Mark Tuesday, Dec. 13 as the day Green went black. Not only did Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s three-state presidential recount end with a whimper, President-elect Donald Trump named former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, one of the three federal departments he promised to eliminate during his own White House run in 2012.
Along with Trump’s picks of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of State and Scott Pruitt to top the EPA, the Perry pick completed Trump’s transfer of American environmental stewardship from Barack Obama to three of the country’s most prominent fossil fuel aficionados.
If the Stein recount and Trump’s choice of Perry seem unrelated, they’re not for Democrats, many of whom complain that had Jill Stein and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson not gobbled up votes in crucial swing states, Hillary Clinton would be naming her own cabinet picks right now. Instead, they’re bracing for a White House run by a climate change denier and a federal government run by professional polluters.
“I think Donald Trump’s appointments are nothing short of a horror show,” Stein told The Daily Beast, when asked about Perry, Tillerson, and Pruitt. “Donald Trump is appointing, not only to the the EPA, the Department of Energy, but to non-environmental agencies as well, people whose purpose and whose track records is in flagrant violation of the missions of the agencies to which he is appointing them.”
Stein said she and the Green Party remain committed to environmental justice and pointed out that she was the only presidential candidate to visit the Standing Rock site in North Dakota, “which is a microcosm of our larger national and and global fight for environmental justice, for climate justice, and for our democratic right to protest.”
But, like Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party, Stein takes no responsibility for getting Donald Trump elected president just because her name was on the ballot.
“It’s very clear from exit polls that there were very few Greens, 61 percent, that would have come out to vote if they didn’t have a Green candidate to vote for,” she said. “Of the remainder of those, over one-third would have voted for Donald Trump. It’s not supported by the numbers that the Greens would have made the margin of difference, not for a single electoral vote.”
Stein spoke to reporters Tuesday, the deadline for all states to certify their election results before the Electoral College meets later in the month. Although she requested statewide recounts in three states with some of Trump’s smallest victories, a Pennsylvania judge denied Stein’s request for a recount, while the Michigan Supreme Court intervened to stop the statewide recount there. Only Wisconsin approved and conducted a statewide recount, where Stein’s $3.5 million effort resulted only in 131 more votes going to Donald Trump.
But Green Party activists in those states say they stand behind Stein’s candidacy and recount efforts, even as Trump populates his cabinet with millionaires, billionaires, Wall Street veterans, and energy executives.
“It’s a deplorable and despicable cabinet and as far as climate change,” said Carl Romanelli, a longtime Green Party activist in Pennsylvania. “But sadly that’s the policy we would have been faced with under Clinton, too. We’re hopeful that the left will organize around a Trump presidency, instead of being silent as they were for eight years of President Obama expanding fracking and nuclear energy.”
Romanelli said he has “no regrets at all” about Stein’s candidacy or her recount efforts, which he said were designed to expose the flaws in American election law, which he called “state-sponsored Jim Crow.”
“I do believe that among the dissent, there’s that feeling that we are somehow carrying water for the Democratic Party. We are not,” he said. “It’s a fundamental constitutional guarantee that every American has for an election that’s administered with integrity and a vote that’s verifiable and provable, and we cannot say that in Pennsylvania.”
In Michigan, another state where the courts shut down Stein’s recount efforts, veteran activist Eric Borregard said he sees the Green Party’s role in 2016 as a success.
“We’ve known for many, many years that our state’s campaign was corrupt. They could never get the same results twice. If you can’t get it twice, you can’t get it once. This is nothing new to us, but making it known to more people, getting that word out that your campaign system is corrupt, in that sense I think it was a successful campaign for her.”
He called the recent focus in the press on potential Russian hacking a distraction.
“You don’t have to go to Russia to find out who’s hacking our elections,” he said. “You can go to the county clerks in Michigan and pretty much every one of them is incapable of holding a fair election.”
Even in Wisconsin, where the statewide recount actually ended up giving Trump 131 more votes than he started with, Wisconsin Green Party co-chairman George Martin said the recount achieved what was intended.
“They say it wasn’t much of a change in terms of votes. But we said from the beginning, we’re not doing this for the benefit of one candidate over another,” Martin said. “We said we’re doing this to take a really good look at our voting system. It wasn’t about the number of votes, it’s about how it worked.”
Like Stein and activists in other swing states, Martin dismissed criticism of the Greens as Clinton’s spoilers or Trump’s unwitting enablers. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” he said. “We know we were doing the right thing.”