Democracy Dies in Darkness

PostPartisan | Opinion

Jill Stein's foul language on race

By Jonathan Capehart

August 26, 2016 at 12:10 PM

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Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein met with The Washington Post editorial board on Aug. 25. This is a full audio recording of that conversation. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

The headline for The Post's editorial on Jill Stein summed it up. The Green Party presidential candidate is running a "fairy-tale candidacy."

Listening to her policy prescriptions on Thursday was a 70-minute rhetorical stroll through fantasyland with a mindless revolutionary who believes leading the United States "is not rocket science." For instance, Stein said, "We need an emergency wartime-scale mobilization to create 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030." Yet her explanations of how she would make that happen in a gridlocked Washington betrayed a stunning lack of basic understanding of the political process she seeks to helm.

But that wasn't the part of the meeting that left me gobsmacked. Oh no. What left me O.o was Stein's comments about statements made by her running mate, Ajamu Baraka. She doesn't agree with his language, but she is just fine with what he says.

[Read the transcript of Jill Stein's interview with The Post's editorial board]

When editorial page editor Fred Hiatt asked Stein about the NATO alliance and whether she shared Baraka's opinion about "gangster states" of NATO," she said, " "Well he uses language I would not use. But, shall we say, I don't think it represents American democracy to do an end run around our process or determining when we will go to war."

"Well he uses language," Hiatt pressed, "but what does he mean? Do you agree?" To which Stein replied, "I think he means the same thing I'm saying."

As bad as that was, that's nothing compared with her reaction to Baraka calling President Obama an "Uncle Tom." Read the exchange below and I'll meet you on the other side.

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein answers questions during a news conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

JO-ANN ARMAO, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: When comments of your vice-president came up, you seemed to suggest "that's him, this is me." You seemed to be making a distinction. If you were elected president and God forbid something happened, are you comfortable with him assuming the office and does he have the qualifications to do the job?

STEIN: So, when I say "that's him", I refer to the provocative language that he uses, but his ideas, and his vision are not different from mine. He is unapologetically a member of an oppressed group, and he speaks in the language of his culture. And I think he speaks to a demographic that feels pretty locked out of the American power structure. And I think it's extremely valuable for us to be able to have a conversation in more than one dialect, speaking to more than one demographic here, finding our common ground, and having a very frank discussion about race, for one thing, which is where he is most hard-hitting, race, and the issues of human rights. Peace? Martin Luther King would have called it militarism, extreme materialism, and racism – that's the language Martin Luther King used.

LEE HOCKSTADER, EDITORIAL WRITER: So what demographic does he speak for when he calls the president an Uncle Tom?

STEIN: Well you know – you know, I won't venture—He'll have to speak for himself about that language, but I can say that in general, he speaks to a very disenfranchised demographic that does not feel like they're being served by the power structure, and they're angry about it. I mean, I think he is disappointed in Barack Obama, and that's – if you listen to why he used that language, and he discussed this at the CNN town hall forum, you can hear his explanation for – for why he was disappointed, why he had higher expectations, and why he thinks we can do better, and that's what our conversation is about.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Is that an appropriate way to talk about the president of the United States, to call him an Uncle Tom?

STEIN: I would never do that.

HOCKSTADER: If I can come back –

ARMAO: That goes to judgment, doesn't that partly go to judgment? So to come back to my original question, are you comfortable with him assuming the office of president? Can you assure the American people that this would be a good person, and what does that say about your candidacy?

STEIN: Yes, I can assure you that he is a man of, uh, of peace, of human rights, of great passion as an advocate on the board of Amnesty International, having served to work against the death penalty, and he served on the international commissions promoting human rights. I can assure people that his vision is essentially my vision, and that he agrees with the details of our policy proposals period. I have worked with him for many years and have never heard him use language like that, and so, it's news to me that sometimes he does speak in that very blunt and inflammatory language. But to look at his actions, and his track record, he is definitely in the tradition of a Martin Luther King. And he can speak to that in better detail than I can, but I am entirely comfortable with him as a person who supports my vision and my agenda. His very blunt and inflammatory language on occasion speaks to a very large demographic that feels like they have been thrown under the bus and they have been locked out.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

CAPEHART: So how is that different–

ARMAO: Donald Trump says the same thing.

CAPEHART: Exactly. That was exactly what I was going to ask.

ARMAO: Donald Trump says the same thing, and what has that done to our political process?

STEIN: Well, you know, with Donald Trump, it's non-stop and it's 24-7. With my running mate, you're mostly going to hear about human rights, about how we get rid of the legacy of racism, how we end war. So he may have used a term that some find offensive, and that's unfortunate, but on the balance you're going to find what he is talking about exactly in the tradition of Martin Luther King.

FRED RYAN, WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER: Should he apologize for that? Should he apologize to the president for saying that?

STEIN: I'm going to leave that up to him.

RYAN: Would you ask him to apologize?

STEIN: No, I would not.

The comments I bolded above were among the most offensive in a back-and-forth that left me agape.

[Jill Stein's fairy-tale candidacy]

"He is unapologetically a member of an oppressed group, and he speaks in the language of his culture." This broad brush of "his culture" is no different from Donald Trump's "Right now, you walk down the street you get shot" pitch to African Americans. This is as offensive as it is unbelievably dumb.

"He speaks to a very disenfranchised demographic that does not feel like they're being served by the power structure." While African Americans are right to "feel they're not being served by the power structure," I am a member of that "disenfranchised demographic." Not one word of what Baraka says speaks to me or for me.

"And I think it's extremely valuable for us to be able to have a conversation in more than one dialect…." Dialect?! When did blacker-than-thou condescension become a "dialect"? Jesus, take the wheel.

"He is definitely in the tradition of a Martin Luther King." Chil', please.

Jill Stein answers questions during a news conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Stein's excuse-making for Baraka's "very blunt and inflammatory language" makes her no better than Trump. As is her unwillingness to not ask Baraka to apologize to the president. That is no way to talk about any African American, especially the president of the United States.

You know I don't put up with anyone calling an African American an "Uncle Tom." I have defended Obama against this charge, and I have defended black conservatives, including Justice Clarence Thomas, as well. Blacks use it against other blacks viewed as insufficiently black. And too many far-left whites excuse it as some "dialect" or "language of his culture." They are the worst.

Funny how people who swear they are doing things in the best interests of the oppressed condone things that compound the oppression.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes for the PostPartisan blog. Subscribe to his podcast Cape UP, available on iTunes and Stitcher.

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