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The Progressive

The Third-Party Dilemma

Dr. Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for President this year. Her candidacy has won the endorsement of several prominent progressives, such as Medea Benjamin of CodePink and author Chris Hedges. But others question the wisdom and the utility of Stein’s run.

Stein, sixty-two, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, is an internist by training. She specialized in studying the environmental threats to children and to the elderly. In 2002, she ran for governor in Massachusetts against Mitt Romney on the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party ticket.

One day in June, Stein dropped by The Progressive’s office to talk with me about her candidacy. She offered a withering critique of President Obama from the left, which I largely share.

The problem, though, is not so much with the accuracy of the critiques of the Democrats as with the efficacy of the third-party strategy at the Presidential level.

Do you—do I?—say no to Obama and no to the Democrats, and no to the two-party system, understanding full well that defiance is likely to be a lonely and ineffectual one?

Or do you—do I?— swallow hard and vote for the man we’ve been criticizing so loudly for three and a half years because the guy he’s running against, and the rightist movement behind that guy, is so hideous, knowing full well that by so doing, we’ll be giving our vote to a man who hasn’t earned it and to a party that is in hock to the corporate powers that be?


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Do you—do I?—vote for Obama because in some areas he might make people’s lives less miserable than Romney would?

Or do you—do I?—vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson (or choose not to vote for President at all, as my predecessor, Erwin Knoll opted to do, not wanting to give his consent to the entire system), believing that only by staking out a real leftwing alternative are we ever going to move people toward the humane, peaceful, green, and egalitarian society we seek?

There is no easy way out of this trap, and I’m not going to spring you from it.

This is but a short excerpt of Rothschild's cover story of the September issue. To read the article in its entirety, as well as the whole September issue, think about subscribing to The Progressive today.


Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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