A Small Step From Bernie to Cherney


Darryl Cherney, filmmaker and activist who fought the destruction of the redwood forests, is running for POTUS as a Green Party candidate. He sat in the passenger side of a moving car when Judi Bari, his activist cohort, and he fell victim to an explosion by an as-yet-unknown bomber in 1990.

JF: What is your background in politics?

DC: I've engaged in traditional politics on various levels. I ran for Congress in 1988 in the Democratic Primary, I've held a hospital board position between 2006 and 2010, which is a public office. I've campaigned, I've managed campaigns. I've also done tree sits and bulldozer blockades. I've organized about 300 rallies, I've written at least as many press releases. I've done certainly well over 1,000 interviews with the media over the years and I'm in about three dozen books.

JF: Why are you running for president?

DC: The world is really coming to an end. The ice caps are just in a horrific state of disrepair and melting. We don't even talk about the ozone layer anymore. Toxics are everywhere, birth defects are showing up, the extinction in animals is beyond epidemic... it's endemic to just about every cell of every body of every creature on planet earth. So we're in trouble, and I felt I could bring something to the table in terms of my deep ecological perspective, my Earth First! perspective. I looked at videos of Jill Stein (the presumptive Green party candidate) and I felt that Jill could use a little energy boost from loyal opposition, some friendly competition. I think that she's a little too politically correct and I'm not politically correct. I'm a motor mouth; I don't work from pre-written speeches. The Green party needed a little bit more of a radical, somebody bringing the Green back in the Green from a deep ecological perspective.

As part of his exploratory process prior to his run for the presidency, Cherney read books.

DC: I took about three to four months to read a bunch of books. I read History of the World by John Roberts, books on China, Russia, economics, studied maps, I read One Country by Ali Abunimah on a one-nation solution for Israel/Palestine, read Ari Shavit's My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. It was the greatest education, and I'm not finished, of really studying up on world history, a world in which I've traveled, by the way. The greatest education I've received since having my daughter. I'm a single parent. I'm 60 years old and I have a 4-year old. I always thought I was going to have a kid, just like I always thought I was going to run for President. Having a kid has completely expanded my horizons.

JF: What three things would you do first as POTUS?

DC: My first act as POTUS will be to pardon and free Leonard Peltier, American Indian movement activist. It's a symbolic act, but it makes it very clear. Who's in favor of keeping Leonard Peltier in jail? Who did a picket line around Bill Clinton's White House when he was considering pardoning Leonard Peltier? The FBI. I will issue clemency or pardons for Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and all non-violent cannabis prisoners on the federal level. I want to get all the non-violent people of victimless crimes out of prison.

As a lonely Green in a sea of Democrats and Republicans, your ability to act on the executive level is going to be pretty heady for a Green party President.

Second act is to cover the White House in solar panels and to start renovation of all federal buildings to get them all switched over to solar power. This will jump-start the solar industry, give it a big boost right here in this country as well as globally. It will be a statement in terms of combating global climate change. It can bring down the price of solar panels even more by federal government contracting them out. It will create jobs. It will free people from fossil fuels. It will be a liberation. You want to talk about revolution? I'm not into revolution. I'm into evolution. It will be an evolution and a liberation from the oil companies.

Third, I'd expand the White House garden, start growing a lot of food. Goddess bless Michelle Obama for having an organic garden outside the White House, but we need to go beyond that. We need to start a food bank at the White House, we need to teach people how to put gardens in front of their homes. You know, a lot of zoning ordinances and neighborhood rules prevent people from actually having a garden on their lawn. We need to start stripping away those antiquated ordinances, starting at the White House. We're talking about the White House as a bully pulpit. Start to teach the country how to feed ourselves. This will combat obesity. We have a national security crisis with 1/3 of American citizens ineligible to join the military because of their weight. We need to get people eating healthier; just gardening itself is good for the soul and will change the dynamic of neighborhoods, when we start feeding ourselves.

JF: Do you grow your own food?

DC: I do. I don't grow all of it, but I grow some of it. I have a garden. I have chickens also.

JF: How are you publicizing your campaign?

