Hillary Clinton has to do some explaining for her treatment of US progressives
Progressives in the United States need to keep up the fight for a better society, even after this horrific election
Secretary Hillary Clinton is now at a 93% chance of becoming the first female President of the United States, if the New York Times’ Election Forecast is anything to go by. Edward Snowden argues that this shows there is no better time in US political history to vote third-party. Whether this is true or not, what is true is that whoever gets into the White House, progressives have a fight on their hands.
I agree with the general polutical consensus surrounding the racist car crash that is the Trump campaign. He is a man who brags about sexually assaulting married women and who has a long history of demeaning women through his misogynist comments; a (possible) rapist of women and children; a fascist-channelling warmonger; a demagogue who is hellbent on nuclear proliferation, torture, and much, much more. He appeals to the very worst of American society, and the United States ought to be ashamed to let such a man get so far. Any other Democratic opponent would be miles ahead of the most hated presidential candidate since polling began, but the blame also rests on those who vote for this vile man.
My argument, and that of Bernie Sanders (see: Our Revolution), is that the left must keep up the fight for progressive values and principles, no matter who becomes president in 2016. We all know why progressives should fear Trump, but why should they also fear a Clinton presidency?
Firstly, is Hillary Clinton really a progressive? Not in the sense most Americans would recognise the word. She is a centrist, third way New Democrat who had admitted being “guilty” of moderation and centrism – before then touting her progressive principles in more liberal states in order to gain their votes. She dislikes “big government” and the term “liberal”, and even the New York Times – a newspaper which has been caught editing their coverage of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries, in order to favour his opponent, Hillary Clinton – say that Clinton’s description of herself as a progressive “means nothing at all”.
Clinton desperately needs the support of the “Obama coalition” – in particular women, millennials and minorities – to become President of the United States. Whilst it seems certain that most women will vote for Hillary – with the gap between male and female voting being unprecedented in recent years – and most African-Americans voting for Clinton – despite her race-baiting “superpredator” remarks and shiftiness on criminal justice issues – Clinton needs to make sure that millennials get out and vote. It’s no secret that younger people are generally more left-leaning than the population at large, and support among this group was crucial to Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012. Clinton may want to forget the former personally, but she ought to pay attention to the demographics if she wishes to achieve her lifelong ambition of becoming president.
Clinton has under-performed amongst younger voters, as many millennials pointed out after the first debate, and has resorted to pleading to millennials directly to get out and vote for her. Undecided voter Mitchell Podgorowiez spoke for many when he told NBC News that the debate made him “even more undecided”, and although it’s unlikely that Trump is going to win over this demographic, Clinton’s lead in this demographic is significantly lower than was expected nationwide, especially when Gary Johnson or Jill Stein are factored in. The response of the Clinton-supporting press was to lash out and blame millennials on Twitter for allowing Trump in by the back door and blame Stein for a Trump presidency, or dismissing Sanders voters – who are younger than the average Clinton voter as a group – as depressed children who lived in their parents’ basements, planning to transform America into Scandinavia.
Therefore, it may seem somewhat unusual that Clinton then accused “Bernie Bros” of being racist, chauvinistic and sexist. But let’s not forget, the Clinton campaign did a very similar thing back in 2008 with “Obama Boys” (yes, she went there), who were also younger and more liberal than her voters. Let’s not forget the Trumpian tactics used by the Clintons: attacking Sanders on healthcare and even demanding the release of Sanders’ medical records, whereas Hillary… well, you know what happens next.
With all the talk of “rigging” the election, and the controversy which that has caused Trump, it should be mentioned that the Democratic primaries were knowingly skewered to promote Clinton. In fact, the Clinton campaign openly opined whether she needed Sanders’ supporters at all to win the election. From that perspective, it’s pretty obvious that the Democratic hierarchy had utter contempt for its own party members, and the democratic choice they were to make, should it go against the will of the party.
Despite the DNC keeping up pretences about its neutrality throughout the primary season, Debbie Wassermann Shultz, the DNC chair at the time, was originally co-chair of Clinton’s campaign in 2007. Many Democrats were rightly suspicious of this: this suspicion was exacerbated when one DNC aide said that the debate schedule was “an elaborate game where everything was worked out in advance with the Clinton people”. When Wassermann Schultz was forced to resign from the DNC after a leak of internal DNC emails showed officials actively favouring Clinton during the presidential primary and plotting against Sanders, Clinton refused to acknowledge Schultz’s bias (as revealed in the DNC leaks), but chose instead to reward and condone this bad behaviour by making Shultz the honorary chair of her campaign. “This was a slap in the face to every progressive activist that spent months canvassing, phone-banking, face-banking, and donating to a candidate that the DNC desperately wanted to destroy”, says Mike Figueredo, host of ‘The Humanist Report.
