It’s Impractical to Support Hillary Clinton for President and We Shouldn’t
In choosing a practical and realistic candidate for President of the United States, it has grown more and more obvious that Hillary Clinton would be the worst choice among the Democratic contenders. Her overemphasis of foreign policy comes across as pandering to the fearful among the Republican base, and her lack of understanding of the depth of economic inequality in this country is embarrassing for someone with her pedigree.
Vice President Joe Biden recently noted, “It’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about (income inequality).” That’s true, without a doubt, and none too surprising. Clinton and her husband will forever be associated with “the end of big government forever,” a policy that put the social safety net funding in perpetual retreat. Theirs is a stance that pleases monied interests that want to move this nation further and further to the right. That philosophy — apparently intended to make incremental change possible — has been a misguided ploy to appease a conservative establishment that now owns the rudder of political discourse in this country.
What needs to be understood about that choice is that it ignores how the extreme right took control of our broadest political conversations in the first place. With the repeal of the Fairness Act, and with deregulation that allowed thousands of news outlets to become monopolized by just six big corporations, conservative propagandists literally took over the airwaves and our newspapers. During the height of the Clinton years, as the nascent FOX News machine was firing up, what did President Clinton do about it? Was there incremental changes to re-regulate news media outlets? Was a new Fairness Doctrine even proposed? Even if such a thing was, it took a backseat to Clinton’s big efforts, the passing of NAFTA and the failed attempt at healthcare reform.
NAFTA was a colossal disaster, contributing to the permanent loss of approximately 700,000 jobs in the United States. According to the non-partisan think tank Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA also “strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits. As soon as NAFTA became law, corporate managers began telling their workers that their companies intended to move to Mexico unless the workers lowered the cost of their labor.” This is the lasting legacy of Clinton, an erudite, inspiring but very flawed president. Hillary Clinton was making pro-NAFTA remarks as recently as 2003, in her memoir “Living History.” History is a funny thing, too, as Clinton was a supporter of the similarly ominous Trans Pacific Partnership deal that President Obama has negotiated. That is, she was, until Bernie Sanders made that a point of political difference in this year’s primary stump speeches.
Clinton’s debate performances inevitably focus most on foreign policy, an area where she has considerable experience, serving as Secretary of State for four years under Obama. Mrs. Clinton emphasizes the threat of ISIS, the instability of the Middle East, and the unsteady relationship with Russia as proof that she is the only candidate who can reasonably be expected to serve as our next president. Her experience is unquestioned. Her judgment, however, should be scrutinized. Once it is, her Congressional vote for the Iraq war and her hawkish approach to Iran, particularly in the 2008 presidential primary, demonstrate a personality that is more impulsive than understanding.
Furthermore, Clinton’s mechanical and obviously scripted talking points are no more convincing that those of Chris Christie or Ted Cruz. Sure, everyone’s got scripts for their stump speeches and debates, but Clinton’s are about as riveting as a corporate instructional video. It’s clear that she’s afraid to think on her feet lest she veer from what she’s told to say. We simply can’t trust a candidate who is afraid to go off their cue cards. The last time we did, we got the war in Iraq.
There have been incremental changes since the Clinton era in the ’90s. In Clinton’s era, we had the heyday of the criminal investment banking practices that eventually led to the 2008 financial collapse. Today, as Sanders pointed out recently, “3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions…are nearly 80 percent bigger than before we bailed them out…Their assets are equivalent to nearly 60 percent of our GDP.” These same banks survived because Congress took $700 billion of taxpayers money and used it, as the film “The Big Short” notes, to “lobby the Congress to kill big reform. And then blamed immigrants and poor people. And this time…even teachers.” Incremental change.
In Clinton’s era, the gender pay gap was approximately 72 cents for women for every dollar paid to men. Today that number stands at approximately 79 cents per every dollar paid to men. Incremental change.
At the end of the Clinton era, the minimum wage had risen from $4.25/hour to $5.15/hour. Today the minimum wage stands at $7.25, which adjusted for inflation today is virtually the same as it was in 2000. That’s 16 years with no increase in the minimum wage. Virtually no change.
The truly notable and striking change from that era to now was in gay rights. In Clinton’s presidency, we were offered the very modest gain of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Today we have legal marriage for all, straight or gay. Yet, equal rights under the law for our LGBT citizens are still not a reality. Incremental change in its best light.
The strident militancy of the right has, however, grown more and more vocal and commonplace. The passage of unnecessary and recklessly permissive “stand your ground laws” across the country attest to the violence brewing in the heart of the American right. Incremental appeasement has done nothing of note to slow the steady curve toward extreme conservatism. Persistent and unapologetic police violence against the black community has become inexplicably routine, and the media hardly shrugs when officers are exonerated. Disrespect and disregard for the federal government by right wing militias and their ilk are celebrated and energetically justified by FOX News and the thousands of right wing talk hosts across Clear Channel’s vast monopolistic radio network. Gerrymandering in states has become epidemic and far more than corrupt, leading to even more divisiveness and entrenched gridlock throughout state and federal legislatures. Voting restrictions not seen since the 1960s have been passed in 15 states and will be in effect in the 2016 elections. Jim Crow has literally become acceptable again.
Of course, there is also the persistent erosion of women’s reproductive rights, laws restricting abortions in states across the country, and funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, as well as the occasional homicidal lunatic deciding to shoot up one of their clinics. FOX News “pundits” routinely defend even the most vile and murderous of these for their “sincere convictions.”
Incremental change is not moving us forward, and Hillary Clinton represents and staunchly defends incremental change above all else. That “pragmatism” of hers is nothing of the sort; it is surrender by a thousand cuts. The people of this country cannot allow the political corruption, the electoral fraud, and the economic ravaging of the working class to go on at this rate. Although President Obama has done an admirable job in policy making, particularly with the passage and defense of the Affordable Care Act, his presidency has been most outstanding for the courage and steadfastness he has shown in the face of brutal and callous opposition from a party now run by deranged extremists. The actual change he has effected are substantial, but in economic terms he’s just gotten us back to the status quo, and a crippled status quo at that.
Hillary Clinton claims she will continue the policies of Obama, and she wrapped herself in defense of him at the most recent Democratic debate. Clinton, though, is not Obama. Nor can America survive another term of Obama’s piecemeal progress. And if you thought Obama generated divisiveness and intransigence from the right, just listen on the wind for how they will resist Clinton. It’s going to be a shit storm, and unlike Obama, Clinton can’t project the kind of inspiring strength and moral certitude that Obama has. It’s not her strength. Without that, and with nothing more than a bureaucratic notion of political progress, Clinton will quickly lose the very supporters who would elect her. She faces obstacles she is not prepared for, and they are results of the policies her husband either created or abetted. If she helped start this mess, why in God’s name would we think she can ever fix it?