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  • Andy Alembik

Who is Jill Stein? Third-Party Influence in Elections

Courtesy of WBUR

In a YouTube video, a woman wearing a blazer says to the camera: 

“The political system is broken. The two Wall Street parties are bought and paid for. Over 60% of us now say the bipartisan establishment has failed us, and we need a party that serves the people. I’m Jill Stein, and I’m running for president to offer that choice for the people outside of the failed two-party system.”

Who is Jill Stein? What is the Green Party? And will third parties finally have a say in the upcoming election?

Hailing from Chicago, Jill Stein is a physician, activist, organizer and environmentalist. She got her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard: a bachelor’s in social relations and later an MD from the medical school. She is a member of the Green Party, and this is her third time as their presidential nominee, having run in 2012 and 2016.

The idea of the Green Party has been around since 1984. On their website, they identify themselves as “grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters, and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics.” They have four pillars: peace, cutting the military budget; ecology, fighting climate change and moving towards sustainability; social justice, a living wage and economic equality; and democracy, a more financially transparent democracy with better access to voting. These tenants are fairly left-leaning. Despite their left-lean, though, they have been accused on several occasions of helping conservative campaigns win elections.

In 2016, some Democrats speculated that Jill Stein’s campaign took votes away from Hillary Clinton, leading to Trump’s election. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, if the votes for Jill Stein had gone to Hillary Clinton, she would have won those states, and the election would have gone in her favor. The Green Party has more in common with the left than right, leading many to think that Stein voters would have voted for Clinton over Trump. This wasn’t the first time that the Green Party has been accused of something like this. 

In the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader of the Green Party was accused of costing Gore the state of Florida and, by extension, the entire race. According to the New York Times, “His totals in the closely contested states of Florida, Oregon, and New Hampshire were well above the margins there between Mr. Gore and Gov. George W. Bush.” If the people who voted for Nader had voted for Gore, Democrats lamented, then Bush may not have won the election. Nader won 97,488 votes in Florida. This could have easily swung the election, which Bush only won by 537 votes.

Parties in the United States have undergone significant changes since its beginning. At first, there were no parties. Two parties began to emerge around the time of the Constitution. Federalists, who wanted a strong central government, and Anti-Federalists, who were more in support of states’ rights and a smaller government. These parties saw shifts and changes, with Anti-Federalists becoming the Democratic-Republicans and eventually morphing into the early Democratic Party. In time, a Whig party appeared, which was mainly united in their stance against Andrew Jackson. They stood in opposition to the Democratic Party, taking the place of the Federalists. Eventually, by the 1850s, party politics in the US were solidly Democratic and Republican. There have been third parties in the past, such as the Bull Moose Party, also known as the Progressive Party. They had little influence, though. The party only accounted for 25% of the popular vote in the 1912 election. But this proportion of the vote was enough to split the Republican ticket, costing them the election, just like Democrats fear the Green Party may do to them.

Today in the US, the main third parties, aside from the Green Party, are the Libertarian and Constitutional parties. The Constitutional Party is a religious conservative group that prefers to interpret the Constitution literally. The Libertarian Party is firmly against unnecessary governmental interference, especially in personal life, family life, and business.

This election season, there has been a lot of concern over third-party candidates. Both Democrats and Republicans fear that third-party candidates may pull votes away from their nominees. Jill Stein’s presidential bid is one of three third-party campaigns. RFK Jr, a conspiracy theorist of Kennedy lineage, is running. Cornel West, a professor and progressive activist, is also an Independent in the presidential race. He has taught at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. He is known for his progressive activism and his criticism of former President Barack Obama. 

It is highly unlikely that the 2024 election will see a third-party candidate win. But it is not impossible that the third-party candidates might help swing an election in favor of one candidate. A recent Reuters poll found that in a poll of 3,356 randomly selected registered voters, 39% reported that they would vote for Joe Biden, while 38% would support Donald Trump, and 11% said some other candidate. Those voters that make up the 11% could easily swing an election in favor of one candidate or another. While Jill Stein and the Green Party are unlikely to win the 2024 election, they stand a strong chance of affecting the outcome, again.


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