Thanks to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks – a man who Hillary Clinton may or may not want to issue a drone strike against (no, this is not from The Onion) – we now know that the DNC violated its own charter to help Hillary win. Namely, it fed anti-Sanders stories to the media, and systematically colluded against him and his campaign. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist” – an email from DNC CFO Brad Marshall, showing an attack on Sanders’ perceived lack of faith – highlights how deep-rooted and personal these attacks became. Imagine the outrage from the liberal press if a RNC official talked about “Southern Baptist peeps” drawing “a big difference between a Christian and an atheist” towards Hillary Clinton!
But it is also her own record that is the problem. Clinton voted for the war in Iraq when she was a Senator (a vote she now says was a mistake), and touted it as a “business opportunity” for the United States afterwards. She was “a lion for keeping troops” in Iraq following the invasion, according to James Jeffrey, the 2011 U.S. ambassador to Iraq – a quote she keeps on her campaign website.
She has said she doesn’t regret the role played in turning Libya into a failed state, including the death of Moammar Gaddafi (“we came, we saw, he died” she gleefully said following his death), and selling weapons to his regime in violation of a 2011 UN arms embargo. Clinton has demanded a no-fly zone over Syria, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford’s statement that it would “require us to go to war” with Russia, and has become increasingly hawkish with Russia. This is a complete reversal of her 2009 symbolic “reset” with Russia – symbolic, perhaps, because the world was incorrectly translated into Russian: Given the Democrats’ newfound neo-McCarthyism, I suppose it must have been difficult to find a decent translator.
Clinton and Trump also have some isolationist, hawkish similarities. They are both calling for tough or extreme vetting of migrants (as is the Obama administration), for increased security and building a wall on the US-Mexico border. Bill Clinton even made some very similar remarks to Trump about “illegal aliens” (undocumented immigrants) in 1995. Hillary also shares Trump’s love for war crimes by courting the endorsements of war criminals such as Henry Kissinger (which she failed to receive), and is boastful about receiving the endorsement of John Negroponte.
There are even cases where Clinton goes further to the right than Trump on foreign policy: she’s aligned to the right of Trump when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and openly called for ground troops in Syria as of 2015. She also entertained the idea of using nuclear weapons against Iran in 2008. Are these policies which any progressive would want to align themselves with?
As Secretary of State, she “sold fracking to the world” and has been disingenuous about her connection to the oil and gas industry, becoming visibly agitated at Greenpeace activists who confront her on this issue. Despite being in favour of a minimum wage of $12 – moving up to $15 when Sanders got in the race – Clinton also pressured the Haitian government to not raise their minimum wage to $0.61. As a presidential candidate, she’s accepted campaign donations from private prison lobbyists, big banks, and for-profit colleges. In leaked transcripts of Clinton’s infamous Wall Street speeches, Clinton acknowledges that she is out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans, and that she wishes to see “open trade and open borders”, as well as having a personal and public view on any given topic. “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president” said the Associated Press in their exposé of the Clinton Foundation.
To boot, the Clinton Foundation did not disclose more than 1,000 foreign donations. Hillary and Bill have raised billions of dollars combined, and there’s demonstrable evidence that money influences her decisions: For example, she flip-flopped on single-payer healthcare after raking in millions of dollars by giving speeches on behalf of the health insurance industry, and one video featuring Elizabeth Warren explains how Clinton changed her position on a bankruptcy bill after receiving campaign contributions from moneyed interests that were against it.
She was also one of the last big-name Democrats to support same-sex marriage in 2013, even making a call back to states’ rights as late as 2014. She’s against legalising marijuana (even for medical use), played a role in mass incarceration by supporting her husband’s incredibly racially discriminatory Crime Bill, voted for the Patriot Act, and would prosecute Edward Snowden as president. She also claims to be against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in spite of the fact that she lobbied for it 45 different times as Secretary of State, even going so far as to call it the “gold standard” of trade deals. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, underwent a similar conversion. Clinton also flip-flopped on the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), supporting it just days before his nomination as VP.
Now, you can vote for Clinton as a “lesser of two evils” candidate, if you wish, or vote for a third party if you prefer. If Trump gets elected, he wouldn’t be able to pass his most heinous policies (Muslim ban, forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall, etc.), and so the fear over his presidency is overexaggerated. On the other hand, Clinton’s threat to progressives is often downgraded in comparison, as can be seen by the above examples.
Don’t take this the wrong way: Clinton certainly has some redeeming policy positions which are pleasing to progressives, many of which she most likely personally believes in, but Clinton’s past record speaks for itself. Either way the presidential election goes, progressives must not let the movement around Sanders die out and continuously apply pressure for progressive causes and progressive values, no matter whether it be a (second) President Clinton or President Trump.