DC: That is probably the biggest question of all. If you go back to 2012 when I released my movie (Who Bombed Judi Bari?), I was a press release factory. I was given a humorous "Media Slut of the Year" award by Earth First! in 1990. My whole philosophy was: my name is going to be on the California ballot. I'm going to as many caucuses and conventions as possible in terms of my name being up for grabs in the Green Party around the United States. Jill Stein's the presumptive nominee. I consider myself the understudy. If God forbid anything were to happen to Jill Stein or she's not able to run, I will be there, waiting in the wings, as a very qualified and eligible candidate to fill in for her. In the meantime, I've learned how to run for President, so if I choose to do it in 2020, I could do it in a much more intensive way, involving the raising of well over a million dollars for the Green Party. A million dollars is a lot of money to raise. I've done it. I've raised quite a few million over the years; I know what it takes. We did the Daisy tribute ad. (An update of the 1964 Tony Schwartz Daisy Ad.) Activists don't understand advertising because, until the age of the Internet, our side hasn't had the money to do the advertising. I call myself and continue to be the "Zen Candidate." I put my positions out there, I have a website. FeeltheChern.com. It's just a small step from Bernie to Cherney.

JF: You know that Jill Stein put out there that she wants Bernie as her running mate. Did you see that? (Jill Stein did not ask Bernie to be her VP. Instead, she asked for cooperation on political revolution and real democracy in this open letter.) Your thoughts?

DC: In politics, things are seldom what they seem. Despite the Green Party's declaration that we're different, in many ways, we're not. When I saw that I thought, Jill Stein's not trying to get Bernie Sanders as a running mate. Jill Stein's trying to get in the news to attract Bernie Sanders supporters. You know what? It's a good idea. As PT Barnum said, the only bad publicity is no publicity. Bernie Sanders would not be Jill Stein's Vice President. That's not going to happen. Those guys are the major leagues and we're the minor leagues. It would be naive, it would be delusional, to think that Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein would form a ticket. However, calling attention to it, I think, is smart.

JF: Bernie Sanders would give a robust chance to a third party.

DC: I hear that. I hear that. That would be true if it were realistic. I just don't see Bernie Sanders or any Democrat, for that matter, challenging (the major parties). However, I don't think Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. That doesn't mean Bernie Sanders will be the nominee. I just don't see Hillary Clinton being the nominee. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have good chances, better than usual chances, of not making it to the finish line in July. Too many skeletons in the closet. The two front runners are both under federal investigation, Trump for his taxes, Hillary for her emails. They're both extremely unpopular and I don't assume anything this election cycle.

Talking about Sanders not being the nominee. If Clinton's indicted and if the Goldman Sachs speeches come out, the superdelegates would switch, you'll see it. Sanders losing and become someone else's running mate, it doesn't feel like real politics to me. If he (runs for President as a third party and) loses, he's never going to get a damn thing through the United States Senate again, he'll become a pariah if he puts Donald Trump into office, if that's who the nominee is. There's too many down sides and not enough upside. Most likely, he would put the Republican in office. I'm not saying that's good or bad, I'm just saying I don't think Sanders wants to be known as "that guy".

JF: You didn't think Hillary would be nominated. Why is that?

DC: She's seriously damaged goods. She's got a trail of scandals she drags around wherever she goes, and she's got current scandals that are hounding her. Most of us are not privy to what really goes on inside the world of the National Security Agency or, for that matter, the White House or even the Congress. It does seem clear that the shoe could drop. Let me ask you a rhetorical question: if Hillary Clinton is indicted, what will happen to her nomination? Neither of us can say for sure what would happen, but we know the superdelegates would change. We know that she could potentially drop out. If somebody manages to hack in and let loose one of those Goldman Sachs speeches, that could create a downfall for her too. Right now, the polls are calling her even with Donald Trump. Neck and neck. Not excusable. That's just a bad, bad place for her to be. There's a lot of harbingers that could indicate that she might not make it to the nomination finish line.

JF: Do you think that Bernie will be the nominee?

DC: I don't necessarily know that that would be the case.

JF: Well, who else could it be?

DC: My personal thoughts are Joe Biden versus Paul Ryan. The two white guys. I read a lot, and I'm by far, not the only person who recognizes that this is a political year where all bets are off. I don't see Hillary Clinton as the nominee. I just don't see it. She's such a ... I'll tell you what I think of her. I think she's a total phony, I think she's corrupt, I think she's war monger, I don't think she is, I know she is. Look at Debbie Wasserman Schultz all of the sudden: Bernie Sanders calls for her to quit, and one day later, her neck's on the potential chopping block. What a crazy election cycle!

JF: Interesting but scary.

