The Green Team: Jill Stein’s Third-Party Bid to Shake Up 2012

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Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein conducts a press conference at the National Press Club July 11, 2012, announcing Cheri Honkala as her vice-presidential choice in Washington, DC.

Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein spoke to about a dozen people–and a couple dozen empty chairs. She had gone to the capital, in advance of the Green Party convention in Baltimore, to announce her running mate: Cheri Honkala. So who is Honkala? And for that matter, who is Stein? Here’s the first thing they’ll tell you: They’re candidates not named Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Born in the 1980s, the Green Party’s national profile peaked in 2000, when Ralph Nader took 2.7% of the popular vote in the chaotic presidential election that put George W. Bush in office. (One imagines Al Gore still wakes in the night cursing Nader’s name.) Not long after, in 2002, the Green Party recruited a physician and health advocate named Jill Stein to run for governor in Massachusetts. She lost that race and three more in the state over the next decade, while making two successful bids for Lexington Town Meeting representative. Meanwhile, the Green Party candidates in 2004 and 2008 failed to get more than 150,000 votes.

The election fight between Obama and Romney will be close, and a third-party candidate who mounts a significant campaign might be cause for concern as November nears–whether that’s libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Stein. For now, Stein says she’s still introducing herself to the American people, trying to generate interest in the party that’s deflated over the past decade.

On Wednesday, Stein and Honkala, an anti-poverty advocate from Philadelphia, stood in front of a Green Party banner—an eagle swooping in front of a sunflower filled with stars—and laid out their “Green New Deal.” It’s a plan they say will lower unemployment while providing options for free higher education, downsizing the military, ending tax breaks and addressing climate change. Stein, with silver hair and a bright wardrobe, spoke in measured tones. She said that while Romney and Obama were quibbling about who outsourced more jobs and whether the Affordable Care Act levied a tax or a fee, she was offering “the green future that we deserve.”

The campaign is banking on support from college kids—a good constituency for politicians who want to forgive student debt—and activists involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. When asked whether the campaign aligned with the Occupiers, Honkala said they were the “perfect” candidates for the group, and ready to capitalize on people’s distaste for the 1%. “I am a formerly homeless mother of two children. I have spent my entire life living at or below the federal poverty level,” Honkala said. “Every day for the last 25 years, I have worked with poor and homeless families.”

Stein and Honkala are trying to occupy a space left by voters, particularly left-leaners, who are fed up with Obama and uninterested in Romney. They expect to be an alternative option on the ballot in 40 states. And they said they bring a different kind of politics to the table, though it doesn’t appear to be a less divisive brand. When TIME asked where they shared common ground with the other candidates—despite their differences—neither had a response. Stein laughed, incredulous. Honkala said: “Do we?”

To point out that the Green Party ticket won’t win its bid for the White House is like saying that Stephen Colbert isn’t really as conservative as he pretends to be on his show: it’s obvious and misses the point. Third-partiers run to win new followers for their cause and—mostly—to have their ideas heard. Their highest electoral hope is to become an inconvenience for mainstream candidates. “You can win an election by winning the office,” Stein says, “but we can also win the day by driving the solutions, the real solutions.”

At best, that platitude probably means some of their ideas getting folded into the Democratic platform. The campaign has gone from all-volunteer to having 12 paid members of staff. If their application for matching federal election funds is approved–as they expect–that number may triple. It might not be much compared to the mainstream campaigns, but Stein and Honkala say the Green Party is primed to make the front-runners take notice.

102 comments
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Marko
Marko

I don't care if  Tim Buctoo runs for the President's office. I will never vote for Dems or Reps. I had it with them. If the Samp;H green ticket can help Stampout political corruption; they got my vote. If they don't get on the Texas ballot, I will will vote anyone else, except O amp; R.

James Sims
James Sims

the whole world should listen to jill stein she is the only one who is really for the people obama and romney are a waste of breathe and time and money jill stein is our future.If obama could win in 2008 with a promise jill stein can win win with the truth.The people of the U.S.A can put anybody in the the whitehouse as we did with obabama in 2008.He was little known at the time and won with ideas and thoughts.Why not jill stein.I am a baltimore county resident and i was riding the metro to owings mills when i came accross a couple from grandrapids who are out trying to get jill stein elected president.They believe that a regular citizent has the same chance as anyone else as i do.It is time in this country to elect a canidate who is REALLY for the people Anybody can run and anybody can win all it takes is votes so if you are tired of beatting a dead horse give the green party a chance to do what obama and romney cant.Get the faith of the people back

looselyhuman
looselyhuman

I wonder if Romney will thank Stein in his victory speech?

nonader
nonader

Here we go again. I hope this is not another ego trip. I am as liberal as they come. I used to admire Ralph Nader until he influenced an election enough to give us 8 of the most disastrous, pro-corporate, anti-environmental, anti-worker, anti-social justice, anti-you-name-it administration in US history. I liked that he ran and stayed in the race to air his views, most of which I agree with, for as long as possible but to me he did the unforgivable when he decided, knowing he could not win, to take  precious votes from a candidate who, although not perfect, at least would have taken us in a completely different direction from the one we got. What did Nader accomplish by this? Look at where we are now. What is wrong with stepping out and endorsing the candidate who has the best chance of winning and is sympathetic to our causes? It looks like Ms. Stein is on the same path. And in as close a race as this is, I pray we are not going to be reading in November about how we lost Florida (or another close state), and the election, by a few thousand votes that could have gone to Obama. Ms. Stein, stay in the race, champion progressive solutions, steer the debate toward the ideas we care about, but, please step out at the last minute and endorse the only candidate who is on our side and can possibly, in the real world, win. I am sorry but YOU CANNOT WIN THE ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Please don't make the mistake that Ralph Nader made. I have lost all respect for him even though I continue to believe in most of the causes he fought for.

mychelle
mychelle

Nobody is presuming anything, but you should still study your state election law and the history of its use before thinking it stupid to take a look.

