Greens to Bernie: Come on over

Two months ago — or maybe even one month ago — Jill Stein’s offer might have actually  worked. Yesterday, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party offered to stand down if Bernie Sanders took his movement on the road and agreed to run for president on their ticket. Now it might be a case of too little, too late … or is it (via Kerry Picket)?

Bernie Sanders has been invited to continue his underdog bid for the White House by the Green party’s probable presidential candidate, who has offered to step aside to let him run. …

But in a potentially destabilising move for the Democratic party, and an exciting one for Sanders’ supporters, the Green party candidate said she was willing to stand aside for Sanders.

“I’ve invited Bernie to sit down explore collaboration – everything is on the table,” she said. “If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement,” she said.

Stein said she had made her offer directly to Sanders in an email at the end of the primary season, although she had not received a response. Her surprise intervention comes amid speculation that Sanders will finally draw a line under a bruising Democratic contest by endorsing Clinton’s presidential bid next week.

Stein’s e-mail missive would have come at a perfect time for such a move. The Democratic Party’s establishment had accused Sanders of fomenting violence after a dustup in the Nevada Democratic Convention, and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had led that charge. She had also done everything but jam a crown on Hillary Clinton all during the debate season and primaries, scheduling the events for days and times more suited to public-access cable channels than national political events. Sanders and his supporters looked ready to bolt.

In late May, I wrote a column for The Fiscal Times that laid out precisely this move, and why it made sense for Bernie and his movement, and the Greens too:

Sanders would still face the same sore-loser laws and ballot access issues as would a conservative independent – if he didn’t have an established party to back him. Unlike conservatives, who lack such a nationally established option, there is at least a possibility that Sanders could appeal to the Green Party. The Greens will hold their convention a couple of weeks after the Democrats do, in the first weekend of August.

The Green Party is most remembered for the spoiler role nominee Ralph Nader arguably played in Florida in the 2000 election, pulling enough votes away from Al Gore to give the state and the election narrowly to George W. Bush. They have struggled for national status ever since, and might welcome Sanders as a means to bid for major-party coverage – especially since they would provide a closer ideological fit for Sanders’ supporters than Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party might.

A Sanders defection could also help the Greens win a fight over ballot access. As it stands now, though, Sanders could get on enough ballots to have a major impact on the general election. New York, California, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Colorado are among the 20 states where the Green nominee will get a spot on the ballot no matter what. Those seven states represent 144 Electoral College votes that went to Democrats in 2012. If Sanders split the Left in those states, it might push those states to the GOP; if Sanders actually won those states, it would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where Republicans would control the outcome.

Two weeks ago, the idea that Sanders would take his constituency and go on his own would have seemed ludicrous. With the vitriol ramping up this week and the DNC stoking the fire, it’s at least possible that Sanders will have no use for Democratic Party unity, and has at least a potential option for a party that will allow him to lead. If Democrats don’t act to rein in Wasserman Schultz and engage with Sanders quickly to call a truce, this summer might be more interesting than anyone imagines.

Since then, though, the fires of internecine conflict have abated somewhat. Sanders got booed on Capitol Hill when he met with House Democrats this week for not providing a timeline for endorsing Hillary, but that didn’t stop him from feeling the Bern from her college-tuition proposals this past week. Reportedly, the two have already planned a unity event for Tuesday that will put an end to the Bernie movement, and cement Hillary as the undisputed leader of the Democratic Party.

Stein should have gone public with this offer earlier. Had she done so before the California primary, perhaps the enthusiasm and anger within Bernie’s ranks would have pushed him to keep reaching for the brass ring, even if it came from a lesser jewelry store, so to speak. Stein claims that Bernie’s supporters are already coming to the Green Party, but there seems to be little evidence of that in polling. The Libertarians appear to be doing slightly better in that effort, but Gary Johnson isn’t going to offer his slot.

Still, perhaps Bernie will use Stein’s offer as one last bit of leverage for some policy concessions, or maybe even a role in a potential Hillary administration. At the very least, Sanders can demand Wasserman Schultz’ head on a silver platter. If Hillary balks, at least Sanders knows he has somewhere else to go. A few more catcalls or a brush-off or two in the next few days, and who knows?