Jill Stein Wins Green Party Nomination, Courting Disaffected Sanders Supporters
The Green Party officially nominated Jill Stein for president and human rights activist Ajamu Baraka as her running mate on Saturday, at a convention in Houston that attracted many disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters.
Much of the three-day gathering was an explicit appeal to former backers of the Vermont senator to join their fold, and several speakers argued that Sanders had been treated unfairly by the Democratic Party.
"I want to thank Bernie Sanders supporters who refused to let the political revolution die," Stein said in her acceptance speech. "We have a tremendous opportunity before us. The American people are longing for a change. They are ready to do something different, and we have to be the vehicle for that difference."
She cast herself and the Green Party as the precursor to the Sanders movement, arguing they had first championed many of the same ideas that fueled his unlikely rise.
"We have been ahead of the curve in so many ways — on climate change, on green energy on demilitarization, on marriage equality, on free public higher education and canceling student debt, on stopping the [Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal]. On ending the war on drugs and the incarceration state, on providing reparations for slavery and to the indigenous people. On opposing war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and war crimes and occupation committed by the Israeli government in Palestine," Stein ticked off.
"And on so much more we have been ahead of the curve for decades, and all of a sudden that curve is catching up to us."
Stein took aim equally at both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump. She told NPR in a brief interview after her nomination that she wasn't trying to be a spoiler candidate and backing her wasn't a wasted vote.
"If our voting system has no room for our values or for our moral compass, then we just keep getting more of this screwing that we've been getting by the two corporate political parties," Stein said in stark terms.
Throughout the day, chants of "Jill Not Hill" and "No More War" broke out. Many attendees also held up their own "No TPP" signs similar to ones that Sanders supporters waved as they disrupted the Democratic National Convention last month in Philadelphia.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke to the group via satellite from the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he's been living for the past four years as he faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. His group was responsible for posting more than 20,000 emails from the DNC showing they were trying to undermine Sanders.
The controversial figure was introduced as a "hero," and after some technical problems getting the sound to work, he got some of the most rousing applause of the day as he condemned the major party's candidates in very graphic language.
You're asking me if I prefer cholera or gonorrhea.
"You're asking me if I prefer cholera or gonorrhea," he said when asked to choose between Clinton or Trump.
Dr. Cornel West, a social justice advocate and academic who was one of Sanders' most fervent surrogates, also cast the choice of either major party candidate as a horrific one.
"We understand the difference between a neo-fascist catastrophe and a neo-liberal disaster," West said in endorsing Stein.
There are some big hurdles for Stein before she can be a real factor on the ballot this fall. She needs to get to 15 percent to just make the debate stage, and right now she's polling at about 5 percent. But she points out that's much better than she was ever expected to do (four years ago she got just 0.36 percent of the vote), and with many former Sanders voters coming to her camp, she can only go up.
But while there was a vocal contingent of onetime Sanders lovers in Houston this weekend, it's not the mass exodus that Stein needs. An NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll this week shows Clinton has shored up support from 86 percent of former Sanders supporters.
Stein will have to tamp down some of her own controversies, too. She's a medical doctor, and in a Reddit AMA earlier this year, she seemed to raise questions about whether vaccines can cause autism — a link that has been disproved. She's walked that back somewhat, saying she's simply skeptical of the FDA approval process, but she seems to have been trying to woo some anti-vaccinators to her side as well.
She's also pointed to some studies that raised questions about the effects of Wi-Fi on children's brains, saying that a regulatory agency should look at the issue.
The three-day convention wasn't without its flashpoints either. As the roll call vote began, candidate Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry rose to complain that she was being discriminated against during the process as a black Muslim woman, and had been left off the voting slate. She said the party needed a more diverse nominee than the 66-year-old Stein, whom she had called a "privileged older woman" in a press conference earlier Saturday.
As she walked away from the roll call vote after speaking, she literally dropped the mic with a thud that reverberated throughout the auditorium.
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