I Voted for Jill Stein. Was I Wrong?

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On November 8, 2016, I had a heart attack.

 

That’s not a metaphor.

 

I went to vote. I went to the doctor. I was sent to the hospital.

 

How much of that was a result of the Presidential election? I will never know.

 

But whenever I think back on that day, I am filled with a sense of bone-deep sadness.

 

After only a little more than a year in office, Donald Trump is already the worst President of my lifetime – and that’s saying something after the disaster that was George W. Bush.

 

Yet today our country is separating parents and children seeking asylum on the border and locking them away in detention centers. Nearly every cabinet secretary is an incompetent plutocrat put in office to dismantle the department in which they’re in charge. Meanwhile, Trump insults traditional allies and consorts with dictators all over the globe. And nationwide white supremacists of all stripes are emboldened, on the rise, and openly running for office.

 

I wish there is something I could do to go back in time and change the results of that day. I wish there was something I could do to stop Donald Trump from being elected President. And though I did not vote for her, I would do anything to have Hillary Clinton defeat him.

 

On that day, though, I voted for Jill Stein.

 

There’s nothing I can do about that now.

 

I imagine going back in time and telling myself not to do it. “Go vote for Hillary,” I imagine Future Me telling an ailing younger version.

 

Yet even now, I’m not sure if I’d say that to myself.

 

Go vote for Hillary? Would it have made a difference?

 

Factually, no. One more vote wouldn’t have put her over the top in my home state of Pennsylvania.

 

But I wrote articles advising readers to do like me and vote Jill Stein. Does that mean I’m responsible for every Stein vote cast in the Keystone state?

 

No, not really. I may have influenced some people. But I certainly didn’t influence them all.

 

I suppose the bigger question is this: did Stein spoil the 2016 election for Clinton?

 

Let’s look at some numbers.

 

In Pennsylvania, the results went like this:

 

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Source: New York Times.

 

Trump got 2,970,733 votes.

 

Clinton got 2,926,441 votes.

 

So he won the state by 44,292 votes.

 

Stein got 49,941 votes – 5,649 more than Trump’s margin of victory.

 

So if every Stein voter had cast a ballot for Clinton, she would have won the state – though she’d still lose the Presidency by 10 electoral votes.

 

But if the same process were repeated even in a few other swing states Clinton lost, the result would change. Clinton would have won and be sitting in the Oval Office right now.

 

Those are just facts. Or at least they’re facts manipulated in a game with counterfactuals.

 

If this had happened, then this other thing would have happened, too.

 

However, it is rarely so clear even with numbers.

 

For instance, Stein ran in 2012, too. She ran against Obama and Romney. She got 20,710 votes in Pennsylvania.

 

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Source: New York Times

 

That’s tens of thousands of Green voters who didn’t cast a ballot for centrist Obama. I don’t think it’s fair to assume they would have voted for centrist Clinton, either.

 

So if we subtract that 20,000 from Stein’s 2016 totals, (49,941 – 20,710) you get 29,231 new people who voted Green who didn’t do so in 2012.

 

That’s less than Trump’s margin of victory (44,292).

 

So even if every NEW Stein voter cast a ballot for Clinton, Trump still would have won the state.

 

The point?

 

I don’t think it’s factual or fair to assume Stein or Stein voters gave Trump the election.

 

If I had voted for Clinton, even if I had advised my readers to vote for her, the end result probably would have been the same.

 

These are the things I think about in the middle of the night when sleep won’t come.

 

Is there anything I could have done to change things? In trying to make things better, did I make things worse?

 

I don’t assume I have that much power – either way.

 

I’m just a school teacher with a blog.

 

And that’s why I voted for Stein.

 

Hillary Clinton made her name politically going against teachers unions. She and her husband have done quite a lot to weaken my profession and the school my daughter attends.

 

The national teachers unions may have supported her run for President, but they did so without fairly polling members. Her entire nomination process was marred by unfair and undemocratic practices by the Democratic Party that left many progressive voters who favored Bernie Sanders feeling left out and silenced.

 

I still think THAT more than any scribbling on my blog contributed to her loss.

