Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for President, is polling in the very low single digits, and every now and then her poll standing has been so low as to be merely a fraction of one percent — a series of numbers to the right of a decimal point.
You could not tell that was the case by the turnout Stein, a Massachusetts physician turned politician, generated Monday during a visit to Memphis at the Amurica building at Crosstown. The building’s largish space was filled fairly completely, and there was a buzz to the crowd, which was overwhelmingly young and — as the party’s name would imply — loaded with environmentally conscious Memphians.
After being introduced by local Green Party representatives, Stein, currently making her second run for the Presidency, declared, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” and gave props to the various activist groups on hand, specifically including people who, as she put it, had been “part of the Bernie movement."
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the self-avowed “democratic socialist” who gave Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a tough primary race, was the only other presidential candidate of 2016 for whom Stein had kind words. In her remarks to the crowd, as well as in the course of a brief press conference with local media at the end of her appearance, Stein found fault a-plenty with Clinton, Republican nominee Donald Trump, and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson.
All three are, as she put it, supported by “the same predatory banks, the fossil fuel giants, the war profiteers, the insurance companies, the private prison industry.” The race between Clinton and Trump is one between “the most disliked candidates in history,” she said. Unimpressed by Clinton’s lead over Trump in the polls, she said, “Right now, ham sandwich could be leading Trump by double digits."
Stein described herself as “the only candidate in the race not funded by corporations, by lobbyists…and Super PACs.” There is, she said, “no question that Americans are looking for something else,” and, as a potential “organizer in chief” in the Presidency, she laid claim to being that something, spending the better part of an hour spelling out her positions on a myriad of issues.
Among other things, she would “turn the White House into a Green House,” launching an emergency jobs program to deal with climate problems, so as to deal with “two emergencies at once.” She would begin a turnaway from both fossil fuels and nuclear energy, advocating wind and solar approaches instead, suggesting that such an approach also "makes the friggin’ wars for oil obsolete."
As did Sanders, she called for a program of free college education and asserted that the number of people “held by student debt are enough to win the election.” Also on the education front, she proposed “an end to school closings, to privatizations, and charterizations,” and an end as well to “high stakes testing.”
There was a good deal more in her agenda, including a suggested “peace initiative in the Middle East” and a calling to accounts, in the process, such relatively free-wheeling allies as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Like Trump in the current race, Stein had, in her presidential race in 2012, chosen not to reveal her tax returns and had withheld doing so this year until August, when the first two pages of her 2015 tax return were put on her website.
Asked on Monday about her reluctance to release the returns in 2012, Stein said, “The issue then was, my husband was in a job situation where it was problematic for him to be releasing his salary, so he was kind of dragging his feet on that. But no longer. He’s not in that job situation now. It was an issue at work about salaries among staff.”
In any case, Stein was indisputably well received on Monday, and the sizeable crowd she drew at Amurica may indeed, polling figures notwithstanding, have attested to a yearning out there in the electorate for an outlier alternative in this year’s election.