Houston Greens support party nomination, Jill Stein
“Jill not Hill! Jill not Hill!” The shouts echoed throughout the Student Center South.
If you weren’t near the Student Center this week, you probably missed the chants decrying corporations and Hillary Clinton and extolling democracy for the people.
On Saturday afternoon, the Student Center Theater was standing room only as over 500 Green Party members packed the space and nominated their ticket for the 2016 presidential election: Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.
Almost as an answer to the Republican presidential debate last February, the University of Houston played host to the Green Party’s national convention. According to Texas Green Party leader and UH alumna Laura Palmer, their choice for convention location was decided over a year ago.
“You look at the skyline (of Houston), and it is like looking at the face of Corporate America,” Palmer said. “But also because of the diversity of this city, it’s incredible richness.”
The event spanned several debate-filled days with occasional disruption, though notably less than either the Democratic National Convention or Republican National Convention.
“I am really excited and hopeful, because this [convention] represents real change instead of just fancy catch phrases,” Law Center student Remington Alessi, who attended the convention, said.
Alessi wasn’t the only participant with feelings of enthusiasm, and they had some real reasons for it. In the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections, the Green Party only grabbed a dismal 0.36 percent and 0.12 percent of the popular vote respectively. However, according to Stein, her poll numbers have risen to 6 percent following the Democratic National Convention less than two weeks ago.
According to CNN, Stein also earns a 16 percent rating among young people, which is almost double that of Donald Trump, though still far behind Hillary Clinton’s 41 percent. The convention’s registration numbers to attend doubled during that same time.
The Greens’ platform ranges from support for Black Lives Matter to cutting the military budget and a “Green New Deal” intended to create 20 million jobs. But they think they have what might be a winning strategy in “abolishing student debt” and making higher education free.
“We actually have the numbers to win the day,” Stein declared during her nomination acceptance speech. “I think you know, there are 42 million young people and not-so-young people who are locked into predatory student loan debt. That is a winning plurality on the presidential vote.”
In addition to the presidential race, the Greens are fielding over 100 local candidates in counties and states across the country, with a dozen running out of Harris County, including for Congress and for Texas’ Railroad Commissioner, which regulates the oil and gas industry.
The Green local and statewide campaigns may face even more robust obstacles than the Stein/Baraka ticket. In the most recent Railroad Commissioner race, Martina Salinas, a UH alumna who is running on the Green ticket again this year, only received 2 percent of the vote. Texas Greens are banking on the newfound notoriety of their presidential campaign to boost their local campaigns as well. But aside from that, resources for Salinas’ campaign are scarce. Likely as a result of that sparse funding, the Green Railroad Commissioner campaign does not really have an existing campaign strategy aside from participating in forums and generally “getting the word out.”
There are major uphill battles ahead for the Green Party to be anything close to a serious contender in the upcoming elections. It is a rare thing for third parties to do more than influence the platform of the two major parties.
The Greens have yet to be ranked high enough in the polls to be invited to a presidential debate, but regardless of the long odds, they think they have a chance to change the game. Stein quoted Democratic runner-up Bernie Sanders in her acceptance speech: “The only solution for the likes of Donald Trump is a truly radical, progressive agenda.”