Jill Stein For President — Why Some Progressives Will Vote For The Green Party Candidate Instead Of Obama

Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts is running for president as the Green Party nominee. Traditional media ignore her, but she might exceed expectations.

Some progressives support her because they view President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney as “Republicrats” — establishment pols serving special interests.

Most voters will opt for one of the two major party candidates, but many are turned off by “politics as usual” — dishonest attack ads, trivialized issues, corruption and gridlock. Given the increasingly destructive nature of this presidential race, perhaps a surprising number of voters will end up expressing dissatisfaction by voting for an independent.

Presidential candidate Jill Stein delivers her acceptance speech at the Green Party's convention in Baltimore on July 14. (AP)

Presidential candidate Jill Stein delivers her acceptance speech at the Green Party’s convention in Baltimore on July 14. (AP)

In non-swing states (like Massachusetts, which Obama is expected to carry handily), people realize that their votes for president won’t swing the outcome. So they can cast a “protest vote” or “conscience vote” without real worry or guilt.

The New York Times reported last month that the Green Party “expects to be on the ballot in at least 45 states.” And Stein “will be the party’s first candidate to have qualified for federal matching funds — a milestone for this 11-year-old alternative party and potentially a major boost for a campaign that does not accept corporate donations.”

I don’t support Stein for president, but I supported her right to be in a televised debate when she ran for governor here in 2010. She did quite well in gubernatorial debates, and deserves to be heard in this race too.

Recently I explained why Bill Clinton, an old “New Democrat,” must be disappointed in Obama’s leadership. Now, to consider why Stein might do surprisingly well, let’s look at Obama from a progressive/left-wing perspective.

How has Obama disappointed progressives?

Obama continued the Bush foreign policy

In “Why Obama continues Bush’s foreign policy,” Prof. Matthew Dickinson wrote:

Obama has expanded Bush’s use of drones as both offensive weapons in the War on Terror, but also in intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance operations. Although Obama purportedly closed secret CIA prisons holding suspected terrorists, he continues the policy of rendition under which suspected terrorists can be sent to foreign prisons for interrogation. He has authorized the use of military commissions to try some terrorists, and — with the courts’ consent — supports the Bush policy of holding enemy combatants indefinitely without charge. Despite opposition from both conservative Republicans and many Democrats, he signed a four-year extension of the Patriot act which, among other provisions, provides federal authorities roving wiretap power to listen in on conversations of foreign suspects even when they change phones or locations, and gives the government the authority to investigate foreigners who have no known affiliation with terrorist groups. (To do so, however, requires approval from a secret federal court.)

In some instances, Obama has out-Bushed Bush in the conduct of the war on terror. In Afghanistan, of course, Obama built up the U.S. military presence in order to stabilize a rapidly deteriorating situation there, and thus lay the groundwork for an earlier U.S. withdrawal. To date, Obama appears committed to the withdrawal schedule although his commanders on the ground are fighting a rearguard action in order to extend the U.S. presence there. Perhaps the most notable foreign policy success, of course, was the killing of Bin Laden, which required violating Pakistan’s airspace. And, in perhaps the most dramatic example of Obama’s willingness to push the limits of his authority, he authorized the assassination of an American citizen overseas who was suspected of actively working as a terrorist.

When Obama has sought to step back from Bush-era policies governing the War on Terror, however, he has often been unsuccessful. After months of wrangling with Congress, Obama has implicitly admitted that Guantanamo Bay prison will not be closed, and in fact will continue to hold high value targets who may be caught in the anti-terror campaign.

Obama failed to lead on global warming

A top priority of the Green Party is to take action on climate change. Al Gore, the Democrats’ most prominent leader on environmental issues, declared that Obama has failed to lead on the issue of global warming. The Associated Press reported last year:

In a 7,000-word essay posted online … Gore says the president hasn’t stood up for “bold action” on the problem and has done little to move the country forward since he replaced Republican President George W. Bush.

Bush infuriated environmentalists by resisting mandatory controls on the pollution blamed for climate change, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible. The scientific case has only gotten stronger since, Gore argues, but Obama has not used it to force significant change.

“Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” Gore says. “He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community … to bring the reality of the science before the public.”

Gore does credit Obama’s political appointees with making hundreds of changes that have helped move the country “forward slightly” on the climate issue, but says the president “has simply not made the case for action.”

