Jill Stein is terrible for environmentalists. And I want to make it clear that I don’t think it’s intentional on her part, or that she doesn’t care about the environment—she definitely does. Her platform easily takes the most pro-environment stance of any of the four relevant political parties this election. Some might even say it’s ludicrously pro-environment, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, she really does seem to care about green issues, and we can reasonably assume that if she were elected president, nature would be a lot better off for it.
The thing is that she will never, ever, ever be president. But again, I’m not really criticizing her for that, because that’s not her fault either. If there has ever been a national political party anywhere that jumped from earning less than one percent of the vote in one election to winning it all just four years later, I certainly haven’t heard of it. And hey, Jill actually is polling much better than she did in 2012, currently averaging around three percent, which could be a good sign that the Green party and the environmental movement it represents may actually be moving toward national significance.
Except: No, because Jill Stein is terrible for environmentalists.
See, while Jill Stein definitely does care for the environment, it doesn’t really seem like her top priority. Instead, Jill’s top priority is apparently getting people to pay attention to her. And hey, for a minor political party often ignored by a media hostile to anything other than the main event, this alone isn’t that much of a sin. After all, who’s going to vote for a party they’ve never heard of? The problem is that Jill doesn’t seem to discern between positive and negative coverage.
Take, for instance, Jill’s pick for Vice President. Ajamu Baraka is a self described radical, and radical he is. For one thing, Ajamu is big on unpopular conspiracy theories—he’s the hipster of the tinfoil hat set. Example: He believes that the shooting down of MH-17 passenger jet over Ukraine was a Western false flag operation, apparently based on something said on RT one time.
He’s also skeptical of the reports on Boko Haram’s kidnapping of young girls. Not that he doesn’t believe it happened, just that the numbers are probably exaggerated. Is this a good time to mention that his writing has also appeared in the work of a holocaust denier? Sure, he later disavowed the book and claimed he was unaware of the author’s views, which is actually believable—Ajamu certainly doesn’t seem to be one for researching things.
He’s also big on saying outlandish and terrible things, like the time he called Barrack Obama America’s “Uncle Tom president,” or when he called a vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre a “white power march.” In fact Ajamu, seems to have a thing about throwing around accusations of white power, managing to link Beyonce, Bernie Sanders, and Barack Obama to the “normalization of white supremacy.” To put it mildly, Ajamu can be a bit much.
But hey, that’s just her VP pick, and we all know how tough those can be. At the very least, he’s not a religious nut like Mike Pence or suburban-dad boring like Tim Kaine. It’s not like Jill dabbles in absurd conspiracy theories or makes wild and outrageous statements right? Well, kind of. Kind of a lot.
For starters, while Jill might not go as far as to openly question the generally accepted version of major news stories, she does like to leave the door open for any conspiracy nuts that might want to warm themselves by the Green party’s carbon neutral dumpster fire. Jill doesn’t actually say that Wi-Fi is causing cancer and harming our children, for instance, but that we “make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die.” Seems like a rather extreme accusation, right?
And as a medical professional, she would certainly never claim that vaccines cause autism, but she does manage to imply the conclusion when she says that there are some “real questions” there. The problem here is that in both cases, there has already been extensive research that confirms that no, vaccines do not cause autism, and no, wi-fi is not harmful to children or anyone else. But hey, it’s good to ask questions, even if you already have the answers.
And besides, it’s not like Jill is the only politician in the race who’s fond of conspiracy theories. The Trump campaign seems to find a new one to latch onto on a monthly basis, whether it’s that Hilary Clinton is barely alive or that Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK. But the problem for Jill (and all of us, really) is that Trump’s name is on a major ticket. He doesn’t have to worry about gaining mainstream acceptance—he already has it. As the GOP nominee, Trump is likely looking at a floor of 40 percent of the vote even if he does nothing but pander to the crazy crowd between now and November.
Jill Stein’s issue is that she’s supposed to be advancing a minor political party into the national spotlight for the sake of the environmental movement. And this is something Jill Stein is absolutely terrible at, because all of her attention-grabbing antics are so firmly entrenched in fringe politics that there really doesn’t seem to be much chance of her winning over anywhere near the five percent of voters that the green party would need to receive national funding.
