In a move that could dramatically alter the state of the 2016 presidential race, long-time Green Party leader Dr. Jill Stein has offered to step aside and allow Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to run as the party’s presidential nominee in 2016.
Stein has in the past made overtures to Sanders suggesting a “collaboration,” but she appears to have gone further in an interview today with the Guardian newspaper by offering to let Sanders take over the party entirely.
“Everything is on the table,” she said. “If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement.”
Sanders, who ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has conceded that he will not win the party’s nomination, but has not yet endorsed Clinton. The Washington Post reported Friday that Sanders is expected to finally do so at an event in New Hampshire next week.
Sanders gathered a large and enthusiastic following during his campaign, particularly attracting young voters with his message about combating income inequality and, among other things, protecting the environment. There could be very substantial overlap between the Green Party’s platform and Sanders’ policy preferences.
If Sanders were to accept the offer — something that even Stein admits is highly unlikely — he could seriously imperil Clinton’s chances of beating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.
Clinton currently enjoys a substantial lead over Trump in public opinion polling, but a Green Party with Sanders at its head could conceivably pull in a significant segment of voters — and virtually none of them would be coming from the ranks of Trump supporters.
Stein tells the Guardian that she would like to see a Green Party candidate break 15 percent in the polls and thereby win a spot on the presidential debate stage. But she appears realistic about the possibility of getting Sanders to effectively sign his own political death warrant.
“I’m not holding my breath but I’m not ruling it out that we can bring out 43 million young people into this election,” she said. “It’s been a wild election; every rule in the playbook has been tossed out. Unfortunately, that has mainly been used to lift up hateful demagogues like Donald Trump, but it can also be done in a way that actually answers people’s needs.”
A representative for Sen. Sanders did not immediately return a request for comment on this story.