With the threat of a federal indictment behind her, Hillary Clinton will head to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25 as the tarnished presumptive presidential nominee whom a majority of Americans don’t like.
And with the usual swirl of controversy surrounding him (this time accusations of veiled anti-Semitism), Donald Trump will private-jet into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 18 as the divisive presumptive presidential nominee whom a majority of American really don’t like.
Clinton’s unfavorability rating stands at 55.5 percent, according to the latest read from Real Clear Politics. But Trump has her beat with 61.1 percent.
Those negatives are one reason disenchanted voters, many of them independents, are starting to look around.
Support for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate currently on the ballot in 33 states, is climbing but still in the single digits, with a Real Clear Politics polling average of 7.3 percent.
But a sleeper candidate, who happens to be the other woman running for president, is starting to get noticed.
While Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party nominee, polls at just 3.8 percent in a four-way matchup with Clinton, Trump and Johnson, she could attract independents who Trump has turned off and disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters who can’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton.
In fact, Stein’s agenda is a lot like Bernie’s – and a lot like the progressive positions taken by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
As a Green candidate, Stein wants the U.S to take the lead on halting climate change, end fracking and offshore oil drilling, and declare a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until proven safe.
But she is also for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a $15 minimum wage, free college, universal healthcare, putting a tax squeeze on Wall Street and the rich, breaking up too-big-to-fail banks, reforming the criminal justice system, legalizing marijuana and terminating “unconstitutional surveillance.”
On militarization and foreign entanglements, Stein is considerably more to the left than Sanders or Warren. She would cut Pentagon spending by 50 percent and close some 700 U.S. military installations overseas.
Last April in an open letter to Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, Stein suggested they join forces to provide a more powerful alternative to the two major parties.
She wrote, in part: “You've proven that in today’s rapidly changing America, a populist progressive agenda covered by the media and the televised debates can catch on like wildfire and shake the foundations of a political establishment that seemed invulnerable just a few short months ago.
“As the neoliberal Democratic machine mobilizes to quash revolution in its ranks, I urge you to consider opening a window of historic possibility outside the Democratic Party,” Stein went on. “I would love to explore with you collaborative ways to advance that effort and ensure the revolution for people, planet and peace will prevail.”
Sanders didn’t bite and has said he will be voting for Clinton, although he has not yet endorsed her.
But the lack of real alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans is a theme that Stein keeps hitting hard.
“People are hungering for more choices, but the American political system excels at suppressing the voices of opposition,” she says in a video on her website, “In fact, we are probably the only major developed country limited to two parties.”
A Chicago-born physician with degrees from Harvard and Harvard Medical School, the 66-year-old Stein also shares more than a passing similarity to Warren. In addition to their progressive views, both Massachusetts residents are outspoken and highly articulate.
Unlike Warren, who was elected to the Senate in her first try at public office, however, Stein has been defeated in a string of state and national elections.
As the Green Party candidate in 2012, she pulled in a statistically insignificant 0.36 percent of the popular vote, and so far this year the Greens are on only 20 state ballots – although those ballots cover 55 percent of the population and the ballot-access campaign is far from over.
But the election of 2012 was nothing like 2016. And both Johnson, who won only 0.99 percent of the popular vote as the Libertarian nominee in 2012, and Stein see a chance to make a more significant showing.
Who would they help and who would they hurt?
In a two-way race, according to RCP poll averages, Clinton wins 44.9 percent of the vote to Trump’s 40.3 percent. In a four-way race among Clinton, Trump, Johnson and Stein, Clinton takes 41.3 percent of the vote to 36.5 percent for Trump, 7 percent for Johnson and 3.8 percent for Stein.
That means if you’re Clinton, you’ve got to love those third-party patriots.