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The Greens and Jill Stein

In the days since the U.S. Green Party’s (GP) Feb. 1 announcement that two candidates – Dr. Jill Stein and comedian Roseanne Barr – had filed the necessary paperwork to meet party requirements for its presidential ballot, the Massachusetts physician has emerged as the odds-on favorite.

Even Barr, who insists her candidacy is serious, accepts Stein as the nominee apparent. On Feb. 2, the National Journal reported a Barr tweet: “I will run until the convention in July in Baltimore – I fully expect Jill Stein 2b the nominee & I will support her, but til then – I’ll serve.”

Stein won 90 percent of the vote in the party’s first state nominating convention in Ohio on Feb. 4 over Barr and two other declared candidates – Kent Mesplay and Harley Mikkelson, according to a GP news release. A nationwide Feb. 1-2 Green Party Watch (GPW) poll produced similarly one-sided results, with Stein attracting 68 percent of the vote over the same field.

“There is clearly a very significant amount of support in the Green Party for Jill Stein, who has been a Green Party organizer since 2000,” GPW said in a Feb. 2 post. GPW is an independent news site, not connected to the Green Party, according to its About page.

Neither Mesplay, an air quality inspector with San Diego County, nor Mikkleson, who is retired from the Michigan Departments of Community Health, Education, and Human Service, have qualified to seek the party’s nomination at its July convention in Baltimore. Mesplay is often mentioned as Stein’s running mate.

Stein has been a Green Party candidate for state office since 2002 and an advocate for single-payer, universal health care, the GPW post said. She has been building a network of campaign support since November 2011, is actively fundraising, has hired three staff and campaigned in California, Colorado, Delaware, Washington D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Wisconsin and other states.

She has spoken at Occupy Wall Street encampments from Boston to Sacramento, including a gathering in Indianapolis on Super Bowl Sunday, just days after Indiana governor and emergent Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels signed a bill making the state the 23d “right-to-work” in the nation.

“She rallied with union members from across the Midwest and met with the Indiana Greens as they begin petitioning to place Jill Stein’s name on the 2012 ballot,” her campaign said in a website post titled “Decisive victory for Jill Stein in Ohio Green presidential primary.”

***
In a Feb. 9 blog post titled Long Shots, the Huffington Post’s Colleen Becker included Stein on a short list of candidates “with little or no chance of success,” citing “passion, idealism, ambition, frustration, anger, even desperation” as their motivations.

In addition to Stein, the piece cited two Tennessee Democrats who have challenged Tea Party Republican, First District Congressman Phil Roe, who garnered 80 percent of the vote just two years ago. The district has been Republican since 1881.

The veteran Lexington, Mass., activist’s shot, Becker’s post suggests, is long, but not quite as distant as the Tennesseeans’. Indeed, Stein’s decision to enter the race was based on an impressive showing in a three-way vote between a Green ticket of Stein/Mesplay, a Democratic Obama/Clinton and Republican Romney/Ryan in Western Illinois University’s mock election just three months ago.

Stein gave a six-minute presentation at the November 2011 WIU vote, which is “often cited as an early predictor of the general election,” Becker wrote. The Greens expected to poll less than 5 percent.

“Instead, Stein finished in third place with a surprising 27 percent of the total vote, behind President Obama at 39 percent and Mitt Romney’s 33 percent,” she said. “Buoyed by these results, she decided to run to win.”

The Western Illinois exercise, Becker wrote, demonstrated that, “when the voices of alternative political representatives are amplified, people listen.”

Stein believes that “third parties are not the sideshow, they are the real show,” Becker wrote in her post, and her Green New Deal for the 99 percent appeals to marginalized voters of every political persuasion.

“In Stein’s words, ‘We don’t need to run America like a business or like the military,'” Becker said. “‘We need to run America like a democracy.'”

The campaign doesn’t benefit from Super-PACs funded by billionaires, she continued. “She relies on ordinary people, who contact her online to donate small sums or volunteer. Her grassroots campaign focuses on getting a ballot line in all 50 states and fundraising to meet public financing requirements.”

Stein is seeking “a threshold of $5,000 per state,” Becker wrote. “This candidate isn’t beholden to special interests.”

