An Interview with Bill Kreml, running for Green Party Presidential nominee

by Interview by Jim Brash, North Star editorial board member on March 11, 2016

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1. Mr. Kreml, tell us about yourself – Cliff Notes please?
I was born  in Evanston, Illinois on August 5, 1941. My father was the vice-president of Northwestern University. I graduated from Northwestern with a B. A. in 1962, Northwestern Law School in 1965 and the Ph. D. program in political science from Indiana University in 1972. I was a member of the academy for fifty years, most of that time as a political science professor at the University of South Carolina.

2. You ran for president previously as a democrat in 1984, 1992, and 2000. A) How were those experiences? B) Why did you give up on the Democratic Party?
A) The Senatorial campaign in 1980, along with the presidential campaigns in 1984, 1992, and 2000 were rich experiences. I could feel the sense of growing political disappointment in the population and I could begin to gauge how certain appeals to fundamental change in our political system might be received. The 1980 campaign called for the creation of a bicentennial, blue ribbon citizens committee that would intensively study the American constitutional order, make recommendations for change, and bring those recommendations to the president and the congress. The Committee on the Constitutional System, of which I was a founder, did exactly that in 1987. Both the Republican and Democratic parties failed to respond to our proposals. The 1980 campaign was covered in the TRB column of The New Republic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and other journals. B) I left the Democratic Party because 1) it had become a corporate party, 2) it had fallen under the influence of a foreign government, and 3) it was evidencing psychological biases in its choice of candidates and policy positions.

3. What attracted you to the Green Party?
The Green Party fell roughly on the spectrum where Upper Midwestern Progressives like Robert LaFollette and Democratic Socialists like Frank Zeidler fell. This is the non-totalitarian left. Inclusive, egalitarian, transparent, and creative traits were more available here than on any other place on the ideological spectrum.

4. At 74 your quite possibly the oldest person running for the presidential nomination of any party in 2016. How should voters view your age, if at all?
My age means that my schedule is not as torrid as some candidates, but I am still fully capable of traveling, as I have done, and I have had no one suggest that age should prevent me from being a candidate. I am but one month older than Bernie.

5. Your 2000 campaign, centered on campaign finance reform. A) Is campaign finance reform still an issue of importance to you? B) What do you think of the Lawrence Lessig’s MayDay PAC? C) What do you think green party could accomplish nationally and locally on issue of campaign finance reform?
A) I have discussed campaign finance reform in all of my campaigns, going back to 1980. My 2007 book The Twenty-First Century Left – Cognitions In The Constitution And Why Buckley Is Wrong came after my year 2000 presidential campaign engaged in civil disobedience by purposely not following several F. E. C. regulations. I was written about in Molly Ivins’ syndicated column, Business Week, and other journals. I hoped for a test case, based upon the original legal theory that I argued for in the above book, Buckley being the forerunner case to the all too predictable Citizens United case of 2010. B) I basically agree with Lessig. C) The Green Party must tell the public how badly they have been disenfranchised by the Koch brothers, the Scaifes, the Waltons, etc.  Jane Mayer’s Dark Money is a recent work on all of this.

6. Religiously speaking, you are a Taoist. How do your beliefs affect your political life?
Taoism, in my view, is the most instructive religion regarding the necessary balances and complementarities that the secular world requires. It is the only major religion that embraces full gender equity with the yin and yang. It is inherently a peaceful religion. Compare two random pages of the Tao-Te-Ching with two pages of the Old Testament. In Beijing, where I taught twice as a visiting professor at The University of Peking, you can visit the Bai-Yun-Guan, which is the world’s principal Taoist temple, and walk through an open door on the side wall, visit a Buddhist temple and return. Compare that with the four quadrants in the Old City of Jerusalem, where I was the most uncomfortable I have ever been, noticing no doors between and among the frequently violent religions represented there.

