Picking on Jill Stein seems fairly needless. Sure, the Green Party candidate is picking up about 3% nationally in recent polls and has garnered media attention now that Sanders has left the race, but she remains a minor figure. Nonetheless, with a Trump presidency feasible, some liberals are directing their contempt towards the left-wing candidate in hopes that she doesn’t become a spoiler in this election. Writing at New York magazine, Jonathan Chait states:
What’s most fascinating is that Stein does not try to downplay the danger of a Trump presidency. Instead, she likens it to fascism and Nazism (a comparison that I actually think, for all of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, goes too far). And yet, proceeding from her premise that Clintonism will lead to fascism, she concludes that she must “stand up to” both Donald Trump and the only candidate who can prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidency, in equal measure.
Chait is right to point out how trivial Stein’s argument is, but Clinton supporters are wrong to attack the Green Party for running a candidate who (not surprisingly) is dissimilar from the Democratic frontrunner. They are a political party that intends to elect officials to office and move the political narrative in their direction not support centrist Democrats. That should go without saying.
I do not like Jill Stein or The Green Party. I strongly oppose the party’s endorsement of the BDS movement against Israel. Stein’s willingness to court anti-science leftists is unfortunate, but her celebration of conspiracy theorists and anti-Semite Cynthia McKinney is far worse.
Stein and the Greens also have a shoddy set of “policies” related to Syria. Bill Weinberg noted the selective nature of Stein’s commitment to human rights.
The Green Party platform contains not a single word about Syria, despite a lengthy section on the “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.” This commitment to human rights is rather (shall we say?) selective. Let’s start by examining Stein’s “Green Shadow Cabinet“—which openly shills for the Assad regime. Stein’s “Attorney General” Kevin Zeese runs a website with the hilariously ironic name of Popular Resistance, which we have had to call out as a platform for Assad regime propaganda, repeatedly seeking to exculpate Assad of the Ghouta chemical attack and portraying the Syrian opposition as monolithically jihadist. Worse yet, the Shadow Cabinet’s Ajamu Baraka, identified as “Public Intervenor for Human Rights” (sic!), actually hailed Assad’s thoroughly controlled psuedo-elections which confirmed his inherited dictatorial rule in 2014 as a victory against “foreign intervention,” crowing about Assad’s widespread “support,” and how the opposition was “fomented” by the “gangster states of NATO.”
This is hippie pro-fascism, perpetrated by peaceniks simply incapable of grasping that there can be any evil in the world not directly hatched by Washington. It is no less repugnant for being basically clueless.
I must confess that I was once an active Green Party member and worked on Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign. I was a young, idealistic teenager who felt little affinity for the Democratic Party and Al Gore. I uttered some of the same things I hear from Bernie or Bust activists and I understand their dissatisfaction with the current state of the major political parties. Leftwing activists are right to demand that politicians actually make the case for their votes and not expect them outright. It is not Jill Stein’s duty to run in an auxiliary role for the Clinton campaign and we should not demand she alter her strategy to meet the needs of the Democratic Party. I believe deeply in a democratic system that pits many conflicting visions against each other.
However, I ask that Jill Stein’s supporters think about the consequences of their vote. Yes, the Electoral College decides who takes the presidency. In a state like California, which will overwhelmingly go to Clinton, a vote for Stein will not help put Trump in the White House. But consider this possibility: Clinton wins the election but Trump comes in a close second with popular votes. Donald and the forces that support him will see this as a victory, snatched from them by treasonous Republicans. They will linger and remain a commanding force in American politics, something liberals and left-wing activists should dread. By dealing Trump a resounding defeat at the polls, we will help send a clear message that the politics and ideas he represents will never take hold in America.
It may feel good to “vote your conscience,” but know that there are consequences for your purity. Much like the Corbyn phenomenon in Britain, where large numbers of his supporters come from a class that will do just fine with Labour as a neutered opposition party, so too will many of Stein’s backers (Sarah Ditum’s essay in the New Statesman should be necessary reading before you enter the polling booth.) If you believe Trump is a threat to America, as leftists and liberals boisterously pronounced for more than a year, then you must vote for the candidate who can actually stop him from taking power.