Green Party presidential nominee’s good intentions not rooted in reality
In welcoming Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein to UC Davis last week, students received a unique opportunity to hear a progressive vision for America markedly different than anything offered by mainstream parties. But Stein’s calls for a “Green New Deal” don’t change the fact of her stubborn refusal to effect real change by leaving the confines of a third-party.
Before her rally, Stein sat down with The Aggie’s Editorial Board for about 20 minutes to discuss topics ranging from student loans to environmental sustainability to the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the meeting, she displayed the same stalwart progressivism that has both made her a champion to those on the far-left and an irritant to more moderate liberals who fault her for sapping critical votes away from Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
Stein reiterated a proposal to erase all student debt as part of a plan to overhaul higher education that includes tuition-free college — a noble goal. Americans owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards. But it’s a plan that has its shortcomings. She said that she wouldn’t make an exception for high-income students with the ability to pay down loans, at the risk of her plan becoming a “poor-people’s program.” But these students could help offset the costs to universities of suddenly having a large amount of debt forgiven.
While Stein’s policy proposals reflect a much-needed spirit of progressivism, their success is still rooted in the fantasy that a mass of people will suddenly rise to the occasion of implementing them. That’s the kind of politically ignorant thinking only an American third-party candidate could concoct. While grassroots organizing is essential to resisting Trump — and Stein should be commended for bringing that message to UC Davis — it is certainly not sufficient.
Stein would better serve this country as Bernie Sanders did: by working within the parameters of a mainstream party. Consider that in just the past week, California politicians have been judging the merits of a proposed debt-free college plan, and a “medicare-for-all” health care system proposed by Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of his bid for governor. Both are measures Sanders tirelessly advocated for during the presidential election.
But these conversations wouldn’t be happening had Sanders mounted an independent campaign.
Unfortunately, Stein dismissed that possibility of working with Democrats out of hand, calling Hillary Clinton just as dangerous a candidate as Donald Trump. How misguided. Democrats need somebody like Stein who is right to devote so much attention to the environment and the effect of its destruction on vulnerable Native American communities. Even though her call that the United States run entirely on renewable energy by 2030 is wholly unrealistic, it reflects the much-needed urgency that climate change issues deserves.
By throwing Clinton in the same bag as President Trump, Stein has reduced herself to nothing more than a fringe element of American politics — one important only to shine a light on issues, like climate change and the abuse of indigenous people, that demand our constant attention.
Forget the distracting conversations about her swinging the vote. Those would be better spent asking how a bigot like Trump could secure so much of the electorate in the first place. Instead, students talking about Jill Stein should talk about how to turn her progressive values into viable mainstream policies. Only then will the Green Party register as more than a protest movement.