7. You’ve written, that the Green Party should “reconsider one key value, that being the Key value of decentralization at the national level. We are shooting ourselves in the foot. The most decentralized government on the planet no longer works.” Could you please elaborate further on this?
Imagine a spectrum that runs from highly centrifugal to highly centripetal organizations. We know of the horrors of the centripetal extreme. Hitler and Stalin need no elaboration. But there is another extreme along this trichotomous spectrum. No other political system has a) a separation of powers, b) federalism, c) true bi-cameralism, d) staggered elections and e) separation of personnel, with no overlap, or bridge of memberships, between the legislative and executive branches. As a result, we suffer from a plethora of “access points” for powerful private sector interests to compromise representative institutions, along with a plethora of “captive agencies” within the regulatory arena. We are scrupulously anti-majoritarian, as James Madison explained in Federalist, # 10. The Founders did not want the citizenry to aggregate politically. The private sector was intended to dominate the public sector, and it has, with rare interruption, ever since.

8. What is your position on decentralization at the state and local levels of government?
I have no problem with decentralization at the state and local levels, although even there, things can go too far. Illinois has more political jurisdictions than any other state and that is part of its current problem. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature and seems to do quite well with it.

9. How do you view community rights and the communitarianism in general?
An absolutely fundamental right of all citizens is to associate with fellow citizens. We often speak of individual rights. Well, they are individual in the sense of the Greek word locus, or the location of the right. But in the sense of the Greek word telos, or purpose, we have freedom of speech, or the press, etc. because they permit communication with others. That is what a constitutional democracy guarantees, and that is the promise of the Bill of Rights which was, of course, the product of the anti-federalists. This was a less aristocratic vision than that of the founders who wrote the original seven articles.

10. What do you think the Green Party is lacking tactically & strategically on the national level?
The Green Party, and its campaigns, lack an ideological component. We are still using 19th century terms like socialism and capitalism to describe the problems of an 18th century government. We are at the level of Ben Franklin with his kite and his key. Too many Greens are fearful of ideology, and prefer the rote recitation of our Pillars and our Key Values. These are fine, as far as they go, but we need more. The Greens also suffer the 1960’s generated fear of public sector power. The Viet Nam War, Nixon’s Watergate, the lying about the above and more, along with the spying that began with The Palmer Raids after WWI and continued into the Countelpro spying on the Black Panthers and the shooting of Panthers as in the case of Fred Hampton, along with the unresolved questions on the assassinations of both Kennedys and Doctor King, along with doubts about 9/11, have frightened the left into its rejection of a strong public sector. The private sector, again, wins.

11. What type of party-building do you think is necessary for the Green Party to grow and become more relevant?
We will build our party when we slice off that segment of the Democratic Party that finally realizes how their party progressives invariably get screwed. Maybe the Bernie burning, courtesy of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Clintons, the corporations, and the Israeli Lobby, will present us an opportunity. What an irony that Bernie, like my stepmother, is a Jew.

12. What kind of responses are you getting on the campaign trail?
People have been very kind to me on the campaign trail. I try to be engaging, with a somewhat different message than the contemporary, topical message that most candidates deal in. I tell people that if you want fundamental change, you must begin with fundamental understandings of what is wrong. There is some anti-intellectualism in the Green Party, with any patterned, historical understanding open to ridicule. I am learning how to couch my message in ideological rather than philosophical terms and responses have improved measurably.

13. What differentiate you sociopolitically from the other four candidates for the GP nomination?
I am of an academic background. I think I am the only candidate of that stripe. Also, because I am white, male, comfortably off, and straight sexually, there is no “objective” reason why I should be a Green. I am a Green solely for subjective, or psychological, reasons. In fact, my principal academic work has been the creation of a psychologically-based ideology that appeals to that portion of anyone’s ideology that is not objectively driven, no matter how small. I am of a “left mind,” essentially anti-authoritarian rather than authoritarian and synthetic rather than analytic. I have written on all of the above extensively and believe the Green Party will make great progress when we speak to how we think as well as what we think. Our right hemispheres are capable of dealing with more variables, and more different kinds of variables, than are right-wing, left-brain adherents. Republican candidates of this election cycle could not be better examples of the above.

