Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein hears opportunity knocking at the Democratic National Convention as some of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s most ardent supporters continue to protest the nomination of Hillary Clinton.
Green is in Philadelphia trying to foment further discord among irate Sanders delegates who have threatened to break with the party rather than support the former secretary of state for president.
During a rally on Monday, the physician from Lexington, Massachusetts, said that the hacked Democratic National Committee emails confirmed “the worst fears and suspicions about the DNC” attempting to sabotage Sanders’s insurgent campaign against Clinton.
“Forget the lesser evil, fight for the greater good,” Stein told a cheering crowd of mostly Sanders supporters, dismissing the argument that Clinton would be better than Republican nominee Donald Trump. “We are the revolution.”
Stein is offering herself as a liberal alternative to Clinton and signaled yesterday her hopes to somehow “piggyback” on the formidable Sanders organization and pursue his policies unless Sanders agrees to lead the Green Party himself.
But Sanders on Tuesday morning once again rejected calls from Stein and others to bolt the Democratic Party. He reaffirmed his commitment, spelled out in a stirring address to the convention Monday night, to support Clinton for president, despite their differences.
“I don’t know the leadership of the Green Party, but I respect what they’re trying to do,” Sanders said during a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg Politics, according to The Washington Post. “They’re focusing on very, very important issues. But I think right now – what is it, three, four months before an election – you’re going to end up having a choice. Either Hillary Clinton is going to become president, or Donald Trump.”
Stein, of course, has no chance of winning. And the Green Party has never come close to matching its performance in 2000, when consumer advocate Ralph Nader led the party and drew enough votes away from Democrat Al Gore in Florida to enable Republican George W. Bush to narrowly win the election.
Moreover, she has been overshadowed by another third party effort led by Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor from New Mexico, who is running as a fiscal conservative and social liberal.
Johnson and his running mate, former Republican Massachusetts governor William G. Weld, say they sense “enormous opportunity” this year to attract voters away from Clinton and Trump, two of the most unpopular presidential candidates of modern times.
This is Johnson’s second bid for president under the Libertarian banner, and he says he is trying to gain more legitimacy this time by building up a more substantial campaign war chest and reaching out to Democratic and Republican activists and personalities. He attended last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland to try to drum up support.
“You have to create this notion that you might actually win,” Johnson told The Los Angeles Times recently. “For a sophisticated few at the moment, there is that recognition. I think that's going to get bigger as you go forward.”
Both Stein and Johnson will be playing the role of spoilers this fall, possibly tipping the scales one way or another to help Trump or Clinton win the presidency. Johnson could considerably enhance his influence by taking part in the nationally televised presidential debates, but he would need to draw at least 15 percent in the national polls to earn a spot on the stage with Trump and Clinton.
A new CNN/ORC national poll released on Monday shows Johnson with just nine percent of the overall vote and Stein with 3 percent. Both candidates lost some ground from a previous poll taken in mid-July, when Johnson garnered 13 percent and Stein received 5 percent.
Trump appeared to be the beneficiary of the diminished support for the third party candidates, and he led Clinton in the latest survey, 44 percent to 39 percent.
Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said today that it was “highly doubtful” that either third-party candidate would ultimately influence the outcome of the November election. “Both Johnson and Stein will decline as November 8 approaches,” he said in an email. “Clinton either benefits overall or there is not much change. One poll in July right after one party's convention is no fair measure of anything.”
Lara Brown, an associate professor at George Washington University who specializes in presidential politics, said in an interview that Stein or Johnson potentially could pick up substantial support, but only if it is apparent that Trump or Clinton is on track to win the election. That’s because most voters would be reluctant to waste their vote in a very close contest by backing a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning.
“One of the things that essentially depresses third party turnout is a belief among voters that they are wasting their vote,” Brown said. “So even if many voters feel that they are not fully satisfied with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, if they think to themselves ‘my worst fear could happen and that the one I like least could end up winning,’ then they probably are not going to end up voting for a third party.”