He is the second Clinton administration official this month to express disappointment with Obama on environmental issues. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, in a speech in early June, said Obama had yet to take up the “mantle of land and water conservation…in a significant way.”

“During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis, and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from ‘How do we complete this historic breakthrough?’ to ‘How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?’”

Obama failed to challenge the lobbyist-driven system

In an article in The Atlantic magazine, “The Liberal Critique of Obama: Judging the President by His Own Standards,” Conor Friedersdorf wrote:

The left’s core complaint is that he (Obama) promised to challenge the political system but worked within it instead, never even attempting important reforms…

I take no position about whether Obama’s “change the rules of the game” rhetoric or his “prioritize working within the system toward health care reform and stimulus” actions were the wiser course. It is enough to note that this is a subject of intense disagreement on the left, that Obama explicitly championed liberals on one side of the argument, and that having won them over, he betrayed their trust. It isn’t a coincidence that one motivation for the leftists taking to the streets in cities across America is the growing conviction that working within the political system is pointless. Obama helped bring about that feeling.

Obama cracked down on whistleblowers

Mother Jones, a leading progressive magazine, published a blunt essay on June 12, “Obama’s War on Whistleblowers”:

White is black and down is up. Leaks that favor the president are shoveled out regardless of national security, while national security is twisted to pummel leaks that do not favor him. Watching their boss, bureaucrats act on their own, freelancing the punishment of whistleblowers, knowing their retaliatory actions will be condoned. The United States rains Hellfire missiles down on its enemies, with the president alone sitting in judgment of who will live and who will die by his hand.

The issue of whether the White House leaked information to support the president’s reelection while crushing whistleblower leaks it disfavors shouldn’t be seen as just another O’Reilly v. Maddow sporting event. What lies at the nexus of Obama’s targeted drone killings, his self-serving leaks, and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers is a president who believes himself above the law, and seems convinced that he alone has a preternatural ability to determine right from wrong.

Obama failed to stimulate the economy

Many progressives fault Obama for not fighting harder for more stimulus spending. And they were not amused when he admitted that his first stimulus didn’t produce many jobs:

“Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected,” he joked.

When the new economic stats came out last week, Stein criticized Obama and Romney:

Our economy is indeed floundering. It’s not delivering for the American people. Mitt Romney is right on that. But we need to start a serious discussion that goes beyond whether this gives an edge to Mitt Romney in attacking the President. The sickness of our economy is directly attributable to misguided economic policies pursued by Republican George Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, who both consistently favored an economic system that is driving America into poverty.

Obama disappointed on other issues

Some liberals were disillusioned by Obama’s refusal to propose new gun control laws. Some felt dejected because he failed to fight for the single-payer approach on health care reform, and failed to provide true transparency in government.

Some progressives will vote for Stein not only to boost the Green Party agenda, but also to prod Obama to show more audacity if he’s reelected.

But Stein is not sitting idle, hoping Obama will change. She basically says, “We are the change we are still waiting for.” It’ll be interesting to see how many progressives agree.

Todd Domke is WBUR’s Republican analyst. For more political commentary, go to our Payne & Domke page.

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  • NotChoinski

    Jeez Louise, haven’t they learned ANYTHING  from Ralph Nader?  His margins pretty much handed the Republicans control of the Presidency during eight critical years of our history – the response to 9/11, wars of choice, unfunded medicare expansion, and economic meltdown

    Unfortunately, we dont live under a multiparty system that can form ruling coalitions.  Your vote can either be for the party that sometimes disappoints you, or the party that wants to destroy you. 

    • Notchoinski

      And may I add, one of the reasons the GOP is in such an ideological extremist corner right now  is because its base no longer tolerates its members who ‘disappoint’.  Yes Obama disappointed on some issues, but he delivered on others in an atmosphere void of cooperation.  If the Democrats want to retake the center (which the GOP has abandoned), the progressive left will have to live with some disappointment.  (And I’m a progressive leftie)

      • sallyk

        You need to buy a mirror to put in your house. You shouldn’t be calling others “extremists”.

      • NOTsamWalton

         This move in some other context would be Black mail or extortion.  I would still like to at least honistly be able to express my desires.

    • NOTsamWalton

       WE haven’t learned ANYTHING or by now we would be dealing with three or more way choices fairly with something like ranked choice voting or Instant Runoff Voting.  Two way choices are frequently dissapointing.

