WASHINGTON - Green Party candidate Jill Stein says she has a chance to become the next U.S. president, despite the big task of overcoming what is largely a two-party system when it comes to national elections.
During a CNN town hall event Wednesday, Stein called Democrat Hillary Clinton's record "very troubling" and described Republican Donald Trump as someone who "bashes immigrants and is a xenophobic and racist loudmouth."
“I will have trouble sleeping at night if Donald Trump is elected," she said. "I will also have trouble sleeping at night if Hillary Clinton is elected.”
In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won just under 3 percent of the vote in an election that many believed Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George Bush because those voters chose Nader. When asked about that prospect this year, Stein did not see her candidacy that way.
“Not splitting the vote, but potentially flipping the vote so that we who are the underdog deserve to be the top dog and actually could be the top dog if we stand up with the courage of our convictions."
A big part of her belief in her chance of winning is a plan to attract what she called a "winning plurality" of 43 million young people who are trapped economically by student loan debt. Stein wants to abolish that debt through action by the Federal Reserve that would then allow people to spend money in other areas of the economy instead of making loan payments.
“It’s terrible for them, it’s terrible for our whole society, because it’s always the younger generation that leads us forward to create the economy of the future and to lead the social changes that we urgently need right now.”
She also wants to create jobs through transitioning the nation's energy industry to completely renewable sources by 2030. Regarding the military, Stein wants to cut spending by 50 percent, end the use of drone attacks and close all U.S. bases abroad.
“Make higher education free, and healthcare as a human right, and create a welcoming path to citizenship, end police violence, and a foreign policy that’s based on international law, human rights and economic justice, not military and economic domination that’s blowing back on us so catastrophically," Stein said of her platform Wednesday.
One hurdle Stein must overcome is that Trump and Clinton are well known publicly and as the nominees for the major parties they get lots of exposure. Stein released an open letter calling for the two candidates to participate in debates with her and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
There are four planned debates, but the commission that runs them requires a candidate to get 15 percent support in five national polls in order to be eligible. The latest polls put Johnson at about 8 percent and Stein around 3 percent, so currently neither would take part.
"The presidential debates are the single most important election events in the presidential campaign," the letter says. "They should provide voters with multiple opportunities to see all the candidates on the ballot across the country discussing important issues in an unscripted manner so the people can make informed decisions."
Stein said on CNN that changing the system to allow her and Johnson into the debates would be decided in the court of public opinion.
“We have a right to know who our choices are," she said.
Johnson expressed confidence at a Fusion forum on Wednesday that he would not need any changes to get in the debates. He said he thinks there is a 50 percent chance he will get to 15 percent in the polls.
The first debate is scheduled for September 26.