In her recent appearance on the “Primo Nutmeg” podcast, Jill Stein recounts her public appeal to Bernie Sanders in July of 2016. Her offer was a simple one. She invited Bernie to replace her at the top of the ticket, and run for president as the Green Party nominee. She made this offer after all the primary states had voted, and just weeks before the Democratic National Convention, when Hillary Clinton was set to officially secure the Democratic nomination.
Stein, in her interview, expresses a good deal of disappointment that Sanders dismissed her proposal out of hand. In fact, the way she puts it, it’s unclear whether he formally declined her offer or simply ignored it altogether. In her words, “He didn’t even want to talk about it.” She goes on to explain why she feels that the deck is once again stacked against him in 2020. She mentions that superdelegates are still part of the equation despite the Democrats’ having removed them from the first ballot, and iterates a concern shared by many progressives that such a crowded Democratic field will yield a final result in which no one candidate has a majority of delegates secured going into the convention, and that ultimately the superdelegates could override the will of the people should they cast their votes on the second ballot for a candidate other than the one with the plurality of delegates, especially if the candidate with the plurality of delegates is Bernie Sanders.
“The Democrats have offered false hopes for decades and decades,” she says, “I personally can’t put my eggs into that basket, and think that the Democrats are gonna somehow magically allow a progressive to get the nomination.” Her bleak outlook extends far beyond Bernie’s prospects. She mentions that “America and the world are crumbling,” and that absent the implementation of a transformative vision, climate change, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, and the rise of fascism, will swallow us whole.
Surely, if the game is as rigged as she says it is, and the hour is as late as she says it is, her answer for such a dire moment cannot possibly be another third party presidential run in which the best case scenario is a 5% showing to secure federal funding for her party the next time around.
Rather, I’d argue, it’s time to think outside the box. If the Green Party wants to finally become a relevant political force in this country, it now has its chance: endorse Bernie Sanders for president in 2020, and promise not to run a candidate on the Green Party line should he be the Democratic nominee. And make this announcement right now.
It stands to reason that the Greens would be open to such an arrangement, as Jill Stein herself was willing to cede her own presidential nomination to Bernie, and was confident she could persuade the party at large to sign off on such a move. Announcing this endorsement and defining its terms could have any one or more of many different effects, all of which are positive for both the Sanders campaign and the Green Party moving forward (to clarify, I’m not a Green. I’m an independent. This is just some free advice.)
First, it could win Bernie some votes by using the Democrats’ own neurosis, paranoia, and delusions against them. In the closing days of every campaign, a certain unfortunate contingent of nervous Democrats make it a point to admonish progressives against voting third party, lest they inadvertently play “spoiler” for the Republican candidate. The prospect of relief from such anxiety, i.e., not having a left wing spoiler in the race at all, could be a very attractive one, perhaps enough to elicit some much needed votes for Bernie in the primary.
Second, this arrangement could boost Bernie’s chances in the general election by padding his vote total with would-be Green voters who now feel compelled to vote blue, not because they’ve been harangued by annoying, vapid, loud-mouthed partisan hacks, but because the Democrats finally made enough good decisions to earn their votes the old fashioned way. A natural political alliance could be formed on the basis of a common political vision, and in the process, Democrats could boost their vote percentage total by one to one-and-a-half points, depending on the state. If that number seems small, consider that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were all decided by less than one point, and in the latter two states, Jill Stein’s vote total was higher than Trump’s margin of victory.
Third, if the Democrats remain unmoved by the proposal, as they likely will, and move full steam ahead towards a Biden-like nominee, this would expose the scapegoating of third party voters after Democratic defeats for the lie it is and has always been. By offering to step aside should a progressive win the nomination, the Greens can flip the script on the Democrats by putting them in the position of determining whether or not they want to take their chances with a Green on the ballot. For the Democrats to nominate a centrist candidate would thus demonstrate both an open willingness to accept that risk, as well as an acknowledgment that Green voters are not simply bitter, defiant would-be Democrats, but rather autonomous independent political actors who made them a good faith offer, which they declined. In other words, this would expose a common fallacy put forward by Democrats while simultaneously establishing the Green Party as a sovereign political entity.
And finally, deferring to Sanders and pledging to forego running a presidential candidate against him might, on its face, look like capitulation and surrender on their part, but conversely, it could bring an energy and excitement to the Green Party that they’ve likely never experienced, because, for the first time ever, they’d be in it to win it. They would no longer be the disaffected lefties casting protest votes out of disgust for the two party duopoly. Instead, their revolutionary politics could be implemented in the truly revolutionary pursuit of winning the presidency. In its current form, the Green Party is a waste of political energy. The political establishment which it rails against is actually relieved to see that the Greens have voluntarily relegated themselves to obscurity by withdrawing themselves from any actual power struggle, and instead pursuing symbolic benchmarks every four years as they toil in the single digits. Endorsing Bernie Sanders right now would instantly change that dynamic. Overnight, the Green Party would become a viable political force for 2020 and beyond. If you’re a Green, why pass up such a unique opportunity?
Photo: Matt Johnson, Wikimedia Commons