Jill Stein is not the left’s savior. Stop canonizing her.

Perennial Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein.

Bernie Sanders has lost the Democratic Primary. It hurts, I know, but it’s true. For all the bluster about high turnout, lamenting about alleged fraud, and even out-and-out violent revolt, Bernie’s brilliant, poignant, but ultimately quixotic bid has all but ended. The fact that he hasn’t conceded is another point in his favor, as he uses his campaign’s dying breath to again advance the issues he’s been pushing his entire political life.

But one glimmer of hope, one emergent act of God seems to have emerged for the incensed liberals and young moderates who saw Bernie as the sole vessel of good sense and progressivism in this election. And that hope is Dr. Jill Stein. Jill Stein’s similarly quixotic bid for the presidency has drawn a lot of attention in recent weeks, mostly because she’s seen as the leftist companion to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee who is, at the moment, outperforming expectations in opinion polls (pulling nearly 11% in some polls, nearly enough to get into the debates). Stein’s recent attention is the conscious result of Johnson’s rise, as her poll numbers remain characteristically low (Stein is performing similar to her 2012 numbers, where she routinely pulled 2–3%). But to many, Stein represents the last good hope for Bernie’s electoral coalition, an unvarnished non-politician who’ll carry the torch of progressivism right into the Oval Office.

This is a lie. It’s a nice comfy lie, but it’s a lie.

Jill Stein is far from Bernie’s equal, or even his political sister. While Sanders boasts decades of legislative and political experience that would allow him to fight against Congress’ machinations and accomplish something of note as President, Stein has no such experience. Her work in politics has often been as a participant and as a dissonant voice, one that never seeks to fix the system, only to vilify it. While Sanders took on the establishment in Burlington and made his city better for it as mayor, Stein has done nothing of the sort. Her only elected position, the equivalent of Lexington, MA’s mayor, reaped no real legislative or political accomplishments, save for her using it as a springboard to run for governor 6 years later in 2010. This bid [1] went nowhere. The campaign itself played out like one long game of keep-away, with Stein’s campaign begging for the kind of media attention that it felt it deserved. Never were the issues that are central to the Green Party more sublimated and less clear.

Stein during her 2010 gubernatorial bid.

Following this “success,” Stein launched her bid for the Green Party nomination and, upon winning it, became the second woman to hold the Party’s nomination [2]. And again, she did horribly in the general election.

For context: the best the Greens have ever done in a general election was when Ralph Nader ran in 2000. He pulled in nearly 3% of the vote, and won more than 2 million votes. Stein, however, pulled in a little over 450,000 votes, and pulled less than 0.5% of the vote. While she outperformed Cynthia McKinney, her loss was made more damning by the fact that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 2012, pulled more than 1% of the vote and more than 1.2 million votes. It was the first election in the GP’s lifetime [3] where the Libertarian Party beat them in a general election. This may be due to the fact that Johnson had near universal ballot access (only excluded from Oklahoma), whereas Stein was on the ballot in only 36 states.

The same is happening this year.

At this point, Johnson is the only third-party candidate with fully national ballot access, and he’s the only one with even a moonshot chance of being in the debates. Stein is actually doing worse this year than in 2012, with her ballot access shrinking from 36 states to 20 states, reducing her electoral reach from 439 to 292. While she may expand her reach, it’s again likely that she won’t have 50 state access and again won’t make a mark electorally.

But none of this matters, right? Stein is less of a winning vote and more of an ideological vote. She’s the “conscience vote.”

But what makes Stein’s candidacy and her subsequent deification so maddening to me (if you couldn’t tell, I’m not with her) is that so many aspects of her candidacy, were they a part of any other candidacy, would be deal breakers. People rejected Dr. Ben Carson for having no experience in politics other than being a medical doctor. Dr. Stein’s narrative is the exact same, save for that fact that she’s never done anything groundbreaking like disconnecting conjoined twins. People lament Hillary’s political shapeshifting, but fail to note Stein’s obvious appropriation of the rhetoric and positions of Bernie in a naked plea for votes.

The most recent Green Party platform, the one that Stein ran on, makes numerous mentions to eliminating or reducing the role of government in commerce, social change, and in foreign affairs. This completely flies in the face of Bernie’s charges for more government aid and a larger welfare state. The Green platform also pushes for the abolition of the Electoral College and national implementation of Instant Runoff Voting. Bernie has rejected both these pushes, choosing instead to focus on the repealing of Citizen’s United and the elimination of voter ID laws. Bernie’s electoral reforms are also not at all mentioned in the Green Party’s platform. The GP platform also called for radical reformation of the UN and other multilateral institutions, the same institutions that undergird Bernie’s foreign policy [4].