 

Compared to Trump, Barack Obama was one of the best Presidents we’ve ever had. But compared to Trump, so was George W. Bush. So would be an inanimate carbon rod!

 

However, Obama was not particularly good for education. He and the corporate Democrats favored every anti-union, pro-privatization scheme they could. What a missed opportunity!

 

You’d think our first African American President might do something about school segregation – which has been on the rise in the last few decades. Instead, he helped make it worse by promoting charter schools. You’d think he might do something to stop the school-to-prison pipeline. Instead he helped lubricate it by championing high stakes standardized tests.

 

I think that’s another reason Clinton lost. Many of us were fed up with Obama’s neoliberal policies and wanted a candidate who might change course. Clinton promised only more of the same.

 

Don’t get me wrong. In retrospect, more of the same sounds lovely. Give me that old time Obama neoliberalism over Trump’s neo-fascism, any day!

 

But back in 2016 I thought we had a chance for something more – real hope and change. Was I wrong to vote for a candidate who promised to end high stakes testing and school privatization? Was I wrong to vote for a candidate who promised to fairly fund public schools, provide free college for all and end all student debt?

 

Maybe.

 

I suppose I should have been more frightened of Trump back then. But my anger at the Democrats who continually stabbed me and other progressives in the back outweighed my fear of this buffoon.

 

Perhaps I was wrong in that.

 

I don’t think it’s too much of an assumption to say we all underestimated Trump. We all underestimated how many people in this country would vote for him.

 

So was I wrong to vote for Jill Stein?

 

I still don’t know.

 

I’m sure many people will criticize me for this article. They’ll blame me for every horrible thing Trump does. If I have any point here, it’s that there’s plenty of blame to go around.

 

Perhaps we’d do better fighting against Trump than fighting amongst ourselves.

 

I still believe there is a silent majority of Americans for whom the status quo is unacceptable. Most of us don’t want a wall on our border – we want healthcare for all. Most of us don’t want families separated and undocumented immigrants scapegoated and rounded up – we want a path toward citizenship. Most of us don’t want our democracy subverted and the wealthy to have a greater say in our policies – we want freedom and justice for all.

 

We just need a way to find each other again. We need to find a way to look past any political, social, racial, gender or cultural differences and find a common humanity.

 

What better way to do that than in a common cause?

 

I hope you’ll join me by stopping the recriminations and take on the fight.

 

We may never fully solve the riddle that was the 2016 election.

 

There are political and social lessons to be had. But the most important thing is to remember the value of unity and to hold on to each other tight.

 

We’re all we’ve got.

 


 

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If Trump Drops Out, Will There Be Any Reason to Vote For Clinton?

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Rumor has it Donald Trump may be dropping out of the Presidential race.

We’ve heard these speculations before, but after kicking a crying baby out of one of his rallies, even his staunchest supporters are scratching their heads.

Does this guy even want to be President of the United States?

Only a few weeks ago a story was circulating that Donald Jr. was calling up potential Republican running mates asking if they wanted to run both domestic and foreign policy while his dad handled “Making America Great Again.”

From the very beginning of this unlikely Presidential run, people have questioned all kinds of things about the Trump campaign – chief among them was this: Is he serious!?

Donald Trump is the Republican standard barer – Isn’t he more of a Democrat? Isn’t he actually friends with his supposed Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton? Didn’t he actually donate money to her first Presidential bid in 2008? Is he just a false flag for Clinton – someone so odious he’ll rally people to vote FOR HER rather than for him?

I have no idea whether this will actually come to pass. Win the nomination and then drop out? Anything is possible when you’re running a reality TV star for the highest office in the land. But it begs the question – what happens if he really does it? What happens if Trump drops out?

Certainly the Republicans will find SOMEONE to run in his stead. Maybe it will be his running mate, Mike Pence. Maybe the party elders will pick one of the usual suspects – Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush.

But in such a situation, what happens to the Democratic nominee?

Hillary Clinton is not popular on her own.

Her Presidential crusade is built on one thing: she’s not Trump.