  • elewisg39

    Not much will change in this country as long as the democrats and republicans are in power
    and in thrall to the lobbyists.

    I like to vote for someone and not hold my nose.

    The failure of either party to seriously address the threat to our environment is the most critical issue of the day

    We now that Obama did very little for the environment and who thinks that Romney cares
    about mother earth?

    End the stalemate
    Vote Green

  • J__o__h__n

    Yet another Republican promoting the Green party.  I wonder what his motive is.

  • elewisg39

    The Republicans are awful.
    Maybe the Democrats are slightly less awful.
    My motive sir, is to begin a political process that takes seriously the environmental threat to our planet.

  • Joe Albiani

    While it is hard to imagine a worse candidate than Romney Obama has been a huge disappointment. I am so tired of picking the lesser of two evils I will vote for Stein this time as she represents my views more than either of the other two. In Massachusetts it wont matter but our system is so corrupt and the two parties are so owned by the same corporate forces it is always a choice between tweedledum or tweedledee. I’m fed up with both of them. Obama has been worse than Bush in foreign policy because we expected more from him and he turned out to be the same,  just a better speaker. The fact that the election is close is more a testament to the stupidity of the average voter than to the qualities of the candidates offered. After all Bush was reelected! Nothing more needs to be said.

  • E Shearer

    Didn’t we just go through this 12 years ago?   If Ralph Nadar had not drawn so many progressive votes away from Gore, we would have been spared 8 years of Bush, the Iraq war, tax cuts for the super rich, the subsequent massive deficits we are still struggling with today (remember, Clinton left a surplus), and corporations with the rights of people.  We do not have a parliamentary form of government, in which small fringe parties can share power.   Either Obama or Romney will be President.  Many times I have voted for the lesser of two evils, although I don’t personally believe this is one of those situations.  (Yes, I’ve been disappointed in some things Obama has done, but thrilled with others, and I also acknowledge how severely limited he has been by a bitterly partisan and totally ineffective Congress.  Even a few years ago, the two parties worked together across the aisle.  Ted Kennedy was a master at this.  Never before in my memory, and I’m a senior citizen, has one party stated quite baldly that its top priority was to defeat a sitting president, never mind addressing the nation’s problems or trying to what is best for the country.)    Supposed progressives who vote for a fringe candidate only throw their vote away, and they’ll have no right to complain if they don’t like the next couple Supreme Court nominees.

  • Idlerush

    Absolutely voting for Jill. Vote splitters are an illusion. You can’t count votes you don’t have, focus on people NOT voting at all (about half the voters).

    “The only “wasted” vote is the one not cast… which is the majority of the electorate which stays home. If Democrats are afraid of losing to Romney, they should get more voters to the polls rather than blame people who actually vote for a Progressive. The voters aren’t the problem for you, it’s the non-voters that matter most.”


  • Carl Lundgren

    We in the Green Party do not have to, and will not apologize for having the audacity to fly in the face of the corporate controlled parties. We are not the Democrats; we have nothing in common with them; we are not their allies in any sense of the word. Whatever superficial similarities we  may seem to have on particular issues must be tempered with the knowledge that Democrats are controlled by corporate interests (just as much as the Republicans) and so will not seriously pursue any real change. It’s clear from this article that Obama has successfully pursued the corporate agenda and not that of the people. He lived down to our expectations.  Romney will be no different. The battle between Republicans and Democrats is a carefully crafted and choreographed performance designed to create the illusion of difference and choice. The Green Party has served as a useful scapegoat for this deception. Well, we’re not players in their game any longer, wittingly or unwittingly.  The real struggle is between grassroots democracy and corporate dominance. The Green Party is not the threat.

    Carl Lundgren
    Chair, Bronx County Green Party
    GP Candidate for NY State Senate,
    SD34 (bronx-Westchester)

  • http://twitter.com/donilo252525 doug lowe

    Obama a disappointment?!?  The last time I was disappointed in Obama was early in 2009, after the naming of his various appointments – especially Sec. of State and Financial Appointees.  

    Disappointment soon turned to disbelief as he seemed to stumble through the beginnings of Health Insurance.  Single Payer supporters weren’t even allowed at the table?!?!?

    By late summer, 2009, I had all but abandoned all the glitzy “Hope” he had trumpeted in “noble” speeches.

    Disappointed?  Nah!

