It should be of no surprise to hear that the American electorate harbors no amount of enthusiasm for this year’s presidential nominees. Hillary Clinton, a longtime controversial figure, has yet to win back the love and trust of the Democratic Party’s Left wing. Donald Trump has spent the entire campaign promoting racism and extreme xenophobia while simultaneously failing to rebuke the antisemitic and Nazi-esque rhetoric of some of his supporters.
As a result, an alarming number of American progressives are looking towards third-party options, most prominently former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Gary Johnson at 13 percent support and Jill Stein at four percent.
When it comes to Gary Johnson, I somewhat understand the appeal. He appears to be a well-meaning, morally good person, he performed adequately as Governor of New Mexico and would likely make a more than decent President. If you’re a Republican or a Conservative who’s unhappy with both options, he’s a reasonable alternative.
But if you’re a progressive supporter of Bernie Sanders, then Gary Johnson is a bizarre and contradictory figure to turn to. According to On the Issues, Gary Johnson opposes all federal funding for abortions, doesn’t believes insurers should be required to provide birth control and opposes affirmative action. Furthermore, he supports the elimination of the corporate income tax, wants to abolish the Department Education, wants to abolish the Department of Housing and Urban Development, doesn’t believe the government should take action to combat climate change, would sign the TPP, is generally against gun control, at one point opposed mandatory vaccinations and advocates the repeal of Obamacare.
These positions make Gary Johnson, and libertarian ideology as a whole, incompatible with progressive or leftist ideals. No, he’s not as bad– or dangerous–as Trump. He probably wouldn’t be a terrible President. But he also can’t win and even if he could, his presidency would not be a victory for the Left by any means.
But today Gary Johnson is not the subject of my attention. Instead, I direct my ire firmly at the Green Party nominee, Dr. Jill Ellen Stein. Receiving growing support from Progressives and considerable attention on my Facebook feed, Jill Stein has targeted former Bernie supporters, promising the same kind of hope for the future that he instilled within a largely disenchanted Left. She has asserted herself as being beyond partisan politics and a true voice for the progressive movement.
Behind this facade, however, lies a presidential candidate who panders in far more destructive ways than Hillary Clinton ever did, specifically when it comes to vaccinations. She has received considerable negative attention as a result of her statements on the subject, which I believe should disqualify her from being considered credible.
Firstly, despite popular belief to the contrary, Jill Stein is not an anti-vaxxer. She has never claimed vaccines cause autism, she has never urged parents to not vaccinate their children and she has openly stated that vaccines have had a “huge contribution to public health” (Snopes, “Jill’s Line,” 08.01.2016). This fact is often overlooked or dismissed in critiques of Stein.
No, Jill Stein is not an anti-vaxxer. Jill Stein is worse than an anti-vaxxer. Stein, a Harvard educated medical doctor, uses her position of authority as a major candidate for President, as a voice for the Progressive movement in the United States, to pander to the anti-vaccine movement and legitimize their beliefs knowing full well the consequences that could come of it. An anti-vaxxer is an idiot peddling nonsense because they don’t know better, Jill Stein is a potential serial killer peddling nonsense despite the fact that she does.
As a side note, I understand that many of my readers might doubt the appropriateness of the use of the term “serial killer” to describe Jill Stein. Let me remind you that, according to the World Health Organization, there were 114,900 measles deaths globally in 2014 alone. Also according to the World Health Organization, during the period between 2000 and 2014, measles vaccinations saved an estimated 17.1 million lives. A Harvard-educated medical doctor granting legitimacy to a movement that they know, or should know, could result in the deaths of millions is malpractice at best and murder at worst.
And do not be fooled, Dr. Jill Stein has time and time again granted credence to the anti-vaccine movement while ignoring every opportunity to take a definitive stand against them.
On July 29, Jill Stein told the Washington Post, “[P]eople do not trust a Food and Drug Administration, or even the CDC for that matter, where corporate influence and the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of influence,” additionally adding that “as a medical doctor” she believes “there were real questions” that need to be addressed. As a side note, the Washington Post pointed out that most members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee “work at academic or medical institutions, not drug companies” (Washington Post, “Jill Stein on vaccines: People have ‘real questions,’” 07.29.2016).]
The next day at 4:54 p.m., Jill Stein’s campaign clarified her position tweeting, “There’s no evidence that autism is caused by vaccines. Let’s do more to support autistic people & their families.” By 4:59 p.m., that tweet was deleted and replaced with “I’m not aware of evidence linking autism to vaccines” (Forbes, “Jill Stein Sort Of Answers the Autism-Vaccine Question And No One Is Happy,” 08.01.2016).
A firm condemnation of the anti-vaccine movement by Dr. Jill Stein could have gone a long way in making her a credible candidate and in purging the Left of anti-science elements. Instead, she has crafted her language in a way to appeal to a group of people she obviously doesn’t agree with, knowing full well it could lead to a public health crisis.
And her language when describing autistic people could also use some work. In an interview with Elle, Jill Stein, while answering a question regarding how she got involved in politics, described how, “There were these new epidemics of asthma and cancer and autism and diabetes and obesity. And I said to myself, ‘Hey, our genes didn’t change overnight.’ You know, my generation didn’t grow up with this” (Elle, “Meet Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein,” 07.06.2015).
Did you get what she’s saying? That autism is in the same category as cancer and diabetes. That autism is an epidemic, a disease.
Donald Trump, of course, made similar statements, but I blame Jill Stein more. Donald Trump is not a medical doctor, he’s not an expert, he likely hasn’t had much exposure to autistic people, he’s not even a particularly intelligent person. But Jill Stein is intelligent. In fact, she’s a Harvard-educated medical doctor, and a champion of social justice, a person who by every measure should have known better. And yet, she, just like Donald Trump, uses ignorant, statistically inaccurate language that stigmatizes autistic people and leads to the kind of violence I detailed in my last piece. It is the fact that Jill Stein has the potential to be a strong, moral center for the Progressive movement that makes her statements so disheartening and dangerous.
And even her commitment to her progressive ideals appears to be fading. Recently, Stein stated that she believes that it’s Hillary Clinton who “poses the greater threat” (Politico, “Jill Stein: Trump may have ‘memory problem,’” 09.19.16). This position is unjustifiable for a progressive, and should reveal Stein’s true goals for this presidential race.
And the most frustrating part of this is that I agree with her on a lot of things. We do need a truly progressive voice, we do need an end to the two-party system, we do need a leader who can push past the status quo. However, that doesn’t excuse Jill Stein’s ableist, dishonest, and pandering attitude on vaccinations. Even if she could win the presidency, she wouldn’t deserve to.