Sure, her poll numbers at the moment aren’t too far off from that threshold, but it’s important to remember that third parties typically do worse in elections than they do in polls leading up, and that this becomes especially true in tighter races like the one we’re witnessing in 2016. But the real issue here isn’t polling trends—it’s the very real and obvious failure of Jill Stein to court the more mainstream voters she desperately needs to hit that critical five percent mark.
Disgruntled Bernie supporters were an obvious target, and Stein went as far as to encourage Bernie to join her ticket following his primary loss. He was never going to accept, obviously, but it was nonetheless a good way to latch on to the defeated Vermont senator’s popularity and siphon some of his voters away from Clinton. But with her anti-Sanders VP pick and Stein’s own recent denunciation of Bernie as a “DC insider,” it seems Jill has abandoned her quest for the Bernie or Bust vote completely.
And her efforts to attack Clinton haven’t demonstrated much more tact than her appeal to Sanders’ base. While there are many genuine and legitimate concerns over Clinton that Jill has rightly expressed, she has also taken to decidedly more fringe attacks on Clinton, going as far as to question her quality as a mother (on Mother’s Day no less), suggest she wants to engage in full scale war with Russia, and warn voters that she’s far more dangerous than Trump.
This last claim is especially weird and troubling from an environmentalist perspective. Obviously, it can’t be expected that Jill would ever endorse Clinton over Trump, but Trump has called climate change a hoax and pledged to dismantle the EPA. The Green Party is supposed to be an environmentalist party, but it often seems like Stein doesn’t care. Maybe pointing out the distinction between Trump and Clinton would be less attention-grabbing than the “politics of fear” angle she’s been pushing for months, focusing on the dangers of voting for Clinton’s “lesser evil.”
Which I guess brings us back to the main issue with Jill Stein for the U.S. environmentalist movement, which is that more than anything, she’s positioning the Green party firmly in the fringes of U.S. politics and spoiling the party’s appeal as even a protest vote. While Green issues are certainly present in the party’s platform, they’re overshadowed by the party’s constant desperate stumbling after media coverage.
Stein’s attempts to diversify the Green’s policy portfolio hasn’t been much more successful than the rest of her campaign either. She described one of her key policy pillars of student debt forgiveness via quantitative easing as a “magic trick,” and was widely rebuffed for it. On the issue of homelessness, she pledged guaranteed housing but admitted that the party had not yet worked out any sort of idea as to how they’d pay for it. With Jill, it’s pretty clear that a policy’s merits are assessed first by leftist appeal and adopted if it passes the smell test. But as for its feasibility, or a plan for implementation? TBD.
Wild promises are a hallmark of fringe parties, and as the 2016 cycle approaches its final month, one would have hoped to see Jill take at least a step toward the mainstream. It would help with national funding, and securing a foothold in American politics from which they could build a solid foundation for a 2020 run. Such an approach is obviously needed, given how little ground Jill and Amaju’s radicalism has gained, if they ever hope to become a true national party.
Instead, Jill has fallen back on media heat-seeking antics, like getting herself charged with criminal mischief for spray-painting a bulldozer during the Dakota Northern Access Pipeline protests. Nobody’s disputing her right to protest, and at the very least Jill is championing an environmental cause here (let’s not get into a discussion of the cause’s worth). But to actually go and spray paint a bulldozer is the sort of thing you’d expect from a college student, not a 66-year-old woman who wants to form a national political movement…unless of course that 66-year-old woman really wants to get on the news.
Which is the whole problem with Jill and this iteration of the Green party—there simply doesn’t seem to be much desire to be takenseriously by mainstream Americans, nor does the party seem all that interested in advancing the environmental cause it was founded upon. Instead, the party serves more as a platform for professional agitators like Stein, who have somehow become career politicians without ever holding political office. And while they might end up with as much as three or four percent of the vote come November, it seems doubtful they’ll be any better positioned for 2020, where they might not have the luxury of such unpopular competition. And for that, the U.S. green movement will suffer at the sidelines.