Will Jill Stein Be 2016’s Ralph Nader?

Will Jill Stein Be 2016’s Ralph Nader?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are soaking up the spotlight — for now. But there are others chasing the presidency and a record number of voters dissatisfied with those two choices.

Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton last Tuesday released a wave of anger from the purists among his supporters. And at least some of them are turning away from the Democratic Party altogether — towards Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein.

The #NeverHillary movement among progressives is bigger than you think: A Bloomberg poll conducted July 10-13, before Sanders’ endorsement, found that only 55 percent of Sanders supporters were ready for Hillary — and after Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein is making an appeal to voters looking for a third way, co-opting much of Sanders’ “revolutionary” messaging. 

Stein’s push to bring Sanders supporters over to the Green Party may provide some financial relief, at least: According to her campaign, donations increased by nearly 1000 percent after Sander’s endorsement of Clinton.

Since last Tuesday, when Sanders endorsed Clinton, the Green Party received over $80,000 in donations, more than half of which came from first-time donors, it said. Half of these contributions were under $50, and about 615 of them were $27 donations, which is the average amount people contributed to Sanders’ campaign, a factoid that became a catchphrase in his stump speeches.

Several of Sanders’ most well-known supporters have moved to support Stein. Activist and scholar Cornel West, recently appointed by Sanders to the Democratic Convention’s platform committee, announced that he will back Stein, calling her “the only true progressive woman in the race.”

“This November, we need change. Yet we are tied in a choice between Trump, who would be a neo-fascist catastrophe, and Clinton, a neo-liberal disaster. That’s why I am supporting Jill Stein. I am with her — the only progressive woman in the race — because we’ve got to get beyond this lock-jaw situation,” West said in an editorial for The Guardian.

In 2012, West led an effort to find a Democratic primary challenger to run against President Obama. When that failed, he backed Obama’s reelection, though reluctantly. “American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscience — if I voted my moral conscience it would probably be for Jill Stein,” West said in an interview with Vice magazine in 2012.

Stein’s social media accounts were flooded with new likes, follows and engagements, and Google searches for her name skyrocketed. Still, many Americans don’t even know who she is. According to a May Quinnipiac poll, 87 percent of voters didn’t know enough about her to express an opinion.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian choice, has gotten some attention and is polling at relatively high numbers as a result of the two major candidates’ low favorability ratings. Surveys including Stein (there aren’t many) show that she polls at two to four percent with registered voters. But overall, the Green Party’s candidate has struggled to get her name out there.

Who is Jill Stein?

Born in Chicago to parents of Russian Jewish descent, Stein graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1979, and went on to practice internal medicine for 25 years until her retirement in 2005, after which she became an environmental activist.

Her concern for environmental justice lead her to fight for campaign finance reform. Her website cites “sabotage of campaign finance reform by the Democratic Party” as ” pivotal event in Jill’s political development” that led her to the Green Party. Although a progressive on the political spectrum, Stein often takes aim at the Democratic Party and is planning to protest outside the DNC in Philadelphia. Her Twitter feed strikes more harshly at Hillary Clinton — and now, implicitly, Bernie Sanders — than Donald Trump.

In 2002 and again in 2010, Stein ran for governor of Massachusetts; her vote total in the 2010 election was 32,816, or 1.4 percent. She has also been elected twice to town meetings in Lexington, Massachusetts. She was also the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2012 running against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, appearing on 36 state ballots. Despite her low visibility, she actually holds the record for most votes received by a woman in a U.S. general presidential election, with 469,627 or 0.36 percent.

During the 2012 cycle, she was arrested along with her vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala after trying to enter the Hofstra University debate between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Stein’s “Power to the People” agenda promises to “end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world.” Her “New Green Deal,” outlines a transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.

Like the Vermont senator, she supports a universal, single-payer health care insurance program, tuition-free public education from pre-school to university, a $15 federal minimum wage, and a ban on fracking. She has called for an ban on assault weapons, increased mental health funding, and an end to the “racist” War on Drugs including legalizing marijuana.

Stein is more of an isolationist than even Sanders: She proposes to “cut military spending by at least 50 percent and close the 700-plus foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire,” close Guantanamo Bay, and pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden — while offering him a cabinet post.

Born Jewish, the now self-described agnostic has condemned Israeli occupation as “apartheid.” She supports the boycott of Israeli goods and an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

But will Stein be able to wrest Sanders’ insurgent progressive mantle away from the Clinton campaign — newly energized by the democratic socialist’s endorsement? Can Clinton convince young people that their priorities will be addressed in a Democratic administration? Many young voters don’t know who Ralph Nader is, or how he helped to deliver America into the hands of George W. Bush. It will be up to them to learn, and then decide.

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