Posted on Jul 6, 2016
By Bill Boyarsky/
Jill Stein is running for president of the United States for the second time. She was the Green Party nominee in 2012 and finished with less than 1 percent of the vote, the most successful run of any female presidential candidate in U.S. history. (Joel Peissig)
This is a crucial time for Dr. Jill Stein. It’s a test of whether she can move her presidential campaign from the fringes into the mainstream of an election that she says “has tossed out the rule book.”
“We are here to keep the revolution going,” Stein, the prospective Green Party presidential candidate, told me in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Bernie [Sanders] supporters are grieving over the loss of the campaign, of their hard work, their vision, but they are remobilizing. Our events are absolutely mobbed with Bernie supporters.”
We spoke in the morning, before FBI Director James Comey threw yet another twist into the presidential race by announcing that while the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in the Hillary Clinton email affair, she had been “extremely careless” with her use of a personal email address and a private server for sensitive communications
Comey’s recommendation against criminal charges is good news for Clinton. But his comment about carelessness is not. It is one more factor injecting volatility into her contest with Donald Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee. With Sanders’ presidential campaign falling short in the primaries and Clinton battling for her good name, I thought I’d call Stein, the progressive alternative, a pediatrician-turned-presidential candidate.
She and the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, are far behind. According to a CNN/ORC poll in June, Clinton had 42 percent of the vote, Trump had 38 percent, Johnson had 9 percent and Stein had 7 percent. When Sanders was put in the poll against Clinton, 43 percent said they backed him.
The Johnson and Stein programs are very different from one another. Johnson, while favoring a laissez-faire approach on personal and social issues, embraces a balanced budget limiting federal action, opposes tax increases and favors a consumption (or sales) tax, which hurts the poor. All of this has a Paul Ryan sound to it and is far removed from Stein’s progressivism.
I asked Stein how her administration would create jobs for working people who have seen manufacturing plants and other businesses close because of foreign competition, automation and corporate financial machinations.
She likes the idea of a Green New Deal, a combination of ideas that basically revolve around the notion that the government would help to finance the conversion of old industry into new industry—solar energy devices and wind farm materials instead of internal combustion engines and oil drilling equipment. Doing this would require a considerable government investment—certainly not a Gary Johnson idea—plus investment from a banking industry converted from giant banks to smaller state and community banks.
There’s much more to the Green New Deal. Eliminating carbon-based fuels would improve health and reduce—if not eliminate—global warming, saving big amounts of money for health care. It includes Medicare for all.
I wondered about the practicalities of converting the old auto plant into something else. Who would decide on the new products? Stein said the unemployed workers or members of the community would pick a product. I reminded her of something I had seen when you try to get community consensus. “You know,” I said, “it’s hard to get people to agree on the location of a stop sign or what should go in a community garden.”
Stein has a more optimistic view of human nature than I do. She believes that ordinary people can get together to make decisions on financing, manufacturing, marketing and all the other facets of a big, complex business. Now, Stein said, businesses, big and small, make decision-making by communities or local governments impossible because of their narrow interests and campaign contributions.
“The Green New Deal operates in a far different process, not subject to money and backroom deals,” she said. “People can get together, make compromises. You can’t make compromises when there are predators. This is a society poisoned by distrust.”
Another big issue for her is student loans, which she wants canceled.
“This has to be the most mobilizing issue,” Stein said. “It started happening in Carbondale, Ill. Suddenly, our events were mobbed. This became the norm, and we did an event in San Francisco before the primary. We thought it would be a quiet visit to California. We had to turn hundreds of people away.
“There is a rebellion, and it is being led by millennials. There are 43 million young people locked into predatory debt. They just have to know they can cancel their debt by voting Green. Just by organizing on social media, young people can take over this election. We have full houses at millennial events. Debt is the sleeper issue in the campaign. It is the elephant in the room.”
Stein said this kind of support is why she has moved up in the polls without “any major-league coverage” by the television networks and the cable news channels.
But both she and Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, face a big obstacle. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that candidates get at least 15 percent on five national polls before they are admitted to the debate club. Formed by Republican and Democratic Party officials several years ago, the commission looks as though it’s another establishment ploy to exclude outsiders.
Stein has got good, progressive ideas and deserves to be heard by a wide audience. This is especially true since the election is coming down to a contest between Clinton and Donald Trump, who are battling each other for first place in the unpopularity category. In that kind of election, nothing is impossible.