NBC News and the Daily Kos - two media outlets who think Hillary Clinton is a goddess - recently commented on a December 2015 dinner that celebrated the tenth anniversary of Russia Today (now known by its initials, RT), the English-language Russian TV channel. Two Americans attended the dinner and were seated at Russian President Vladimir Putin's table. One was now-disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The other was Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Dr. Stein is being called a traitor by establishment Democrats for being present at that dinner. There's no evidence that she colluded with the Russian government and conspired with Putin to defeat Hillary Clinton. She was at that dinner because she saw RT as a vehicle to get the message of her presidential candidacy across to American voters who, had they stuck to mainstream media, would not have even heard of her. But the problem with the RT association is that the news channel is seen as a pro-Kremlin propaganda machine to influence the American electorate, and the optics of Dr. Stein at that dinner were unfortunate.
"Jill Stein was a part of Russia’s plan for the election," insisted Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos. "They gave her what the U.S. media had denied - attention and flattery. In return she praised RT and chastised the American media. Both sides got just what they wanted."
Yeah, well, I didn't make my decision to vote for Dr., Stein this past November based on any Russian propaganda. I voted for her because I couldn't bring myself to vote for Trump or Hillary after my original and second choices - Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders - got eliminated. If NBC News and the Daily Kos - both engaged in the sort of Russophobia associated with the Republicans during the Cold War - want to keep fueling such hysteria to explain away Hillary's loss, fine. But they shouldn't blame anyone other than Hillary and the tone-deaf supporters who gave her the Democratic presidential nomination for Donald J. Trump.
Yet they're still blaming Dr. Stein.
"Stein did well enough to help Russia achieve its aims," Sumner wrote. "Her vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton's margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory."
Not entirely true. Trump beat Hillary in Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes; Dr. Stein won 48,912 votes in that state, meaning that Hillary would still have been some 20,000 votes short without Dr. Stein on the ballot. But here's where my research found something interesting. I had said here earlier, based on the numbers I heard, that Dr. Stein's vote total in Michigan was greater than Hillary Clinton's margin of defeat and that her vote total in Wisconsin was less that Hillary's margin of defeat. In fact, they were greater in both states; Trump beat Hillary in Wisconsin by 27,257, and Dr, Stein's vote total in Wisconsin - 30,998 - was indeed greater. In Michigan, Trump beat Hillary by 10,704 votes, and Dr. Stein got a greater tally of 51,463 votes. But the election had already been called for Trump before Michigan's total was finalized, meaning that, without Dr, Stein, Hillary could have won Michigan but still would have lost the election. And as long as Hillary was never going to win Pennsylvania even without Dr. Stein on the ballot, she could have topped Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan and still lost.
Got all that?
The bottom line is that even if the Russians did influence the election - and I'm saying that they did or didn't - Hillary lost the election not because of Russian propaganda or minor-party opponents but because she was a lousy candidate and should never have been nominated.
Having said all that, I'm not supporting Dr. Stein for anything any more, despite having voted for her in November. Why? Because she failed to do what she was expected to do. Win the Presidency? No, no one expected her to do that! She was, though, expected to get at least five percent of the vote for the Green Party to get the party federal matching funds for the 2020 presidential election and help develop the Greens as a credible alternative to the Democrats. She failed. And when the election was over, I hit the reset button. The day before the election, I was a supporter of Dr. Stein. On Election Day, I voted for Dr. Stein. The day after, I was a Martin O'Malley supporter again. Because he was and he remained my first choice for President.
The U.S. Green Party may one day be a party like its European counterparts and win enough seats in Congress and in state legislatures to get concessions from major-party caucuses, but it's never going to replace the Democratic Party as the major opposition to the Republicans. Meanwhile, the "unity tour" between centrist Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and progressive non-Democrat Bernie Sanders has been a flop, showing how bewildered and rudderless the Democrats are. Again: I believe that the Democrats could go full Whig and disintegrate before 2020, allowing a new party to fill the void. I still want Martin O'Malley to run for President in 2020. But not necessarily as a Democrat, any more than Abraham Lincoln and William Seward would run for President in 1860 as Whigs. Of course, they both ended up running as members of a new party altogether.
As for Dr. Stein, she has already been the Green Party presidential nominee twice, and she will be seventy years old in 2020. Thanks for being a voice of reason, Dr. Stein, but you should do what Hillary won't . . . retire from the political scene and let someone else carry the banner going forward.