I live in a state that uses percentages of votes for gubernatorial and presidential candidates to determine party status.

You're in PA.  Look at what happened to Nader and Romanelli, a la being left paying for the Dem's graphologist and lawyer fees.  Tell me that that wasn't designed to squelch third party participation in elections there, something many would expect to see elsewhere, say in Cuba for instance?

mychelle
mychelle

Damn straight, Paul Dirks.  We're excited about our candidate!

Why are YOU here?

mychelle
mychelle

As cseeman says, most electoral laws make running as a minor party candidate difficult, yes base the threshold of being a majority party on the percentage of votes one wins in gubernatorial and presidential elections, therefore parties like the Greens and Libertarians have to run presidential candidates in order to make it easier to run for lower offices and reach thresholds.

These are laws that were engineered by Republicans and Democrats, and where progressive and Green candidates are concerned , passionately defended by Democrats in order to keep down their competition.

You want us to exclusively "build from the bottom up?"  Then help change those laws and open up ballot access as it should be in this nation.  

Otherwise, we will run presidential candidates and try to get our ideas out there on a national platform, where indeed they should be anyhow.

mychelle
mychelle

deconstructiva, we've been building from the base up since the early 80's!  We've had hundreds of people in office as Greens at one time and thousands have served. 

  If you look at the ballot access rules for being a major party in most states you'll see that they are tied to the number of votes a party gets for gubernatorial and presidential votes, however.  The system dictates we run in higher offices to be considered and garner the advantages the major parties reserve for themselves, and so we do. 

 The entire sob story about Gore's loss is not Nader's fault, yesterday, today, or how ever many times it's going to be rehashed in the future.  A guy in Iowa even published an academic paper complete with advanced statistics to prove otherwise, and common sense dictates otherwise if you really look at that campaign and the actions of the Gore camp in the days after the election.  They did not fight for simple recounts that they should have.

mychelle
mychelle

I know I'm seeing my idealism slip at times and have to ask myself, is this just a component of getting old, or is it willfully becoming jaded?

I decided when something was "as good as it's gonna get," that was the time to step up the expectations.

0charles
0charles

 When was the last time you voted for an intelligent, informed, visionary woman for president? ...

Well that's too long.  Go Jill, go Cheri, go Green.

Idlerush
Idlerush

Can't wait to vote for this team in November!

Ayesha de Queiroz
Ayesha de Queiroz

"

(One imagines Al Gore still wakes in the night cursing Nader’s name.)"

This implies that you're furthering the myth that Nader cost Gore the election, which is false and typically used by partisan reporters that can't be bothered to do proper research.  

Debunked: The Myth That Ralph Nader Cost Al Gore the 2000 Election

http://www.disinfo.com/2010/11... 

Alan8
Alan8

"Born in the 1980s, the Green Party’s national profile peaked in 2000,

when Ralph Nader took 2.7% of the popular vote in the

chaotic presidential election that put George W. Bush in office. (One

imagines Al Gore still wakes in the night cursing Nader’s name.)"

A dishonest implication that Nader caused Bush's win.  IN REALITY Gore won Florida in 2000 with the most votes, and won the election.  This was canceled by the Supreme Court, which stopped the recount.

But making Democrats who sell us out to the corporations like Republicans lose IS a Green-Party threat.

Democrats are STILL passing NAFTA-like "free-trade" agreements that outsource American jobs to low-wage countries.

Democrats STILL stand united with the Republicans against single-payer health care, which every other civilized country has.

Democrats voted overwhelmingly with the Republicans for the NDAA, which allows the military to arrest U.S. citizens without charges, and hold them indefinitely, where they can be tortured or killed without a trial or any kind of due process, like some goddamn Soviet dictatorship.

The Green Party is the non-corporate alternative.  Your Green vote sends a message to the corporate parties that selling us out to corporate interests will cost them votes.

And this message is sent even if the Green you vote for loses.

VOTE GREEN 2012!

rational72
rational72

Pollardty, thank you for the heartfelt response. You're kind to say that the boulder is 4% from the bottom. Most would say for the Greens that the boulder is at .001% from the bottom of the hill.We do have a mountain to climb, but hey what can I say, I love nature. Some day there will be a viable third party and I hope to see that day through. Please keep your eye on your state and local Green Party. Cheers!

geanark
geanark

it's only a sham when the majority don't vote and the majority of those who do do not clearly articulate their desires.

Find a way to vote for something.

geanark
geanark

But Obama has delivered exactly what we all want and need?

The GP is building from the ground up, we win more local offices all the time.

Taking your party seriously enough to run for president is building from the bottom up.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

geanark, I understand that states have different requirements. I was responding to cseeman who said, "Maybe you should actually study state election law in the country you're a citizen of."

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

I see that Disqus has gone on a bender this evening and is sprinkling comments wherever. Time to quit.

geanark
geanark

Already off the cliff, wish we still had that kinda time.

Ocean acidification is reaching disastrous proportions.

200+ species are being lost every day. 

The peak of conventional crude was in 2006.

How many cliffs do we have to run off of before we choose a new strategy?

pollardty
pollardty

If you are correct there is no point in voting at all.

geanark
geanark

It would be much better to just stay home than to vote green? 

You Dems fans act like you own the left of suicidal maniacs vote, but you don't. 

The last time I voted for a Republicrat president was Jesse Jackson.

Nader or not, I will vote for what I want, not against what you fear.