On Monday, May 15th, Stephen Jaffe joined the Progressive Army for a digital Town Hall hosted by Brandon Sutton (the full video is embedded at the end of this article). This town hall ran concurrently with Nancy Pelosi’s event on CNN.
— Mike Ramsey 🌹 (@ramseycartoons) May 16, 2017
Stephen Jaffe – On the Issues
Stephen Jaffe covered a multitude of issues with questions being raised by participants from around the country on social media.
On the Environment
When listening to the town hall, we appreciated how straightforward and direct Jaffe’s answers were. Prompted with a question, Jaffe didn’t try to dance on where he stood. He made a clear, bold stand with each answer. On the environment, Jaffe believes “people who deny climate change are science deniers.” Believing wholeheartedly to have science on his side of the argument, he continued “climate change is a fact, science is a fact. And to deny it is like denying gravity: you can deny it all you want, but if you step off a cliff, you’re still going to fall.” He refers to the issue of climate change and science denial as part of a growing U.S. trend of anti-intellectualism. People are mistrustful of those with a high degree of education and think they have a right to their ignorance, he explains.
— altereco (@alter_eco86) May 15, 2017
When asked specifically whether he supports a ban on fracking, Jaffe gives a hard yes:
“Yes. I support a ban on fracking. I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m a strong advocate of the creation of alternative sources of energy.” He mentions wind, solar, and safe nuclear power before continuing, “There’s no reason to destroy the planet with something like fracking, offshore oil drilling, and similar kinds of activities.”
On Foreign Policy
We did a profile on Stephen Jaffe a week ago and failed to bring up foreign policy during our interview. So many people had inquired where he stood in relation to a multitude of foreign policy issues we had to put a disclaimer on our article noting that we are following up and will update the article accordingly. We were thankful to have the town hall to have Jaffe address his foreign policy stances.
The first foreign policy situation that came up during the town hall was that of North Korea. In giving his thoughts on the situation we got a glimpse of his non-interventionist mindset:
North Korea is a messy situation. I think it is incumbent upon the President of the United States to make certain that we, the people of the United States, are safe. It is not incumbent upon us to be the policeman of the world or Asia. I don’t think that we need to run in every time North Korea rattles its sword. If North Korea has a missile that looks like it’s going to be shooting at us, and landing in San Francisco, I think the U.S. does, then, probably have a right to act to defend itself. The stickier problem is what will the U.S. do if North Korea, for example, were to invade South Korea. Should we stand by or should we act? I don’t know how many U.S. troops are in South Korea. I know it’s a big number […] We obviously would have to act to extract them. Do we help to defend South Korea?
Jaffe admits he needs to study the situation more and says we shouldn’t invade North Korea or anyone else. He also acknowledges that we have a treaty with South Korea, which obligates us to respond in certain circumstances.
Syria, an issue that followed the presidential candidates in 2016 and is ever looming to this day, was discussed briefly by Jaffe. He called Syria “a threat to the United States. There’s a horrible three-sided civil war going on inside Syria. There are atrocities being committed there, but I don’t believe anything going in Syria is a threat to the sanctity of the United States.” Again Jaffe’s tone and rhetoric point to his non-interventionist view of how the US should interact with issues outside of our own borders.
— Travis Talks (@_Travis_Talks_) May 16, 2017
Another controversial issue among left-leaning voters has to do with the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Jaffe responded:
On Israel, I absolutely support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. At the same time, I support the rights of Palestinians living in Israel, and near Israel, to the same peace and security that the Israelis demand for themselves. I’m not enough of an economist to understand the BDS impacts, but I do think that perhaps a two state solution should be something that should be studied. The sticking point, of course, on that is the West Bank and I have other issues with some things about Israel. Israel is partly a theocracy, which is exactly what we criticize Iran for being. And I’m opposed to that. I am an extremely strong proponent of an absolute separation of religion and government, church and state. And Israel doesn’t have that and I want to see that more in Israel. But in terms of the Palestinians vs. the Israelis, I think each have an equal right and reasonable expectation to the peace and security of their people.
Finally, Jaffe was also asked about U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia:
Well, the reason the U.S. looks the other way at the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia is [twofold]. One is the obvious one, it’s money and oil. Another obvious one is military bases. Saudi Arabia provides a lot of oil to us and we still think we need it, or sort of need it, and also they provide, I believe, military bases that we can land jet fighters that need to fly around the middle east and do whatever it is we need to do. I find looking the other way at these atrocities — Saudi Arabia chops off the hands of thieves and I won’t go into some of the other things — but I find it completely hypocritical of the United States. And I think we should hold the Saudi Arabians accountable if they want a relationship with the United States. They ought to be held accountable for how they treat their own people. And I don’t think money is a good enough reason.
— Amanda Guthrie (@whattheplucked) May 15, 2017
Continuing his trend of responding with straightforward answers, Jaffe replied to the question about cannabis as follows: “I think it’s hypocritical to criminalize marijuana and legalize alcohol and nicotine. I would advocate for the legalization of cannabis” so long as it is regulated, he made clear. “Marijuana may be harmless to most of the population, but there are some people who, if they use it, it can trigger other things that are not good.”
Healthcare, specifically single-payer healthcare, seems to be Jaffe’s favorite topic to talk about. He brings it up often as a means to highlight a key way in which he differs from Pelosi. Without being prompted, he brought up the issue several times during the town hall, in addition to responding to questions. One of the things he made sure to bring up was the following:
A couple of things [Ms. Pelosi] said were very disturbing, the fact that she does not favor single-payer. But she also said something else, and her exact words were, ‘Actually, Obamacare is to the left of single-payer.’ Now that’s a very troubling thing to hear. […] It shows to me that she really doesn’t understand what the issue is there.
He adds that Obamacare is more to the center of our political spectrum and that he would like to challenge Pelosi on this issue.
Regarding pharmaceutical costs and the idea of importing cheaper drugs from Canada, Jaffe says:
The Big Pharm companies say the prices are so high here because Americans bear the cost of the research and develop of new drugs, even though the drugs go all over the world. So, I think that the government should negotiate prices on new drugs and I think if there’s a way for Americans to buy their drugs cheaper from Canada – or anyplace else – let them do it. Why not? I’d like to hear a rational argument against that.
When asked how he would get single-payer passed, given the opposition to it on both sides of the political spectrum, Jaffe responded, “I think people misunderstand what it is.” […] “I think most democrats, if you explained it to them, would support it. And I’m certainly ready to stand here and explain it to anyone who wants to listen.”
On Criminal Justice
Along the lines of the “equitable racial justice paradigm” of the town hall (as mentioned in the initial tweet above), Jaffe was asked about Jeff Sessions and his recent move to roll back the Obama administration’s reforms of the mandatory minimum sentences aspect of the War on Drugs. His response:
Mr. Sessions can tell the U.S. attorneys in the justice department to essentially overcharge all these drug cases, non-violent drug offenders, but that doesn’t mean 1.) the juries will convict them and 2.) it doesn’t mean the judges will sentence them. There’s all kinds of ways — it doesn’t prevent plea deals from being made.
Jaffe went on to say that it’s not “that easy” to change the justice system that fast. There are many attorneys who understand there are better ways of handling drug offenses in the legal system.
When asked about the private prison industry, Jaffe made a strong declaration: “I am categorically against it. It has nothing to do with economics. I think it is immoral – immoral! – for a company to make a profit against the misery of people locked up in prison.”
Watch The Town Hall in its Entirety
If you’ve made it this far, consider yourself briefed. Or, if you prefer, watch the full town hall below