Jill Stein, the Green Party's presidential nominee, spoke to a crowd of nearly 300 people at the Cuban Club in Ybor City Wednesday night.
Stein emphasized to the cheering crowd that there is a “voter revolt in the making,” and called for an end to the two-party system.
“There is not a new entitlement for big politicians called owning our votes… They have not earned our votes,” Stein said. “It is a race to the bottom between the greater and the lesser evil.”
Stein trails substantially in presidential polls, typically landing in the low single digits when pitted against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson. Given the widespread sense of disenfranchisement among voters, especially young voters, she aims to position herself as an alternative for people who don't like the idea of either major candidate.
“Let’s empower and inform the American voter to decide which way they want to go, instead of trying to shut off discussion before it’s even been opened. Over 70 percent of voters have no idea about my campaign. They don’t know who I am or what I stand for,” Stein said. “I think we owe it to voters to lead the way forward rather than the party operatives and the political pundits who are telling us that they want one candidate over another and the rest of us better just shut up and go home.”
Several people who listened to Stein speak in the packed theater said there’s no excuse for voters not to know about Stein or other non-major-party candidates.
“Living in the 21st Century where it’s so easy, you have technology at your fingerprints, why wouldn’t you know who they are?” said Eaman A. Zayed, a USF student.
Others expressed their dismay with an elections system they believe is rigged and their dedication to vote for Stein, even if she doesn’t have nearly as big of a chance of winning as her opponents.
“I refuse to participate in this corruption, in this nonsense,” said Ahmed Hussam, who spoke before Stein came on stage. “I will choose the greater good, whether it is statistically likely or not. Because the lesser of two evils is still evil.”
Stein is currently averaging 2.3 percent in the national polls. Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee in 2000 had 2.7 percent. This has some Democrats concerned that Stein will ultimately lead to Trump winning the election, just like Nader helped swing the presidency to George W. Bush from Al Gore by siphoning votes from Gore.
Stein stressed that she doesn’t want either Trump or Clinton to win the election.
“I would feel terrible if Trump gets elected, but I’ll also feel terrible if Hillary gets elected,” Stein said.
Stein has been appealing to millennial voters through her proposed policies, especially Bernie Sanders fans. If elected, Stein’s top priority—which has caught the eyes of millennials—is a $1.3 trillion bailout plan to eliminate all student debt, which would be paid for by a 0.5 percent Wall Street financial transactions tax.
"The first step is to bail out a generation of young people who are held hostage by student debt," she told reporters. “We came up with $16 trillion to bail out the crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy. It’s about time to bail out the students who are the way forward, the engine of the new economy for the 21st century.”
Stein stressed that there needs to be social change during this year’s election and that the voters are the ones who will make that happen.
“We are watching the future slide through our fingers right now,” Stein said. “We are standing up for an America and a world that works for all of us. The power to create that world is in our hands.”