Willimantic, CT — Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein promised to show up “invited or not” at Hofstra University for the first presidential debate, while speaking before a crowd of about 100 at Windham Town Hall on Thursday night.
“We need real democracy to get out of this mess, and to do that we need to start with an open and inclusive debate, and together at Hofstra we can say no to the lesser evil and yes to the greater good,” Stein said.
In a stump speech of about 35 minutes, Stein focused on the environment, student debt, affordability of education, and income inequality. She called for an “emergency Green New Deal,” to bail out people with student loans and invest in green energy.
“The well kept secret is that there’s actually 43 million young people who are held hostage by predatory student loan debt, and that number gets bigger every day,” Stein said. “Student debt is something you can get into but very rarely get out of.”
Stein compared bailing out student loan debt to bailing out Wall Street following the financial crisis. She said innovation by young people would be key to her Green New Deal.
“When we cancel student debt, the other thing that we must do is make public higher education free as a human right,” Stein said. “It is the time for everyone to have it. It is something that pays for itself; we know that from the G.I. Bill for every dollar we put in we get seven dollars in return from that educated young person having a college degree.”
Stein said her plan was to make America entirely powered by renewable energy by 2030.
Stein said data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed a possible 9 inches rise in sea level due to global warming by 2060.
“This is an election like none another,” Stein said. “We’re not merely deciding what kind of what we’ll be; we’re deciding whether we’ll be a world at all, or not. It really is time to stand up. People ask if I’m scared of Donald Trump. I’m really scared of climate change. I’m also really scared of rising water. I’m also scared of an extending nuclear arms race.”
Stein criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting more military action against Syria, claiming that it could lead to conflict with a nuclear power.
“We say no to both of these lethal choices. We live in a democracy,” Stein said, and the crowd applauded.
Stein said 2016’s election will be one of realignment. She noted that some prominent Republicans have endorsed Clinton.
“The Democratic and Republican corporate parties are merging… They are making one big happy corporate family with the Democratic party under Hillary Clinton’s leadership,” Stein said.
Stein cited a recent Quinnipiac Poll which showed that most American voters considered it more important to oppose the candidate they disliked than to support the one they were voting for.
“This is a voter revolt in the making,” Stein said. “The American public has rejected Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who are considered the most disliked and distrusted candidates in our history.”
“The vast majority, about three-quarters, of Donald Trump’s supporters are voting so not because they like him but because they can’t stand Hillary,” Stein said, citing a recent Quinnipiac Poll. “And two-thirds of Hillary’s supporters don’t really support her; they just don’t like Donald Trump. So how about we give people another option?”
The most recent RealClear Politics poll showed Clinton at 41.4 percent, Trump at 39.8, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at 8.8 and Stein at 2.8 percent of voters.
Stein argued that her polling numbers showed strength rather than weakness because her campaign had not received anywhere near the coverage Trump or Clinton had.
“When the press says to me, ‘Don’t you know? Aren’t you watching the poll numbers? Don’t see how terrible they are?’” Stein said. “To which I say, no, they actually show how powerful we are because you (the press) are not doing your job. You’re not informing the public. They have to spread the word through the grapevine. So without that coverage we are still breaking through and doing better than any non-corporate campaign ever has at this point in the election cycle.”
Prior to Stein’s speech, several candidates endorsed by Connecticut’s Green Party gave remarks.
Lauren Shaw, a senior at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus and candidate for state representative of District 38, criticized the state for cutting funding to mental health and addiction resources, as well as municipal funding.
“Here in Connecticut we have a one-party rule, and it is, in my opinion, sending us down the tubes,” Shaw said.
Juan Matiz, a freshman studying computer science at Eastern Connecticut State University, said he supported Stein’s positions, particularly on immigration, and wanted to explore third-party candidates.
“Following up on the political situation as it is now, I thought it was important to look past red and blue,” Matiz said. “I really don’t support Hillary Clinton, she strikes me as a born and bred politician.”
Bill Potvin, a chemist and graduate of UConn’s class of 1969, said he liked Stein for her similarities to Bernie Sanders and for her anti-war stance.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran for peace,” Potvin said. “The military industrial complex has everybody by the balls and leaves nothing for education and young people are being shafted.”
Potvin said that UConn cost $125 per semester when he was a student, cheap enough for a student to pay their way with a summer job and part-time work during the school.
“I want to be in a system that’s fair,” Potvin said.
After Stein’s speech, her personal assistant Allison Baldree asked for small donations to be made to Stein’s campaign.
“We know two things: the first is that the revolution will not be televised,” Baldree said. “The second is that it will not be funded.”
Chris McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campus Correspondent Dario Cabrera contributed reporting.