy. In many ways, the Green Party is similar to the Human Rights Party, and the Citizens Party I worked with in 1980. DSA was more of an open caucus in the Democratic Party that existed to do laywork for liberals or promote lesser-evilism. It was much harder to be enthusiastic about supporting a Democrat who didn’t share my values because a Republican was farther to the right.
Eric: You have written extensively on election fraud, and served as an international observer for the 1994 elections in El Salvador. What do you think of the allegations of voter fraud which have haunted the 2016 US primary season?
Robert Fitrakis: There has been very little evidence of “voter fraud,” and by that I mean voters voting twice. But there have been massive facts pointing to election fraud during the 2016 primary. Twelve out of the 26 Democratic primary vote totals suggest that there were election irregularities and tampering that favored Clinton. With the release of the Wikileaks hacks, it is clear that the Democratic National Committee was targeting Sanders voters and stripping them from the voter rolls. I believe that without these irregularities, Sanders would have been the Democratic nominee.
Eric: What do you think of the United States electoral system, specifically the two party system? What problems do you see, as a political scientist, and advocate for free elections?
Robert Fitrakis: There are numerous problems with the U.S. political system. First and foremost, there is the fact that we allow private, for-profit partisan companies to secretly program our election computers and central tabulators. Also, both major parties have been so compromised by Big Money and corporate money, they offer no real solutions to working U.S. citizens and those most in need of government services. We have the least electorally competitive legislative branch among the western industrial democracies. Ninety percent of our Congressional seats are gerrymandered and rigged in favor of an incumbent. So, it is no surprise that recently Harvard and the University of Australia ranked the U.S. dead last, the least democratic of all the 47 long-standing democracies in the world.
Eric: What reform measures would you like to see in the United States electoral system?
Robert Fitrakis: I would like there to be proportional representation in state and national legislative bodies and the elimination of the electoral college. I would like to eliminate all computer voting and move back to paper ballots hand-counted at the local precinct level. I would like to see Citizens United repealed and the public financing of elections. I would like to see a non-partisan commission administer the elections. The right to vote should be placed in the U.S. Constitution. There should be a national voting system that makes it incumbent on the government to register people to vote. We are currently plagued by a Jim Crow state-based system that is contemptuous of democracy.
Eric: What are your thoughts on the “lesser of two evils” voting narrative that is being pushed by the two major parties?
Robert Fitrakis: Let me first concede that both major party candidates are evil. I believe Clinton is a neo-liberal neocon war hawk and Trump has gotten his Mussolini on. I don’t believe people should vote for someone they don’t agree with just because they are a little less evil than the other one. I think the system would function better if people would vote their hopes and values, not their fears.
Eric: You’re currently running for Franklin County Prosecutor in Ohio. Part of your platform is a promise to prosecute police who use excessive force. What are your opinions on what seems to be a wave of police brutality in the United States, and how can the problem be corrected?
Robert Fitrakis: The police act as an occupying army against the urban poor who are, disproportionately, people of color. They have decided it is okay to profile and target black people. Much of the problem is that the police force have won a case to allow them to hire people with lower IQs, many police fundamentally don’t understand the Constitution and particularly the Bill of Rights, and law enforcement has been militarized. There has been very little consequence for their actions, no one gets indicted for killing people or reckless endangerment when they shoot up poor neighborhoods. Police know what they can get away with.
First of all, one solution would be not arresting people for drug possession, but to use our health care system for those issues. Second, a massive Green New Deal that would create millions of jobs, as well as the problem of climate change, could uplift the economic status of whole communities. We need to develop new models of policing, particularly community policing. We need to rebuild models where police officers actually live in the neighborhoods that they patrol. Police who engage in criminal activity must be convicted just like any other citizen.
Eric: You also promise to prosecute anyone involved in electoral fraud and “arrest any individuals or government officials illegally spying on the people of Franklin County.” Can you elaborate on these issues, and do you believe that prosecutors across the country have been lax in these areas?
Robert Fitrakis: I believe Franklin County, Ohio should be a Bill of Rights enforcement zone, so that anyone from the FBI, CIA, NSA or other alphabet-soup agency is operating without warrants contrary to the U.S. Constitution, they need to be arrested and prosecuted. State capitols are a great place to go after corrupt politicians, influence-peddling lobbyists and corporate criminals. That should be the bulk of a prosecutor’s work, not prosecuting drug addicts. They need medical care, not jails and prisons. I think anyone who is illegally de-registering voters or tampering with our election system needs to spend serious time in prison.
Eric: What is your position on the drug war, and what would you do in that area as a prosecutor?
Robert Fitrakis: I think the wave of police brutality is firmly rooted in a racist and class-based War on Drugs that targeted the civil rights and black power movement as well as the anti-war student left. I think the War on Drugs was a deliberate attempt by Nixon in 1971 and it expanded massively under the Reagan administration and was federalized by Bill Clinton. The reality is we have the single largest prison industrial complex on earth. We do not need to fill up prisons with people possessing drugs, just the ones who perpetrate the influx of drugs into our communities, like the CIA.
Eric: The Green Party has certainly gained some traction nationally, but people often forget that the local and state elections are also of vital importance, and often more important to an individual’s daily life. Do you think that the Green Party can rally enough support to gain important local and state positions, as well as at the national level? Do the two support each other?
Robert Fitrakis: The key to this is the introduction of former Sanders supporters, young millennials with a tremendous desire to re-shape and re-localize their communities. The Green Party with its near-universal state ballot status must focus next year on running young people in college towns all over the country for state and local offices. We need to re-invigorate the concept of liberated zones and take over as many of these college towns as we can in Ohio and elsewhere. We can create a whole new wave of peace and justice candidates.