The Washington Post editorial board held a meeting with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on August 25. For a Republican or Democratic presidential nominee, this is standard. For a third-party candidate like Stein, the fact that the Post met with her is quite an accomplishment. However, the editorial board crassly attacked her immediately after the meeting.
Like the town hall broadcast on CNN, the meeting offered Stein an all-too-rare opportunity to reach Americans, who may not know she is running for president.
Stein has consistently emphasized the fact that lack of “free primetime media” has a lot to do with why she is only polling three percent. Donald Trump received around $2 billion worth of “free primetime media” during the primary. Hillary Clinton received close to a billion dollars. Bernie Sanders received nearly half of what Clinton received. This kind of media is how citizens get to know who is out there for them to support.
Debates are also a way of exposing citizens to candidates, who are lesser known, but presidential debates are controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a cartel with operatives tied to the Democratic and Republican Parties. It sets an arbitrary percentage for inclusion in debates—15 percent—even for candidates, who are on a majority of state ballots to compete and potentially win the election.
Of course, what matters to a candidate is not only that citizens know they are an option but that citizens know they are a respectable option and not a kooky, unserious candidate.
The Post editorial board met with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson back in July. In the meetings with Johnson and Stein, the editorial board seemed intent to stump the candidates so they could tell voters not to “waste” their votes.
Under the headline, “Jill Stein’s fairy-tale candidacy,” the editorial board argues, “There would no doubt be health benefits,” from a “Green New Deal,” where the United States ended use of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power by 2030 and put Americans to work building clean energy infrastructure. “But Ms. Stein is nevertheless spinning up a fairy tale—an appealing fairy tale to some, but still a fairy tale.”
The “fairy tale” to the Post is Stein’s plan to get off dirty energy so humanity might have a habitable planet thirty or forty years from now. Yet, instead of taking the dire predictions of climate scientists seriously, the editorial board fixates on how the transition to clean energy may slow or impair the economy.
“To support the feasibility of her plan, Ms. Stein cited experts whose models in fact envision an energy transition taking decades longer than she posits,” the editorial board claims. It also criticizes her for citing Cuba as an example because after the fall of the Soviet Union they lost access to Russian oil and had to become energy sufficient to survive.
Both of these gripes are finicky. The Post editorial board does not question the policy of a “Green New Deal.” It takes issue with the timeline supported by Stein.
Notably, the editorial board ignores Stein’s argument that America has done “remarkable things” when it understands there is a “national emergency.” She said multiple times climate change should be declared a “national emergency,” like “Pearl Harbor and the Second World War.” She added, “I think what we’re facing right now is an equivalent national emergency. We’re risking all harbors, all population centers along the coast.”
When most media outlets hear Stein criticize both Clinton and Trump, they disingenuously jump to the conclusion that she sees “no difference” between them. Stein clearly articulated the difference between the two candidates, when it comes to climate change.
STEIN: There’s certainly a difference in what they say. You know, it’s funny: Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change in this country, but in Ireland? Scotland? Somewhere in the UK he does believe in climate change, because he’s trying to get a wall built to protect one of his luxury golf courses, and he understands that rising sea levels are going to obliterate his luxury course. So, you know, so much for Donald Trump. He’s promoting a return to coal.
Hillary Clinton has been promoting fracking, you know, established an office within the Secretary of State’s Department in order to promote fracking around the world. And, you know, the improved science on fracking shows that it’s extremely dangerous, perhaps as dangerous as coal. So, in my view, investing in a whole new generation of fossil fuel infrastructure based on fracking is an extremely dangerous and deadly thing to do.
So whether it’s Donald Trump’s return to coal, which I think is not likely to happen, because coal is not economically feasible anymore. So I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe this is how he appeals to the coal workers. And by the way, I should mention that we call for a just transition that ensures that no one will be out of a job and support and security in the same way that the state of New York ensured that their coal workers would have comparable wages and benefits for a period of years during their transition. We would provide similar assurances.
But whether you look at Trump’s coal plan or Hillary’s fracking plan, these are deadly for the climate and for the younger generation, and need to be called out and if I’m not in the debates there will be no one to tell the truth about what’s happening. We’ll have two fossil fuel-funded candidates, who are continuing to fan the flames of the burning planet. [paragraph breaks added]
It is important that Clinton does not deny climate science, but that is a low bar, like praising politicians for recognizing HIV causes AIDS.
In the beginning of the editorial, the board declares, “Ms. Stein’s policy ideas are poorly formed and wildly impractical. Her ‘activist’ approach, she said, involves building ‘broad coalitions,’ but she criticized Hillary Clinton for reaching out to Republicans.” Columnist Ruth Marcus even said during the meeting, “That’s a bad thing?”
This is from the media organization, which gained notoriety for publishing 16 negative stories about Bernie Sanders in 16 hours.
Republicans are not aligning with Clinton to save the planet from climate change. They are involved in building a “broad coalition” to help Clinton win power. That is cynical and will never be similar to activists struggling across the political spectrum to achieve progress for environmental justice.
