On October 14th during her second visit to the Northwest this year, Jill Stein spoke to a crowded house at Seattle’s Town Hall.
In a city known for its historic protests against the World Trade Organization, Stein finds a welcoming audience from Green Party members, independents and occupy activists. Stein probably has more support for her campaign in Washington and Oregon than in almost any other part of the country.
Her grassroots campaign for US president has accomplished an amazing feat when you consider the major challenges that so-called “third party candidates” face when trying to launch a national election campaign. Without large corporate sponsors to fund her efforts, Green Party organizers must find a way to gain attention for their candidate in the midst of a multi-billion dollar "post-Citizens United" election season.
Alternative candidates complain that state election regulations are stacked in favor of the two major political parties. Laws governing the campaigns make it difficult for alternative candidates to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Petitioners must gain thousands of signatures and pay a sometimes stiff fee to register their candidate.
Each state has its own peculiar set of filing procedures so the rules are complicated and inconsistent – a daunting task for any national political organization. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson are also suffering under these same disadvantages.
When Jill Stein spoke to the Washington State Green Party at their convention earlier this year, she reached out to participants of the occupy movement, attempted to lure progressive Democrats, and she asked for support from groups promoting the legalization of medical marijuana. As a physician, she supports universal healthcare and is opposed to economic austerity measures that unfairly impact the poor and middle class.
Stein also urged her supporters not to give in to the negative predictions from media pundits and pollsters. She reminded them that any successful movement for social justice requires both short-term and long-term strategies, citing the struggle for civil rights and the campaign to secure the vote for women.
Speaking about the Democrats and Republicans, Stein recites a similar mantra to the one promoted by Rocky Anderson. According to both candidates, the two main parties hold a lock on the election system which excludes anyone promoting a different political philosophy.
When I asked her why the Greens and the Justice Party didn’t join together as a coalition, she responded that Rocky Anderson’s campaign is only really focused on one person while the Greens have international chapters and candidates running for office around the world, especially in Europe.
Anderson and Stein make a very good point about the inequity of our current political system. Even before the distortion of democracy that was left behind in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling on the Citizen United case, alternative political parties were already fighting an uphill battle against unfair election laws, voter suppression, the dominance of corporate media, and the electoral college.
Lacking European style proportional representation and instant run-off voting, the US national elections have become the exclusive playing field of the two large corporate and Wall Street funded parties. The elections are now an entertaining sport for the wealthy elite.
Unfortunately, the political system has been given over to the Democrats and the GOP to run as they see fit, allowing them to monopolize the entire process from beginning to end.
The US Constitution, however, in Section 4 states that the responsibility for conducting elections is in the hands of the states - our legislatures and assemblies.
The only problem here is that our elected state representatives have allowed the two parties to control the elections through the primary systems.
In effect, the Democrats and Republicans have become the sole arbitrators for deciding who will be elected to political office in the US. They also get to control the national presidential and VP debates.
Smaller grassroots parties and the League of Women Voters don’t stand a chance under these repressive conditions. Both presidential candidates Jill Stein and
Ralph Nader were arrested at protests while attempting to enter the national debates.
Jill Stein and her vice-presidential candidate Cheri Honkala have proven that despite their lack of large sums of money and their inability to produce expensive TV ads, folks at the grassroots level can actually generate a national campaign for US president.
Although most of the Democrats and Republicans fail to offer any real political recognition of the Greens, folks like Ralph Nader and Jill Stein have refused to back down and accept the satus quo, even while facing nearly insurmountable odds.