During the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader won 2,882,995 votes from Americans across the country. It was, and continues to be, the greatest success a Green Party candidate has had at the polls.
His record, however, may soon be outdone.
After Nader's crushing loss, some Democrats charged Greens with spoiling Al Gore's win by not voting blue. It was a controversy that contributed to the decline of the blossoming political party, particularly in Florida, the state that determined the election.
Though Nader won 97,421 votes in the Sunshine State in 2000, in the next presidential election, his Green successor, David Cobb, only earned 3,917 in the state. In 2008, that number fell further when Cynthia McKinney garnered only 2,887 votes— there were twice as many registered Green voters in the state as those who voted for her.
It goes without saying that the situation seemed less than stellar for Florida Greens, and the fate of their party in the state seemed uncertain.
In 2012, however, when Dr. Jill Stein, a Harvard Medical School graduate and social activist, ran under the Green Party's ticket, the game changed.
She won nearly 8,933 Florida votes that year, doing better than Cobb and McKinney combined. Across the country, 469,501 people chose Stein to be U.S. president, also more than Cobb and McKinney put together.
Though the number of votes she received was only a fraction of the total Nader amassed, it was a clear indicator that Stein was a new rising star in the Green Party and that for hundreds of thousands of Americans, blue and red were just not the colors of choice.
Fast-forward to the 2016 presidential race. A perfect storm may be building in favor of the Green Party. Though Stein has received scant media coverage compared to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, who debated yesterday), her poll numbers are still faring better than her 2012 run.
One of the reasons for this may be, as political pundits have pointed out, that both Clinton and Trump suffer from an unlikability problem. So, many have turned to third-party candidates like Stein, who doesn’t receive donations from corporations, and Libertarian Gary Johnson.
On September 30, for example, when Stein visited South Florida, hundreds of people filled Chapman Hall at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown just to see Stein speak.
Among them was 29-year-old Matt Bewley, a medical school graduate who told New Times that he recently made the switch from Democrat to Green and has not “looked back.”
“Stein is very articulate, and her words come across naturally and genuinely. I believe that she speaks on stage as she would in private. Why else would she run other than to advance her ideas?” he said. “Jill Stein's policy knowledge is evident, unlike Trump's or Johnson's.”
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Currently, Stein is the fourth most popular aspiring commander-in-chief, polling at 2.6 percent. However, if her number of supporters continues to grow into election day, she could outdo Nader’s record.
In 2000, 105,218,786 Americans voted in the presidential election, 2.74 percent of them for Nader. The number of Americans (and registered voters) has grown since then. If the same proportion casts ballots this year, Stein could win up to 4,000,000 votes.
Of course, there are many Greens who want her to do better than three percent. “I would also like to see five percent of the national vote go to the Green Party so that the Green Party can get the $10 million in federal election funding for the next cycle,” said Bewley.
With the spark of pride among Greens, which Stein helped ignite, and a boost of a few million in funding, Greens may do even better in the 2020 election.