Additionally, many of Jill’s positions are either Trump-levels of unclear or simply horrifying in their implications. Stein, like Trump, appears to oppose vaccinations, placing a greater importance on homeopathy and ritualistic medicine than on traditional medical science. This stance, aside from blatant pandering to the Green Party’s more constant voters, shows that her being a medical doctor hasn’t stopped her from adopting the more fringe ideals of her party. Additionally, not seeing the value in modern medicine could prove deadly if an epidemic like Zika, swine flu, or ebola threatens the country.

Stein has also continued the Green Party’s tend of de-emphasizing social justice causes in the face of mounting environmental concerns. While this is to be expected from a party founded on principles of environmental justice (the “green” in Green Party), it’s disheartening from the woman who (at the moment) is the best performing female general election candidate in this nation’s history. Her platform is almost comically devoid of any specific plans or actions for accomplishing her goals, as she settles for bland declarations like “Protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination” and “ Expand women’s rights.” For context, here’s an excerpt (he has an entire page devoted to it) from Bernie Sanders’ proposal for protecting LGBTQIA+ people:

Sign into law the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and any other bill that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people.
Work with HHS to ensure LGBT Americans have access to comprehensive health insurance which provides appropriate coverage and do not have to fear discrimination or mistreatment from providers.
Continue the great work of the State Department’s Special Envoy for LGBT Rights and ensure the United States helps protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.
Advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to reduce suicides.
Require police departments to adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
Bar discrimination against LGBT people by creditors and banks so that people will not be unfairly denied mortgages, credit cards, or student loans.
Veto any legislation that purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights.

As you can see, his is an extremely detailed and comprehensive set of proposals, complete with currently existing bills that he’d sign into law were he elected president. As a voter, I know exactly what Bernie means when he says he’ll stand up for LGBTQIA+ Americans. For additional context, here’s Hillary Clinton’s:

Fight for full federal equality for LGBT Americans. Today in America, nearly 65 percent of LGBT individuals report experiencing discrimination in their daily lives. LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely as their peers to be physically assaulted at school, and 74 percent of LGBT students say they’ve been verbally harassed for their sexual orientation. And a recent study found that nearly 50 percent of of LGBT elders experienced discrimination when applying for senior housing. Despite this discrimination, 31 states do not have fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination laws. Hillary will work with Congress to pass the Equality Act, continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions, and support efforts to clarify that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”
Support LGBT youth, parents, and elders. Hillary will end LGBT conversion therapy for minors; combat youth homelessness by ensuring adequate funding, and safe and welcoming shelter, for youth; protect LGBT elders against discrimination; improve school climate by working to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act; and collect national data that will help us better serve LGBT individuals and families.
Honor the military service of LGBT people. Every day, LGBT service members valiantly fight for our country around the world. Hillary believes we should honor their service and ensure they receive the benefits they have earned. As commander in chief, Hillary will upgrade service records of LGBT veterans dismissed due to their sexual orientation and support efforts to allow transgender personnel to serve openly.
Secure affordable treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS. While the United States has made great progress in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, our job is not done. As secretary of state, Hillary began an ambitious campaign to usher in an AIDS-free generation. As president, she will continue to drive towards that goal by calling on all Republican governors to extend Medicaid coverage to provide life-saving health care to people living with HIV, capping out-of pocket expenses for people with HIV/AIDS, and expanding the utilization of HIV prevention medications, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Protect transgender rights. We must do more to end discrimination against the transgender community. Hillary believes no one should be held back from fully participating in our society because of their gender identity. As secretary of state, Hillary made it possible for transgender Americans to have their true identity reflected on their passports. As president, she will work to protect transgender individuals from violence by directing the government to collect better data regarding crime victims and seeking to improve reporting of hate crimes; streamline identity documents to remove barriers to transgender Americans changing their gender marker on identification documents; and invest in law enforcement training focused on fair and impartial policing, including in interactions with LGBT individuals. Hillary will invest in law enforcement training that focuses on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation, as well as fair and impartial policing including in their interactions with the LGBT community, in particular transgender individuals. It will also focus on educating police officers on correctly identifying bias-motivated crimes.
Promote human rights of LGBT people around the world. As secretary of state, Hillary stood before the United Nations Human Rights Council and and told the world’s leaders, “Gay rights are human rights.” Hillary will continue to promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world, including increasing our investment in the Global Equality Fund to advance the human rights of LGBT people around the world.

