What About Jill?

She’s fidgeting. We both are. In fact, I’ve just realized that my hands have been trembling for I don’t know how long, while our voices have grown louder over the last half hour or so. “All you do is pick at Hillary’s record!” she says. “It’s like you want Trump to win!” That’s not true, but it isn’t untrue either. I don’t want Hillary to win, not with her long history of lies. Not Trump lies either, but Hillary lies.

There’s her April 2016 bluff that allowing the coup regime to remain in power “was better for the Honduran people.” Or like how she said she was against the Colombian Free Trade Agreement when she was vying for the Democratic nomination against a suave, progressive-sounding black senator in 2008, but then backed the plan after he named her his secretary of state. Or her feminist façade, when she’s close to being the exact opposite of one. And then there’s her feint of being a friend to the black and Latino communities, despite her and her husband Bill ratcheting up a system of impoverishment, criminalizing and disenfranchisement that rivals Jim Crow in its devastating effects.

For his part, Trump’s a joke of a candidate; that I have to actually type that out seems like a waste of time. He’s a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe and a chauvinist of every kind, and that’s only if we take him at his word. But for all the evil Trump has spewed, Hillary has committed real evil over the years, if not herself, then by proxy. Trump is an evil idiot, but Hillary is an evil genius, which is much worse and scarier. If an idiot tells you he wants to build a “great, big wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, you roll your eyes at him and go about your day. President Obama could barely pass gas during his time in office, buddy, so good luck building an expensive wall. But if another person, maybe a woman, definitely not an idiot, promises you all the “progress” in the world when she’s running for office but then does the other thing once she’s in office, that’s when you gotta sleep with one eye open. Then you read that the same powerful lady, as the nation’s chief foreign minister, logged an impressive number of miles circling the globe while serving as a fixer for her family’s wealthy friends and sponsors, instead of being a liaison for the rest of us. You realize the complexity of her web, and how many flies she has caught, flies that look like you and come from the same places you do.

Back to the debate. My wife wants us to lower our voices; she doesn’t want my stepdaughter to think we’re actually fighting. “Instead of talking so much shit about Hillary, you should’ve been telling people about– what’s her name, anyways?” Jill Stein, on the Green Party ticket. “Yeah,” she says. “Instead of bashing Hillary so much, tell us what’s good about Jill Stein.” For all my wife doesn’t know about politics, she has a point. This whole time I’ve been crashing the pep rally for Hillary’s candidacy, but I’ve done next to nothing promoting my candidate of choice, Dr. Stein. Maybe it has a little to do with the Bernie Sanders campaign. I almost got burned by the Bern. Luckily I escaped with only a blister or two, as my disillusionment with Sanders took a mere months (whereas it took a few years to shake the Obama spell). It’s tough, even dangerous talking up a politician, especially as a writer. The fear is that your man or woman will eventually do or say something that’ll make you eat your words. And writers want their words to last forever.

Plus there’s just too much simplistic thinking floating around these days, and I don’t want people taking my endorsement of Dr. Stein or the Greens as an endorsement of everything they are and do. I’m not stupid enough to vouch for Stein the way Sonny Black wanted Donnie Brasco to vouch for the guy down in Florida. We’re not beatifying anyone here; we’re picking our next president. And if all we’re doing is picking the leader of the Free(ish) World, then of the four major candidates running for president this year — meaning those who technically can win the 270 electoral votes need to clinch the White House — I choose Dr. Stein.

Everything great in Bernie’s platform, every proposal and critique that lit a fire under great swaths of the American public, is superseded by Jill Stein’s. She is what Bernie should’ve been, and what Hillary doesn’t even pretend to be. Any Bernie bro or babe who wishes their candidate would’ve been more forceful on condemning the ills of society — the prison- and military-industrial complexes, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and education system, police brutality, environmental destruction, overseas wars of plunder, domestic wars on the poor and people of color, homophobia, Native rights, money in politics, free speech and press freedom, the separation of church and state, unresponsive government and runaway capitalism — will find Dr. Stein to be a natural choice. In fact, most liberals and progressives would, too, if they knew much about her campaign.