14. What are you trying to accomplish with your campaign for the GP presidential nomination?
A. I would be satisfied with my campaign if I felt that some critical mass in the Green Party, and even some educated portion of the electorate, came to understand a) a wholly new ideological perspective, b) strong substantive positions on the environment, peace, social justice, and new definitions of what twenty-first century democracy will require. The latter are the pre-political, conditions that can revive our constitutional democracy. But that is not all. I want Greens to be sufficiently introspective, asking why our party has not enjoyed the successes that Green parties around the world have enjoyed. Even here, the Progressive Party of Vermont has a state-wide office holder, three senators, and six members of the lower house. We do not have a single state representative. Finally, there are constitutional amendments that, over the long term, we should be presenting to the American people to update, and rebalance, our entire political and legal order.

15. If you win the nomination what would be the 5 main issues you would talk about on the campaign trail?
First, I would talk about the need to enhance the inadequate understandings of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. A 2 degree maximum is required to have any hope of saving the planet from species extinction, agricultural displacement, extreme weather conditions, and other results of a warming world. Paris left us with a 3 percent maximum at best. This guarantees further damage to the global ecological system.

Second, I would call for a conference of the three Abrahamic faiths in Paris, roughly in the same vein as the climate conference. I would call on the National Council of Churches in the United States (the ecumenical organization) to sponsor a formal apology to the Muslim world from the Christian community for the proselytizing of Muslims, and call upon all Christians to halt such activity immediately. I would ask for a reciprocal understanding within the Muslim community. I would wholly withdraw from the Abrahamic Civil War, halting all except humanitarian aid to the starving, dispossessed citizens of the Levant, and I would prosecute agents of all countries from that region who spy on our government and who engage in activity like the attempt to thwart the Iranian agreement.

Third, I would argue for the suspension of all interest payments on student loans, as well as for the end of all foreclosure activity in owner occupied homes. I would accelerate efforts to place homeless Americans into the many vacant structures that need only minor repairs, giving both work and a place to live to millions of our homeless citizens.

Fourth, I would liberate the public schools from the Common Core “teaching to the text” forms of learning, returning to the tradition of critical, progressive learning, a la John Dewey as opposed to the McGuffy reader notions of rote and right-wing leaning texts such as those mandated by the Texas school boards.

Fifth, I would begin the discussion of constitutional amendments and sub-constitutional reform. Recall that there were three great bursts of amendments in American constitutional history. The Bill of Rights, as above, was the first. Then, there were three post-Civil War amendments (XIII, XIV, and XV) that at least attempted to define, and protect, the rights of the newly freed slave population. Finally, in response to industrialization and the excesses of the Gilded Age, four amendments dappled the post-election period of Woodrow Wilson. The progressive income tax (XVI), the direct election of senators (XVII), prohibition (XVIII), which recall was originally a left, largely women’s issue (see Frances Willard, etc.), and the income tax (XIX), which was meant to be progressive but which has since been riddled with regressive loopholes, made up that response. Specifically, I recommend the overturning of Citizens United, as above, removing massive amounts of money from our nation’s politics. I also recommend the extension of the House of Representatives term to four years, to run concurrently with the presidential term, the excising of that portion of Section Six, Article One that forbids joint executive and legislative branch membership, and the ending of the reign of The Electoral College, moving to a popular vote. I would speak to the three remaining states’ necessary approval of the Equal Rights Amendment. Sub-constitutionally, enforcement of anti-trust laws like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act were representative of sub-constitutional changes of an earlier time and I would recommend another round of anti-trust activities to help relevel the playing field of the public and private sectors. I would also institute far more vigorous enforcement of FDA regulations, EPA regulations, and other citizen protection laws. I would begin the journey towards free public education at all levels. I would end all fracking for fossil fuels. I would accelerate movement towards solar and other reusable energy sources. Finally, I would announce a new commitment to a more just and peaceful world with an initiative to finally ratify a host of necessary treaties that the United States has unconscionably ignored for decades, as well as drastically reduce our military spending. We can begin our treaty work with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, principally written by Eleanor Roosevelt, divided into civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic and social rights on the other at the insistence of right-wing senators, and they then voting for either. Treaties on the rights of women, children, against torture, etc. all gather dust on Senate shelves.

