Jill Stein’s regressive populism hits marginalized communities hardest

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Jill Stein speaks at the Green Party town hall in Mesa, Arizona on March 12. Although Stein enjoys a relatively small following, her candidacy will certainly influence the upcoming election.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The Daily Texan's presidential endorsement was correct in noting that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are both unserious and unqualified presidential candidates. No need to rehash why that is — their records speak for themselves.

But much like how drawing false equivalences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump papers over the fact that one of them poses a unique danger both to the U.S. and global stability, relegating Johnson and Stein to the same dustbin of political failures obscures the craven hypocrisy and toxic ignorance of the Stein campaign. If Johnson belongs in that dustbin, then Stein is biohazardous waste.

Johnson, at least, has a coherent worldview that appeals to a clearly defined constituency. If your primary concerns are corporate welfare and high income taxes, and if you fervently oppose both gun control and attempts to regulate abortion, and if you don’t care whether or not your President can locate the U.S. on a map, you can make a logical case for the Libertarian ticket. Given the disturbing abnormality of Trump’s candidacy, I don’t think it’s a compelling case. But you could, if you were so inclined, vote for Gary Johnson and still make sense.

You cannot vote for Jill Stein and still make sense.

Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, have attempted to position themselves as radical leftists. They argue that defending human rights, conserving the environment, and bringing social justice to marginalized communities are matters too urgent for an institutionalist Democrat like Clinton to adequately address.

But in reality, the Green Party’s platform promotes human rights abuses and environmental degradation, and it would create problems that disproportionately burden the poor and people of color. In other words, a vote for Stein is a vote against everything she says she stands for.

Let’s start with human rights. Stein’s platform states that she unequivocally opposes U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war. But she also vacillates between promoting and refusing to condemn the atrocities of the Syrian regime, which is responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. On a recent trip to Moscow — where she sat alongside renowned human rights activist Vladimir Putin — Stein decried Barack Obama’s (nonexistent, for what it’s worth) “obsession with toppling the government in Damascus.” Baraka has been even more fervent in his defense of dictator Bashar al-Assad, arguing that the man who uses chemical weapons on his own people has substantial popular support and is the country’s “only politically consistent option” for sovereign leadership.

Meanwhile, Stein’s ties to Putin, whose airstrikes target Syrian civilians, inspired the Russian Green Party to condemn her for betraying their movement’s progressive principles.

So if you support Stein because of her hostility to the U.S. military and in spite of her fondness for the Russian and Syrian governments, you cannot claim that you’re doing so on humanitarian grounds. The value of a Syrian child’s life is not contingent upon whose aircraft dropped the bomb that ended it.

But it’s not just foreign policy that disqualifies Stein from carrying the progressive mantle. Her position on clean energy, a cornerstone of her campaign, is just as absurd.

By arguing that the U.S. could run on 100 percent renewable power by 2030 if it just spent some large-but-unspecified amount of public money to build out infrastructure, Stein presupposes that the primary hurdle to zero-carbon electricity is cost. This is false. Wind and solar power are now just as cheap, if not cheaper, than coal and even natural gas throughout much of the country. The problem lies in ensuring that the natural intermittency of those resources doesn’t eventually cause blackouts or price spikes, which would primarily impact those who can’t afford home batteries and rooftop solar panels.

That’s not an insurmountable hurdle, and we have room to generate a lot more renewable power before it becomes a major issue. But following through on our desperately needed clean energy transition will require a leader who actually understands what clean energy is and how to equitably distribute its benefits — rather than Jill Stein.

You may have noticed so far that Stein claims to speak on behalf of the voiceless, but that her positions actually exacerbate the systems of inequality that disempower those people in the first place. This pattern holds through the entire Green Party platform.

Forgiving all college debt is a handout to the upper-middle class, which holds most of that debt. Pandering to anti-vaxxers jeopardizes the health of those who can’t vaccinate themselves, like cancer patients and the elderly. Banning fracking in the U.S. will ensure that the global oil supply comes from human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and Iran — as well as from risky offshore vertical wells like BP’s Deepwater Horizon, which spewed almost 5 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Cracking down on GMOs will reintroduce dangerous pesticides in the developing world and hinder efforts to end world hunger.

I could continue, but you get the point. Jill Stein represents all the AJ+-sharing Facebook friends who are #woke enough to understand that there are problems in the world, naive enough to believe that there are easy solutions to those problems, and privileged enough not to feel the consequences when those easy solutions make things worse. She’ll be in Austin Oct. 17 to rally this constituency. Bring your hazmat suit.

Shenhar is a Plan II, economics and government senior from Westport, Conn. He is a Forum Editor. Follow him on Twitter @jshenhar