Election 2016

Jill Stein's Post-Election Interview—Green Party Candidate Shares Why She Thinks Hillary Clinton Lost the Election

Stein complains that nearly three-quarters of the voters "knew essentially nothing about our insurgent Green Party campaign."

Photo Credit: Matt Johnson / Flickr Creative Commons

This is a powerful moment in U.S. history. Disappointment in Donald Trump's victory has brought thousands of people onto the streets, chanting "Not my president!" Trump and Clinton were not the only people who ran for president; the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, the Green Party’s Jill Stein and 27 other people were also on the ballot. Johnson won 3.3% of the vote, while Stein took 1% (1.3 million votes). Neither Johnson nor Stein made as great an impact as the polls suggested or as they had hoped. If they had attained the 5% threshold, their parties would qualify for public campaign funding.

As the results of the election began to sink in, I spoke to Jill Stein about the election and about what might come from a Trump presidency.

Vijay Prashad: Let’s start with the obvious question. Why did Hillary Clinton, the odds on favorite, backed by the establishment, lose this election?

SPONSORED

Jill Stein: Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only one who lost the election. The American people were the real losers, in an election that offered voters a lose-lose proposition from the outset. The distressing outcome reflects the convergence of a toxic election, a ruthless economy, a corrupt media establishment, and a predatory political system.

The result was not a triumph for anyone, including Donald Trump, whose supporters were largely voting against Hillary Clinton and the political establishment, rather than for him. Over 80% of Americans were disgusted by the election, in which the two most disliked, untrusted presidential candidates in history were rammed down our throats. 76% of voters were screaming for debates to include Gary Johnson and myself, so they could learn about other choices and hear real issues debated, like war, austerity, rigged corporate trade deals, living wages, mass incarceration and surveillance, healthcare and higher education as human rights, climate catastrophe and generational debt. Yet the media faithfully circled the wagons around the political establishment. In the end, 72% of voters knew essentially nothing about our insurgent Green Party campaign. It’s hardly surprising this hyper-corrupt election came to a bad end.

While Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote, she lost critical support, and ultimately the election, because her campaign represented the elite neoliberal establishment in a year when voters were clamoring for change. Working people hurt by the hollowing out of the U.S. economy saw her as more interested in serving Wall Street than helping Main Street. Her campaign failed to dispel widespread feelings that the Clintons were awash in cronyism, corruption and dishonesty. To many Americans across the political spectrum, she came to symbolize everything that is wrong with Washington DC.

Nefarious strategy within the Democratic National Committee also contributed to the Democrats’ loss, including the secret promotion of Donald Trump to give Clinton a supposedly beatable extremist opponent, and the sabotage of Bernie Sanders, who by all indications would have handily beaten Donald Trump.

VP: It now seems as if Keith Ellison, the congressman from Minnesota, will be the new leader of the DNC. Ellison is a progressive, and it would be a true snub in the face of Islamophobia to have a Muslim lead the DNC. What do you make of this development in the DNC?

JS: The rise of Keith Ellison to head the DNC is an important rebuff to Islamophobia, and a step in the right direction in general. But it will amount to little in the face of a party that continues to be funded by predatory banks, war profiteers and fossil fuel giants. Far bigger efforts have been mounted over the past 50 years to change direction in the Democratic Party, including the "realignment" campaign in the 1960s. This brought the civil rights and labor movements together to create a more progressive party, but was derailed by the Democrat-initiated war in Vietnam, which brought discredit to war opponents and removed them from the internal reform movement.

In addition, progressives have criticized the Congressional Progressive Caucus headed by Ellison as having little bark and even less bite, given its members’ capitulation to a health care bill lacking even a public option, and their failure to oppose Obama’s fiscal cliff deal and threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Ellison’s enthusiasm for wars against Muslims, including the disastrous attack on Libya, and previous and current proposals for an assault on Syria (including Hillary Clinton’s no-fly zone) should also dampen expectations about a new direction from the DNC. Chuck Schumer, faithful friend of Wall Street elected to lead the Democratic Party in the Senate, is a truer reflection of who’s still running the show.

The effort of the Democratic Party to avoid deep reflection on the election debacle is yet another indicator that the party is beyond redemption, as it has been for the last 50 years. During this time it has sabotaged a long line of principled reformer-candidates, from Jesse Jackson to Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, and proven impervious to internal reforms. It’s time to move on.

VP: Not long after the election, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow attacked you and the Greens for delivering the election to Trump. There is a long history in the Democratic Party of blaming the Greens for their losses, namely when Gore lost in 2000 and the party intellectuals attacked Nader. What do you make of this?

