After the Republicans and Democrats finished their conventions in late July, the Green Party gathered this month to nominate Dr. Jill Stein for the presidency. Stein’s campaign—with her party on ballot lines in the majority of states, and her poll numbers surging ahead of Green numbers from recent presidential elections—has the potential to be a breakthrough bid for the Greens, and for a more robust democracy.
Stein recognized the prospect in an optimistic yet urgent acceptance speech in which she spoke of “unstoppable momentum for transformational change.” The candidate who talks of ushering in a “Green New Deal” told the Green Party Convention that the party has “an historic opportunity, an historic responsibility to be the agents of that change. As Martin Luther King said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I know that arc is bending in us, and through us. And we are actors in something much bigger than us as we struggle for justice, for peace, for community, for healing.”
Stein’s appeal drew an enthusiastic response from her supporters, and she gained a good deal of media attention.
But there are no guarantees that her candidacy will succeed—along with that of Libertarian Gary Johnson—in clearing the way for the more diverse and competitive multi-party politics that is common in other countries but relatively rare in the recent history of the United States.
For that to happen, supporters of the Green nominee, as well as progressives who will be inclined to back Democrat Hillary Clinton in order to block the candidacy of Republican Donald Trump but who still want a broader debate, will have to advocate for something that is rare in presidential politics: fair play.
Stein is not just up against the Democratic and Republican nominees. She is up against a rigid two-party system that erects high barriers to those who seek to open up the process.
It is uncommon for independent and third-party candidates to get over and around those barriers.
But this is an uncommon year in American politics. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is already getting close to the political high ground where a third-party candidate is treated as seriously as the nominee of one of the two major parties. And Stein is climbing as well, having just appeared on CNN for a prime-time special highlighting her candidacy. Stein’s progress is significant because, in order to have a real debate in American politics, it is vital to include voices from across the political spectrum.
A debate featuring Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and Johnson would represent an improvement on what we have seen in recent presidential races.
A debate between Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein would represent an even greater improvement.