Again, she lays out a fairly comprehensive set of proposals that give a clear indication what she would do and how she would do it. She even includes evidence that supports her claim that she’s a friend/ally of the LGBT community.

In this context, Stein’s proposals and policy ideas can be read as taglines at best, and at worst they are nothing more than ticked boxes, piss-poor lip-service to an issue that affects people’s lives on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. They read like afterthoughts, unpolished and unfinished ideas that make tweets look substantive. The rest of the issues listed on her platform read similarly. Even Stein’s signature legislative push, the “Green New Deal,” lacks anything resembling a justification or a coherent policy recommendation.

To further emphasize this point, Stein’s policies don’t even compare to that of other fringe candidates. Larry Lessig, the only man who ran this year worthy of holding the Presidency [5], made specific reference not only to a piece of legislation he would champion, but also smaller bills and referendums that he’d sign if he were elected. There’s a strong vision and idea of what to do with the office beyond the protest, beyond the initial systemic disruption. Stein has no such ideas.

All of this isn’t to say that Jill Stein is the worst candidate. But compared to Bernie Sanders, or even to Hillary Clinton, she lacks the experience and policy knowledge to be President. Her rhetoric, like Bernie and Larry’s, is pitch perfect. She seems to be truly invested in the fight for economic and ecological equality/progress. But being invested in the fight is different from being able to lead the charge, and Stein is woefully unprepared to take on this nation’s failing bureaucracy in any meaningful or effective way.

What’s truly sad is that Stein’s candidacy could survive these failures in my eyes. 50 State Ballot access is hard for any third party, and her lack of substantive policy proposals could easily be remedied after a long meeting with Bernie or whomever is willing to put pen to paper to help her out.

But the one truly horrible thing that Stein is doing now is the same thing that Donald Trump has tried to do in recent weeks: she’s taking Sanders voters for granted. As opposed to doing what Bernie and Hillary have done and having a straightforward discussion about issues and divergences, Jill Stein has done everything in her power to cast the illusion that she and Bernie Sanders are the same. Even though her platform and his diverge quite a bit, she’s sold herself as the female Bernie Sanders. Not only does it stink of desperation (some of her more enlightened attacks on Hillary border on the illogical), but it gives faint hope to people that her failure of a campaign could actually bring about genuine political progress. Vesting hopes in Stein’s campaign, as a strategic investment of political capital, is indefensible. Hillary Clinton is far from the left-wing Jesus figure that she hopes she’d be seen as, but her concessions to the Sanders camp over the course of this campaign show that she can be a far more lucrative vehicle for progressive change. What Stein is doing, playing up the fears of Sanders’ most ardent followers in a vain attempt at leveraging their enthusiasm, is something that only one other candidate has done in this race, and his name is Donald Trump.

You may be saying to yourself, “well David. Hillary Clinton has tried to rope in Sanders’ supporters too! What makes her approach and Jill’s approach so different, you shill?!” The difference is this: Hillary Clinton never pretended to be Bernie Sanders. While she did move to his left on some issues (this almost always happens in contentious primaries, just look at how Obama moved to Hillary’s left on Iraq in order to win), she never pretended to be more liberal than him, nor did she pretend to be him. They had substantive disagreements. While they agreed on a lot of stuff, they didn’t gloss over their differences in naked attempts to pull the rug out from under each other. Hillary’s central appeal as a candidate isn’t “I’m the female Bernie Sanders!”

And that’s Jill Stein’s biggest problem, one that removes any kind of good will I have towards her candidacy. She’s not got any unique qualities or accomplishments. She’s got no bold ideas or interesting political insights. She’s a candidate whose entire campaign seems to be built around identity theft. And I can never see myself voting for a candidate with no real identity outside of the shadow of the number 2 guy on the other side.

Footnotes

[1] Jill Stein ran for governor in 2002 as well, against everyone’s least favorite
Mitt Romney. She still lost.

[2] Cynthia McKinney, a former Congresswoman and all-around badass, was the first.

[3] The GP was founded in 1996, with Ralph Nader serving as the GP’s presidential nominee.

[4] Bernie’s foreign policy, particularly in the middle east, relies heavily on the notion of coalition-building and places a great deal of power in institutions like the UN and NATO. The GP platform and Stein’s policies would work towards dismantling those institutions, beginning with the UN Security Council, which must be permanently repealed. She also calls for the closure of
3/4s of our overseas bases, which really hurts Bernie’s pull for more cooperation in interventions.

[5] This is a joke. Both Lessig and Sanders are brilliant.

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