For the most part, she isn’t running on what she’d do as commander in chief. Sure, she’s pulled out a bunch of progressive platitudes mostly cribbed from the Bernie Sanders campaign. But no one with any memory of the Clintons actually expects her to abide by them. If you don’t think the first thing she’ll do in office is approve the TPP, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

Hillary Clinton will say what she has to say to get elected. If you doubt that, please recall that when she went on one of the most popular black radio programs, they asked her what’s one thing she always keeps in her purse. She said, “Hot Sauce!” They incredulously asked if she was just saying that to get black votes, and she jokingly asked, “Is it working?”

Without Trump, why would anyone vote for Hillary Clinton?

She needs him to get elected. She needs the fire and brimstone of his campaign. She needs to be able to point to him and portray how terrible a Trump Presidency would be.

For example, take the Hitler analogies.

During the primaries, pundits cautiously feared breaking Godwin’s Law when it came to Trump. Sure, he has certain similarities with the National Socialist German Workers Party candidate of yore, but few were willing to conflate the two.

Now that Trump has miraculously earned his party’s unequivocal nomination, the gloves are off. Talking heads across the nation equate Trump and Hitler as if it were somehow axiomatic. And, yes, Trump is racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc. He feeds off these qualities in others. He uses them to propel his campaign. But he doesn’t have control of the military like the Nazis did in Germany – they hate him. He doesn’t have the groundwork of a party explicitly founded on the theory of racial purity. He hasn’t weakened the entire political system to the degree that it is willing to bow down before him and do whatever he wants.

A president, even a Trump president, can’t do whatever he likes. There are checks and balances. But the Clinton fear machine has us all convinced that the second he gets into office he’ll be launching nukes, rounding up undesirables and opening concentration camps.

Make no mistake – Trump would clearly be a terrible President. I do not dispute it. Very few people do. But the force of Clinton’s candidacy is based on Trump’s existence. Her campaign has talked up how he would bring forth a combination of the Holocaust and Armageddon. Without him in the game, the voting public loses it’s best reason to come to the polls for her.

She’s a war hawk. As President, her husband with her full support increased the prison industrial complex more than any other chief executive in history. She’s in favor of public school privatization, endless standardized testing and Common Core. She supports the same Wall Street friendly policies that helped crash the economy and evaporated jobs.

But she’s not Donald Trump.

If the Republicans put forth a milquetoast candidate, who’s to say if he’ll get much support from the base. The Trump faithful will still vote for the Donald, whether he’s officially on the ballot or not. The GOP vote would be fractured between Trump and Republican No. 2. And it’s hard to say who Independents, who make up the largest voting block in the country, will support. More likely than not, they’ll do what the usually do – stay home.

Unless…

Independents strongly favored Clinton’s Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders in the primaries. If Trump drops out, it provides an opening for a true progressive third party candidate, someone to get the Independents to the polls.

The only thing stopping some people from voting third party now is fear of Trump. They can’t accept letting him win. But if Clinton has no robust Republican challenger, it frees former Bernie supporters to back someone like Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Stein is Bernie on steroids. She wants to boost the economy by forgiving all student debt. She wants single payer healthcare. She wants a Green New Deal – to reduce the size of the military while investing in environmentally friendly jobs at home. She’s against public school privatization, testing and Common Core. She makes Hillary Clinton look… well, like Donald Trump.

But she has a hard road ahead of her. She may not be on every state ballot. Not since George Washington has a third party candidate won the Presidency. Even Ralph Nader – who is erroneously blamed for turning the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush – didn’t get enough votes to win a single district or electoral vote.

But in the political chaos following a Trump flame out, a chance opens up. Everything would be up for grabs.

Why vote for a neoliberal like Clinton without the fear of a neofascist like Trump? If too few people vote for a third party, Clinton wins. Nothing lost there. Meanwhile, it’s doubtful Republicans could pull off a victory without independents. But if Independents and almost half of the Democrats who voted for Bernie pull together behind Stein, there is a real chance of victory.

So keep your eyes on the flaming zeppelin that is the Trump campaign. The one person with more at stake than The Donald is Hillary Clinton.