DC: It's an "end times". It's an end times election cycle. Around the birth of Christ, there were all these guys carrying around little signs, "the end is near." Well, geological speaking, and Earth First!-ers think geologically, if you were saying the end is near 2,000 years ago, you'd be right! Because 2,000 years is nothing in the history of the earth. Well, here we are, with ice caps melting, the ozone layer crumbling, toxics everywhere, ebola or zika or whatever the heck it is, or autism, not to mention war war war war and more war, torture and killing, and all this stuff going on everywhere, the United States potentially on the brink of a civil war, people being harassed. I was attacked by a Donald Trump supporter in a Chinese restaurant who had no idea who I was. He didn't know I was running for President, he didn't know me at all. But he could tell that I wasn't the kind of person he wanted sitting near him, and he told me to change tables.

JF: Are you serious?

DC: I am very serious.

JF: What, because he could hear your conversation?

DC: No. He didn't like the way I looked. I came in with my 4-year-old daughter and he said "could you please sit at a different table?" I said, "actually, my girl likes to look at the fish," it was the fish tank table. I had another young woman with me who was helping out. I can't say we looked like hippies, but we didn't look like rednecks either. This guy was a fire plug. Broad shoulders, red face, drunk, he started talking about how claustrophobic he was; he started cursing out California, which told me he was a tourist. And then he starts chanting for Trump. He thinks that chanting for Trump is going to upset me, which it is not. That's how I knew he was a Trump supporter. If I had said anything back, he would have hit me. No if, ands, or buts about it. Just going down to have some Chinese food. That was Garberville, California, population fifteen hundred.

We're living in a time ... I'm hearing Bernie supporters are being harassed by Trump supporters on the street. I was just watching Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters shouting each other down. Regardless of what claims of violence there was, there was certainly a lot of yelling. We're watching the Democratic Party having fears of violence as well as the Republican convention. When did this ever happen? This is a sign of a great upheaval.

My goddaughter is doing a report on the 60's and said, "a lot of young people wish they lived in the 60's, or wish it would happen again." I said, "When great upheavals happen, when another great rise in consciousness happens, it's not going to look like the 60's. It's not going to be people wearing long hair, the Beatles, singing songs. It may or may not be music driven. It might be something like this election! This election might be your version of the 60's. It might be the complete upheaval of the United States. It might be a complete shift in consciousness, whether it's the consciousness of polarization, or how much racist bigotry there is in this country, or it might be Sanders is elected and he becomes the first almost-socialist President of the United States. But whatever's going to happen, this cat is out of the bag, you're watching the new version of the 60's. It's simply the changing of the guard. That's what we're experiencing, in my opinion.

JF: It's exciting and scary.

DC: Just stick with climate change. There's so many problems, whether it's police brutality or wars or climate change, these things... If you go to Darryl's 20 rules of activism, one of Darryl's 20 rules of activism is the environment is the wild card. And that's a triple entendre. What I mean by that is: human beings are pretty much the same, you and I are the same since we've climbed out of the trees. We're still throwing feces at each other. What is different is the earth we stand on. Everything else remains the same: in the way we treat each other, the way we see the world, but all of the sudden the ground under it is not as stable anymore, so it's a wild card. We must have a change in consciousness, we cannot continue to treat the earth and each other the way we have for the last 6,000 years of recorded history.

JF: Let's say it's October 2016 and the derivatives bubble finally bursts. Wall Street is crying "if you don't bail out the big banks, the whole financial system is going to collapse!" You're the President. What do you do?

DC: One of the interesting things about economics, (the book I am reading at the moment says), most Presidents don't have a clue about how the economy works. Economists argue with each other so much, I'm not sure they understand it. I'd let the banks collapse. They gotta collapse, they gotta go. You're basically telling me that the people who got us into this mess, the big banks, are about to die. And I'd say "good riddance." Because what do we do? We just give more money to the big banks and then they go ahead and waste the money again.

