Green Party standard-bearer Jill Stein will not be taken lightly, and we can all be thankful for that. Sure, her chance of victory is beyond remote, but she’s adding a potent, fiery voice to something this small-minded presidential campaign has sorely lacked—a discussion about big things. You know, things like poverty, decaying inner cities, climate change, civil liberties falling by the wayside, soldiers dying in an endless, pitiful war in a country whose leader can’t stand the sight of us.
Simply put, Jill Stein is mad as hell.
She’s 62, the mother of grown children, and a candidate for president of the United States. A Harvard-trained doctor, Stein’s first campaign was for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. And yes, she lost to Mitt Romney, whom she dearly would have loved to have debated last week—and President Obama, too, for that matter—but instead she found herself in handcuffs after she tried to enter the Hofstra University debate hall and then waged an ill-fated sit-in protest on the street.
“We’re on 85 percent of the ballots, and we were there to say millions of American voters deserve a choice,” Stein told The Daily Weekly by cell phone last Friday afternoon, en route to Bellingham, where she planned to speak at Western Washington University. “They [Obama and Romney] agreed not to talk about the real issues, like poverty and crime and climate change, and students going broke, and the skyrocketing costs of health care. We are at the breaking point in this country, and we [she and her running mate, anti-poverty advocate Cheri Honkala] are trying to turn that into a tipping point.”
Acknowledging concerns that her candidacy could play the role of spoiler if she siphons votes from Obama in battleground states (think 2000, when Ralph Nader collected 97,488 votes in Florida, which George Bush won by a maddening 537 votes over Al Gore), Stein said that’s too damn bad—and tough luck, fellas. “Listen, we keep hearing about how wonderful the Democrats have been. Well, they have a track record these past four years. They had two years of complete and Democratic control, and what did they do? . . . Obama embraced Wall Street, and he’s still at the service of Wall Street. He’d didn’t break up the banks, which is what we’ll do. We’ll break up the banks and bail out students.”
Stein said it was her career as a doctor that paved the route for her entry into politics, by demonstrating how social and ecological issues can affect human health. In an interview with Mother Nature Network, Stein said, “As a doctor and as a mother, I found myself really troubled by these epidemics of disease descending on young people—cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, diabetes, you name it . . . I felt like it wasn’t enough to hand out pills and send people back to the things that were making them sick. These rising rates of disease were new, and our genes didn’t change overnight.”
On Friday, Stein said she’s still practicing medicine. “But it’s political medicine now, because politics is the mother of all illnesses, and that if we want to fix what ails us, we need to fix the political system.”