16. If you lose the nomination (many Greens think it’s already Jill Stein’s) would you A) consider being VP on the ticket if asked, B) would you stump for the nominee?
If Jill Stein were to consider me for the vice presidential nomination, I would be happy to discuss it with her, with a view to acceptance if we can devise an appropriate division of responsibilities and issue discussion. I did a great deal to help Jill in 2012 (spent $5500 on two cable TV ads that I ran in all three metropolitan areas of South Carolina, made signs to be held on street corners, was the #5 signature gatherer (1146 signatures) in Illinois for Jill, went to Wisconsin on the last day for signatures after a night-before call from Ben Manski and turned in our signatures at 4:56 PM on that day, and had Jill stay at our home after her talk in South Carolina. I finished the campaign with only three of the eleven former Confederate states beating me). I have promised Vito that I will come to Illinois again for signatures.

17. If you won the presidency, what would be the potential hallmarks of your administration?
I think if you look at Question # 15, you will see where I am headed. I would also close loopholes in the tax code to restore progressivity, cut the military budget in a way that would rid ourselves completely of military spending on the horrifically expensive and wholly unworthy F-35 (it just lost in a mock dogfight with a thirty-four old F-16), the accident prone Osprey V-22, and the newly numbered B-21 bomber. Citizens should be educated on wholly unnecessary weaponry of the past such as the B-1 bomber that was politically sandwiched between the B-52 H that we are still using, and the B-2 bomber that was well along on the drawing board. Even John McCain now complains about defense expenditures that are really job promoting projects in all congressional districts and states.

18. You’ve referred to your philosophy as psychological relativism. Could you please explain what that is/mean in layman’s terms?
For every objectivity there is a subjectivity. As a teenager, I resolved to do what Nils Bohr did in physics, that is to develop a sub-atomic theory of politics. Take an African-American male, sexually straight, of some means. Do you know anything of his or her personality? You do not. I completed the authoritarian model of psycho-politics, my Anti-Authoritarian Personality being published by Pergamon Press in London.  My editor was Hans Eysenck, the most cited psychologist of both the 1970’s and 1980’s decades. We now have the full psycho-political range for “affective,” that is feeling, variables. Earlier, I had written on the differentiated psychologies of Hamilton and Jefferson. Then, I began work on cognition, noting that the greatest of the German Idealists, Kant and Hegel, labeled the now-famous 5 + 7 = 12 equation as synthetic or analytic respectively. They had very different minds, the former preferring similar variables and the latter preferring dissimilar variables. In a very difficult book entitled Relativism and the Natural Left, I chronicled the fission-fusion process that replaced the Rational versus Skeptical divide as the principal distinction in Western philosophy with the analytic to synthetic distinctions found in Speculative versus Analytical Philosophy, “living constitution” versus “originalist” interpretations in American law, and Keynesian versus Friedmanesque, Chicago School economics. My latest book, my ninth, is The Bias of Temperament in American Politics, Second Edition, Carolina Academic Press, Durham (2016).

19. In your opinion is the U.S. governed by an oligarchy?
I spoke of our being on the road to an oligarchy in my campaigns long ago. My research pointed to it, as has work from scholars at Princeton, Northwestern, and the other good schools. We have arrived at what was wholly foreseeable, and wholly preventable.

20. In your opinion is the U.S. a republic or an empire?
America has crossed the Rubicon. We have been an empire since at least the close of WWII, more tenuously in recent years perhaps, but no less expensively, either in lives or in treasure.

21. What do you think the role of U.S. should be in the world?
Our vision of the world should be much more horizontal than vertical, not only ratifying many treaties as above, but also recognizing that the day of, say, dollar dominance in world currency is over. Twenty-three countries have already gotten off the dollar standard. The Russians just agreed to accept RMBs from China for oil. Next will come the unwillingness to continue to buy our bonds. The final stage will be redeeming of our bonds. The future is frightening indeed.

