WASHINGTON — She almost certainly will lose the election. But Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein says there are other ways to measure victory than winning the White House.
“We are looking to change how Washington works so it is driven by everyday people,” Stein said in an interview. “Our intention is to drive key issues into the dialogue, and make it impossible for them to be avoided, and to put on the table things the American people are really clamoring for.”
Stein, a 62-year-old self-described “mother, housewife and physician,” is no stranger to the uphill fight. She ran against Mitt Romney in 2002 for governor of her home state of Massachusetts and finished a distant third, with less than 4 percent of the vote. Now she again faces overwhelming odds running against Romney, the Republican candidate, and President Barack Obama, the Democrat.
What she hopes to do is get her message to take root in the body politic. Her platform, called the “Green New Deal” after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, aims to create jobs while promoting environmental sustainability.
“There’s a wonderful win-win here,” she said. “We can put people back to work in the same way we did with the Great Depression by creating community-based living-wage jobs.”
While Obama and Romney rail at each other, to an outsider’s eye each is nearly indistinguishable from the other, Stein said.
“We need an independent political party to help articulate the vision and the demands (of the people) and drive them into the political agenda,” Stein said. “Without our voices, it’s just a battle of public relations campaigns funded by Wall Street.”
Breaking up big banks and creating local banks, she said, would provide the money for the social and green programs on her agenda. She also wants to limit the role of corporations and Wall Street in politics. “We need to take the money out of politics,” she said.
Third-party candidates haven’t been entirely irrelevant. In 1992, H. Ross Perot helped put the federal budget deficit on the national agenda.
So far, Stein will be on the ballot in 23 states and the District of Columbia – enough to win 344 electoral votes and the presidency if she won every one. She’s qualified for taxpayer-financed campaign funds in 22 states.
She’s still fighting to get on other state ballots. “This is how ruling parties silence the political opposition,” she said. “They make it almost impossible to be a factor, to be on the ballot.”
She doesn’t qualify for the presidential debates because she doesn’t have broad popular support in any poll.
“Right now the rules of debate are set to keep the American public uninformed,” she said. “It’s outrageous that such high thresholds are set in order to prevent the American public from knowing who their choices are.”
Stein does have support.
“I haven’t heard anything coming from the two major-party candidates that I think addresses my concerns,” said Jared Solomon, 35, an unemployed doctor from Lincoln, Neb., who’s voted for the Green Party three times. “It’s a protest vote, but with enough protest votes out there . . . we’ve already started a groundswell of something that has actually had an effect.”
Jonathan Stein, a lawyer from Elk Grove, Calif., who isn’t related to the candidate, has never voted for the Green Party. He will in this election, he said, because Stein stands for issues that he thinks are important. “I’d rather vote for a candidate who is willing to discuss the issues and talk about the important things . . . instead of these personal attacks back and forth,” he said.
Stein’s strong anti-war stance also attracts some support in the military.
“There’s a difference between supporting the military and supporting an over-bloated military,” said Army Spc. Mason Bliss, 21, of Ocean City, N.J., who’s served in Afghanistan. “The war against global terrorism can be done in an entirely different manner that doesn’t require trillions of dollars . . . dumped into wasteful programs.
Bliss said he was disappointed with Obama after the first two years of his presidency.
“I realized the whole two-party system wasn’t working,” Bliss said. “Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, I wanted to not participate in that. I wanted to vote for a third party. I understand it’s almost impossible odds for her to win the election, but I’m not going to participate in something that’s dragging the country down.”
Some Democrats worry that the Green Party has the potential to take away marginal but crucial votes from their party, possibly swinging the election in Romney’s favor.
“If 2012 turns into a squeaker in some key states, it is always possible that the Electoral College results will come down to a handful of votes, as in 2000,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist from the University of Virginia who directs the university’s Center for Politics. “Should Obama lose by a Gore-like margin, maybe Democrats will point to the Green Party. But the odds are heavily against it.”
Stein “is almost unknown, much like most third-party nominees,” he added. “She’ll likely get a small fraction of 1 percent.”