I was involved as an activist with the savings and loan scandals back in the '80's because the S&L scandals are part of the reason the redwoods got taken over. I watched the redwoods fall because of the banks and those scandals. A bank was looted so that money could be laundered to facilitate the take over of Pacific Lumber Company. United Savings Association of Texas owned by MAXXAM working in conjunction with Michael Milken directly are responsible for the redwoods falling. But it's not so simple. It's not simply, "we'll just let them fail." There has to be a solution. There has to a catch-all. Having national banks, having local credit unions creating safety nets. And understanding how the flow of money works is essential to making good decisions. Yes, if the banks are going to fail, theoretically, in a capitalistic system, if a company goes under, they go under. And I think a lot of people would have like to have seen the banks go down. I don't think that we're really any better off than we were at the end of 2008 just before Obama took office. In fact, I think we're worse. What I'm seeing on the streets of America, are a whole ton of drug-addicted youth, mostly male, wandering the streets, ripping people off, addicted to meth-amphetamine, and heroin as well, no hope, no education, broken homes, in large part a result of our economy. We've created a hopeless society. Letting those banks fail, actually, would give people a measure of hope. Yeah! The bad guys gotta go.

JF: But things will get worse before they get better when the ramifications of that resound around the world. There's no simple fix. We're going to have to go through a depression, if you will.

DC: No matter how you slice it, we have difficult decisions to make. But I think the most difficult decisions we're going to make revolve around climate change. Because we have to re-tool our society. For starters, we can re-do what money means. Why don't we change the name of the dollar to the "hour". We don't have one dollar, we have one hour. Then all of a sudden, the connection between money and labor becomes a little more clear. Money separates us from our labor. It allows somebody to make ten thousand times more than we do. It creates a situation where we have to work two weeks to see the doctor for 30 minutes. We have a situation where things are pretty bad already. You're right; things might get worse, but they're already getting worse, quickly. We need bold radical changes, and letting the banks fail; we should bring back a lot of the regulations that have gone by the wayside where banks can't gamble anymore.

The earth is on the brink of being able to support us. Those are the questions. You asked me a question, but great wisdom lies in the questions, not the answers. To me, the question should be: the sea levels all the sudden have risen three feet. Portions of Manhattan and all the eastern seaboard and all the major cities of the world are under water. What do you do? That's the kind of question that I hope we don't have to answer, but those are the kind of questions I think are confronting us. We certainly see them with tornadoes and hurricanes and things of that nature.

JF: What if California goes through another four years of drought during your presidency? What if the Central Valley dries up and no longer provides us with almonds and pomegranates and fresh fruit from the trees that used to live there, because they're dead? What would you do in a case like that? You could predict that California is going to run out of water for agriculture in the next four years; what do you do to prevent or take care of that issue?

DC: There's actually really easy answers to some of this. For starters, water collection during the rainy season. We don't collect our water; Los Angeles allows all of its monsoon rains to go into the LA River and out to the ocean. And this is not just LA-specific. I saw a documentary that said during three or four days of rain, LA could collect more water than it would need to provide for the entire city for the rest of the year. Water storage is essential.

If we want to talk water for a minute, let's talk about conservation. Because really, as an Earth First!-er, I'm a conservative and I really have a hard time with the language when people say they are conservatives, but they're really quite liberal with the environment. What do you do? First, you start building storage tanks, little ones -- 2,500 gallon, 5,000 gallon water tanks. 25 thousand gallons, million gallons, you start putting them everywhere. You start collecting that water during the rainy season because it still rains during the winter. It does. In fact, we just had a torrential rain up north where we are. A lot. Like really a lot. You store it.

Then you start talking about conserving, using less. You don't have to flush when you pee. Each person saving three, four, five gallons a day just not flushing when they pee. You start encouraging people to grow their own food, and you stop having major agriculture sending massive streams of water into the hot sun, evaporating before it hits the ground when it waters their crops in Central Valley. There's so many ways. Get rid of golf courses. Sorry, golf is gone. No more golf. So many ways that we conserve water. And fracking, of course, being colossal. We're destroying our groundwater systems with fracking. So conservation right off the bat, and use of electricity, because all these power plants require water to cool them off. Solar doesn't require water to cool it off. Use less electricity, less water, storing water during the rainy times, and you've probably solved most of your problems right there, and you haven't even done anything all that innovative. Just expanding what we already do, except perhaps exponentially.

JF: You're talking about things that none of the other candidates even talk about. And yet, water is our sustenance, we could not live without it.

DC: Yes, I call that a state of national emergency. In my platform, it's in the top 6 or 7 items. That's why I'm running for President, because I can bring things to the discussion that the other candidates aren't bringing. This is not going to be my big self-promotion year. I've watched Jill Stein and other candidates in the Green Party using my lines, and that's good, that's one of the reasons you run -- to influence the other candidates, and maybe even help them along.