Before the election lots of people who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary said that they would vote for Jill Stein because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for an establishment corporatist like Hillary Clinton. In response to the election of Donald Trump a number of former Clinton surrogates and campaign workers have tried to blame the election result on third party candidates, particularly Jill Stein. Not only do these right-wing Democrats show an inability to count, this explanation does not address who or what is actually to blame. There are many reasons why Trump won the election, but Jill Stein’s candidacy is not one of them.
In 2000 centrist Democrats criticised Ralph Nader for being a spoiler candidate that resulted in the election of George W. Bush. Even though Al Gore’s campaign was not very good, didn’t energise people, and Gore actually won the popular vote, Nader went down in history as the spoiler. If we are being most charitable to these centrist Democrats, we can see their point as if all Green Party voters voted for Gore in 2000 (which is a big ‘if’) then Gore would have been President. Again there are many problems with this theory but let’s just say for the sake of argument that this is correct. The same sorts of people are trying to do the same here, but we shouldn’t let them do this.
In November Jill Stein won just over 1.4 million votes, however if you go state by state you quickly realise that those arguing in favour of the ‘Stein spoiler’ theory have rested everything on a premise with a massive question mark hanging over it. Below is a table of some key swing states. All of these were won by Obama in both 2008 and 2012, the only exception being North Carolina which was won by Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012. The numbers in brackets are the states’ electoral votes. For the sake of argument I’ve omitted the voting numbers of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson because I don’t think it is possible to argue that if Gary Johnson wasn’t in the race that all these voters would have voted for a neo-con like Clinton.
North Carolina (15)
In the three states highlighted above, the proponents of the ‘Stein spoiler’ view would be quick to point out that if Clinton won these three states she would have won a total of 280 electoral votes, and thus won the election. Whilst this is mathematically true there are a few other things to point out.
Firstly the assumption of all these Clinton supporters is that all Stein voters would have happily switched to supporting Clinton if it was a two horse race. Given the hostility towards Clinton from the Left I think it would have been highly likely that some of these Stein voters would have stayed home if it was a straight fight between Clinton and Trump. I hear the Hillary supporters saying “but surely this wouldn’t have been the approach of many voters”, however whether or not this would have impacted large numbers of Stein voters is sort of irrelevant. In this hypothetical world in which all Stein voters switched to Clinton, Clinton beat Trump by 135 votes in Pennsylvania. Even if we say that in Pennsylvania 99% of Stein’s voters backed Clinton and only 1% decided to stay at home this would mean that Clinton would lose out on around 500 votes. Those of you with a rudimentary understanding of mathematics will be able to see that this would have meant that even if Clinton won 99% of Stein’s voters she still would have lost.
The second thing to consider is that according to the latest figures around 9% of registered Democrats voted for Donald Trump. Given that Clinton handily won the popular vote and that only a few votes in some states would have swung the election to her, it is strange that no Clinton loyalists are mentioning this fact. If this 9% had backed their party’s candidate then Clinton definitely would have won the election. To blame Stein for Clinton’s defeat ignores the fact that nearly 1 in 10 Democrats backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
So if Jill Stein isn’t to blame who is? Well there are a number of targets, but I would like to personally focus on two.
The first target is the electoral college. As much as I loathe Hillary Clinton the outcome of the election is an absurdity. If a country claims to be a democracy it cannot continue to have a system whereby a person can win the presidency despite coming second. There are many numbers that are being bandied around at the moment but at the time of writing Clinton’s lead in the popular vote was just over 2 million. I don’t care who the candidates are, I believe in democracy and the American people chose a corporate sell-out over knock-off Mussolini. She should have won.
But even if she won the electoral college the vote was so depressed that the GOP would have retained control of Congress. Who is the person responsible for this vote depression? Hillary Rodham Clinton. Writers who claim to be of the Left have essentially argued that Clinton’s loss was the fault of everyone except for the candidate, and indeed some have gone so far as to blame the voters. The job of politicians is to get peoples’ votes so that they can win elections. If a politician fails to win an election, it’s their fault.
I don’t want to name names but some media figures have essentially argued that they couldn’t work out why people voted against Clinton because she had the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. The reason that Clinton lost is that nobody believed her. If Ronald Reagan stood up and said that he wanted to introduce full communism you wouldn’t believe him, because you would be sane. It doesn’t matter how left-wing the Democratic platform is if the people in charge of implementing it are Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and Donna Brazille.
At the end of the day those of us who closely followed the campaign from day one could point to a litany of things that could have changed the outcome of the vote, but blaming Jill Stein makes no sense. Around 46% of the American people didn’t come out and vote. That is the fault of the candidate who lost, not a scapegoat chosen to fit the mainstream narrative. Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate, and even if you thought that the mistrust of her was unjustified, you should have known that the American people perceived her to be untrustworthy and the ultimate insider. Having said that, the idiotic system that the US has is the reason she isn’t president, but in any case blaming a candidate who got 1% of the vote is the cowards way out.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the final vote count. (Date of alteration: 01/12/16)