Yet most people don’t know about Stein, or the Green Party, or both. Most people believe what the mainstream media tells them, which is that only a Democrat or a Republican can win a presidential election, as though that decree were buried in some obscure clause in the Constitution. Truth is, nothing keeps Dr. Stein or the beguiling Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party from becoming the next president of the United States, except the knowledge that it can, theoretically, happen. The only reason it probably won’t is because nearly every likely voter is convinced of the utter unlikeliness of anyone but Hillary or Trump walking away with the grand prize. And so the media discusses the horse race between the two candidates — and only the two candidates — while the primetime presidential debates (organized by the two main parties, mind you) feature only the Democratic and Republican nominees. After the two parties seized control of the debates from the League of Women Voters in 1984, they imposed a 15-percent popularity threshold for any party’s candidate, meaning a candidate had to earn a 15-percent approval rating in a national poll in order to be allowed on the debate stage. But since appearances in debates, especially strong appearances, help candidates climb in the national polls, not being allowed in the debates to begin with essentially guarantees that those candidates won’t see his or her popularity break the 15-percent mark, thus barring them from the debates which would help them surpass that very same mark. I’m telling you, it’s enough to make Yossarian’s head spin.

Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, at the 2016 Green Party National Convention (G. Flakus/VOA)
Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, at the 2016 Green Party National Convention (G. Flakus/VOA)

Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka, is a distinguished black activist, former board member of Amnesty International and the founding director of US Human Rights Network, a collection of grassroots organization working in the areas of discrimination, health care, immigration, affordable housing and workers’ rights, to name but a few. Coincidentally, tragically, the Stein-Baraka ticket will not be appearing on the ballot in Nevada, my newly adopted state. After the party submitted 8,700 voter signatures to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office in June, state officials disqualified thousands of signatures for bogus reasons, dropping the number of valid signatures below the required one-percent mark of 5,431. The Greens appealed to a federal court, which denied their appeal on the first of this month. In yet another coincidence, the federal judge who sealed Dr. Stein’s fate in Nevada, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey, is a close ally of outgoing Senate minority leader Harry Reid, the man who nominated her to the lifetime position. That Stein and the Greens would be kicked off the ballot in Nevada, the home turf of one of the most powerful figures in the Democratic Party and a key battleground state where polls show Hillary and Trump in a dead heat, is still another coincidence. (It’s no surprise, however, considering coincidences have haunted Hillary throughout her lengthy career.) Nonetheless, all I’ll be able to do this year is tell others about Stein, without the thrill and privilege of voting for her myself. But I’m a Cubs fan, so there’s always next time (which, in the case of the Cubbies, might be this time).

Nevada picks presidents, as the candidate who wins the Silver State has won the presidency in every election since 1900 save three. The only state with a better prediction rate during that period is Ohio. Nevada’s one of a handful of states that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Doubtless the Dems and Republicans are casting a wary eye on Nevada like a weathervane ahead of shitstorm. (Plus there’s Catherine Cortez Masto, the former two-time attorney general of Nevada who’s looking to replace the outgoing Senator Reid and become the first Latina elected to the Senate, which would also help the Democrats regain control the upper house.)

I’ll be voting, and voting early, but not at the top of the ballot. I can’t in good conscience vote for a woman who’s blocked democratic movements across the developing world and decided on courses of action which have led to the deaths of thousands of children, parents, workers, activists and members of the LGBT, indigenous, Garifuna and campesino communities in my ancestral Honduras. What would tell my great-grandfather, Isidro López Rodríguez, who was a lifelong liberal along with the rest of the clan, during the 16-year dictatorship of General Tiburcio Carías Andino? What casuistry can I employ during my next visit to Tegus, when my cousins Nahúm, Nayeli and Josué ask me who I voted for and if I still support the FNRP? Should I explain the chicanery of America’s electoral system, that Democratic machinations made it virtually impossible for a progressive to vote for anyone but Hillary, how the shepherd’s hand proved too strong to resist? Hill no! Some people may be okay with letting others decide their votes for them, but I’m not one of them. I won’t be led by the nose to vote for this Wall Street candidate in a pantsuit over the other Wall Street candidate wearing a power tie. I’ll vote for neither and let the rest of the country decide which color plutocrat they prefer, blue or red.

