On a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host decided to take an honest look at some of the policy proposals of Jill Stein (2016 Green Party presidential hopeful) and Gary Johnson (2016 Libertarian Party presidential hopeful). That honest look meant that their ideas were put under a microscope and closely scrutinized. You can watch that video here. Stein was not at all happy with Oliver’s criticism of her proposed idea to use quantitative easing to cancel student debt. On her Facebook page, Stein writes:
I know you’re all sick of hearing about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and that you probably don’t want to hear me going after John Oliver again.
But I would like you to watch this video from TYT Network‘s, The Jimmy Dore Show. We need to begin having honest conversations about the oppressive tactics corporate comedians continue to do towards already-marginalized groups of people.
This country was built on oppressing The Other (Blacks and indigenous people) and I’m not going to stand for more of this while we deal with major crises in this country that could determine whether we’ll even survive as a species.
Already-marginalized groups of people?
Who is she referring to as oppressed? What groups of marginalized people is she speaking of? She doesn’t make that clear, but given that all John Oliver did was criticize some of Stein’s proposals, it stands to reason that either she herself feels oppressed or marginalized, or she thinks the Green Party is. Either way, that’s just plain horseshit, and my friend Ari Multhauf explains why:
(the following comment, left by Ari on my FB page, is reprinted in its entirety and with her permission)
OK, HERE WE GO.
Political oppression is an incredibly serious issue. There are certainly places in the world in which membership in a political party can have legal consequences, violent consequences, in which political affiliation can impact job prospects, housing, and access to fundamental rights, including enfranchisement. Disenfranchisement itself can beget political oppression, and here in the US we see issues with disenfranchisement disproportionately impacting Black men, poor people, women, and other marginalized groups.
In this sense, Jill Stein, a woman, can reasonably assert that she experiences political oppression and marginalization, not directly, but as part of an affected demographic. So…ok.
BUT I DON’T THINK THAT’S WHAT SHE’S SAYING HERE.
The Green Party is *not subject to oppression in the US*. It’s not. Members of the Green Party are not subject to legal consequences for their membership, they are not made unsafe by their membership, they are not denied rights and access by their membership, they are not disenfranchised by their membership. The Green Party itself is not subject to rules that in any way differ from those that all political parties are subject to in the US.
Yes, the Greens find themselves relatively unable to make a dent in national politics, but it’s not because they are marginalized but because they run a stunt campaign every four years and totally ignore the ground game almost everywhere the rest of the time (I live in one of the rare exceptions, but they don’t invest much even *here*). Their membership numbers are *very low*, which in turn creates issues with ballot access and debate access and everything else, but there is no mechanism in place that makes membership dangerous, they simply *fail to make it sufficiently appealing*.
This year in particular, the stunt campaign has generated a lot of press because of the contentious nature of the two major party candidates, but they will not parlay that into political influence if they insist on enjoying the press without being made to be accountable for their stated positions. This is not oppression.
Jill Stein is not oppressed by people pointing to the gaping holes in her understanding and experience for the job she is applying for. She is not marginalized by someone questioning her fitness for the presidency not on the grounds of her gender or affiliation but on the grounds of her policy chops. AND OH MY GOD, NO, THIS IS NOT LIKE BEING BLACK OR NATIVE, both populations that are dramatically more likely to be subjected to state violence, the violation of fundamental rights, execution, and disenfranchisement than your average Green.
This is all particularly galling because Stein herself has not been hesitant to use marginalizing language about oppressed populations, in particular (though by no means exclusively) people with autism. Likewise, she has more than once criticized Clinton in gender essentialist terms, and she continues to downplay the threat inherent in Trump’s possible election to the office of the presidency to a wide variety of marginalized people.
Stein *didn’t need to respond to the piece*, and indeed, probably shouldn’t have, but if she felt it demanded a response, why not address the perceived gaps and shortfalls, rather than suggesting that this is about how the free press said a mean thing which is just like systemic racism and violence, I guess? I mean, I know why not. If this was something she could meaningfully address, she would have in the first place, after all. If she had a realistic sense of her own privilege and of what oppression and marginalization look like, she’d be doing ground work and not flirting with an endorsement of an autocratic sex criminal. But no, no of course not.
I don’t think Jill Stein is why the Green Party can’t have nice things, but I think she demonstrates a significant issue with the party itself, and it’s not one that’s going to get fixed by glossing over policy issues with peak white feminist posturing.