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Dissatisfaction with Biden’s climate policies may drive leftist voters to third-party candidates

Green Party candidate Jill Stein claims that climate change can cause the human race to go extinct, and she advocates for a Green New Deal, which has appeal among far-left voters who believe Biden didn't do enough to stop fossil fuel use.

Published: February 28, 2024 11:00pm

When President Joe Biden approved the Willow oil project in Alaska in March 2023, he set off a wave of criticism from climate activists.

A young climate activist interrupted White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s speech to voice her anger at the president.

“A million young people wrote to the administration pleading not to approve a disastrous oil drilling project,” CNN reported the 21-year-old woman saying.

To offset some of the criticism from the president’s supporters, the Biden administration blocked oil and gas leases on half of the acres in the National Petroleum Reserve. For some climate activists, who called the Willow project a “carbon bomb,” the appeasement did little.

“It’s insulting that Biden thinks this will change our minds about the Willow project,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The New York Times.

Most polls show that President Joe Biden is trailing behind former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election, and on the sidelines of the race are third party candidates.

Among them is Jill Stein, who is accused by some of throwing the election to Trump in 2016. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has $15 million in backing to get him on the general election ballots, but under the flag of the Green Party, Stein will have nationwide ballot access as she did in 2016. Marianne Williamson also announced on Thursday that she is "unsuspending" her campaign and – for now anyway – will re-enter the race.

Whether or not either candidate will siphon off enough votes from disenfranchised climate activists who would risk four years of Trump is uncertain.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told Just The News that Biden has some weaknesses on his left, which could translate to votes for third-party options, including Stein, Kennedy or Cornel West, who departed the Green Party ticket in October to run as an independent.

“I guess stronger support for environmental regulation is sort of inherent to the Green Party, but we’re also not talking about a huge number of voters here,” Kondik said.

Biden also earned back some of his anti-fossil fuel credentials with his pause on liquified natural gas export permits in January.

“The Biden administration is listening to the calls to break America’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels and secure a livable future for us all,” Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club said in a White House statement on the support Biden received for the pause.

According to a July poll by Quinnipiac University, nearly half of U.S. voters say they would consider voting for a third-party presidential candidate next year, which included 61% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans.

However, as Washington Monthly reported in December, third-party candidates tend to poll higher in the lead up to races than they do in the elections themselves.

Stein has been touting her commitment to addressing climate change. In a video on X announcing her candidacy, Stein referred to it as a “climate collapse.” She believes it threatens the human race with extinction. She also supports the Green New Deal, which calls for a World War II-style mobilization to force a transition away from fossil fuels.

Kennedy’s stance on climate change is considerably more tepid, but he supports curbs on drilling, according to his campaign website.

Voters who dislike both Trump and Biden are more likely to be left-leaning, according to Bloomberg News, which means the third-party threat lies mostly with Biden, but it may not be just his energy policies that drive voters to those candidates.

Stein, in her video, speaks a lot about the state of the economy and Americans struggling to make ends meet. She blames “wealthy elites” and claims that the “two Wall Street parties are bought and paid for.” She also throws her support behind ending “occupation,” which includes a photo of a woman holding a “Save Gaza” sign.

Jonathan Martin, Politico’s senior political columnist and politics bureau chief, writes that Israel’s offensive in Gaza is what has “well-organized hecklers” derailing Biden events.

“Biden is at risk of losing critical younger and left-wing voters to third-party candidates or apathy,” Martin warned, largely because of his support for Israel.

On that issue, Stein is quite outspoken. When asked about climate in a Newsweek interview, she talked mostly about the economy. While she called the Inflation Reduction Act a “fossil bill,” she had much more criticism toward Biden’s stance on Israel and Gaza.

“There are over 2 million people [in Gaza] who've been denied food and water, let alone electricity, the people in the hospital system, which is collapsing and is so tragic to witness now,” Stein told Newsweek.

While not all climate activists are convinced Biden has done enough to stop the use of fossil fuels, those on the left who are angry enough to vote for a third-party candidate may likely to be motivated by other issues.

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