Dr. Jill Stein is less concerned about becoming President of the United States. Her mission is to legitimize the Green Party and disrupt the broken, two-party political system.
And if she happens to take away some votes from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or gets arrested along the way, then so be it.
That was her message to a humble, yet enthusiastic crowd at the University of New Hampshire on Tuesday. Stein’s first goal is not to win the White House, but to reach 5 percent in the general election in order to be recognized as an official political party in the United States and to receive federal funding for their party.
“Whether we win the office or we win the day, by building the party, it’s right in the same,” she told the crowd. “Getting to 5 percent of the vote brings in [money] to really start organizing…really begin building our base.”
A way for them to build that base is to make it into the presidential debates. But in order to do that, Stein and Ajamu Baraka — her running mate — need to garner at least 15 percent in five national polls. So far, they’re at 3 percent, according to RealClearPolitics’ national average.
The 15 percent mark is decided by the Commission on Presidential Debates, run by the Democratic and Republican parties, and in some age groups, Stein is polling at that number. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Stein has 15 percent of the vote from those between ages 18 and 34, while Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is at 29 percent, Clinton is at 31 percent and Republican Donald Trump is at 26 percent.
The first debate is scheduled at Hofstra University on September 26. But even if she’s not invited to the debate, Stein said she’s still going to be there, even if she’s arrested.
“We are not going to sit quietly on the sidelines and watch our democracy get stolen from us,” she said. “Let’s show them what democracy looks like. We can have a lot of company down there where we can say it’s time to tear down these walls of our democracy. In America, we not only have a right to vote, we have a right to know who we can vote for and we demand that right in this election, where the majority of voters do not accept these candidates that are being shoved down our throats.”
Stein was arrested in 2012 with her then running mate Cheri Honkala when they tried to attend the same Hofstra debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. They were detained for about eight hours for “obstructing the vehicle of pedestrians and traffic” when attempting to enter.
Stein said she hopes more of her supporters show up to the debate in September to protest, and possibly be arrested with her, to show how third party candidates being barred from the debates is unjust.
The Green Party reached a high point in its history in the 2000 election, when political pundits say Ralph Nader took votes away from Democrat Al Gore and essentially handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush.
That same scenario could happen again in 2016 and that’s what many Democrats fear. Since progressive Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, many of his followers have been slow to support Clinton. As a result, many of them are turning to Stein or Johnson as a viable option.
A recent Emerson College poll showed that in New Hampshire, about 64 percent of Sanders supporters changed their vote to Clinton, while 15 percent changed to Johnson and 11 percent to Stein.
Stein knows that she could pull votes away from Clinton, but that doesn’t bother her. She wants the Green Party to be officially recognized and to stand up to the Democrats.
“The lesser evil is not a solution to the greater evil and in fact, it just paves the way to the greater evil,” she said. “It’s because the Democratic Party relies on fear. They know that they are not really on your side, so they cannot provide the true solutions that people are demanding. At the end of the day, it’s the big money behind closed doors that is calling the shots in that party.”
Stein has made waves in the news cycle in the past week. A warrant is out of her arrest for vandalizing construction equipment during a recent protest in North Dakota to halt the construction of four state oil pipelines.
On Sunday, she told the Des Moines Register in Iowa that she would not have assassinated Osama bin Laden for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but would have brought him to justice.
“I think assassinations … they’re against international law to start with and to that effect, I think I would not have assassinated Osama bin Laden but would have captured him and brought him to trial,” Stein said.
She also published an op-ed in the Guardian on Tuesday calling Edward Snowden a “hero,” and would pardon the whistleblower and offer him a role in her administration, if elected.
Even if Stein’s views seem extreme or implausible to some people, she said the biggest waste of a vote is not voting with your conscious.
“They [the two parties] are actually not entitled to our votes; they have to earn our votes,” she said. “The American people know that voting for political parties and politicians that have been throwing us under the bus, that is the biggest waste of your vote imaginable.”