JIll Stein at a 2016 town hall in Arizona/Flickr

Don’t Vote for Jill Stein

Almost immediately after Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination, #JillNotHill began trending on Twitter. Just today, Cornel West, one of Sen. Sanders’ selections to the DNC platform committee endorsed Jill Stein for the presidency, writing “I am with her — the only progressive woman in the race — because we’ve got to get beyond this lock-jaw situation.” He continued, “I have a deep love for my brother Bernie Sanders, but I disagree with him on Hillary Clinton.”

Although I am not the person to make it, as I am firmly behind Sec. Clinton, there is a case to be made for a successful, by US standards, third-party run in this election. Trump and Clinton are historically unpopular, and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is polling well, maybe even well enough to make it onto the debate stage with Trump and Clinton later this year. There is not, however, a case to be made for Jill Stein.

It is easy to see why Stein is an attractive option for Sanders supporters who feel let down by his (inevitable) endorsement of Clinton. She is plain spoken, is not a career politician, and would not sound out of place speaking at a Sanders rally. That is precisely the problem. Some of the following criticism could also be directed at Sen. Sanders, but that is now irrelevant, as he is no longer running for president. Furthermore, Sanders has a record of compromising when it comes to big issues, e.g., Dodd-Frank, the ACA, the VA bill co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, etc. There is reason to think that he may compromise in the following areas as well. Jill Stein has no such history, and should be taken at her word. Given her doctrinaire rhetoric, a President Stein could give Gary Johnson a run for his money in the veto department.

Stein’s far-left views are concerning, in an era of increasingly rabid partisanship and a shrinking political middle. In particular, her views on vaccines, GMOs, and nuclear energy should be deal-breakers for the left, which bashes the right for anti-intellectualism and proudly boasts about being the pro-science party. Unfortunately, they are not deal-breakers, but here’s why they should be.


Vaccines

It is difficult to find a public statement from Stein on the topic of vaccines. This is concerning, namely because she is a Harvard educated physician, who spent her career practicing internal medicine. In a recent AMA on Reddit, however, she gave an answer in response to a user who asked her “What is your campaign’s official stance on vaccines and homeopathic medicine?” Her response, in full, is as follows:

I don’t know if we have an “official” stance, but I can tell you my personal stance at this point. According to the most recent review of vaccination policies across the globe, mandatory vaccination that doesn’t allow for medical exemptions is practically unheard of. In most countries, people trust their regulatory agencies and have very high rates of vaccination through voluntary programs. In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical? I think dropping vaccinations rates that can and must be fixed in order to get at the vaccination issue: the widespread distrust of the medical-indsutrial complex.
Vaccines in general have made a huge contribution to public health. Reducing or eliminating devastating diseases like small pox and polio. In Canada, where I happen to have some numbers, hundreds of annual death from measles and whooping cough were eliminated after vaccines were introduced. Still, vaccines should be treated like any medical procedure — each one needs to be tested and regulated by parties that do not have a financial interest in them. In an age when industry lobbyists and CEOs are routinely appointed to key regulatory positions through the notorious revolving door, its no wonder many Americans don’t trust the FDA to be an unbiased source of sound advice. A Monsanto lobbyists and CEO like Michael Taylor, former high-ranking DEA official, should not decide what food is safe for you to eat. Same goes for vaccines and pharmaceuticals. We need to take the corporate influence out of government so people will trust our health authorities, and the rest of the government for that matter. End the revolving door. Appoint qualified professionals without a financial interest in the product being regulated. Create public funding of elections to stop the buying of elections by corporations and the super-rich.
For homeopathy, just because something is untested doesn’t mean it’s safe. By the same token, being “tested” and “reviewed” by agencies tied to big pharma and the chemical industry is also problematic. There’s a lot of snake-oil in this system. We need research and licensing boards that are protected from conflicts of interest. They should not be limited by arbitrary definitions of what is “natural” or not.

Before responding, it is worth noting that the party does have an official stance, per their 2014 platform:

Greens support a wide range of health care services, not just traditional medicine, which too often emphasizes “a medical arms race” that relies upon high-tech intervention, surgical techniques and costly pharmaceuticals. Chronic conditions are often best cured by alternative medicine. We support the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and, as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.

If one takes the time to parse through the conspiracy theories and pandering to the left-wing anti-science crowd in an attempt to find an answer, they will be sorely disappointed. Now, as a physician, her answer should have been more along the lines of: “Yes, we do have a position, and that position says that we do not support the use of alternative medicine over traditional, peer-reviewed, published science.” The science on vaccines is clear. Vaccines are as close as we have come as a society to a miracle, and we must keep the progress that we have made.

On a non-scientific note, Stein’s rhetoric on vaccines is harmful for another reason: she is giving fuel to a rising generation of parents who are less likely than previous generations to believe that vaccines should be mandatory. Thirty percent of US adults believe vaccines should be a parents choice. Among the oldest Americans, those who were alive for many of the breakthroughs regarding vaccines, that number falls to 20%. Among the youngest, it rises to 41%. Public opinion is regressing, and people like Jill Stein, along with short memories, are to blame.