Becker places Stein’s long-shot bid in the even-desperation category, calling her a “desperate doctor” who understood the science behind today’s obesity, asthma and cancer epidemics.

“She worked with advocacy groups and at the state and local level challenging environmental policies,” her HuffPo blog continued. “As a presidential candidate, she is also concerned with the nation’s high levels of poverty, foreclosure, unemployment, incarceration and the uninsured, as well as our low corporate tax rates and corporate tax loopholes.”

Re-emphasizing the resonance of Stein’s message, Becker said her presentations at Occupy events, community colleges and small-scale gatherings are received as though “she were handing out candy.”

***
Serious or not, Barr’s candidacy has brought attention to the Green Party, welcomed or not.

The National Journal post “Comedian Roseanne Barr Running for President,” published eight days after she filed with the Federal Election Commission, exemplified the reaction.

“Barr, a comedian known for her raunchy standup acts, a tone-deaf performance of the National Anthem and for her role in the 80s-era sitcom Roseanne, is seeking the Green Party’s nomination,” the publication said in an unattributed post on Feb. 2.

The California Secretary of State’s inclusion of Barr on the state’s 2012 presidential ballot prompted a Feb. 7 “Opinion LA” blog post by Los Angeles Times staffer Dan Turner titled “Roseanne for pres: A chicken in every bucket, a pie in every face.”

Recalling a 2005 faux run for California governor by actor Warren Beatty, Turner contemplated the conundrums high-profile candidates pose for journalists.

“This kind of thing poses a challenge for the media because it’s hard to know how seriously to take celebrity candidates,” he wrote. “Obviously, some are real contenders — Ronald Reagan showed that Americans were willing to elect a movie star as president, and dozens of others, from Schwarzenegger to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, have proved that fame goes a long way in swaying voters.”

Turner divided celebrity candidates into three categories: publicity hounds, satirists and real political hopefuls, placing Barr squarely in the first. “She has no discernible campaign apparatus, zero political experience and very, very little credibility as a policy expert.”

Some Greens, but not all, share the cynicism, as evidenced by comments on the Jan. 26 GPW post “Roseanne Barr to Seek Green Party Presidential Nomination.”

Some welcomed her ideas and urged a sense of openness. “She may be a comedian, but she has some good ideas,” one commenter wrote. “She is for the working people.”

But others worried she would bring ridicule to the party. “I have nothing against Roseanne as an entertainer, but this is stupid,” another said. “I am a big supporter of the Green Party, but to advance they need serious candidates who are policy wonks and science-oriented, not celebrities.”

***
In a Feb. 9 post on her campaign website, Stein joined former Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wis., in condemning Obama’s decision to embrace Super PACs and, by extension, the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows them, a decision the president says he opposes.

“The President is wrong to have embraced the corrupt corporate politics of Citizens United, and that’s what you’re doing when you start using and consorting with Super PACs,” Stein’s post said.

Obama is not the same man who ran in 2008, she added. “Whomever Barack Obama may have once been, that man is not occupying the White House today.”

In a related statement, Stein criticized Obama’s foreign policy for undermining democracy in the Indian Ocean island nation Republic of Maldives.

“This week, as Obama was embracing corporate money, his State Department welcomed the military coup in the Maldives, which removed from office democratically elected President Nasheed, one of world’s most vocal critics of climate change,” she said. “Big oil is happy to see him gone. First Honduras, now the Maldives. So much for a foreign policy that promotes democracy and human rights.”

Back home in Massachusetts on Feb. 9, the Northampton-based Valley Advocate published a glowing story on Stein’s candidacy.

“Stein, who lives in Lexington, is well known in the commonwealth, where she has run for governor and other statewide posts, gaining more support – and more respect – with each campaign,” the story said.

Stein, the article said, is a rare person who embarks upon impossible political journeys without seeming quixotic.

“Intelligent, informed and devoid of careerist or financial motives, she can’t be lightly dismissed,” the Advocate article said. “When she loses elections, she still wins influence and raises the Green Party’s profile.”

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.

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Steven Higgs is an environmental journalist and photographer living in Bloomington, Ind. He owns and operates Natural Bloomington: Ecotours and More. His new book A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana is scheduled for release by Indiana University Press on April 20, 2016.

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