Jill Stein is gaining ground.
Appealing directly to the "Bernie or Bust" crowd, the Green Party's Presidential nominee is rising in the polls. She's earned the endorsements of top Bernie Sanders surrogates, including Cornel West. She's raising record sums of money for a third-party candidacy.
And she has a simple message to disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters that seems to be resonating: I represent your progressive values. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not.
So far, Democrats have sought to temper enthusiasm for Stein by referencing the "Nader spoiler effect," the real risk that Stein could siphon off Democratic votes and bolster Trump. While undoubtedly true, there's a much more important argument to be made against Stein.
Jill Stein doesn't share core progressive values.
Rather than articulating a compelling progressive vision for America, Stein elevates conspiracy theories. She traffics in fear and paranoia. And she panders to the fringe.
Take Brexit. Brexit was a terrible loss for progressives. An explicitly xenophobic, dishonest campaign triumphed over international cooperation and unity. In both American and British politics, it emboldened far-right reactionary politics.
How did Stein respond to this unequivocal setback?
"The vote in Britain to exit the European Union (EU) is a victory for those who believe in the right of self-determination and who reject the pro-corporate, austerity policies of the political elites in EU," she wrote. "The vote says no to the EU's vision of a world run by and for big business. It is also a rejection of the European political elite and their contempt for ordinary people."
Her belief that Brexit was a "victory" should sound familiar. It mirrors the rhetoric of Donald Trump, who asserted that Brexit as "great" and "beautiful" victory of ordinary people over the corrupt political elites.
After Brexit, Stein said Brexit re-affirmed the "right of self-determination." After Brexit, Trump said, "self-determination is the sacred right of all free people's and the people of the UK have exercised that right for all the world to see."
To Stein and Trump, Brexit symbolized "self-determination," not the corrosion of democracy by bigotry and fear-mongering.
"[Brexit supporters] took their country back, just like we will take America back," Trump said. Perhaps Stein could add that line to her stump speech.
Unfortunately, Brexit is not a blip. Stein deviates from progressive values across the board.
Consider pandering to the anti-vaccine fringe. Across America, epidemiologists are warning about the grave consequences of falling vaccination rates. As noted by Slate's Jordan Weissmann, Stein has pandered the anti-vax fringe even while personally recognizing the value of vaccines.
Ultimately, Stein's willingness to pander to fanatics fits with the climate deniers in the GOP, not with progressives.
Supporters of Stein often criticize Hillary Clinton for being "dishonest" and "deceptive." Yet Stein's attempt to minimize the meaningful progressive accomplishments of President Obama is truly deceptive.
Take the President's Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the ACA, 20 million Americans have gained access to health care. The law is not perfect, but moved America towards a more egalitarian and just health care system.
Stein, unsurprisingly, disagrees. She told the New York Times that the President's actions on health care and other issues were "small time" accomplishments and "minor improvements." She added that the Obama Administration was "business as usual on steroids" and "we're certainly not more secure, more equitable, more healthy or safer internationally, with what Obama has brought."
Ask the 20 million Americans who gained health insurance if they are more "secure" or "healthy" as a result of what Obama has brought. Asks Americans with pre-existing conditions who now have insurance if the ACA is a "minor improvement." Ask poor women who now don't face gendered price discrimination in insurance markets if the ACA is "business as usual."
Finally, liberal supporters of Jill Stein often argue they are supporting her because she is "elevating the dialogue." Hardly.
When asked whether President Obama is a "war criminal," Stein suggested he was, noting his "illegal wars" have "violated international law." She launched an ad hominem attack on Hillary Clinton's mothering skills and parroted Fox News talking points that Clinton should be prosecuted.
Are those examples of progressives elevating the dialogue?
For liberals, voting for Stein does not allow you to opt out of a crooked, two-party system. It does not boost your moral credibility. It rewards an irresponsible candidate who does not share progressive values.