22. What is your position on the Israel/Palestine conflict?
With some early sympathy for Israel, and respect for leaders like Abba Eban and Golda Mabovitch, my view has changed. The assassination of Rabin was a crucial divide. The immigration of uneducated, bigoted citizens into Israel has changed it for the worst.  Although I think we have an obligation to Palestinians who have been treated terribly, the Abrahamic Civil War must stop and that stopping begins with us. I argue that the Military-Industrial Complex of C. Wright Mills must now be understood as the Military-Industrial-Religious Complex. Evangelical Christians and Zionist Jews are much a part of our improper involvement in this perpetual war. I remember 1948. I differ with Jill very seldom and, although I think we both wind up at the same place, I argue that we must begin here, not with shaking our finger at Bibi. Obviously, campaign finance reform helps to break the bonds of the Israeli Lobby. But it will not be enough. We need to restructure the entire argument. We need to repatriate the very word patriotism. I am willing to start that. I entered the Army Reserve over 57 years ago. My Commander in Chief was Dwight D. Eisenhower. My father fought the Nazis on the general staff of Mark Clark, being made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire by His Majesty George VI, R. I. My great grandfather was shot by a Confederate soldier in 1864 preserving our union and freeing the slaves. I am an active member of Camp # 1 of the Illinois Department of the Sons of Union Veterans. I am increasingly angry with the Israeli Lobby and the enormous harm that it has done to our country. It is time that we use the words of Washington on passionate attachments, the wisdom of the common law of agency on a servant serving two masters, and the first admonition of the Decalogue on “other gods” to marginalize those whose arguments on the Abrahamic Civil War reflect their dual loyalties. I favor the ending of dual citizenship. Again, we are the patriots, and we should not be afraid to use that term, in its right context, and take it back from the war-mongering right-wingers.

23. How do we break the grip that the military industrial complex has on the social, political, and economic life of this nation?
As above, the grip is now so absolute, with almost all members of the congress needing expenditures in their constituency districts, that radical change, including a restructuring of the Armed Service Committee and other relevant committees in the congress would only be a starting place. We must face up to it, however, and get started.

24. You’ve stated that, ” the American government is dying” and “inherently gridlocked and purposely subjected to the exclusive influence of well-positioned elites.” A) What type of governmental structure do you think the U.S. needs? B) What type of constitutional changes are needed? C) What were the end results of the citizen’s committee you called for, and was a part of , that presented its recommendations to the president and congress back in 1987?

As above, I believe in constitutional and sub-constitutional change that brings us a more centripetal government, one similar to many of the European governments, particularly the Nordic governments. We cannot survive with sub-governments run amok, all greatly influenced by self-serving private interests. Please see the above constitutional changes. The end results of the citizens committee I helped to found and worked on diligently was little more than a realization of a select citizens’ grouping of Americans that our system was broken. That was nearly thirty years ago. The old adage about watching a slow motion train wreck has been very painful for me. So many of the participants in CCS have passed on. The current generation of political figures has no idea who we were.

25. Why do you think so few people vote in this country?
People do not vote because they do not feel that their vote is what political scientists call “efficacious.” They do not feel that it matters to their lives. A large part of the problem is also that the rhetoric of much of American politics is so uninstructive that many Americans do not know what they would be voting for even if they wanted to vote. Thank you, Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity. I was raised with the Lincoln-Douglas debates and I remember Adlai Stevenson, and even conservatives like Robert Taft. Eleanor Roosevelt, and the writings of someone like Jane Addams, the Chicago socialist who built the first settlement house for women and also served on the U. of C. faculty, were fixtures in my home.

26.How do we develop a more politically informed and involved citizenry?
Restore what Jefferson called a “natural aristocracy” along with our participatory democracy. We now desperately need both the horizontal and the vertical weave of the fabric. I try to explain that in my campaigns and my writings.

27. Are there political lessons we could learn from other nations?
Yes, but we do not take instruction well. We are the exceptional nation, remember. God’s children.

