By Josh Marks
Calling for an end to corporate capitalism and the two-party political system, Dr. Jill Stein kicked off her campaign for president on the Green Party ticket with a speech June 23 at the National Press Club in downtown Washington.
“I’m running because this nation is in crisis. Only we the people have the power to fix it,” Stein said. “The American people have the power to create a new way forward, and the solutions we need are in our hands.”
But many of the solutions being proposed by Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist candidate running for president as a Democrat, are similar to those that Stein and the Green Party are advocating: a“Green New Deal” jobs program to solve the climate crisis that would transition America to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, guaranteeing every American the right to a living-wage job with union protections; creating a “Medicare for All” single payer health care system, making college free and abolishing student debt and cutting military funding by 50 percent.
Stein conceded that Sanders’ platform is similar to hers but said the difference is that if Sanders doesn’t secure the Democratic nomination, he will stand next to the podium and endorse Hillary Clinton or whoever the Democratic presidential candidate will be, as “the party continues to march to the right.”
Like Sanders, Stein is Jewish. The Chicago native was raised in Highland Park, Illinois and her family attended North Shore Congregation Israel, a Reform synagogue in Glencoe.
However, unlike Sanders who last summer at a heated town hall meeting condemned Hamas for firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, building terror tunnels and refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, Stein has taken a less sympathetic stance on Israel that could turn off liberal American Jews who might agree with her on domestic policy issues but are also supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.
Stein formally announced her candidacy in an interview with Democracy Now! where she was asked by host Amy Goodman what separates her from Sanders and Democratic front-runner Clinton.
“My campaign is perhaps more critical — I would say definitely more critical — of funding for regimes like that of the Netanyahu government, which are clearly war criminals. You know, so we would not be funding the weapons used in the massacre on Gaza,” Stein told Goodman.
At the press news conference, Stein also had harsh words for President Obama, saying that he has gone further than George W. Bush the past six years on issues such as bailing out the banks and expanding wars.
Some politicos believe that in 2000 Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader played the role of spoiler, costing Al Gore the election. However, Nader and others have disputed this idea. Nader received 97,488 votes in Florida. Gore lost the state and thus the presidency to Bush by 537 votes.
When asked about playing spoiler at the news conference, Stein was defiant and said she would not accept “lesser evilism.”
Said Stein: “This is the time if there ever was a time for us to stand up. To not be cowed by this mythology of lesser evilism. … Let’s get organized, and let’s fight like our lives depend on it because they do and we can win this battle.”
Josh Marks writes for Washington Jewish Week. He can be reached at email@example.com.