With her announcement that she will seek the Green Party's nomination for President of the United States in 2012, Jill Stein ended months of speculation among third party political insiders, Green Party activists and Independent progressives. Occupy Wall Street is now buzzing with the news as well. Could the protest movement provide significant momentum for a third party insurgency in next year's elections?
Since the temperatures started to drop in New York City, many participants in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in downtown Manhattan have begun to gather in the atrium at 60 Wall Street, an indoor public arcade, to hold organizing meetings and events. Hundreds of activists now filter in and out of the space over the course of the day. Among them on a recent afternoon was David Cobb, the Green Party's candidate for president in 2004, who was spreading the word about Move to Amend, an organization he founded in 2009 which seeks to abolish corporate personhood. We spoke for a few minutes, and when I told him that I cover third party and independent politics for a number of websites, he asked excitedly: "Did you hear Jill Stein announced her candidacy for president?!"
Green Party activists, third party insiders and Independent progressives have been hopefully speculating about the possibility of Stein's candidacy for some time. Indeed, her name was included on a short list of potential 2012 Green presidential candidates at Green Party Watch back in February.
In September, Ballot Access News relayed Stein's response to a detailed questionnaire sent out by the Green Party's Outreach and Exploratory Committee to potential presidential candidates. In her response, Stein described her initial reluctance to seek the nation's highest office, but cited the debt ceiling debacle orchestrated by the Democratic and Republican parties over the summer as a primary motivator for her presidential bid.
"For the last several months and with increasing frequency, I have been asked by Green Party activists to run for the Presidential nomination of the Green Party. I did not seriously consider doing so until the recent debt ceiling fiasco and the President’s astounding attack on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – a betrayal of the public interest that cries out like never before for electoral challenge," she wrote.
Stein is a well-known figure of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party, which is a merger of the Green Party and Rainbow Coalition. She was elected as party co-chair in November 2010 and has run for a number of offices in the commonwealth under its banner over the last ten years, receiving significant levels of support from voters.
She received 21% of the vote in her 2004 campaign for state representative and 18% of the vote in her 2006 campaign for Secretary of the Commonwealth. She was elected to local office in the town of Lexington in 2005 and 2008. Her 2010 campaign for governor was noted for its successful fundraising efforts, which qualified her for matching funds from the state – no small accomplishment for someone in a party that refuses corporate contributions.
"Stein raised $150,000 for her Massachusetts gubernatorial run in 2010. She probably has the organizational savvy to qualify for primary season matching funds if she runs for the Green nomination ," wrote Richard Winger at Ballot Access News in September.
Scrutinizing Stein's record in an article for Irregular Times earlier this year, J. Clifford concluded:
"she appears to be a sincere and extremely active liberal with a history of supporting political causes without much opportunity for personal profit . . . I have not been able to find discrepancies between her public persona and her professional and private activities."
Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began spreading across the nation last month, Stein, like many Greens, has been a vocal supporter of the movement.
"Both the Democrat and Republican parties have broken America’s social contract by refusing to remedy — in fact, deliberately aggravating — our intolerable economic inequities," said Stein in a press release from the party in support of the protests.
Stein is explicitly positioning her campaign and, by extension, the Green Party as an "alternative to the Wall Street parties." As she stated in her announcement speech on October 24th:
"These leaders have given us massive bailouts for Wall Street, layoffs on Main Street, declining wages for workers, wars for oil abroad, and attacks on Medicare and Social Security. They’re privatizing education, rolling back civil liberties and racial justice, plundering the environment, and driving us towards the calamity of climate change . . . we need people in Washington who refuse to be bought by lobbyist money and for whom change is not just a slogan."
The Green Party is slated to hold its 2012 presidential nominating convention next summer. Green Party leader Kent Mesplay announced his candidacy for the party's nomination earlier this year.