After Bernie: Green Party Hopeful Jill Stein Says Millennials Can Take Over This Election

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

You say you want a revolution — well, you know, Dr. Jill Stein wants to change the world.

The Massachusetts physician says she and the Green Party can carry on the work of Bernie Sanders if, as expected, he doesn't overcome Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

Read more: Bernie Sanders Just Took a Huge Step Toward Igniting His "Political Revolution"

And Stein says if the legions of millennials — many gasping for air from beneath crushing student debt — would follow her in rejecting the "corporatist," "imperialist" machine she thinks the Democratic Party has become, they could give rise to a second American Revolution.

A movement based on math: Sanders, the Democratic socialist senator from Vermont, has fired the imaginations of millions, but the nomination math isn't in his favor: Of the 2,383 delegates needed, as of Monday, former Secretary of State Clinton had 2,310, including superdelegates, according to RealClearPolitics. Sanders had 1,542.

Sanders supporters and general critics of the way America's major political parties operate have long railed the Democratic Party is pulling for Clinton by throwing obstacles in his path.

Stein, who talks about "revolt" and nuclear "oblivion" the way some people talk about what they're doing next weekend, is among them.

"What we're seeing here in the sabotage of Bernie's campaign by the Democratic National Committee [is] the reality [that] it's very hard to have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party," Stein said in a phone interview.

While important primary contests remain, including the June 7 vote in California, Sanders remains the underdog. Stein is touting herself as "Plan B" for Sanders' followers because, she says, voters shouldn't give in to the false assumption the only choice left is deciding whether Clinton or Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, is the lesser of two evils.

"We will not get real solutions from political parties that are funded by predatory banks [and] war profiteers," Stein said.

Instead, "We're here to build the revolution so all the work of Bernie's campaign doesn't get thrown to the dogs inside the Democratic Party," she said.

Stein's official "Power to the People" platform has lofty goals, to say the least. 

Among her promises, in addition to the clean energy themes that form the bedrock of her party's existence: ending poverty, police brutality and unemployment, slashing military spending by half and guaranteeing health care and education as "rights" — including by abolishing student debt.

Stein has formally asked Sanders to team up with her and the Greens to advance their common causes. 

So far, she says, she's still waiting for his phone call.

Who is Stein, anyway? Stein, 66, is not a newcomer to politics by any means. Like Clinton, she has run for president before, most recently in 2012.

The Chicago-born Stein, who now lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, holds degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. She and her husband, Dr. Richard Rohrer, have two grown sons.

Stein credits her career in medicine as the catalyst for her environmental activism, which has included fighting for better regulation of water and air pollutants, toxic waste incineration and disposal and coal plants.

Her first bid for elected office came in 2002, when she ran for governor of Massachusetts. (A businessman named Mitt Romney won that race.)

Stein officially launched her 2016 presidential bid in June.

Source: YouTube

Realistic? If the odds are stacked against Sanders, they are much more so against Stein.

For one thing — like it or not — the U.S. political system is dominated by two major parties that are moneyed, entrenched, organized and not the least interested in being usurped. 

Modern-day independent or third-party candidates may have made it into the public eye — think Ralph Nader or Ross Perot or John Anderson — but didn't gather the steam needed to propel them to the White House. 

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pondered a 2016 run of his own. He ruled against it, explaining his conscience forbade him from taking the risk of becoming a spoiler that could aid the election of a "divisive" major-party contender like Trump.

Still, reams of poll results have suggested there is room at the top for change: Voters don't trust neither Trump nor Clinton. Americans continue to be frustrated or angry and have long told pollsters they want more options besides donkeys and elephants. 

There are others besides Stein who say a November matchup between Clinton and Trump isn't a foregone conclusion: The conservative-leaning Stop Donald Trump PAC, for example, has been heavily teasing the announcement of an alternative candidate for those who can't stomach seeing either Clinton or Trump in the Oval Office. Talk of a last-minute crusade by Romney is still simmering.

A Green Partier with white-hot rhetoric: Whether it's knowing her audience or something else, an interview with Stein is far more heavily peppered with slams on Clinton (and her husband) than it is on Trump.

She dismisses the latter as no political outsider, but a co-conspirator with the boogeymen of the Beltway:

Donald Trump has a record of economic failure and mismanagement... He has a record of abusing his workers [and] offshoring his jobs. He is not honest. He won't reveal his taxes... he's kind of a wolf in sheep's clothing — or a wolf in wolf's clothing... Many people are voting for him out of desperation [but] this is a guy who's totally speaking with forked tongue here. Do not trust him... Don't believe the hype here from this professional shyster.

Stein saves her sharpest cuts for Clinton — and pointedly notes that "It's really very exciting [that] in this election to be a feminist, you don't have to be [a] militarist or a corporatist."

Source: Seth Wenig/AP

If Stein has anything "nice" to say about Clinton, it may be only that over the course of a brutal primary season, she's "adopted Bernie's tune" on certain issues that appeal to the left.

"I think anyone who buys into the Hillary [pitch]... they're being victimized by the slick and glossy Democratic Party propaganda," said Stein, who has no qualms about insisting Clinton has both taken credit for and been a "full partner" in promoting her husband's "neoliberal" agenda, sucking up to Wall Street and corporate interests for "gobs of money" and warmongering (for starters).

Doesn't Clinton have domestic and national experience necessary for the presidency? "Under Hillary Clinton, we have an air war over Syria, a bombing campaign of Iran and in Syria; with this air war, we're engaging a nuclear power... I don't think Hillary Clinton is a safe bet," Stein said.

But hasn't Sanders shown his message hasn't resonated with African-Americans and other minority groups as well as Clinton's? "He has not been able to break into key communities, but he could still win," Stein said. "At the end of the day any candidate comes with strengths and weaknesses."

Green light? For all her call-to-arms campaigning, Stein does get real about her election prospects, which are certainly not helped by a serious lack of financing.

"I am not holding my breath that we are going to win the White House," she said. "In my view, my job as a medical doctor [is] protecting life and health and wellness."

But the woman described by GQ as possibly the most "badass" of the 2016 crop of presidential hopefuls sees politics not just as a high-stakes game, but quite literally a matter of life or death, particularly for young people who may see themselves as powerless.

"We're looking at the end of civilization in a couple of decades, in the lifetime of the millennial generation. ... Our job is to reject that propaganda," Stein said.

If there's a real thirst to sustain and build on the Sanders phenomenon via a third-party candidate, "What the public is clamoring for, they can have in a heartbeat — right now."

But does she consider herself a badass?

"If you mean if I'm a person that will stand up and that is really willing to go the [extra] mile, I mean, yeah," Stein said. "We need a badass to stand up to Donald Trump."

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Celeste Katz

Celeste Katz is senior political correspondent at Mic, covering national politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at celeste@mic.com.

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