JS: Despite disinformation from Democratic Party operatives, third parties did not contribute to Clinton’s loss. 61% of Green Party voters would have stayed home given the choice of only Trump and Clinton. 14% of Green voters would otherwise have voted for Trump, and 25% for Clinton. So in the absence of our campaign, not one state would have flipped into Clinton’s camp. Gary Johnson’s votes would have enabled a Clinton victory only in Michigan, whose 16 electoral votes would not have changed the outcome of the election.

Those who are railing against third parties as the source of Trump’s victory are flat wrong, mathematically and politically. Silencing opposition voices is not a solution for a democracy on life support. To the contrary, we need more voices, especially voices not financed and controlled by oligarchy. And we need a voting system that liberates people to vote their values not their fears. Democracy is not a question of who do we hate the most. It needs an affirmative vision, a moral compass. For that, we need the simple fix of ranked choice voting, a system used in cities across the U.S. and just adopted by the state of Maine. It lets you rank your choices, and if your first choice loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice. This ends the prevailing politics of fear, that has brought us once again, everything we were afraid of.

VP: One of the issues that has not been given much attention is that this is the first election since the dilution of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013. Voter suppression certainly played a role here. What do you think about this issue and what will the Greens be doing to fight voter suppression?

JS: During the campaign, we repeatedly sounded the alarm on the issues of voter suppression and fraud we’ve seen in multiple elections now, including interstate crosscheck, voter ID laws, the deliberate purging of registered voters, the elimination of voting sites in minority neighborhoods and on college campuses, and intimidation at the polls. We also called attention to the many problems of electronic voting machines.

The crisis of our democracy is fixable with a broad set of reforms: inclusive debates, the national popular vote, an end to voter disenfranchisement and ID laws, public financing of political campaigns, equal access to the ballot, and a reversion to tamper proof paper ballots. The disaster of the 2016 election is an eminently teachable moment.

My campaign will be working with a multi-partisan coalition for several of these reforms that are critical if we are to stop the unraveling of our democracy and the dire consequences that have long been underway, including endless war, empire, austerity, surveillance, mass migration and incarceration, generational debt, systemic racism and climate catastrophe.

VP: What kind of presidency should the world expect from President Trump?

JS: In the first week of the Trump transition, we’ve seen enough to give warning that many of his worst promises will be fulfilled. His appointments and leading contenders, including white nationalist Steven Bannon, anti-democratic Rudy Giuliani, neocon John Bolton, gun-toting Sarah Palin, and climate denier Myron Ebell, give all the notice needed that it’s time to begin mobilizing now for the world we deserve. All the more so, because Donald Trump’s ascendancy is part of a global proto-fascist movement growing out of the economic misery from neoliberalism and end stage capitalism: financial deregulation, abusive corporate trade agreements, obscene economic disparities, endless war, climate catastrophe and the growing refugee crises.

It’s critical we build a mass mobilization, in the U.S. and beyond, to advance a unifying, radical progressive agenda to put people, planet and peace over profit. This is the only solution to the misery of neoliberalism.

As we mobilize, we must be mindful of the power we have to change history, remembering the adage that the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. It’s time to invoke the courage of the social movements throughout history, like the resistance to the oppression and corruption of the Nixon administration, where we the people mobilized to bring the troops home from Vietnam, to create the EPA and OSHA, to pass the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, and to win women’s right to chose from a conservative Supreme Court. At the time we were mobilized by the military draft, threatening the lives of our brothers. Now we have as much reason to be mobilized by the threat to our lives from the climate crisis, racist violence, endless war and its blowback, and generational debt.

The clock is ticking, as it has been for years. Now perhaps louder, and faster. More than ever, it’s time to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it. Because in fact they do.

VP: Donald Trump has praised the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. This was a move for which the United States eventually apologized. If the administration starts to register Muslims and even create internment camps, what do you think should be the response? What kind of response would come from the establishment and what kind of response should there be from the population?

JS: A registry of Muslims should be seen as an attack on the human rights and civil liberties of us all. One fitting response would be for all people of conscience to self-register as Muslim. We should also declare safe zones and sanctuaries in schools, on campuses, and in cities and towns of conscience. We should not wait for a response from the establishment. Our government has already, in fact, been creating and using internment camps for undocumented immigrants over the past several years. The Democrats have been leading the charge on this assault, so they will not be the party of resistance. It falls to the Green Party to lift up the political on this and so many other issues where the Democrats have long since surrendered to their corporate funders.

We the people must be ready to physically protect targeted communities and engage in civil disobedience to protest racist policies and any attempts to enforce them. We can’t think or act like this can’t happen to us, our friends, our neighbors, in our communities. We must stand in solidarity with communities under threat and demonstrate that we are there to protect and advocate for them.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Vijay Prashad is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is also the author of Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017) and The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016), among other books.