28. What are your thoughts on Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece?
I am more favorable than unfavorable towards Podemos and Syriza. But there are problems. There is something of the “hard left” in these groups, leaving little room for the kind of creativity that a country like the current Czech Republic enjoyed in its earlier incarnations with Hasek and Hrabal, Kafka and Havel, Kundera and Mucha. The left doesn’t like to admit it, but the Papandreous, per et fils, did a lot of damage even before the IMF finished off the Greeks
29. Do you have any thoughts on the Bernie Sanders campaign?
A good person who never had a chance. Look at the revelations about Hillary’s campaign contributing to the DNC. It was wired from the beginning. Hope Jill’s Plan B works. We can do some damage ourselves.

30. Any thoughts on Greens and actual GP locals openly supporting and endorsing Bernie?
I don’t like local Greens supporting a Democrat, no matter how attractive some of what he says may be. If you want Bernie, have the courtesy to leave our party. All of this may be moot before the ink is dry.

31. What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of the Donald Trump campaign?
Mussolini, Huey Long, Father Coughlin. The frustration of Marx’s lumpen proletariat is legion. Remember that the SA was moderately populist, until the Night of the Long Knives.

32. Do you think there are issues that the political Left & Right could work on together?
There is an occasional confluence across the spectrum. But it is rare and should not be a model for our general strategy.

33. Any thoughts on populism as a political tool?
Populism has so often turned into right-wing authoritarianism within a few years. Look at Tillman, Watson, and Aycock in the south. Huey at least built some roads and hired Vogelen at LSU. But he was headed towards dictatorship in a way that made FDR send half the FBI down there to look at his books.

34. How do we build a mass or broad left party or coalition of parties in the U.S.?
My answer to that question is not difficult to understand. There must be a cross-weave of objectively left interests with the subjective, or “natural” left. It will be more difficult to implement than understand, but it can be done.

35. What are your plans post 2016, if you’re not the Green Party nominee, or if you are but lose in November?
I will continue to elaborate on, and publicly present, my views to whomever is willing to listen.

36. What advice would you give young Greens, progressives, activists?
My advice, first, is to be well read. Be so deeply grounded in the classical political writings, as well as the best of current writings, that you can win the argument. Psychology and philosophy are returning to partnership, reversing the unfortunate separation that began at the start of the twentieth century with experimental psychology (Wundt, etc.).  Fully comprehend the Pyramid of Knowledge and the Ladder of Abstraction so that the pieces of knowledge that you know fit in the right places. Read Elinor Ostrom, my Philosophy of Science professor and still the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. Read through Kant and Hegel to the kinds of minds they had. Keep building your model of understanding.

37. Would you like to add anything?
Moving to a more majoritarian structure will benefit our side of the spectrum more than it will hurt us. Look at the poll numbers on something like gun control, for example. But we must be prepared for an occasional loss. That’s the price of popular government. It’s still so much better than what we have.

Bill Kreml – Green Party Presidential Candidate

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Illin_Spree March 13, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Good stuff, Thanks to Jim Brash for great questions and the same to Bill Kreml for great answers.


Jimmy Brash March 15, 2016 at 2:15 am

Thank you for your taking the time to read this interview.


Oliver Steinberg March 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

This well-read, insightful guy is obscure, and Trump and his Know-nothings are about to take power and rule an empire. We’ll be nostalgic for the Cold war!
Where is Mark Twain when we really need him?
Now, as for the expression “Abrahamic civil war”—it is a colorful description. That I will acknowledge. Is it useful? I’m not sure. “Civil war” is almost too dignified a term for the mayhem and misery inflicted by jihadists on other Muslims as well as on non-Muslims. Furthermore, I would say that the non-Muslims have NOTHING to apologize for. Religious fanaticism when it takes a political form is a kind of human
I think Bill sounds like a philosopher more than a political aspirant. Wouldn’t it be more practical were he to attach himself to another candidate and be an adviser and coach?


Milena May 3, 2016 at 10:31 am



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