I share many of Green Party Presidential Nominee Jill Stein’s values. On climate and energy, I absolutely agree that our world is in crisis and that we need some form of a “Green New Deal,” though whether that would be her plan, or some other approach, is, for me, still a point of debate.
On her view that an energy transition would have multiple cost-saving and health benefits that aren’t immediately apparent simply by solarizing every roof in America or shifting to smarter development, putting in a 21st century train infrastructure, and other retrofits to re-imagine our society and culture, I also agree.
But I probably share those values with a great many Transition Voice readers, plenty of Bernieites, Bernie himself, and folks like Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and even famous enviro-activists like Ted Danson and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
But that doesn’t mean I think any of them should be president.
Lots of us share good ideas for a better world. The best of us take that and work where and how we can based on things like our experience, influence, affluence or lack of it, special concerns such as for social justice and the environment, or whatever.
However, it’s another thing entirely to translate that to a campaign that makes a compelling case for why you have the skills to pay the bills in elected office…at any level! By the way, what Stein’s running for is executive office. Administration. Of the entire federal government. So it’s a second thing, once elected, to execute your plans successfully.
And on none of this can Stein make any special claim.
From a purely practical point of view, Stein has held a total of one elected office, that of Town Meeting Representative in Lexington, Massachusetts. And I hate to put it this way, but it’s not a very impressive position at all. It’s one of 21 elected people in a body that can have as many as 203 total participants.
And what do they do? According to the Town of Lexington website they meet a few times each spring to:
- Appropriate funds for operating and capital budgets for the upcoming fiscal year (July 1 to June 30);
- Approve all General and Zoning By-Laws (contained in the Code of Lexington); and
- Accept certain “local option” statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Town Meeting isn’t even the prevailing elected board in Lexington. Far more important for the day-to-day is the Lexington Board of Selectmen which are elected and paid positions with regular office hours, and weekly meetings year round.
By this count, my hubby Erik, who’s a twice-elected City Council Member in our small Virginia city of Staunton is more qualified to be the Green Party candidate.
Erik’s influence is larger as one of only a seven-member body. His is also a modestly paid position, elected for four-year terms, that meets year-round, voting on similar things to Lexington’s Town Meeting — and yet much more ongoing city business. Staunton City Council members gain additional and wider political experience by serving on state-wide boards connected to the Virginia Municipal League in its larger organized lobbying business with the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Not that I’m making a case for his candidacy; it’s just he shares many (though not all) of her values, beliefs, and aims, and yet has far more political experience. There are others out there with even more of these traits.
We Don’t Love You
Worse than her lack of experience may be Stein’s multiple rejections by the state of Massachusetts in her several runs for state-wide office. She was rejected in her two gubernatorial runs in 2002 and 2010. She was rejected in her own district in a bid for the Massachusetts House in 2004. She was rejected in 2006 to be the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth.
This ain’t Alabama, folks! These multiple rejections were in what’s just about the second most liberal state in the whole country! It’s just teeming with liberals and lefties and even they wouldn’t vote her in. What’s up with that?
It’s pretty lame for the Green Party to put up this serially-failed candidate, who, incidentally represented them for the presidency in 2012 and as you know, lost.
Equally ineffective of them, though, is that they’re not recruiting candidates with a more resounding record of political success. And that they’re just not doing a good enough job of building their party in general.
In the end, the work on the ground to build a political party, gain adherents and supporters, work for measures in all 50 states, and change the face of a nation doesn’t happen on good ideas alone. In fact, as I wrote a few weeks ago, most of it is thankless elbow grease in the hidden trenches of the world at a pace that takes endless years and only succeeds against tremendous odds if at all.
The Unfinished Job
One one score Stein’s presence in the political sphere appears both laudable and partially effective. She helped lead a ballot initiative in Massachusetts called “Secure Green Future” which was intended to pull subsidies from fossil fuels and redirect them to clean energy and green jobs. It passed overwhelmingly in the 11 districts where it appeared on the state ballot in 2008.
Less clear is what became of it.
A website called SecureGreenFuture.org, ostensibly about the measure, boasts of its electoral success but then has relatively little if any other content, marking a stunning failure to communicate what else either should happen in Massachusetts or did happen there because of this well-supported ballot initiative.
One wouldn’t be faulted for imagining that if this is such a feather in Stein’s political cap as she makes a bid for prez that this website would be chock full of the accomplishments of this key piece of green electoral matter. Even on Stein’s official website it’s only mentioned as a voting win, but not as a policy with details and the story of its successful implementation.
Stein has been faulted for talking a good game but them coming up short on details so it’s just as easy to believe that nothing came of the Secure Green Future initiative, and that it’s more fluff from Stein and the Greenies, who have the moral weight of many of the right ideas at the right time but none of the proof in the pudding to give it any real cred.
Waking Up To The Realities of Politics
Meanwhile, purist lefties — who totally embrace making the perfect the enemy of the good — regularly fault President Obama for what they wrongly claim are his continual failures on energy, climate, and the environment, a critical posture that takes into account none of his proposals nor any of the complexities of contemporary American politics and governance.
Hard-core lefties extend the same disdain to Hillary Clinton, a dyed-in-the-wool social justice devotee, being as righteously indignant about her as the most rabid Trump supporter would be, proving that at least those two groups have something in common — idiocy!
And all because the world isn’t perfect. But apparently it’s still better for many of my fellow lefties to hold tight to ideas, ideals, and principals even if they never achieve a thing at all.
Stein calls denouncements like mine the “politics of fear,” because, she says, it encourages people to “vote against what you’re afraid of rather than for what you truly believe.” But that’s nonsense.
Her accusation implies, first of all, that the other side, let’s say Hillary Clinton in this instance, has no merits to her record, positions, or policies whatsoever. It also suggests that it’s better to lose based on what you “believe” than to win based on what’s incrementally achievable in a complex national context.
Don’t get me wrong. I get just how flawed our system is and I’m disgusted by it, too. It’s high time that we made some strategic changes, particularly on energy and the environment, and that we did so while knowing that we can still build a prosperous, healthy polity and economy.
It’s also time that the policy elite spent some time outside their G-8- (7) sized echo chamber and start listening not only to aggrieved rust-belters but also those Americans with innovative regional and local ideas that address where clean energy meets a slower lifestyle, culture, community, and economy all in the name of sustainable progress.
This is a must do, yesterday!
But the system would be every bit as flawed — and perhaps even more so — if either Bernie or Stein were in office. Change doesn’t happen because of one figurehead or because of his or her good ideas, particularly when the figure stands alone.
Things happen because you’re actually at the table of discussion and in a position to initiate change, such as by drawing on allies and laying out practical, achievable plans — and even then it’s a bitch!
Voters who think they’re making a statement or being counted as a protest vote because they pull the lever for Stein are deluding themselves. If they think they get to do this in “safe blue states,” they’re imperiling a larger mandate on the left.
The Democrats, who are not in fact “just as bad as the Republicans,” aren’t really going to care a fig for the people who vote against them. They’re going to pay attention to who walked the admittedly flawed path with them.
We don’t live in a parliamentary system. The Greens will gain nothing from this effort. They will gain from truly building a party into grassroots, on-the-ground NUMBERS and then and only then advancing presidential candidates who actually have proven executive experience and electoral successes. And that could take 40 years.
In the meantime, the climate will worsen, energy depletion will continue to threaten us on many fronts, and cleaner energy solutions will need to be advanced. Being in on those conversations doesn’t happen from the either sidelines or from being rejected by the vast majority of the electorate.
— Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice