Grist, March 14, 2016
Meet the Presidential Candidate Who Makes Bernie Sanders Look Conservative
by Katie Herzog
Jill Stein has a plan to win the presidency.
Her idea is almost genius in its simplicity. There are 43 million Americans with student debt, Stein tells me over the phone, and if every one of them cast their ballot for her -- the one candidate who has promised to cancel their debt -- she could get a plurality of the vote and win the general election. “Young people are discovering that they can check the Green box and reclaim their lives,” she says.
It’s a nice thought, especially now, when the average student with loans leaves school $30,000 in debt. But unfortunately for Stein, it’s not really true that 43 million votes would take the presidency. America, as anyone who voted for Al Gore in 2000 will remember, doesn’t elect presidents through a popular vote. We elect them through the Electoral College -- and if no candidate gets a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives gets to pick the president. This is one of the many problems with our electoral process, Stein says -- a system designed to discourage people from voting. She has a plan to fix that too.
Stein, a Massachusetts doctor, is seeking the Green Party’s nomination for president, which will be decided at the party’s convention in August. She won that nomination in 2012, and then went on to get arrested three times during that campaign: at a bank sit-in in Philadelphia, when she tried to get into a presidential debate on Long Island, and when she tried to deliver supplies to activists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. Despite her arrest record -- and not being invited to a single general election debate -- Stein won nearly half a million votes, making her the most successful female presidential candidate in American history.
It’s a record that may not hold for long.
Stein believes it’s clear who will win the Democratic primary -- and it’s not the socialist. “The Democratic Party has a very clear track record of sabotaging rebels,” Stein says. “Go back to Jesse Jackson, who had won 11 major primaries in 1988, and was basically taken out by a fear campaign started by the Democratic Party.”
She’s not alone in her thinking: Editors of The Nation, which endorsed Jackson, wrote in the midst of that race, “Whatever happens in the big-state primaries still to come, Jackson cannot be counted the ‘front-runner’ for the nomination, because the rich and powerful in the Democratic party fear not only his program but his prospects for election, and will do everything they can to stop him.” Jackson lost to Michael Dukakis, who lost to George H. W. Bush, who gave the world both Dubyah and Jeb.
“Hillary is raking the delegates in,” Stein says, “and the super delegates. It will be very hard for Bernie to catch up. The party does this fake go-left thing by allowing genuine reformers to be seen and heard, but they never allow them to go all the way. You can’t really have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party.”
Judging by my Facebook feed, plenty of other people believe the Democratic Party wants to hand the nomination to Clinton as well. It’s easy to see why: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, co-chaired Clinton’s 2008 bid for the White House. Wasserman Schultz is also in control of the debate schedule and she’s been accused of using that power to limit Sanders’ exposure to voters. Originally, the DNC scheduled only six Democratic debates -- far fewer than the Republicans, and far fewer than the DNC held during the 2008 race. One was during an NFL playoff game.
The allegations go deeper. In December, Sanders’ campaign threatened to sue the DNC for shutting down their access to voter data. “[T]he leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign,” wrote Sanders’ campaign manager. “This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign -- one of the strongest grassroots campaigns in modern history.”
But if Sanders is too radical for the establishment, Stein is vastly more so. She not only promises to cancel all student debt, she says she would guarantee access to food, water, housing, and utilities; establish a single-payer healthcare system; set a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage; end police brutality, mass incarceration, and institutional racism; protect women’s reproductive rights; end discrimination against LGBTQ people; create a path to citizenship; and replace drug prohibition with harm reduction.
Her plan to address climate change is even more ambitious. “What I’ve been calling for is declaring a national emergency,” she says. “We did it after Pearl Harbor, and it’s not just one harbor being destroyed, it’s all harbors, all coastlines, most population centers. We think we have a migrant crisis right now? It’s peanuts compared to what we’re looking at, with 100 million refugees or more. And that’s just beginning.”
Stein is calling for a transition to 100 percent clean energy in 15 years, and the creation of 20 million full-time, living-wage jobs in renewable energy and infrastructure, a sort of green New Deal. She also calls for an immediate ban on all new fossil fuel exploration and construction of fossil fuel infrastructure. “It all grinds to a halt on the day that we are elected,” she says.
Ending our reliance on fossil fuels won’t just address climate change, Stein says, it’ll also end our need to engage in overseas wars over oil. And that’s how she’ll pay for all this, says the candidate -- by cutting the military’s budget in half. “Right now we have 1,000 military bases in 100 countries around the world,” Stein says. “We’re the only country that does this, and it’s largely safeguarding oil supplies and routes of transportation. We’ll no longer need it! Instead, we put our dollars back into true security here at home.” Stein is slightly off about the statistics: We actually have about 800 military bases in about 80 countries around the world. But she is right that no other country does this, and it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to establish a base on U.S. soil.
Most of what Stein says makes sense. And that’s maybe the craziest thing about Jill Stein: Our most radical, leftist candidate is also supremely rational. When she says that if the federal government bailed out Wall Street, it can bail out students, it’s not hard to see the logic. Sanders says the same thing. And is it really that radical for every person to have food and clean water? To end police brutality and discrimination? To do something about climate change before it’s too late? These ideas aren’t -- or shouldn’t be -- revolutionary: They’re common sense.
But the truth is, Jill Stein will never be president, at least not in the system we have now. This is America, in all its glory, and unless both party conventions are taken out by meteors, a Democrat or a Republican will take office next November, guaranteed. And after this interminable race is finally over and we’ve ushered in our new leader, Jill Stein will go back to protesting, to rabble-rousing, to preaching her message and hoping to be heard.
“Good luck,” I say before we get off the phone.
“Good luck to you too,” she says.
I have a feeling we’re all going to need it.