GMOs

The 2014 platform has the following to say about GMOs:

14. Applying the Precautionary Principle to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we support a moratorium until safety can be demonstrated by independent (non-corporate funded), long-term tests for food safety, ge- netic drift, resistance, soil health, effects on non-target organisms, and cumulative interactions.
15. We support mandatory, full-disclosure food and fiber labeling. A consumer has the right to know the con- tents in their food and fiber, how they were produced, and where they come from. Labels should address the presence of GMOs, use of irradiation, pesticide application (in production, transport, storage, and retail), and the country of origin.

Earlier this year, a landmark report released by the National Academy of Sciences said that GMOs are as safe to eat as non-GMO crops, do not adversely affect the environment, and have reduced the use of pesticides. One month later, a group of Nobel laureates, arguably people who know what they are talking about, signed an open letter to the environmental group Greenpeace, refuting their anti-GMO stance.

The commitment to rhetoric among the left-wing is strong. The commitment to action is not. We decry food insecurity and lack of adequate nutrition at home and abroad, yet do not support efforts to fix it. If you asked a member of the Green Party if they would like to reduce blindness-inducing vitamin deficiencies, make food more nutritious, and resistant to drought in Africa, they would undoubtedly say yes. If you said that it involved GMOs, the answer is less certain. Yet, the world is at a point where it could do so:

  • Golden rice and GMO bananas are two promising options to reduce Vitamin A deficiencies that cause blindness in up to 500,000 children per year and weakens the immune system of countless others, causing the deaths of around two million children by otherwise survivable diseases.
  • Cassava is a starchy plant that is the main crop of 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, cassava is low in protein, lacks sufficient Vitamin A and E, iron, and zinc, can cause cyanide poisoning and is susceptible to viral diseases that are reducing its viability. To solve these problems, researchers have turned to GMOs

These are but two examples of the potential of GMOs. It seems to take a mind-numbing amount of mental gymnastics to justify opposition to GMOs while still expressing support for those at home and around the world that lack adequate nutrition.


Nuclear Power

Despite distrusting science for a majority of their platform, the Green Party reverses course when it comes to climate change, this time standing firmly behind the science:

Climate change is the gravest environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever met. Across the world, it is causing vanishing polar ice, melting glaciers, growing deserts, stronger storms, rising oceans, less biodiversity, deepening droughts, as well as more disease, hunger, strife and human misery. It is a tragedy unfolding in slow motion.

Despite agreeing with NASA, the IPCC, and 97% of the world’s climate scientists about the effects of a warming planet, the party almost immediately loses all credibility by calling for an end to nuclear energy:

The Green Party calls for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible (in no more than five years), and for a phase-out of other technologies that use or produce nuclear waste. These technologies include non-commercial nuclear reactors, reprocessing facilities, nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all commercial and military uses of depleted uranium.

In a 2014 Brookings Essay, Third Way’s Josh Freed lays out the future of nuclear energy. There is already research being done on a modern version of a molten salt reactor, an update of the one that was first built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The basic fact is that nuclear energy, with all its problems, is a necessity going forward. The reactors of the future may not look like the light water reactors of today, but they will be a necessary part of any clean energy plan, especially the ambitious one that the Green Party proposes. Two of the most promising technologies are molten salt reactors and pebble bed reactors. These technologies both surpass the current light water reactors in safety, although in different ways. Molten salt reactors funnel all liquid into an underground tank when the reactor overheats, rendering the reactor unable to continue fission. Pebble bed reactors use small “pebbles,” containing nuclear material to generate power while using helium gas instead of pressurized water to cool the reactor. When the reactor overheats, as it would in the case of a cooling system failure, the reactor simply shuts down. A video demonstration of this can be seen here:

The way forward on climate change will require nuclear energy, along with other new and promising technologies like OTEC. If the party has a true commitment to fighting climate change, it is both unwise and irresponsible to rule out one of the most viable technologies that currently exists.


The rising anti-intellectualism in the United States and the world is concerning. As we saw with Brexit and are currently seeing with the popularity of Trump, there is little appetite for experts and nuanced ideas. That is unfortunate. The world is a complex place with complex problems that require complex solutions. Just as a blanket ban on an entire religion will not solve the problem of terrorism, a blanket rejection of GMOs will not solve the world’s food crisis. Just as building a wall will not solve our immigration problem, ruling out an entire class of energy will not solve the world’s climate problem. When we as a party shame the right for refusing to believe the evidence on climate change, we too should shame ourselves when it comes to refusing the evidence on vaccines.

In some areas, e.g., climate change, Jill Stein has some admirable ideas, but ultimately comes up short in her plans for them. In other areas, e.g., vaccines and GMOs, she is both irresponsible and reckless when she should know better.

Complex problems require complex solutions, so please, don’t vote for a simple candidate.

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