As Stein told the editorial board, this reflects a “political realignment,” and, “Not that there aren’t differences between [Clinton and Trump], but those differences aren’t enough to save your job, to save your life or to save the planet, and I think this is of concern for those people outside of the inner circle of those parties.”
There are multiple political stories the Post could pursue after talking to Jill Stein. Post journalists could look into how Sanders supporters are inspiring and fueling the Stein campaign now that the primary is long over. After all, she was at 5 percent in some polls before the general election even officially started, which is unprecedented for a Green Party candidate.
The media organization could seriously investigate why more voters do not support Jill Stein, when both Clinton and Trump have made citizens feel hopeless and when there is broad support for alternatives.
But the editorial board (and most U.S. media outlets) would rather overlook this dynamic in the country and fixate on the words of Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka, because he once called President Barack Obama an “Uncle Tom.”
For the record, Baraka wrote in a post titled, “Black Lives Don’t Matter in Racist, Capitalist America”:
Your uncle tom president says that there is no excuse for violence – when it comes to the oppressed. For the empire, violence is the first weapon of choice from Libya to Syria and the police forces in Ferguson. After Trayvon and now this, the 60 percent unemployment among our youth, mass incarceration, school closings in our communities, Detroit, who among you still don’t see that we are at war? The challenge is preparing ourselves through systematic organization and political education to meet our historic responsibility to advance our struggle for self-determination and the defeat of this racist, capitalist/colonialist system for ourselves and the people of the world.
Jonathan Capehart, one of the Post’s most hostile critics of the Sanders campaign, penned a column in which he insisted Baraka’s words about Obama were no different than the inflammatory white nationalist rhetoric of Donald Trump, which is preposterous.
He also accused Stein of using “foul language on race” during the editorial board meeting because she said the following:
So, when I say “that’s him,” I refer to the provocative language that he uses, but his ideas, and his vision are not different from mine. He is unapologetically a member of an oppressed group, and he speaks in the language of his culture. And I think he speaks to a demographic that feels pretty locked out of the American power structure. And I think it’s extremely valuable for us to be able to have a conversation in more than one dialect, speaking to more than one demographic here, finding our common ground, and having a very frank discussion about race, for one thing, which is where he is most hard-hitting, race, and the issues of human rights.
According to Capehart, “This broad brush of ‘his culture’ is no different from Donald Trump’s ‘Right now, you walk down the street you get shot’ pitch to African Americans. This is as offensive as it is unbelievably dumb.”
Nope, what is dumb and offensive is the equivalency drawn by Capehart. The black liberal pundit frequently engages in identity politics to chastise politicians, like Sanders, but in this case, he is outraged because Stein recognizes that Baraka is a black man and black people in America have a legacy of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and broken windows policing. Who is she to tell Baraka that he is wrong to say what he said about the first black president before joining the campaign, when Obama had a meaningful opportunity to advance black liberation and has declined to challenge the capitalist power structure?
Capehart is right that Baraka is not speaking for him because Capehart is a part of the black upper class. Stein is speaking of poor and working class Americans, the dispossessed and discarded whose political views rarely feature in the pages of Beltway publications like the Washington Post.
More significantly, Baraka already addressed this use of the word “Uncle Tom” during the CNN town hall, however, the Post does not bother to advance the discussion by acknowledging what was said.
Capehart and the Post do not care why Baraka used this heavily charged term. They only care to point out it was said and shame Baraka then disqualify Stein for associating herself with Baraka. And it must be pointed out that they could easily have had Baraka present at the editorial board meeting, like Johnson’s running mate, William Weld, was present.
Instead, the Post crudely asked an upper class white woman to speak on behalf of a black man, who specifically has spent decades advocating for the liberation of working class black people. Of course, Capehart does not have any problem with this because his concerns about race generally lack a class analysis and are steeped in liberal politics, which have failed to uplift millions of people of color in the United States.
The Post editorial board was not too pleased with Stein when she questioned American empire and advocated for closing hundreds of U.S. military bases. But then again, this is the same media organization that published stories that promoted the case for invading Iraq and claimed Iraq’s oil could be seized by America to pay for the war.
Stein understandably asked the editorial board, “Don’t people deserve to be informed? What is it that our institutions of the press and media are supposed to do? They’re supposed to inform the public about their choices at a time when people are saying they detest, they dislike and they distrust at unprecedented levels the choices that they’ve been given. Wouldn’t it be a logical thing then to expose them to the two other choices that they have?”
Unfortunately, media institutions like the Post are hard-wired to act as gatekeepers for establishment politics. They set the boundaries for what ideas are reasonable and unreasonable and which candidates are serious and unserious. They may ask if voters are really clamoring for something else, as if they are perplexed by citizens not lining up to support Stein. But they know why Stein is not someone sought by voters.
Because beyond voters wanting alternatives, they want viable alternatives, and the Post actively makes it seem Stein and the Green Party can and will never be that alternative. The result preserves the two-party system and the cycle of electoral politics, which reinforces and fuels systemic corruption and powerlessness among voters.