It hardly needs to be said that the two main candidates running for president are not very popular. Both Trump and Clinton have historically high unpopularity ratings and many voters are voting against a candidate rather than for one they support. Perhaps it is time to consider a third option.
Jill Stein claims to be a candidate worth voting for based on her policies and principles, not just because people are afraid of Trump. She argues that Clinton is just as bad as Trump and voting for “the lesser of two evils” will not solve America’s problems but only allow them to continue. She is hoping that people will reject “the politics of fear” and break the two party system.
Stein has many excellent policies that I (and most other Bernie Sanders supporters would) agree with. Her core policy is a “Green New Deal” which aims to reduce unemployment and poverty by hugely investing in renewable energy. Its aim would be to stimulate the economy through a massive government works programme and directly providing work to the unemployed. She wants free public education and healthcare, as well as reforming the electoral system to make it more representative of voters desires and to give them a better range of choice (by replacing first past the post with ranked choice). She wants to cut military spending in half and improve workers’ rights through a higher minimum wage, stronger unions and workplace democracy. She directly tackles some of America’s largest problems like gaping economic inequality, crushing student debt, militaristic foreign policy and flawed democracy.
All of these are excellent policies that I completely support, however there is unfortunately another side to Stein and the Green Party. Some of the policies have an air of unreality and wishful thinking. For example, increasing renewable energy is a great idea, but Stein wants the US to be completely reliant on renewable energy by 2030, which has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening. Likewise for her policy of cutting military spending in half and single payer healthcare.
Stein has zero chance of winning the presidency, gaining the support of Congress, getting these laws passed and having them successfully implemented and everyone knows it. Instead these are statements of principles, her ideas of what should happen and what kind of America she wishes we had. A vote for her is not a vote for implementing these policies, but just a statement of what you believe America should be.
There are also some not so laudable policies that certainly need much more thought. Stein wants to forgive all student debt in the country by essentially printing money through quantitative easing. This is a flawed policy for many reasons, such as the fact that middle class people are more likely to go to private colleges (thus the policy wouldn’t reduce inequality) and it seems that Stein doesn’t fully understand quantitative easing. She also has some strange policies such as the Green party support for alternative medicine like homeopathy, which really undermines her reliability. She also panders to anti-vaccine fears (while not fully supporting them) and claims that wi-fi may damage children’s brains.
She has called for a new inquiry into 9/11 to find the truth, by which I’m not sure what she means. Al-Qaeda flew two planes into the World Trade Center, what else does she want to know? She also wants to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to discuss slavery, but who is going to discuss it? The slaves and slave masters have been dead for over a hundred years so who is supposed to be reconciled? She is also considering reparations, but why should people pay for the sins of their ancestors to people who were not directly affected?
Interestingly, Stein has been highly critical of Israel, which is practically unheard of in America (Stein herself was raised Jewish). She has accused the Israeli government of “apartheid, assassination, illegal settlements, demolitions, blockades, building of nuclear bombs, infinite detention, collective punishment and defiance of international law.” She even supports the boycott campaign against Israel and called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “war criminal”. This is certainly a refreshing and different view and its certainly beneficial that at least someone is speaking out against Israel.
She has harshly criticised Clinton’s support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria and repeatedly called her a warmonger. However, blaming someone for a position they took 13 years ago has little relevance today and Clinton voted for the Iraq War based on the false information the Bush Administration provided. Stein also regularly attacks her over her stance on Syria. However, the Syrian civil war is not a clear struggle, there are no simple solutions. No matter what stance Clinton had taken, she could have been criticised. Had she provided no support for the rebels, she could be blamed for supporting brutal dictators and being blind to people’s struggle for freedom. Had she intervened she would have been blamed as a warmonger. She tried to chart a middle path and both sides are blaming her. Some have said the rise of ISIS is her fault because America didn’t intervene enough in Syria and others are saying the rise of ISIS is her fault because America intervened too much.
Her Vice-President Ajamu Baraka is quite simply a crank. He is almost a Fox News caricature of an extremist liberal who opposes everything America does abroad no matter what and sides with whoever opposes America. He is so anti-American that he practically supports the Syrian President Assad and Russian President Putin. His area of expertise seems to be conspiracy theories and everywhere sees manipulation from the hidden hand of America. He suspected that the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was a “false flag” operation. When Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls, Baraka doubted whether there was a kidnapping, whether the numbers were inflated and opposed US attempts at a rescue (because it would be a ploy to get oil). Baraka described the memorial march after the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a “white power march” and Je suis Charlie campaign as an “arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy”. He has even referred to Barak Obama as an “Uncle Tom president.” This fanatic alone would almost put me off voting for Stein and makes me question her judgement in picking him.
She has claimed that Clinton is as bad as Trump, which is flat out wrong. Whatever her faults, Clinton is not a bigoted buffoon like Trump. If elected she won’t treat Muslims as enemies of the state and bar them from the country. She won’t treat Mexicans as criminals or try to deport 11 million immigrants. She won’t undermine the ability of the government to function with massive tax cuts to the wealthy. She doesn’t support the use of torture or praise authoritarian leaders like Putin.
Trump will do all this and more. He is dangerous, not only for the hateful rhetoric he spouts, but also for the support and influence he gives to other bigots. I have heard white middle class men claim that Trump really isn’t that bad, but they won’t be bearing the brunt of his policies. Trump is essentially a white nationalist and minorities will suffer hugely if he were to become president. Clinton’s alleged “scandals” are petty in comparison to the dishonesty and deceitfulness of Trump who would easily drive the country into the ground through incompetence and start a war over an imagined slight.
So is Stein worth voting for? She has zero chance of winning and is currently polling at 3% (which would be a tenfold increase on her last presidential run). However, her supporters argue that if you’re not in a battleground state, you have nothing to lose because the electoral college won’t be affected (eg. New York will still go to Clinton even if I vote for Stein). While she has some flawed policies and a terrible VP nominee, she does have some excellent policies too. Some say a vote for her would send a message, but what kind of message?
Clinton has her flaws, but she is still a progressive. She is more moderate and cautious than I would like, but change happens slowly, not in one presidential term. The sweeping reforms of Stein would never pass Congress, so slow change is inevitable. The moderate approach of Clinton has a better chance of success and her platform is essentially a moderate version of Sanders and Stein’s.The next president will have the opportunity to choose several Supreme Court Justices, potentially shaping legal rights for a generation. She is worth voting for in her own right and the risk of a Trump presidency seal the deal.
Stein for all her flaws, is a good candidate. Her good policies outweigh her dubious ones, even if her platform does seem more like a wishlist. Even her conspiracy theorist VP and her occasional joining in doesn’t block out her strengths. However, the simple fact is that the stakes are too high. We are facing an unprecedented challenge from a compulsive liar feeding the flames of bigotry. The enormous damage that would come from a Trump victory (or even a close defeat) are just too great. There are times when a protest vote is the honourable choice, but now is not the time.
I respect Jill Stein, but I won’t vote for her.