No, Jill Stein Is Not The Scary Leftist Wacko Democrats Say She Is
Hey, did you hear that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is an anti-vaccine nut who buys into weird conspiracy theories about pesticides? Chances are that you have heard this story, because it’s being passed around feverishly on social media by Democrats who are alarmed that Hillary Clinton hasn’t yet gained the support of many liberal voters, who are looking at Jill Stein as a reasonable alternative.
The story comes from Jordan Weissman at Salon.com. Weissman wags his finger at Stein for supporting voters’ skepticism about the safety of vaccines, but the odd thing is that he can’t actually find any evidence that Stein has encouraged the irrational belief that common vaccines are unsafe. Instead, what Weissman actually quotes Stein saying is that there is corruption in the process of pharmaceutical review and regulation. That’s not the same thing as being anti-vaccine.
To hear a more accurate representation of Jill Stein’s position on vaccines and the FDA, listen to the interview of Stein by Tom Ashbrook on the WBUR show On Point, during which Ashbrook takes time to specifically confront Stein on the issue of vaccines.
“Stein: Vaccines are a mainstay of public health.
Ashbrook: Are they safe?
Stein: Yes. Yes.
Ashbrook: Should people trust them?
Ashbrook: Why have you raised concerns, then, about the trustworthiness of those who oversee that safety?
Stein: Well, I didn’t raise these issues. This is the swiftboat attack of 2016. These are efforts to take me off message and to discredit me.
[Ashbrook then plays audio of an earlier interview of Stein by the Washington Post.]
Stein: I think there’s no question that vaccines have transformed public health, and have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases: Smallpox, polio, etc. So, vaccines are invaluable medication. Like any other medication, they should be, what should we say, approved by a regulatory board that people can trust.
Ashbrook: So, can people, you raised questions about the trustworthiness of the oversight there. Do you step away from those questions today?
Stein: Let me say, as a doctor, as a medical doctor, I know that all medications have risks and benefits. That’s why you want an FDA that is free from the revolving door and influence of money in politics. We know, for example, that the pharmaceutical industry spent, I think it’s 700 million dollars, on lobbying between 2011 and 2013.
Ashbrook: But are regulatory agencies that oversee vaccination trustworthy today, because you suggested that they were not. You said that the fox is guarding the chicken coop.
Stein, Well, what about Vioxx, okay? What about Vioxx? There is an example of 140,000 cases of heart disease that developed while the FDA refused to release information that they had, and that, in fact, the review committee wanted released. It was was the FDA authorities that prevented that from happening. As an environmental advocate, I have had a long going dialogue with regulatory agencies where we are always fighting the power of the industry. You know, lead, for example. We have a lead crisis today.
Ashbrook: Should parents today who wonder about having their children vaccinated, should they trust those vaccinations?
Stein: Yes. Yes! Yes, and I have been clear about that. Absolutely.”
This is not the language of someone who is encouraging the conspiracy theories of anti-vaccination activists.
Jordan Weissman doesn’t seem interested, though, in the distinction between reasonable concerns about corruption at regulatory agencies and wild anti-vaccine rantings. He seems more interested in throwing anything that he can come up with, no matter how poorly sourced, at Jill Stein in the interest of protecting Hillary Clinton. Weissman even writes that Jill Stein’s support of the forgiveness of college loans is “not a very progressive idea”.
Weismann’s criticism of Jill Stein on pesticides takes the cake. He writes, “She would also ‘Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.’ This is a nod to the discredited theory that some pesticides are driving the collapse of honeybee populations (which, by the way, are not actually collapsing). Again, this is somewhat standard stuff on the far left these days, but coming from a physician, it’s discouraging.”
If you’re shaking your head at the idea that concerns about the impact of pesticides on pollinator populations is just some kind of wacko “far left” obsession, that’s because the relationship between pesticide use and population reductions in pollinators is a concern raised by many professional scientists, not some fantasy invented by radical environmentalists. Weissman’s insistence that the relationship between neonicotinoid pesticides and reductions in pollinators’ populations is discredited doesn’t look so reasonable this week, with the release of new results from a long-term scientific study that has tracked 62 species of bee and found “a link between their shrinking populations and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.”
What is Jordan Weissman’s grudge against Stein? I don’t know, but it’s worth noting that Weissman’s source for the idea that there is no crisis in pollinator populations is a political writer, not a scientist. That source describes the fact that beekeepers must now invest extra effort and financial resources just in order to keep their hives stable as “a victory for the free market”. Celebrating externalized costs of industrialized agriculture isn’t the sort of thing any liberal would do.
To be sure, Jill Stein has some flaws. All candidates do. However, Stein does a much better job representing liberal values than Hillary Clinton does. Jordan Weissman calls Stein an “absolutely awful torchbearer for the far left”, but the truth is that she’s a much, much better torchbearer than Clinton.
While Jill Stein has consistently opposed new wars, stood against the TPP and the Keystone Pipeline, opposed the expansion of big coal and critiqued the injustice of the Wall Street bailout, Hillary Clinton supported George W. Bush’s rush to war in Iraq, promoted the TPP before Bernie Sanders made her change her position, supported expansion of the Keystone Pipeline before she opposed it, encourages increases in fossil fuel production, and took big paychecks from the very Wall Street firms that received the biggest bailouts, shortly before declaring the beginning of her presidential campaign.
Slamming Jill Stein with ill-informed and dishonest smears won’t be an effective technique for convincing liberal voters to support Hillary Clinton. Instead, if Democrats are really worried that they won’t be able to gain enough liberal voters to elect Clinton over Donald Trump, they ought to be working to convince Hillary Clinton to support more liberal policies than she does.
Besides, if Hillary Clinton can’t beat Donald Trump, the weakest Republican presidential candidate in living memory, and the most disliked major party presidential candidate ever, the blame won’t rest with a third party candidate. A candidate with all the advantages that Hillary Clinton has should be able to knock over Donald Trump with a light tap. The fact that Hillary Clinton is struggling to compete against a crude, incompetent, inexperienced, emotionally unhinged, and generally detested opponent can’t be blamed on the Green Party.