The Agony of Being a First Time Undecided Voter

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Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

I’ve never been an undecided voter before. I’ve always known early which candidate I’m supporting and why.

 

But this election has my head spinning. One minute I’m ready to vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Donald Trump. The next I can’t live with myself if I do that and am willing to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein even though she has very little chance of winning.

 

And so on back-and-forth, hour-to-hour. The only thing I’m certain of is that I will never EVER vote for Trump.

 

Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

This seems to be the new reality.

 

I’d rather have Hillary as President than Trump, but I’d rather have another option than either one.

 

It’s agonizing. I can’t sleep. I toss and turn.

 

I hop into bed thinking I’ll just vote Hillary and then wake up passed midnight feeling disgusted with myself. I say I’ll vote Stein and go back to bed only to wake up an hour later with grave doubts about letting Trump win and how he’ll destroy the fabric of the country.

 

Those of you who have made up your minds, be thankful. You have a certainty many of us do not share.

 

Almost half of registered Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders in the Primary. You need us. And now that Hillary Clinton is the nominee, we have to decide – What do we do now?

 

These seems to be our options:

 

1) Vote Donald Trump. Let the nation burn. Let him deport 11 million people and build a wall to keep others out. Embolden all our hidden racists, xenophobes, sexists, homophobes and narcissists. Watch the economy take a nosedive just like many of his businesses did into chapter 11. Watch the Russians laugh it up as the US enters a period of isolationism and cedes power to strongmen across the globe.

 

No. That’s just not acceptable to me.

 

2) Vote Hillary Clinton. Defeat Trump but champion all of the neoliberal policies you fought against in the primary. Vote for a supporter of the prison industrial complex. Vote for a war hawk. Vote for someone who may do some good but will almost certainly support the TPP, someone who will continue to giveaway our national wealth to big business while doing very little to help the middle class. Watch as our schools are privatized, de-unionized and closed.

 

That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

 

3) Vote Jill Stein. Support a candidate who embodies all the progressive values you fought for during the primary. Vote for action against climate change. Vote to forgive all student debt. Vote to destroy corporate education reform. Vote against unnecessary wars of choice. But have very little chance of any of these policies actually being enacted. And increase the chances of a Trump Presidency. After all, she probably won’t even be on the ballot in some states! How can you win if you aren’t an actual choice!?

 

That’s hard to accept, too.

 

4) Don’t Vote for President. Vote for progressives on down ticket races but leave the presidential race blank or maybe even write in Bernie’s name. Send a message that you won’t accept the two-party system. But again increase the chances of President Trump and really who is going to be paying attention to this highly symbolic gesture? What will it get you really?

 

No. Not acceptable.

 

These seem to be most of the options. I’m certainly not going to vote Libertarian or for one of the other third party candidates.

 

So which is the best option?

 

Damned if I know.

 

I go back and forth between Hill and Jill.

 

My biggest problem with Dr. Stein is that there just doesn’t seem to be a clear path to victory. No one other than George Washington has ever won a third party bid for President. Even Ralph Nader who got millions of votes ended up not winning a single district or a single electoral vote.

 

I’m also disturbed by talk among Green Party members, even Stein herself, saying it doesn’t matter if they win. They just want to have a good showing. They just want to increase the power of the Green Party for the next election cycle and show the establishment that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

 

I’m all for that, but a Trump Presidency is too high a price to pay for it.

 

If Jill Stein could provide a clear and believable path to victory, I would vote for her in a second. I would campaign. I would do everything I could to help her win. But as it stands this isn’t even a Hail Mary. It’s not like throwing the ball from one end of the field to the other hoping for a touchdown. It’s like throwing the ball from the parking lot, from the highway, from a neighboring state!

 

However, voting for Clinton is repugnant.

 

She represents everything I want to change about American politics. She is the establishment, the status quo.

 

The best argument in her favor is that she’s not Donald Trump. Voting for her lets us survive as a nation for four more years. Things will be bad but manageable.

 

As a public school teacher, under Clinton I can expect more support for charter schools, more standardized tests, more corporate school reform. But under Trump it will probably be worse. He is the founder of Trump University, after all. He doesn’t just support school privatization. He actually started a privatized school – if you can call it that. And he doesn’t want just charter schools – he wants vouchers.

