Jill Stein is no Ralph Nader.
Nader exists as the boogeyman that Democrats tell their children about at night. “Remember, kids: A Third-Party vote is a Republican vote!” The myth came to life in the aftermath of the highly controversial 2000 election. As disappointed voters looked for a place to lay blame after George W. Bush won the presidency (despite losing the popular vote), Ralph Nader found himself in the crosshairs.
You can look at the pie chart below and it’s easy to understand the knee-jerk reaction.
The Bush v. Gore election was close. Gore won the popular vote by a little over half a million votes. Ralph Nader earned 2,882,897 votes. The outcome led many outraged liberals to claim Nader was in the way of Gore’s success, dooming us to eight years of “Dubya.”
And yet according to U.S. Election Atlas, nearly a million votes were collectively given to other third-party candidates. Why aren’t those candidates as much to blame for the Al Gore loss as Ralph Nader? It’s a situation where Ralph just happened to be the most visible “enemy.”
Fast forward 16 years, and the conversation is much the same. Certain Democrats are pushing the narrative that Jill Stein, the new Green Party candidate, is a threat to Hillary Clinton’s chances. The problem with that scare tactic is it just doesn’t make sense. Jill Stein cannot be another Ralph Nader if she lacks the votes to make any impact whatsoever.
Sure, Jill Stein is a third-party candidate, and she’ll likely garner visibility among strictly third-party progressives as the election season continues. Unfortunately for Jill Stein, her problem is an almost insurmountable one. Stein’s not remotely close to a position where a presidential victory is realistically plausible. Even worse, Jill’s campaign isn’t even enough of a blip on the political map to nudge the outcome in November in one direction or another.
That becomes especially evident when you view the FiveThirtyEight projection as who will likely win the presidency in November.
Notice something? In case you somehow missed it, Jill Stein’s name is nowhere to be found. There is a third candidate, but that happens to be Libertarian Gary Johnson. Thanks to Donald Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, and attack on a grieving military family, he has set himself up to be the ultimate Republican eyesore.
Even staunch conservatives have taken up the “Never Trump” cause, eagerly looking for alternatives. That will never be Jill Stein, whose only hope at visibility remains disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters. Instead, it is Gary Johnson who is beginning to slot into the position of a “spoiler” — the third-party candidate who siphons away enough votes to influence the outcome of the election.
And here is where things get fascinating. A recent CNN poll demonstrated that whether it was a two-person presidential race or a four-person presidential race, Hillary Clinton was comfortably ahead (for now).
When third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were introduced, it was Donald Trump who suffered more. Jill Stein was barely a blip on the left, whereas Gary Johnson is threatening to take away a sizable chunk of Donald Trump’s votes. And what disillusioned Republicans don’t go for Johnson could instead outright cross party lines to vote for Clinton.
The New York Times wrote that Hillary Clinton has already received endorsements from notable Republicans: Hewlett-Packard executive and GOP fundraiser Meg Whitman and Rep. Richard Hanna of New York. It’s highly likely that as Donald Trump continues to gaffe his way toward Election Day, more Republican voters will strongly consider voting for Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton.
Where does that leave Jill Stein?
Unfortunately for Jill Stein and her supporters, it appears the Green Party will not have the say in the 2016 election that it did about 16 years ago. In a trend reversal, the Libertarian Party will likely have a larger influence on the final vote tally.
Jill Stein shouldn’t even be thinking about catching up to the Republican and Democrat contenders at this point. She needs to focus her energy on getting past Gary Johnson. Why? Because if the networks give into demands for third-party representation, based on the polls, it will be Libertarian Gary Johnson who is on television and not the Green Party’s Jill Stein.
We’ve had three-person presidential debates in the United States before. Check out this 1992 presidential debate featuring Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot.
According to the National Review, Ross Perot managed to get 19 percent of the vote. That’s nearly one in five voting Americans. Forget Ralph Nader — Jill Stein and her supporters should be aspiring to have even that much of effect on the general election! Of course, Perot didn’t win. Still, in retrospect, one could say he ran a more successful campaign than Ralph Nader, and it was likely because he was part of the presidential debates.
For Jill Stein to have a shot at being invited to join the debates, she’ll have to get past the Libertarian in her way. If Johnson is set up as the Perot of this election cycle, two things will likely happen:
- The average American won’t know or care who Jill Stein is.
- Hillary Clinton will become the next president of the United States.
Even with greater visibility, Gary Johnson will likely not get close to having a shot at winning, but at least he would have enough televised presence to have a place in the polls — and in the political conversation. Jill Stein must get the votes she needs to leapfrog past him. If Jill fails, then by the time late October rolls around, she’ll be as forgotten in the media as “Bern or Bust.”
Do you think Jill Stein has a chance at becoming president? What can Jill Stein do to garner more attention and get more voters on her side? Share your thoughts below!
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]