    Try disgust, horror, unbounded cynicism regarding even mildly OK moves on his part.

    Try feelings of despair that I had helped open the city gates for this massively clever Trojan Horse.  

    By 2010 all of this had narrowed down to determination.  Determination to do everything in my power to remove this greatest threat to our country I’ve ever personally seen.  For me, Bush at least had an “excuse” of being the dumbest president ever.  Of course it was really a Cheney presidency.  Now there’s an evil memory.  

    But at least the public at large disliked to hated Cheney.  He was certainly a master of blunt action, and was quick to boast about it.  

    Obama has worked his “magical speeches” to such an art that many of his followers continue to be mesmerized by them.  They fail to see, or if seeing what he DOES, continue to enable him – the abusive family cycle in full form.   

    So don’t continue to be disappointed.  Disappointment can only exist where you still actually expect something better to come from him.  Instead, be Determined to remove him and bring an end to this very dysfunctional family cycle we find ourselves trapped in.

    Both Obama & Romney, puppets to corporations in the same way Bush was a puppet to Cheney and the corporations, will continue to be the most willing and complicit tools of the corporations.

    This is why I find it IMPERATIVE to vote for Jill Stein.  She is a TRUE hope for actual CHANGE.  The two words flaunted by Obama will become realities with Stein.

    Forget fear.  Forget despair.  Choose to stand for someone who stands for our hopes and beliefs.  Vote Stein and Green Party in 2012.

  • http://twitter.com/Dissenta Dissenta

    We can think of many more reasons Obama has failed his party than given here. That’s not hard. What do we do about it? We bring forward Dr Jill Stein, not just to the debates (get her into far more media to increase her public polls above 15%) but to the White House. Think it can’t be done? Think again. These are extraordinary times.

    Jill Stein has a great opportunity to capture millions of desperate votes of unemployed, underemployed workers, underwater homeowners, indentured college students and many more. She’s standing exactly as FDR (sat) at the nadir of the Depression. FDR’s Sec of Labor was Frances Perkins (Google her) who led the way on most of the policies that shaped the New Deal (and Social Security). That deal worked to help pull us out of that Depression. Stein is like a new Frances Perkins for the modern age — and a medical doctor to boot, quite handy for the ills real and metaphorical that ail us.

    There are millions of voters out there ready to turn their heads in a new direction to vote for Dr Stein’s Green New Deal (jillstein.org/summary_green_new_deal) — read this thing, it’s not pie-in-the-sky.  She’s the most well-informed and savvy candidate we’re seen in decades. The time is right when the two majors are obviously paralyzed in a massive wrestling hold to out-do each other as pro-corporatist appeasers — let them headlock each other off the mat while Jill Stein comes to the fore and leads us — as we lead ourselves — back to work. 

    We’re lucky to have Jill Stein. Let’s make the best of her willingness to come forward. Arms over shoulders by the millions — this is do-able. Let’s do it!


  • http://twitter.com/rich_rizzo Rich Rizzo

    No one should EVER feel guilty for voting for an independent or alternative candidate. It’s the system that is corrupt. Having to choose between “the lesser of two evils” is not real choice. Furthermore, it is not real democracy. Money and politics aside; gerrymandering, a winner- takes- all voting system and the electoral college have diluted any chance of a genuine vote.

  • Its_not_important

    Bottom line, I think it’s about time..no, long overdue time to vote a woman in as President, and far more women in other branches of government as well.

  • George Plew

    I see everybody going off to side roads that move away from the true issues. Any president we get at this point is inheriting problems from as far back as Roosevelt. So no one man or woman is going to clean up this country in 4yrs time. The true issue is a total disregard for good math. When you spend more than you make you go into debt. Contrary to popular opinion debt does not inspire growth. Debt only makes you a slave to banks and big corporations. A secondary concern but no less important is a need to return to “We the people…” as our constituion starts off with. As a country we have moved away from caring about people.

  • Clarisse

    I’ve voted for Obama, in 2008, this time I’m voting for the Green Party’s Jill Stein/Cherie Hokala, and that’s That!

    C. L. D., York, PA, USA

  • Denny O’Brien

    i am going to vote for jill steins for president and the green party.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tahng-V-Ung/669419066 Tahng V Ung

    it is nice to get a read on jill stein after the pitiful presidential debate.
    jill can count my “conscientious” vote. i have no desire to cast a vote for smaller fibber.

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