 

Pragmatically, I’d rather have Clinton. But morally it feels like a betrayal of all my ideals.

 

And that doesn’t even take into account how terrible the Democratic National Commission conducted the primary.

 

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

 

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

 

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

 

And after all that, I’m supposed to vote for her!? How? The party didn’t support my right to vote unless it was for the establishment choice. But now I’m supposed to actively help these same people gain more power!?

 

Please excuse me if I find that difficult.

 

So there we are. I just can’t decide. And I would venture to guess there are many more out there just like me.

 

To those who have decided one way or another, I’d like to offer some advice when dealing with the rest of us:

 

1) Don’t call us names. I’ve been called delusional, privileged, sexist, stupid, ridiculous, etc. And may I say that it doesn’t help convince any of us to be ridiculed? In fact, it actually turns us further away from your point of view. And it shows you to be somewhat hysterical. The right choice is by no means obvious.

 

2)Lay off the scare tactics. If you want to convince someone not to vote for Trump, by all means talk about how terrible he would be as President. If you want to convince someone to vote for Hillary, the horror stories won’t cut it. We need more than that. I’m sure Hillary Clinton has positives. Lead with those. Give us good reasons to vote for her and not just against her opponent.

 

3) If you want us to vote Green, tell us how Stein can win. We don’t want purely symbolic victories. We need to defeat Trump. Don’t regale us with how screwed up the system is. We already know that. Tell us how voting Green will help reverse it.

 

Have patience with us. Being undecided is not a comfortable position to be in.

 

We’re all in this together. We all want the same things. It’s just we don’t all agree how to achieve them.

The DNC is Giving Trump the Greatest Gift of All – a Weak Opponent

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The latest polls have Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 15 points.

No, not a Fox News poll.

This is from Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight numbers wizard who correctly called both the 2008 and 2012 elections. He says if the race were held today, Trump would win the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, thereby assuring an easy victory.

Some will say this is just an inevitable boost in the numbers coming as it does right after the Republican National Convention. But need I remind you that the convention was chaos? The speaking roster was dominated by Trump’s family and a never-ending cavalcade of D-list celebrities. It reads more like the cast of the next Celebrity Apprentice than the best and brightest of one of our nation’s two major political parties.

And don’t forget Trump’s own acceptance speech. They’re coming to get you and only I can save you! Trump 2016!

THAT’S what you’re saying gave the Republican nominee a boost!? It should have hurt not helped him!

But let’s put that aside for a moment. Clinton has never polled well against Trump.

Occasionally she has topped him in polls in the past, but rarely more than the margin of error! Usually Trump comes out on top.

No. Hillary Clinton is a terrible challenger in this match-up.

Why?

There is one common factor during this election season that goes beyond political affiliation. People want change.

It’s one of the reasons Barack Obama won. He was seen as the change candidate. Heck! It was his campaign slogan! Hope and Change!

Unfortunately, he didn’t really deliver. Instead of a revolution, he gave us fiddling around the margins. Whatever the reasons for that – Republican obstructionism, his own centrism – it only frustrated the electorate further.

The economy stinks. There are endless wars. Yet the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. People are so starving for change today they are even willing to vote for fascism to get it. Because that’s what Trump offers. It’s change alright. Not good change. Not positive change. But at least things will be different under President Trump. The status quo will alter. America will be “great again” just as Germany became great again in the 1930s by doing a lot of the same xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic things Trump champions.

You can see a similar thirst for revolution with the Democrats. We, too, have a change candidate but it’s not Hillary Clinton. It’s Bernie Sanders.

He offered voters a return to the New Deal of FDR. He offered the kind of Democratic Socialism that saved our country from the Great Depression, gave us the strength to win WWII and became the greatest super power the world has ever known.

How does this poll against Trump? It’s devastating. Bernie beats Trump in almost every poll. He always has.

Why does Bernie do so well while Hillary doesn’t? Clinton is not seen as a change agent. She is the status quo. She is politics as usual. She is at best like Obama – fiddling at the margins. At worst she’s a neoliberal hawk that will make things worse – though probably not as bad as Trump.

