On Wednesday night, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running-mate, Ajamu Baraka, made their first co-appearance before a national audience during a town hall event hosted by CNN's Chris Cuomo.
The event followed two similar town hall sessions, also hosted by CNN, for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running-mate, Bill Weld. The Green Party ticket hopes that its exposure will translate to increased backing in national polls: since appearing together on CNN, the Libertarian ticket has seen moderate but steady increases in major polls.
In recent surveys with the four candidates, Johnson has polled near 10 percent, while Stein has lingered around 4 percent. For the candidates to qualify for the presidential debates beginning next month, they will need to average 15 percent support in 5 specific polls chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
When asked about how the nominees would hit the 15 percent mark, Stein directly criticized the CPD, calling it "a private corporation that is run of, by, and for the Democratic and Republican parties." Baraka also criticized the two-party system, claiming that Americans are tired of being "held hostage to these two elite parties" and are ready to "gamble with the possibility that we could really build something new and different" by supporting the Green Party.
Both pointed to what they perceive as the major flaws in the Democratic and Republican nominees to persuade voters that they should consider voting for a third party alternative. Baraka criticized Trump for appealing to "dark forces" such as xenophobia and racism, and Stein said that Clinton is of concern because of her irresponsible use of a private server, her mishandling of sensitive national security information, and her inclination to operate with a sense of impunity.
Expectedly, Stein confronted the issue of whether she might serve as a "spoiler" this November. In a question from the audience, Stein was asked about how she "could sleep at night" knowing that her candidacy could, by taking votes from Clinton, help elect Trump.
"I will have trouble sleeping at night if Donald Trump is elected," she said, adding, "I will also have trouble sleeping at night if Hillary Clinton is elected."Stein criticized the logic that motivates voting for the lesser of two evils, calling it "the prevailing mythology" that tells people to "vote fears, not values." Instead, she said, "We need to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good."
Throughout the event, Stein contrasted her positions with those of the major candidates, particular those of Clinton. In doing so, she reinforced her argument that supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders' revolutionary movement have a natural home in the Green Party rather than in the "counterrevolutionary" Democratic Party. Stein referred to her campaign as "Plan B" for Sanders supporters.
On domestic policy, Stein criticized Clinton for supporting controversial bills signed by her husband, including a major reform bill in 1996 that Stein says pushed millions of children into poverty and Wall Street deregulation that enabled the financial crisis of 2007-2008. And on foreign policy, Stein criticized Clinton for supporting the war in Iraq, for causing instability in Libya through a U.S. intervention that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and for promoting the implementation of a no-fly zone in Syria that risks direct confrontation with Russia.
Stein also proposed several domestic and foreign policies. To address police shootings, Stein called for increased civilian oversight over law enforcement and for access to an independent investigator in each community, and on the issue of student debt, Stein proposed that the Federal Reserve cancel that debt by monetizing it, increasing the purchasing power of tens of millions of Americans.
On foreign affairs, Stein called for a "peace offensive." She proposed using a single standard — international law and respect for human rights — to drive the country's dealings with other nations. This single standard, she said, would mean ceasing the dispatch of $8 million each day to Israel — citing its occupation of Palestine, as well as withholding support from other countries that perpetrate human rights violations — such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. She also rebuked the U.S.'s track record in its fight against terrorism, calling for a non-military strategy to neutralize the threat of groups like ISIS.
Stein, a physician who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1979, told the audience that her awareness of public health issues caused her to make the jump from practicing "clinical medicine" to practicing "political medicine." In addition to supporting numerous left-wing policies on the economy, the environment, and foreign policy, Stein supports various political reforms, including overturning Citizens United, publicly financing campaigns, adopting ranked choice voting and proportional representation, and opening debates.
Ajamu Baraka, a long-time human rights activist, said he is deeply committed to Jill Stein's candidacy and to what the Green Party stands for. In commenting on his personal life, Baraka said, "Our life, basically, is to struggle" and that he surrounds himself with people who "believe in the possibility of a new world."
Given that a historically high number of people are dissatisfied with the two major party candidates — including a legion of Sanders supporters reluctant to support Clinton, Stein and Baraka are hoping that frustration with the current political system will inspire voters to back them in their struggle and propel them at least into the debates — if not, as Stein hopes to rename it, into the "Green House."