What does Jill Stein mean for 2016's other contenders?

The Massachusetts physician and activist is hoping to take up the mantle for frustrated Bernie Sanders supporters.

Dominick Reuter/Reuters
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein arrives at a rally of Bernie Sanders's supporters on the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Presumptive Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein announced on Tuesday her selection of human-rights activist Ajamu Baraka as her running mate, ahead of the party’s convention on Aug. 6.

"Ajamu Baraka is a powerful, eloquent spokesperson for the transformative, radical agenda whose time has come – an agenda of economic, social, racial, gender, climate, indigenous and immigrant justice,” said Dr. Stein in her announcment. “Ajamu’s life’s work has embodied the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Mr. Baraka is the founding director of the US Human Rights Network, an umbrella group of several hundred grassroots human-rights organizations, as well as a prominent anti-death penalty activist and commentator on racial issues. When the Green Party announces its candidates at its convention, he is expected to play No. 2 to the Massachusetts physician, activist and 2012 presidential candidate whose second shot at the nation’s highest office has generated concern from some Democrats – especially in an election year when the unfavorable ratings of the main candidates are so high.

“There are always these possibilities in politics: tension between the egalitarians or reformers and the politicians,” says Sean Wilentz, an expert on US social and political history at Princeton University in New Jersey. “That tension can be creative or it can become destructive.” 

The Green Party will almost certainly benefit from this year’s tension between disenchanted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont and the Democratic party machine. According to a CNN/ORC survey, 13 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents, who preferred Senator Sanders to Hillary Clinton, told pollsters that they would vote for Ms. Stein following the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Dr. Stein turned up at the Democratic convention, where she sought to posit herself as the standard-bearer of the alternative of the left. “Whatever happens, you know my campaign is here,” she told Sanders supporters there, according to the Atlantic. “We are going to continue this movement.”

In May, Stein told The Hill that she would “feel horrible” if either Trump or Clinton won the White House. “Trump was created by the politics of the Clintons,” she said then. “Putting the Clintons in power will only fan the flames. Hillary is not a solution to Trump; the Clintons are the cause of Trump.”

Stein won about 470,000 votes in 2012, or roughly three-tenths of 1 percent of all votes, according to the Hill. This year’s polls are projecting an even better showing. From July 29-31, she was polling at 5 percent of the vote, the CNN poll showed, well behind Hillary Clinton (45 percent), Donald Trump (37 percent) and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (9 percent), but better than the 2.7 percent of total votes won by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000.

Dr. Wilentz tells The Christian Science Monitor that Stein’s influence could depend partly on whether Mr. Johnson could peel away votes from Mr. Trump. “It’s hard for me to tell. Libertarianism is a very amorphous category.”

But in this election, he added, the Republican Party appears to have the most on the line.

“One scenario is that Trump loses and the party is discredited.... That’s happened to political parties before. The Democrats were discredited over secession in the Civil War, and they were on the outs nationally for a long time.”

“In the case of the Democrats, it looked like [the tension between the Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign] was destructive for a while, but now it looks creative.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.