So what can we do? Democratic Primary voters chose her over Bernie.

Or did they?

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

So what we have is a presumptive nominee who can claim no legitimacy. Sure Bernie has done the classy thing and endorsed her. But it’s easy to see why his supporters have a hard time accepting that Clinton will do even a fraction of the things Bernie would as president.

So we’re left with a very weak Democratic nominee against Trump.

And this is not voters fault. This is not because Bernie supporters are just stubborn or should just get over it.

In our capitalist system, presidential candidates are products. We are the consumers. And the Democrats have floated an inferior product. It’s not enough that Trump is worse. Because there are other choices.

No one wants to take third party candidates seriously. We ignore the Green Party and the Libertarians because we say these interlopers can’t win. And there are plenty of good reasons why that may be so. However, the existence of these other options in light of a weak challenger on both the Democratic and Republican side all but guarantee each will get significant support.

It doesn’t matter if Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have little chance of winning. They will serve as spoilers for the major parties. Who will take the most?

Well, hard-core conservatives can find much to like in Hillary Clinton. Many of them are lining up to join her ranks. However, Bernie supporters find little to recommend them on Trump’s side. He is the antipathy of everything Bernie stands for. However, Jill Stein is very inviting. If anything, she’s more progressive than he is.

As such, look for the third party option to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. In fact, had Sanders been the nominee, the Democrats could have looked forward to many independents joining the ranks. They overwhelmingly favor Sanders but not Clinton. And there are more independents than either Republicans or Democrats.

So here we are.

There is next to no chance at this point that the Democrats won’t nominate Clinton. She will almost definitely be the standard barer against Trump.

And it leaves him with a huge advantage.

If he wins, it won’t be the fault of disaffected Bernie voters. It will be because of the cynical hubris of Democratic Party leaders.

The seeds of the Trump Reich have been sown right here.

Dr. Jill Stein is the Best 2016 Presidential Candidate, But Can She Win?

 

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In 2008, I shook Barack Obama’s hand.

 

Yesterday Dr. Jill Stein gave me a hug.

 

Eight years ago, I was so inspired by Obama’s campaign speech in my hometown of Pittsburgh that I rushed forward along with the crowd to grab his hand. It was soft but firm with a tinge of moisturizer. Now I look at his incredibly regressive education policies and feel the need to scrub my palm.

 

This weekend in Philadelphia, I was at the United Opt Out Conference and saw Stein sitting in the audience.

 

I walked past the Green Party Presidential candidate the first time thinking I must be mistaken. Then her name tag removed all doubt.

 

“You’re Jill Stein!” I stuttered.

 

She smiled warmly, stood up and said, “You’re Steven Singer!”

 

I want to believe she knew who I was, but I was wearing a name tag, too.

 

We talked for a moment about what most of us were here for – education policy. She reaffirmed that she wanted to end all high stakes testing and school privatization.

 

Think of it – a presidential candidate speaking in specifics. Not “We test too much.” Not “Some charter schools are bad.” But I want to end these two perverse school policies!

 

And to top it all off, before she hurried off to tidy up as the time approached for her campaign speech, she game me a warm, tight hug.

 

Compare that to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

 

As part of the Badass Teachers Association, we reached out to all the Democratic and Republican candidates on these exact same issues. The Republicans ignored us entirely, but both Democrats gave us phone calls by campaign aides.

 

Even then, the Democratic response was far from convivial. It mostly came down to something like “Education is important.” Well, duh.

 

In Sanders’ case, we had to conduct an impromptu sit-in at the Senator’s Washington office before anyone would talk to us about policy. And Hillary only started to speak in measured tones about public schools after our national teachers unions voted to endorse her – well, the leaders of those unions voted. No one ever really asked us, rank-and-file.

 

Moreover, when Sanders voted for the horrible Murphy Amendment of what became the Every Child Succeeds Act, several teachers including myself wrote him an open letter asking him to explain his apparent support for a Test and Punish education provision. One of his aides sent us a replysome nonsense about accountability.

 

And Jill Stein just gave me a hug.

