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Story highlights

The largest progressive third party addressed voters on CNN

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka are relatively unknown

CNN —  

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein said Wednesday she doesn’t believe either mainstream candidate is fit for the White House, brushing aside criticism that her bid could help elect Donald Trump.

“I will have trouble sleeping at night if Donald Trump is elected. I will also have trouble sleeping at night if Hillary Clinton is elected. And as despicable as Donald Trump’s words are, I find Hillary Clinton’s actions and track record is very troubling,” said Stein, sitting alongside her running mate Ajamu Baraka at CNN’s Green Party town hall event.

The third-party candidate blasted the logic that voters should discount her candidacy, and citing her opposition to money in politics, Stein said that her party stood alone on the national scene totally independent of corporate influence.

Anti-science claims dog Green Party’s Jill Stein

“We have the unique ability to actually stand up for what it is that the American people want, what everyday people want,” Stein said.

Stein, a retired medical doctor, environmental activist and musician, made a failed bid for the presidency in 2012, but this time around, she has said things are different.

In this election cycle, the mainstream nominees have achieved historically poor favorability ratings from voters nationwide. Stein has seized on this point and focused her message on disaffected progressive voters in particular, reserving her sharpest critiques for Clinton.

The Green Party nominee has said she hopes to reignite and build upon the “political revolution” of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In the latest CNN Poll of Polls, Stein was at 5% support nationwide, showing she has yet to break out. Part of this may owe to the lack of establishment support and little in the way of mainstream attention she has achieved. Despite her outreach to Sanders’ supporters, Stein has been largely ignored – even after years’ worth of effort – by Sanders himself.

Who are the Green Party candidates?

With that in mind, Stein and Barka spent Wednesday evening hoping to win over a national audience.

Hillary Clinton

Stein made clear, as she has her entire campaign, that she believes Clinton is not an acceptable choice for president.

Stein hit her from the left, but she also made the case against Clinton on matters of trust.

She implied Clinton was so well-connected as to be above the law. With regard to the former secretary of state’s email controversy, Stein called Clinton “too big to jail.”

Compounding her concerns with Clinton’s character and alleged impropriety, Stein hit Clinton’s record on foreign policy.

“I do have serious questions about Hillary’s judgment, her safeguarding of national security information and above all, her trustworthiness in the job where she will have her finger on the button,” Stein said.

Ending the critique with an appeal to voters, Stein summarized: “I have serious concerns about Hillary. That’s why I’m in this race – to provide an alternative.”

Stein also criticized Clinton’s brand of feminism, by casting the Democrat as pro-war, and therefore anti-woman.

“The war effort that Hillary has especially been the engine behind … To my mind, that’s just not compatible with what my view of feminism is, that has a responsibility, not just to your own family, but to all families and to the human family,” she said.

Obama as an ‘Uncle Tom’

Stein’s running mate has criticized President Barack Obama extensively, and he outlined his disappointment with the president early on.

“You have to basically call it as you see it and be prepared to speak truth to power,” Baraka said. “Obama had an historic opportunity to transform this country.”

Baraka said the nation’s first black president did not live up to his historic opportunity.

“He allowed his commitment to neoliberal policies and a neoliberal worldview to undermine the possibility of greatness,” Baraka said.

Baraka did not demure when confronted with his more strident comments about Obama, like calling him an “Uncle Tom.”

“If we were concerned and serious about how we could displace white power, we had to demystify the policies and the positions of this individual,” Baraka said, referring to his attempt to “shock” people out of faith in Obama’s transformative potential.

He conceded that his language sounded “inflammatory” to some, but said, “I stand by that.”

Foreign Policy

Almost 15 years after September 11, Stein’s recounting of the US’ “War on Terror” was one of a protracted and brutal failure.

“We have a track record now of fighting terrorism … This track record is not looking so good,” Stein said. “We have killed a million people in Iraq alone.”

After recounting the toll in money and human life the US’ counterterror efforts, Stein said: “What do we have to show for this? Failed states, mass refugee migrations and repeated terrorist threats.”

Certainly the most vocally anti-war candidates of the four top tickets, Stein called for a full rethinking of the United States’ “War on Terror.”

“We are calling for a new kind of offensive, a peace offensive in the Middle East,” Stein said.

The “peace offensive” would include an embargo on weapons sales and a freeze on funding to states that support “jihadi terrorist enterprises,” she said, pointing to Saudi Arabia in particular.

She called for a massive cut in military spending, including the closure of many bases, a shutdown of the F-35 program and not moving forward with the modernization of the US nuclear weapons program.

A ‘science geek’

Stein is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a retired medical doctor. But her outspokenness on medical issues and her unconventional statements on wireless internet and GMOs has led to criticism that she is at odds with science.

Asked if she was anti-vaccine, Stein said she had been “taken out of context” on the issue.

“I think there’s kind of an effort to divert the conversation from our actual agenda,” Stein said. “The idea that I oppose vaccines is completely ridiculous.”

In an attempt to brandish her scientific credentials, Stein talked about her medical and research experience.

“For science geeks, you can show yourself if you have any doubt that I too am a science geek,” Stein said.

’System of oppression’

Near the event’s close, the left-leaning ticket addressed pervasive racism in the United States.

Stein cast the Black Lives Matter movement as a vital and logical response to the repeated deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police and violence disproportionately claiming the lives of people of color.

“We’re seeing a new tragedy unfold almost on a daily basis, so this is a crisis,” Stein said, clarifying the crisis is the broader continuation of “racial injustice” in society.

She called for a raft of measures to combat police violence, including civilian review boards and independent investigators. She also called for a “truth and reconciliation commission” of the kind created in post-Apartheid South Africa, where the country attempted to grapple with its racist history. She said she wanted the US to reckon with its historic and systemic racism with the goal of eliminating disparities in income and health by race.

Baraka, her running mate, said police violence was only one of symptom of the broader “system of oppression.”

“A war is being waged against black people,” Baraka said, calling the police the “front line” of the country’s oppressive system.

He said the criminalization and violence black people had seen iss the result of an economic system that had marginalized them.

“In the larger economy, we have become the problem people that (W.E.B.) du Bois talked about,” Baraka said. “The way you deal with a problem people now, you police them, you incarcerate them, you kill them.”