In a Sea of Green, Only White

Alex Sadler, Johns Hopkins University

As the Democratic National Convention was set to kick off, many were eagerly awaiting the arrival of who they thought would be the first woman President.

The only issue?

Instead of shouts for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there were calls for official Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Chants of “Jill not Hill” reverberated around Broad Street where supporters stood between City Hall and the Ritz Carlton as the outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter Cornel West introduced Jill Stein to the podium.

Arriving to a sea of green flags, Dr. Stein proudly stated that “Democracy is not at the Democratic Convention”. Sounding more like a prophet than a politician, Stein employed a slew of metaphors declaring to her supporters that they had not yet “finished climbing the mountain”. The Massachusetts doctor went on for twenty minutes, touching on the main Green Party talking points: mounting a serious fight against climate change, raising the minimum wage, and helping alleviate student debt.

And while the leftist Stein caters to a very similar ideology as Bernie Sanders, there was something lacking in the strong Green Party turnout. To start, Dr. Stein failed to mention the word ‘Latino’ or ‘immigrant’ throughout her 20-minute speech. And although Cornel West introduced Jill Stein, it appeared that he was one of the only people of color in attendance.

This begs the question, why aren’t the people that are most oppressed by the establishment the ones turning out for Jill Stein? Why are most ‘Bernie or Bust’ supporters white? Why aren’t the Latinos, who were almost split evenly between Sanders and Clinton in the primary, turning out for the Green Party?

Attending the Green Party rally, I took this opportunity to ask the Stein supporters themselves: where are the people of color? Speaking with supporters who had traveled throughout the country to see Jill Stein and be with their fellow ‘Greens’, the most common reason to explain the perceived absence of diversity was the poverty line. Carli, a part time college student from suburban Philadelphia, told me that “usually, anyone that does not appear white is not making ends meet and that’s why you’re not seeing them here. Because they can’t afford to be here.” Dakota, an invited guest of an Ohio delegate, posited that the group I was referring to is a group that has been oppressed for a very long time,  meaning that “it’s more difficult for them to actually be involved in our political process the way it is now.”

For some Latinos, the decision to vote for Hillary Clinton over Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is clear. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D – IL) put it simply, “If you think an ugly, monstrous proposal like ‘I’m going to round up 11 million people and build a wall’ is ok, then throw away your vote.” What Gutiérrez said boils directly to what repels Latinos from ‘throwing away their votes’. The vast majority of Latinos I spoke with at the Convention told me that when it comes down to it, the alternative to Hillary Clinton is just too scary. The possibility that a man who surged in the polls for making plans to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border simply provides too big of a risk in voting third party.

An ardent Green Party supporter – who declined to be named – told me that a Donald Trump presidency would be a small sacrifice in the revolution while a Clinton victory would signal conformity to the establishment. Although these statements are easy to make when not much is at stake, a different pressure builds when you have friends or family that comprise 1 of the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States today.

Freshman Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), the last elected official from Arizona to endorse a candidate in the primaries, told me that while he agrees with Bernie Sanders’ beliefs on economics and economics justice, Hillary Clinton’s strong relationship with the Latino community and her experience working on immigration issues put her over the top.

Speaking on how a Trump presidency would affect immigration dialogue in Arizona and the rest of the country, Gallego alluded to the immediate aftermath of the controversial SB 1070 that many have attacked for unfairly targeting Latinos, “[after the passing of SB 1070], everything ended up being wrapped around immigration issues and Latino issues… For example, we needed to fund schools more and the retort from Republicans was ‘we have enough money for schools, if it wasn’t for all of those “illegals” these schools would be great’… This is why Latinos have to come out and truly stop Trump.”

On the ‘Bernie or bust’ side, radically changed political discourse targeting Latinos would not deter writing in Sanders or voting for Stein. Patti, an artist from Florida, traveled to Philadelphia to protest the nomination of Hillary Clinton. When asked about the implications of a Trump presidency, Patti was unafraid. “Bernie Sanders’ revolution is now on, and that means that two years from now we will have so many independents or progressive Democrats on the down ticket that anything that he [Trump] tries to get accomplished is not going to work. When asked about the threat of a Trump wall, Patti was unimpressed. “There’s no way he’s building the wall, he’s a blowhard who doesn’t have any idea what the hell he’s doing and he wouldn’t pass it through the most conservative House. Nobody wants the wall.”

Still, the Trump rhetoric has even the most veteran Bernie supporters worried. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) was the first sitting Congressman to endorse Bernie Sanders. But once Hillary Clinton won the California primary and clinched the number of delegates needed for the nomination, Grijalva announced that he would be supporting the Democratic nominee. Unapologetically ‘with her’ Grijalva explained, “I was proud to be the first Congressman to endorse Bernie for President but now the time has come to stop Trump. Latinos, the people of Arizona, and all Americans cannot afford a Trump presidency.” Still, Grijalva remains optimistic that strong pressure from the left will force Hillary to come around on many of the issues Sanders and Stein have been advocating for. “Hillary will have to energize the base to win this election. And today’s base is becoming more progressive than it has ever been.”

As of now, mostly thanks to Trump’s gaffes and a strong showing at the DNC, Clinton enjoys a comfortable lead while Stein struggles to poll at over 5% nationally. And while things are shaping up for a big victory this November, it is important that Clinton keeps the Green Party and Sanders Democrats in mind as she looks down the road to 2020 in hopes to avoid another grueling primary.

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