Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Meet Jill Stein, the Green Party Candidate for President
by Corky Siemaszko
Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, has proposed a "Green New Deal" that would create 20 million living wage jobs, wants to drive big money out of politics, and wants the U.S. to immediately stop sending weapons to the Middle East.
She's also feeling the Bern — so much so that Stein has offered "to establish a collaboration" with Bernie Sanders as he fights Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination.
"Many of my supporters are also his supporters," Stein told NBC News. "I'm asked all the time if there could be a Bernie Sanders collaboration and my answer to that has always been yes. The Green Party has long sought to establish a collaboration with Bernie Sanders."
But, Stein said, "that phone call has not been returned and I don't expect that this will happen."
"We're different," she added. "He is working inside the Democratic Party. I threw in the towel a long time ago."
While they share common goals — like combating income inequality and putting people ahead of polluters — Stein said they are to the left of Sanders on foreign policy and on domestic issues like student loan debt, which she wants to cancel immediately.
There was no immediate response from the Sanders campaign about Stein's overture.
Stein, a 65-year-old physician and married mother of two grown sons, insists what she is proposing "is not pie in the sky."
"What we are calling for is an emergency transition to green energy, food and transportation, a wartime-level mobilization that will turn the tide of climate change and make the wars for oil obsolete," she said.
Asked if, like Sanders, she identifies as a democratic socialist, Stein said she generally avoids "isms."
"I am someone who supports things that work rather than ideology," she said. "That said, if the question is do I support people over profits, then my answer is yes. If the question is do I support economic democracy, the answer is of course."
This is not Stein's first run for the White House. She got 469,015 votes in the 2012 general election when she ran the first time against President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And she is "not holding my breath" that she will beat whoever the Democrats and Republicans wind up nominating this year.
DC: Green Party Presidential Nominee Jill Stein Makes Announcement On 2016 Race
"But I am not ruling it out," she added. "We have far more recognition than we did four years ago. And we are in the age of unpredictable events, this presidential election being one of them."
The rise of Donald Trump, she said, is proof that anything can happen this year. He has harnessed the anger of the "people who have been thrown under the bus," she said.
"It's not a mystery what is going on here," she said. "People have been savaged by a predatory economic and political system, and some are turning to Trump. Unfortunately, Trump is just more of the same."
Stein's worldview may be similar to Sanders', but the first part of her life story mirrors Clinton's in many ways.
Like Clinton, Stein is a Chicago-born child of the 60s with an Ivy League education. But Stein, who is 65, said that is where the similarities end.
"I think we're polar opposites," Stein said. "Hillary talks the talk, but in my view she is as big a corporatist, as big a war monger, as big an imperialist as any of the Republican presidential candidates. Her rhetoric is less offensive."
Stein grew up in Highland Park, a well-off and largely Jewish Chicago suburb that director John Hughes featured in movies like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Home Alone."
"It was a lily-white place," Stein said. "But no one at that time was oblivious to the (Vietnam) war and the civil rights and women's movements. I was part of a small group at my high school that held weekly vigils against the war outside the local library."
Like Clinton, Stein was an excellent student. And while Clinton went to Yale after graduating from high school in nearby Park Ridge, Illinois, Stein headed to Harvard, where she graduated from medical school in 1979.
Stein then decamped for leafy Lexington, Massachusetts, where she went into private practice. She married a fellow physician named Richard Rohrer and they raised two sons named Ben and Noah.
Dr Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, is photographed in Oxford, England, Feb. 24, 2016. Roger Askew / Rex Features/Shutterstock via AP
In 1998, Stein went from small-town doctor to environmental activist when she joined the fight to shut down the so-called "Filthy Five" coal plants in Massachusetts. She also tried to clean-up politics in the Bay State by pushing for campaign finance reform.
"What drove me into politics was when the Democratic Party killed campaign finance reform in my state," she said. "The Green Party approached me to run for governor in 2002 and foolishly I accepted."
Stein lost. "But what we realized is that people were hungry for discussion," she said.
In 2005, Stein was elected to the Lexington town board and reelected in 2008. But when she ran for Massachusetts state Representative in 2004, she got trounced. The same thing happened again in 2006 when she ran for Secretary of the Commonwealth, and again in 2010 when she ran for governor for a second time in 2010.
Stein was not deterred.
"The mythology is that political change happens only in election years," she said. "The truth is you build from election to election."
In 2012, Stein made her first run for the White House, blasting both Obama and Romney as Wall Street stooges. She was endorsed by, among others, famed left wing political activist Noam Chomsky.
This year, Stein said she is hoping to build an even bigger coalition of Americans who fear for the country's future.
"The biggest waste of your vote is to vote for either of the corporate political parties," she said.