Only in an age of moral bankruptcy is taking action based on one’s conscience and not political gamesmanship considered protest. Really, American politics has long abandoned the realm of gamesmanship for brinkmanship, as each party threatens its base that they either vote for the candidate on offer or suffer the consequence. Vote for Hillary or else seems to be the only whyfor provided by the Democratic Party, and the vast majority of likely Hillary voters are all too happy not knowing what they’ll get under a second Clinton presidency so long as they’re told what they’ll be avoiding, namely a Trump presidency, which would apparently usher in a neo-fascist state. I might be afraid of the dark (still), but not of any boogeyman, and especially not the cucuy in the other party. Trump might be making a lot of scary noises, but, growing up in Chicago, I know the rule about barking: it’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for.

Jill Stein would be the kind of president progressives always wanted but were too afraid to have. Think of a progressive cause and she’s either for it or, more likely, has even marched and protested for it. She’s been arrested  numerous times, most recently last night outside Hofstra University where she tried to join the debate. “We can no longer going forward into the future and allow ourselves to be silenced, to be intimidated and to have our political power ripped from us,” she said as Nassau County police escorted away.

So we say it’s time to reject the lesser evil and to fight for the greater good. And we will go forward knowing that we do have the power to create an America and a world that works for all of us. And the power to create that world is not just in our hopes. It’s not just in our dreams. Right here and now, outside the barred gates of Hofstra University, that power is in our hands.

Earlier this month, arrest warrants were issued for her and Baraka in North Dakota where she spray-painted a bulldozer during protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Then there’s Hillary, who once crossed a picket line of striking workers while on a first date with future husband Bill. “The relationship between Rodham and Clinton, two instrumental figures in the decoupling of the Democratic Party from the priorities of the mainstream labor movement, thus began with the crossing of a picket line,” Zach Schwartz-Weinstein writes for In These Times.

When Rodham and Clinton picked up the garbage strewn about the art gallery courtyard (if, indeed, they ever did so), they were doing exactly what everyone from Vincent Sirabella to the Black Student Alliance at Yale had asked students not to do: they were performing—or at the very least offering to perform—the work that members of Local 35’s Grounds Maintenance division, had refused.

The choice between Dr. Stein and Hillary is clear, but Trump muddies the issue. Were Trump merely another Romney, more people would be open to voting for Stein and the Greens this election cycle. Fear clouds their judgment, just as fear has always clouded the nation’s judgment whenever some chimera appears on the horizon. And just as the invasive PATRIOT Act was passed by Congress less than two months after the attacks on September 11, just as most people backed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, most liberals are falling lockstep behind Hillary Clinton for fear of a Trump presidency. They know the system’s rigged but have decided to put off doing something about it till the next election; in the meantime, they’re just going to play it as it lies and hope they can avoid the loud, orange hazard. A younger version of me would insert the quote from Dr. Franklin concerning the tug of war between liberty and security, but I’ve summoned that line too many times over the years, mostly because I’ve had to.

“Maybe Hillary’s as bad as you say she is,” my wife says. “Maybe Jill Stein should be the next president, but she’s not going to be because the system’s rigged, just like you said. So we just have to keep Trump from winning and deal with Hillary for the next four or so years until we can get someone better in there. At least Hillary will keep the system going, whereas Trump would mess everything up. Things will at least be okay under Hillary.” But things aren’t okay now, and I don’t want someone to “keep the system going.” Most liberals agree that the system is the problem, so why are they so keen on preserving it as is and protecting it from Trump? I fear a reptilian presidency as much as the next hominoid, but the enemy of my enemy isn’t my friend, merely another enemy. And, so, in a year where the two major parties are offering two terrible options, I ask: what about Jill?



Featured image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr