CNN is hosting Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka
They are making a challenge to the left of Hillary Clinton
The Green Party is about to have a chance to show voters it is worth casting a ballot for.
CNN on Wednesday evening is set to hold another of its live town hall events, this time with Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka.
The prime-time event moderated the CNN’s Chris Cuomo is set to be Stein’s most high-profile moment in her bid to upset the 2016 election, four years after she first ran and failed to gain enough traction to make it into the general election debates.
On that last attempt, Stein netted .36% of the vote. The most recent CNN Poll of Polls had her at 5% nationwide, 4% behind Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. To qualify for the national debates alongside Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, the third party candidates each need to earn an average of 15% support in the five national polls selected by the National Commission on Debates. A judge recently dismissed a lawsuit from the two third party candidates, Stein and Johnson, who accused the commission of colluding with the major parties to block them from the debates.
Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld have been featured in two CNN town hall events. Now it’s the Green Party’s turn to let voters know they have another option besides Clinton and Trump.
Here’s what to watch:
Attacks on Clinton
Polls have consistently shown majorities of voters have unfavorable views of Clinton and many have said she is dishonest. In an interview on CNN this Monday, Stein appealed to these sentiments, slamming Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state and saying the issue raised “real questions about her competency.”
She has hit Clinton as dishonest and dangerous. She has laughed at the notion the former secretary of state is a true progressive. She even went to the Democratic National Convention to protest Clinton’s nomination.
And although Stein has denounced Trump, she said Clinton’s record was even worse.
One can expect to see Stein bring that same approach to the town hall.
The biggest problem Stein faces is the same one shared by all third party candidates: the spoiler effect.
Many Democrats blamed Green Party 2000 presidential nominee Ralph Nader for the election of President George W. Bush. The argument goes that people who backed Nader would have voted for Al Gore in Nader’s absence, therefore spoiling the narrow race for the Democratic Party.
Nader has denied the charges, as has Stein. Still, the Green Party platform calls for electoral reform to replace the current system with instant runoff voting, which would allow voters to rank their preferences and mitigate concerns about a spoiler effect.
Stein’s preferred voting method has only been adopted in a few US cities, so she needs to make the case that a vote for her is not a vote for Trump.
Trump himself bragged about the potential benefit Stein could bring him, telling a crowd in July: “I figure anyone voting for Stein is going to be for Hillary, so I think a vote for Stein is fine.”
The Green Party nominee needs to make people feel her candidacy is a credible bid for the presidency.
Based on polling, Stein has yet to command the kind of support that could translate to a single vote in the Electoral College.
Feel the Bern
The Green Party has made clear its high hopes this year are predicated on the political movement built by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
When Stein addressed the Green Party Convention in early August, she said: “I want to recognize the people coming out of the Bernie Sanders campaign who helped launch a revolutionary political movement and refused to let that movement die in the Democratic Party.”
She told the Sanders supporters they had “completely changed the political dynamics” of the race.
While Sanders has endorsed Clinton, and most of his supporters have said they will back the Democratic nominee, Stein has sought to capture the die-hard Sanders supporters cool on the prospect of a Clinton presidency.
Sanders was able to make his progressive policies palatable for a national audience and particularly for young people. He brought some left-leaning ideas to the mainstream. Can she?
After the spoiler effect question, Stein’s second-biggest issue has been the claims she is anti-science.
She gave an interview to The Washington Post where she said people had “real questions” about vaccines and an answer in an “ask me anything” post on reddit where she accused the regulatory system in the US of corruption.
Stein – a retired medical doctor – has pushed back forcefully on these claims, saying she is personally in support of vaccines and issued a statement condemning those who call her anti-science.
She has also expressed controversial concerns about wireless internet and called for a moratorium on GMOs.
New to this
What is it they say about first impressions?
As obscure as Stein may be, her running mate is unknown on the national stage. This town hall will be the first time many will see him, and the first time they have heard him make the argument for his vice presidential candidacy.
Like Stein, Baraka espouses views rarely heard in the political conversation.
Case in point: Baraka wrote a piece for Counterpunch last year where he called the US a “corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity.”
Just before he formally accepted his party’s nomination on a Saturday in early August, Baraka told CNN he stood by that characterization.
“To some it may sound very harsh,” Baraka said. Then using President Ronald Reagan signature biblical reference about the US, Baraka added: “For some of us, it’s not a shining city on the hill.”
A longtime human rights activist with little direct political experience and a lot of controversial beliefs, Baraka is the clear x-factor of the town hall.