As one of the leading experts on East Asia in the United States, with extensive experience working on science and technology, diplomacy, security, and other issues involving Korea, Japan, China, and Vietnam, many anticipated that Emanuel Pastreich would play a central role in United States foreign policy. Few, however, imagined Pastreich - who has spent most of his career in East Asia - would announce his candidacy for president as an independent.
This announcement comes at a unique time in American political history when bipartisan millionaires and billionaires flirt with the presidential campaign as a means to consolidate their private wealth or grow their personal brand. The link between corporate power and US politics has become increasingly apparent in recent years, and yet journalists working for mainstream corporate media increasingly betray their own professional ethics and overlook pernicious corporate greed infecting America.
A critical example is the media coverage on COVID-19, which tells a grand story of the benevolence and generosity of American politicians for sending all Americans checks in the mail in the amount of roughly $1,000. Yet, the most important evidence, which is available to the public, is ignored: senators and representatives from both parties, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D -CA), Senator Kelly Loefner (R- GA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), withdrew private assets before making any provisions to care for the health and security of ordinary Americans.
In the midst of the growing darkness, Pastreich announced his candidacy for president in February speech entitled “I shall fear no evil” while in Washington D.C.
The emergence of a truly independent candidate intrigues Americans who have grown tired of hypocrisy in American politics. The fact that he has no funds, is blacklisted by the political parties and unreported in the US media has only added to the mystique.
Desires for an independent president were evident in the surprising support for Bernie Sanders among American youth earlier in the campaign. Older Americans, with vivid memories of the Cold War and concerns about a candidate openly supporting socialism, were much more hesitant. Yet the support for Sanders, originally an independent can be attributed to an increasing distaste for bipartisan politics.
Pastreich is an appealing candidate for president of the United States precisely because of his realistic and evidence-based platform combined with his honesty, integrity, and bravery. The 18 planks of his platform are laser-focused on issues that have a real impact on America’s long-term interests, without distractions by political fads or popular expressions.
As an expert with the best education America has to offer, it is additionally noteworthy that Pastreich encourages every citizen, including a transnational network of young volunteers, to join in the conversation to solve complex issues in a meaningful manner. This level of respect for ordinary people, coupled with Pastreich’s fervent belief in participatory democracy, and his refusal to hire political consultants or image managers is a bit surprising granted his being a product of Yale and Harvard. He seems to be, in a sense, a new manifestation of Franklin D.Roosevelt, a “traitor to his class”
After hearing Pastreich’s unique positions, I contacted him to learn more about his campaign, and to participate in his online series of conversations with ordinary Americans: “Wayside Chats.” I hope these interviews, presented in written and spoken form, can contribute a three-dimensional understanding of a remarkable and brave candidate who has emerged amidst a political disaster with an articulate and carefully crafted vision for our country.
What led you to declare your candidacy for president and at this moment?
In normal times, I would never have done so. Running for president has become a dirty, corrupt and dangerous game best left to pit bulls. But the current political system has collapsed and we face anomy; we must confront economic and cultural confusion greater than anything that we have faced in our history.
While working in Washington D.C. over the last year on Asia policy, I saw up-close the collapse of governance. That collapse has little to do with Donald Trump, but rather is a result of a moral decadence, narcissism in American society which few are willing to talk about, let alone to address in their speeches. I felt, however, that for all the corruption in Washington D.C., among both Republicans and Democrats, that their remains buried beneath the surface something of the traditions of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, of Henry Wallace and Adlai Stevens, of Frederick Douglass and John F. Kennedy. This terrible crisis could be a chance to revive the best of our traditions.
You have placed tremendous emphasis on media and journalism in your campaign — unlike others. Why exactly is that?
Today’s pundits and politicians, whether they call themselves progressive or conservative, all fight with each other to pray before the filthy idol known as the corporate media. They dumb down their words, avoid critical topics, and bend over backward to please the rich and powerful so that they can be feted by this grotesque beast.
But the media is a racket that creates profits for corporations and banks by denying us the right to understand what is happening in our own nation—even though the free press is explicitly protected by the constitution. Other politicians assume that the corporate media has so much power to make or break anyone, through slander, or cooked up scandals, that they will not dare to look the false god in the eyes.
I say that unless we work to restore journalism and start a discussion with our citizens that is ethical in nature, and based on the scientific method, there will not be any future for our country.
Even candidates like Bernie Sanders, who had a tremendous amount of money behind him, we're told to drop out by leading political figures and pundits. What right do you have, as someone with no funding, to even pretend to be a candidate?
Well, if the requirement for becoming a presidential candidate is having the backing of the rich, being praised by a corrupt media empire, then clearly I am not qualified.
But the United States constitution, which should always be our starting point, does not say anywhere that money or power is required to be president. I want to take the opposite position, to say that if the other candidates are taking money from investment banks, multinational corporations, or the super-rich, that it is they, and not I, who are not qualified to be president.
If we can get back to the constitution, and get back to the real national interest, this will be a profoundly different election. That transformation, rather than my personal career, is first in my mind. I was lucky enough to receive an excellent education in the United States and learn about history and culture in a way most citizens do not have the opportunity to do. Now is my chance to do my best for those who have not had such advantages.
