Sally Kohn: Jill Stein likely woke up feeling guilty on November 9
Stein's push for a vote recount has given Democrats a glimmer of hope, Kohn says
Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
I first want to take back every nasty thing I’ve ever said – or mostly, just privately thought – about Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President. I still think she is a blasphemous powder keg of progressive self-immolation. But at this exact moment I love her so much I could marry her (if President Donald Trump still allows that in two months).
It’s not because I think her push for a recount in three of the closest states will see the results there overturned. It’s unclear whether the recount will reveal any legitimate evidence of hacking or widespread vote manipulation. It’s also unclear whether the recount, combined with Trump’s continued baseless whimpering about voter fraud, will lead to any long-term diminution of public faith in our political process.
But what Stein has done is not only attempt to rehabilitate her image, but rehabilitate a sense of hope at a particularly desperate and dark moment for more than half the country.
According to the popular vote tally, which shows that more than half of the country voted for Hillary Clinton and against hate mongering, misogyny and xenophobia, most of the nation has been in a state of depressive shock. Even for those of us who are all too aware that racism isn’t dead, that sexism is still a thing and that in our culture, celebrity beats substance and anger beats hope, the election result was still a stunning blow.
If half of American voters are anything like me, then they have been feeling hopeless and bereft ever since Clinton conceded. And if they are anything like me, they were really friggin’ furious at Stein on November 9. After all, it’s one thing to run an insurgent third-party candidacy that has no chance of winning but still serves to highlight the deep flaws within the major parties and our political system in general. But it’s entirely something else to continue such a campaign in a clearly close election in which one candidate’s awfulness is unprecedented.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how the election would have turned out had Stein and other third-party candidates not been in the race. Perhaps some of their voters would have just stayed home. But according to a CNN analysis, votes cast for third-party candidates in several of the closer states – such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida – may have been enough to influence the outcome of the election. Certainly, it seems safe to assume that many if not most of Stein’s supporters were progressives who saw themselves as falling to the left of Clinton, but might have been persuaded to vote for Clinton to stop Trump – had Stein encouraged them to do so.
Speculation aside, it’s pretty safe to say that while a lot of us woke up feeling deeply sad on November 9, Stein probably woke up feeling guilty. So while I’m not in Stein’s head – or else, obviously, I would have told her to drop out of the election in the swing states – I have to imagine that at least part of the reason for her push for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is atonement. It’s a bit late, but it’s something.
At the least, Stein can push for an accountable recount while raising the issue of whether our electronic voting systems are vulnerable to hacking. Meanwhile, Clinton may benefit without having to risk looking hypocritical, although chastising Trump for lying about the extent of nonexistent voter fraud is quite different from pursuing honest inquiries into untested and potentially vulnerable electronic systems.
Plus, paradoxically, Stein could argue her sustained candidacy is actually a good thing, as staying in the race meant she was in a stronger position to ensure that the counts were conducted in a fair way. That’s not exactly enough to rewrite the unfortunate history of Stein’s deleterious influence in this election, but it’s one heck of an olive branch to the very depressed and hopeless progressive side of the political ledger.
Ultimately, in the coming weeks and months, brightness will gradually find its way in for progressives as the American public finds ways to mobilize in response to the looming travesty of a Trump administration. That response will help shed light on Trump’s dark agenda. But in the meantime, as Democrats try to rally from the shock of the election, Stein has given us a glimmer of hope – and that’s something for which I am incredibly grateful.