In this bizarre election year marked by one apparently unhinged major party candidate and another entrenched establishment candidate, the inclination to turn to third-party contenders has never been stronger for some.
The Green Party's Jill Stein has been attracting some support from disaffected Bernie voters who still can't see themselves voting for Clinton. While on the surface, Stein’s platform reads like a progressive voter’s dream ($15 minimum wage, health care as a right, “protect mother Earth”), there are also some less-appealing aspects of Stein’s candidacy.
Here are five things to know about Stein.
1. She's only won local office.
Stein, who says her profession as a physician propelled her into politics, hasn’t had much success when it comes to running for office. She first ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, finishing third in a field of five. Her unsuccessful bid for governor was followed by an unsuccessful bid for Massachusetts' House of Representatives in 2004 and Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2006. In fact, Stein’s only successful elections were in 2005 and 2008, when she was elected and then re-elected for three-year terms as the town of Lexington meeting representative in 2005 and 2008; she left during her second term to pursue an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. Stein also ran as the Green Party candidate during the 2012 presidential election.
While some Democrat defectors and most of the Green Party supports Stein's 2016 presidential bid, some influential voices are speaking out against voting for a third party.
Noam Chomsky told Democracy Now:
"In a swing state—a state where it's going to matter which way you vote—I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don't think there's any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for … a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect."
In response, Stein argued Chomsky is subscribing to "the politics of fear." But Stein should recognize that fear is a powerful and even rational driving force to vote for Clinton, who is the only candidate who can stop Donald Trump from becoming president. George W. Bush landed the United States in two wars, hampered progress in scientific research by banning embryonic stem cell research and enacted one of the most controversial and overreaching anti-privacy bills in history. Twenty years before that, Ronald Reagan's "Reagonomics" killed the middle class. These terrible Republican presidents seem relatively sane when compared to Trump.
So despite Stein's lengthy career in local politics, it'd be helpful for her to take a longer view of history.
2. She’s a low-key anti-vaxxer.
Stein has a fairly tacit relationship with anti-vaxxer rhetoric. During a Reddit AMA back in May, the Green Party candidate questioned the integrity of U.S regulatory agencies, writing that while immunizations have “made a huge contribution to the public health," there’s “a lot of snake-oil in this system.” She elaborates:
“In most countries, people trust their regulatory agencies and have very high rates of vaccination through voluntary programs. In the U.S., however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the U.S. So who wouldn't be skeptical?”
Stein expressed more skepticism about vaccines in a July interview with the Washington Post, telling the paper:
"As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved. There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury, which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.”
Actually, the issue has been resolved. The link between vaccines and autism (a rumor started by a fraudulent study and perpetuated by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy) has been thoroughly debunked. As a medical doctor, it is irresponsible and dangerous for Stein to sow doubts in voters' minds.
Stein could use her platform to discuss the pharmaceutical industry's greed and its methods of courting the medical community. Instead, she's wasting her name recognition on fear-mongering.
3. She’s pretty concerned about WiFi.
In March of this year, Stein discussed health concerns regarding wireless radiation, arguing kids should not be exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
“We should not be subjecting kids’ brains especially to that,” Stein said when asked about wireless. “And we don’t follow that issue in this country, but in Europe where they do, they have good precautions around wireless internet technology—maybe not good enough, because it’s very hard to study this stuff.”
“We make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die,” she continued. “And this is like the paradigm for how public health works in this country and it’s outrageous, you know.”
The World Health Organization has repeatedly battled anxiety over the perceived threat of wireless signals to children and adults; in 2006, WHO made it clear that EMFs pose no risk to public health.
“The body absorbs up to five times more of the signal from FM radio and television than from base stations,” reads a WHO statement. “From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF (radiofrequency) signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.”
This is another point where Stein, as a medical doctor, could focus on real issues instead of pandering to parental anxiety by suggestion WiFi could be harming their kids.
4. She praised Brexit as a 'victory,' and then blamed neoliberalism for the 'anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee' anger in Europe.
While many progressives in the U.K. and U.S. mourned Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union and pursue a more isolationist foreign policy, Stein heralded Britain for “[speaking] for much of humanity.”
“The vote in Britain to exit the European Union (EU) is a victory for those who believe in the right of self-determination and who reject the pro-corporate, austerity policies of the political elites in EU,” Stein wrote. “Britain has spoken for much of humanity as it rejects the failed vision of a world that prioritizes profit for the few amidst hardship for the many. Now we must build on this momentum.”
But after declaring Brexit a “victory” for Britain, Stein replaced her statement with one that at least mentioned the racist, xenophobic undertones of the vote:
“The Brexit vote is a direct result of the effects of neoliberalism on economically stressed voters harmed by decades of austerity, corporate free trade and globalization that serves the economic elite. The deplorable and dangerous anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee anger that neoliberalism generates can only be effectively ended through the construction of a new, more democratic, ecological, and socially just Europe.”
5. She actually believes (or says she does) that Trump and Clinton are equally bad.
Stein has made it clear that supporting either major party is “the biggest waste of your vote,” insisting the candidates are fighting over “who will be more destructive to the world.”
“Hillary Clinton is not different enough from Donald Trump that she or the Democratic Party are going to save your job, save your life, or save the planet,” Stein said in an interview with Al Jazeera English released late last month.
“We have two ways to commit suicide here, and I say no thank you to them both," she added.
Stein’s assessment that Trump and Clinton are equally bad candidates isn’t unique or surprising, but it is a false equivalency that voters should reject. Clinton has her fair share of problems, and she has been wrong on issues like fracking, trade and war in the past, though she has evolved on several of those issues. But Trump is a misogynist, racist, xenophobic billionaire with poor impulse control. Any suggestion that these two people are the same is dangerous and patently false.
Just ask Noam Chomsky, who believes the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
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