As the COVID-19 crisis escalates in the United States, Americans are facing unprecedented unemployment and the second economic recession in just two decades. As a result, economic policy has emerged as an important issue for many Americans in this election season. Could you give us some sense of how you will approach economic policy?
First and foremost, in order to bring economic freedom to working Americans, we must strictly regulate banks and other multinational corporations so that they cannot manipulate the economy to bankrupt us and to make the billionaires rich. We have seen billions of dollars transferred to the bank accounts of the super-rich over the last month while many Americans face bankruptcy and hunger. This must end and it must end now. Banks and major infrastructure were traditionally public monopolies or highly regulated in the United States before the 1970s. We will do so again.
Corporations have also forced us to be dependent on oil and they have rigged up a catastrophic collapse in the price of oil right now in an effort to destroy us. We must create an economy that is entirely independent of oil right now, with our own hands, and nationalize all the firms who forced us to use that dangerous substance.
Speculation will end. Economics will be about our nation’s long-term interests. The casino stock market will be brought to a close and you will be able to save for your future, with the help of the government, without being held hostage to the stock market speculators.
The government must be a big part of this transformation. We will build a government that is independent of the rich, of the banks, a government that is able to dismiss and to prosecute, those who steal from working Americans. Once we have a government that can stand up for the people again, then we will go after the tax evaders and speculators. They will not getaway.
Trump has been especially critical of so-called globalist elite, while progressives castigate conservatives for their xenophobic nationalism. As COVID-19 has ravaged America, American exceptionalism and distrust in foreign partners have additionally appeared as a critical limitation, contributing to the absolutely tragic number of Americans dying. Foreign policy and international relations are one of the biggest weaknesses in America today, seemingly the result of a myopic focus on domestic issues and American exceptionalism. How will you address foreign policy?
American foreign policy today completely ignores the most critical threats and rather focuses on the promotion of military conflict and of dependency on petroleum for economic production. This is a travesty. We must focus on the response to catastrophic climate change with our partners around the world, taking up the cause of true internationalism, and not dangerous globalism, and we must promote peace and arms reduction in the effort to avoid nuclear war and world war. We must also be aware that the concentration of wealth globally is distorting governance everywhere.
Sadly, much of American foreign policy today is about free trade agreements, investment agreements, contracts for the extraction of fossil fuels, and the sales of weapons. All of this will change, and change absolutely, under my administration.
There is evidence, especially for observers of America’s role in East Asia, that America’s current policy is related to energy security or economic security more broadly. What is your perspective? How will you balance national security and simultaneously maintain international cooperation?
The government exists to assure the security of citizens. I am not a pacifist and I think that there is a need for a certain capacity for self-defense. The security racket these days, however, has nothing to do with security. Rather, cynical businessmen stir up unnecessary conflicts as a way to sell weapons systems and to send our youth overseas for mercenary missions that enrich the few.
The United States embraced a vision for the future under the United Nations charter that was inspiringly internationalist. That tradition has been buried, but it is not dead. We will move back to a new focus on true global cooperation and we will make the response to climate change the center of our efforts. Moreover, that response will not be one of the gimmicks like climate engineering. It will be a complete transformation of our culture to move back to frugality, sustainability, and spiritual values and away from extraction and consumption.
The COVID-19 crisis has really made evident the move away from global affairs among Americans. International cooperation could have seriously mitigated the crisis America is now facing, especially as scientists shared information about the virus in various online scientific publications. Yet, many ordinary Americans and elite alike dismissed available evidence. What do we need to do for our country after the COVID-19 crisis?
COVID-19 is an ongoing crisis and I recommend that we do not jump to conclusions, or make profound shifts in policy based on sensationalist and non-scientific reporting in the media.
We can say a few things to start about the issue of health. Pandemics will be an issue in the future. They will increase because of climate change. We need to make sure that all citizens have access to good healthcare and that the level of education for all citizens is high enough that they can understand what the problem is and take care of themselves. Governments and corporations should not herd citizens, who are our bosses, like cattle.
If you watch the news today, there are numerous confusing and contradictory reports about the number of people who have died from COVID-19. But there are no reports about what a virus is, no scientific analysis of pandemics, and no explanation of the necessary response.
We see face masks being promoted left and right. But, in fact, strengthening the immune system is the far more critical point. That means avoiding eating processed foods with high sugar and sodium content, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting exercise, avoiding stress, and sleeping well. But the media is silent on that part. Why? Because the government as it is run today is not really interested in the health of citizens. Most working Americans have no choice but to eat processed foods at fast-food restaurants and their children eat equally unhealthy meals. We must start with the basics of healthcare.
In closing, could you tell us a bit about your current work?
I serve as the president of the Asia Institute, a think tank that promotes meaningful engagement between the United States and Asia, located in Washington D.C. I dedicated my work to understanding East Asia from college because I strongly believed that this region would be critical to America’s future.
I have written extensively on international relations, economics, politics, and culture in English—but also in Chinese, Japanese and Korean—and I believe that we cannot respond to the challenge of a rising Asia with xenophobia and isolationism. We must understand Asia well and establish our own strategy.
I started out as a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Illinois, not far from where I grew up in Saint Louis. I welcome anyone and everyone - especially youth - to join our campaign and to offer your ideas and your efforts. We will treat you with respect as citizens and we will include your suggestions on our platform.