The difference is huge!

 

When activists were holding this conference centering on the movement to Opt Out of Standardized testing, Sanders and Clinton didn’t even send campaign literature. Stein came in person and even gave a keynote address!

 

Don’t get me wrong. Hillary is far preferable to any Republican candidate seeking the office. I just wish her Presidential bid wasn’t funded by the very people we’re fighting against.

 

I love Bernie, too. I’ve even got the t-shirt to prove it. I just wish he loved us as much by throwing out a few more specifics. The general thrust of his campaign seems tailor-made to support test resistance and a fight against corporate education reform, but he rarely connects the dots with anything that we could hold him accountable for saying.

 

And then you have Stein, perhaps the most human politician I’ve ever met.

 

One look at her platform and it’s obvious she’s the best candidate for President in 2016. But is she electable?

 

Think about that for a moment.

 

What does it say about our country?

 

Design an excellent platform that benefits the most people, organize a movement to get your message out there, draw on the experience of experts in various fields… and you’re an incredible long shot to win the office.

 

The media says the same thing about Sanders as he speaks to overcapacity crowds and struggles against party politics seemingly written to hobble any populist campaign like his.

 

Yet Stein has no giant crowds. She has no adoring fans, no comedian on Saturday Night Live giving her friendly jibes.

 

She’s almost completely ignored by the media. Yet her actual policies make even a progressive like Sanders look like… well… Hillary Clinton!

 

For instance, Sanders wants to make college free to everyone. Stein wants to do that, too, AND erase all existing student debt.

 

Sanders is (kind of) against for-profit charter schools but has been vaguely supportive of Test and Punish school accountability practices. Stein is unequivocally against all forms of school privatization and high stakes standardized testing.

 

Sanders wants single-payer healthcare paid for by raising taxes (but net savings over all). Stein wants single-payer healthcare paid for by cutting our bloated military budget with no raise in taxes.

 

In fact, while Sanders is against unnecessary military action and an increase in military spending, he is in favor of keeping the $1 trillion military budget mostly intact. Stein wants to cut it by 50%, stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, stop giving weapons to Israel, freeze terrorist-funder’s bank accounts, end the War on Terror and engage in a policy of peace.

 

Moreover, Stein wants the savings from slashing our biggest federal expenditure to be used to fund a New Green Deal, creating full employment and a living wage all while transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030!

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but all of Stein’s policies sound rather sane and measured. Yet she is the one the media labels a radical and out-of-touch – if they talk about her at all.

 

It’s a testament to how perverted our politics have become: Sanity looks like the exact opposite. Logic and intelligence are revolutionary concepts.

 

And only the activists and intellectuals seem to know this is happening.

 

When Stein was done speaking, someone asked her the inevitable question about Ralph Nader. Wouldn’t casting a ballot for her just divide the Democratic vote and give the race to the Republicans as it did in 2000?

 

Her response was a bit evasive – the only time, in fact, where she seemed a bit uncomfortable.

 

She said that Nader wasn’t a member of the Green Party, where she is. She is engaged in building the party and the movement even beyond 2016.

 

On the one hand, it sounded like she was suggesting that even if she loses, it will bring real progressive issues into the limelight. However, this is not what happened when Nader lost as a third party candidate against Bush and Gore.

 

On the other hand, she stressed that she actually could win. About 43 million people are trapped by student debt, which she wants to unilaterally eliminate, she said. That’s a large enough chunk of the population that if they all voted for her, she would win.

 

It’s time for a Hail Mary moment, she said. We have to take a chance to vote for the best policies and not continue to compromise by supporting the lesser evil. Concession is the road to what we have now – continued oligarchy and global hegemony.

 

We need a functioning world for our children. If we don’t do something about Climate Change, the Earth may not be habitable in as little as five decades.

 

It’s now or never, she said.

 

I offer all this not as an endorsement of Stein. Nor of Sanders or Clinton (though seriously stay away from the Republicans, they’re freaking crazy).

 

I offer this only as food for thought.

 

Stein is offering us the best platform, bar none. But can we afford to vote for her? Can we afford not to?