Bad Takes is a periodic column of opinion and political analysis.
You might be surprised to learn that a minor presidential candidate who received 1.07% of the popular vote five years ago is personally responsible for Texas’ recent abortion ban. At least that’s what passes for conventional wisdom if you gobble up the garbage trending on Twitter.
Seems that Hillary Clinton lost to the Trumpsterfire in 2016 not because she campaigned as Barack Obama’s third term in a profoundly anti-establishment electoral cycle, nor because the Democratic Party coronated a nominee the same month she was under investigation by the FBI.
For Clintonites still a little loopy after the hard fall from the heights of hubris to the lowlands of bewildered finger-pointing, the 39 rallies that Bernie Sanders threw for Clinton don't dispel the delusion that his supposedly lackluster support robbed her of the Oval Office. Even now with Dems controlling two-thirds of the federal government by adopting much of the Sanders policy platform, the proverbial hatchet sticks out so irresistibly from the top soil that every setback — trivial or profound — tempts liberals to grab its handle and recommence to whaling on leftists.
But to hear some talk, the real spoiler, the wicked witch of the Left, was one Jill Stein
— reputed Russian mob boss, ketamine addict, KGB spy at large, torturer of rambunctious puppies and forlorn kittens, and notorious advocate for student debt forgiveness, public financing of elections, reparations for slavery and segregation, gutting aid to militaries with abysmal human rights records and massively subsidizing renewable energy.
Last Wednesday, when the Supreme Court let stand
Texas’s blatantly unconstitutional de facto repeal of Roe v Wade
without so much as a hearing, the Stein pile-on was Manichean and swift. Confining ourselves to two media personalities formerly employed by CNN, religious scholar Reza Aslan tweeted succinctly
, “If you voted for Jill Stein you did this”, and the typically so level-headed comic Kathy Griffin chimed in
, “I'M REALLY RESENTFUL TOWARD THE JILL STEIN FOLKS WITH THEIR 'PROTEST VOTES'... And you know what? These smug assholes never even admit they were wrong.”
In other words: Stein elected Trump; Trump appointed three Justices; talk to the vagina hat.
Far be it for me to start twarring with 17,000+ likes and 3,000+ retweets, but this is a bad take. Jill Stein not only did not
cost Hillary Clinton the presidency — in fact, if Stein had not run, Republicans would have successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act in the summer of 2017, and Democrats would have failed to recapture the Senate this year.
"The hell you say!," some partisans might object. But it’s fairly simple. The Jill Stein-Ajamu Baraka ticket received 6,465 votes in the state of New Hampshire. Down that same ballot, Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan was competing against Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte in an extremely close race for the United States Senate. Hassan’s victory was razor-thin — a mere 1,017 votes. Thanks to Morning Consult public opinion data
, we know that Stein supporters preferred down-ballot Democrats over Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin. And thanks to CBS News exit polling
, we know that 61% of Stein voters said they would not have voted at all if they had to choose between Trump and Clinton.
So, if Stein had withdrawn her name and most of her left-leaning voting bloc had stayed home on Election Day, that would have subtracted more than enough votes from Hassan’s tally to cost her her pivotal Senate seat.
The following year, the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare was defeated 51 to 49, with then-Vice President Mike Pence itching to break a tie. Although we may remember Senator John McCain’s grandiose thumbs-down
, if Kelly Ayotte had been sitting in the chair that Hassan currently occupies, it would have meant saying "goodbye" to Obama’s signature legislative achievement
It also would have been farewell to the seminal $3.5 trillion budget resolution that just passed this August, which includes paid family leave, universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, expanded Pell grants, Civilian Climate Corps, green cards for immigrant workers and their families, higher taxes on wealthy corporations, historic investment in affordable housing, a 50% emissions cut by 2030, carbon taxes on imported fuels, lower pharmaceutical drug prices, and dental work, hearing aids, and eyeglasses added to Medicare.
All of that is due to the evil sorceress Jill Stein. You’re welcome, Democrats.
The Stein bump wasn't geographically limited to tiny New Hampshire either. In our own sizable backyard, Irene Rios won her way onto the Texas Court of Appeals by 30,580 votes, and that same year Texas Dems picked up 11 seats in the U.S. House, 55 in the Texas House and eight in the Texas Senate — including Chuy Hinojosa, who won by 50,030 votes.
How many Texans did Stein motivate to the polls? That number was nearly 72,000. Applying the same three-to-one advantage as above, Stein graciously provided Texas Democrats with more than 53,000 votes, putting Rios and Hinojosa over the top. How many Democrats across the country potentially owe their offices to Green voters? Mysteriously, that’s a question neither faction has appeared interested in answering — each for their own reasons. If you find any news story that has reported on this, please let me know.
Whereas, the hot-button controversy of how Stein dynamited Clinton’s Blue Wall has been mindlessly, endlessly and nauseatingly opined upon.
Unfortunately, this tired pundit’s counterfactual is based on fantasy math. In no plausible universe would every single Stein voter in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania back a corporate politician like Clinton. When asked, only 25% said they would have ranked Clinton as their second choice. Move a quarter of Stein’s count to Clinton in key swing states and Trump still carries the Electoral College designed for racists
The Green Party does not steal votes from Democrats so much as gift Democrats present and future votes by rescuing would-be nonvoters from the wine-dark sea of political alienation. In 2016, more than 40% of eligible voters — upwards of 100 million Americans — chose not to vote. Inspiring disaffected progressives to actually show up and encouraging young people in particular to become involved in the democratic process for the first time is a thankless yet admirable task, and over the long haul, it’s a net gain for liberals and leftists alike.
Try explaining that to the Reza Aslans and Kathy Griffins of Tweetdom though. If only they exhibited the same obsession with instituting ranked-choice voting
as they do for pooping on activist candidacies, by now we could safely be spared from being distracted from distraction by this distraction. That’s not to say there aren’t exceedingly persuasive criticisms of the Green Party’s strategic naïveté and woefully deficient grassroots organizing — a case which comrades such as Dustin Guastella
and Kate Aronoff
have cogently argued. But echoing Aronoff
, “I don't trust Democrats to win re-election without ideas from the Left.”
And who first broached the now overwhelmingly popular
idea of a Green New Deal, for example? The Green Party’s co-founder and 2020 presidential candidate Howie Hawkins coined the term over a decade ago. Lest we forget, co-option is the goal
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