Hillary, Bernie, Trump and the Realities of Protest Voting

Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky/Chuck Burton/David Goldman
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Bernie Sanders has generated a genuine movement, but it may have peaked too late to win the Democratic nomination. So, what are Berniers to do? For a Bernier like me, voting for Hillary is a difficult lift. Part of the consciousness raised by Sanders is the systemic corruption implicit in the Democratic Party’s dependence, since Bill Clinton, on raising millions of dollars from wealthy donors and corporations. Hillary is certainly part of that system.

On the other hand: Trump is now the presumptive nominee of the GOP. He appeals to the baser instincts of the disenchanted, the angry, the racist, those who feel left behind by either party establishment. Trump’s a fraud, but clever enough to brush aside all scrutiny through his mastery of media.

Think of Trump as if he were the petty dictator of a Third World state, financed by his exploitation of victims like the ones who went to his university, or got fleeced in his casinos.

The least bad that could happen, if Trump were elected, would be: repealing Obamacare, privatizing Medicare and Social Security and eliminating income support programs. Further, he’d appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices in his first four years. Abortions could be outlawed and women could be prosecuted for them. Guns would be protected in white neighborhoods, questionable in ‘other’ neighborhoods. Unions and labor would see their rights weakened, enforcement eliminated.

Republicans argue it’s Government overreach to regulate anything.

The economic consequences of a Trump takeover would be, per orthodox Republicanism: cutting taxes “across the board,” especially for corporations. However, Trump likes to do the deals himself; he doesn’t want to pay taxes, he wants Uncle Sam to pay him: for building the wall, for example. He could become the first $100 billion leader of a nation, from all the money he’d make, just on the wall. But he wouldn’t stop there.

Beyond the corruption, deficit hawks would use the rising deficits (from tax cuts) to justify cutting all Government programs other than defense and law and order. A depression could ensue, although you wouldn’t know it, if it benefits corporations owning the media.

So, who loses most, who gains most from a Trump Presidency?

Losers: all non-whites, all immigrants, most women. They don’t lose just because they will have fewer jobs and no job security, or will be sent “home,”or because they, again, can be legally discriminated against (along with LGBTQ). They will also lose because so many of the services that make life possible for the less fortunate, would be cut. Further, minorities and the poor would bear the brunt of climate change disaster, a near certainty in a Trump Presidency, for reasons given below.

With a Republican/Trump Supreme Court, there would be no reprieve from this regime, because the court would make it easy for the GOP to permanently gerrymander Congressional and state majorities, to restrict voting and to maintain a permanent GOP Senate supported by corporations and billionaires, and GOP Presidents funded by them.

Think of it: a Republican Supreme Court for the next 30 years! I won’t be around that long. A GOP monopoly for longer.

The winners: Big corporations and their leaders and the wealthy more generally; he would lower their taxes and regulatory oversight, not just his own. Corporations would rule. Psychological winners: white males would be winners, the way Po’ Whites were in the segregated South. Kept poor, they were reconciled to their poverty by knowing that black people under them were even poorer and under their control. White supremacist support for Trump is symptomatic of the direction the nation would go with Trump as President.

If Trump is elected, put your money in the Defense industry and you’ll probably do well, because his fragile ego will cause wars or armed disagreements all over the world. Better to make the guns, than to have to go out and shoot them; leave that part to the losers.

Fossil fuel corporations would be winners: Trump advocates expanding production of all of them, while reducing or eliminating regulations: a dream for the Koch Brothers.

What is the worst that could happen if Hillary were elected? She might be pulled into wars, too. She does seem to have a weakness for the Military. But she knows that one of her worst decisions was to vote for the Iraq war. Neither Libya, nor Iraq have been anything but disasters. So, she’d likely be more wary of military involvement.

Hillary would keep and try to expand Obamacare and all the other programs like Medicare and Social Security, and income support programs. She might consider a “public option,” i.e. open enrollment for Medicare for all, a backdoor to Single Payer and also the debt-free college program she advocated, to deal with student debt.

Trump would probably encourage more for-profit colleges like Trump University.

Hillary’s tax policies would start with Obama’s; she has made many commitments to reducing inequality, so, she would attempt to lower taxes on the poor and raise them on the rich. It may not be her highest priority, the way it is with Bernie Sanders, but she would push in that direction.

Trump would do the opposite. Lowering taxes on the wealthy and raising them on the poor is the Republican prescription for reducing inequality (by increasing opportunities from all the “good jobs” the wealthy will not create and the shit-jobs they might). Trump has even said: “wages are too high.” He and the GOP would increase inequality; more wealth would be siphoned to the top of the income pyramid.

As for the big banks, Hillary wouldn’t summarily break them up, like Bernie, but she would insist on strict regulation, and breakups would be possible.

On the other hand, Trump wants to repeal Dodd-Frank regulation of banks. He’d just want to insure that bankers were his friends, so he could call up Jamie Dimon, or other bank CEO’s, and get what he wants. He certainly wouldn’t want them punished for fraud; he’s done similar, so you could expect more fraudulent behavior from Wall Street, not less, in a Trump Presidency.

Climate change/global warming: Trump usually denies there is such a thing. After all, large Republican funders, fossil fuel owners and handlers, would be bankrupted if forced to keep their assets in the ground. So, with Trump as President, expect no meaningful attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has now said unequivocally that he is for expanding coal, oil and gas production, and advocates reducing regulations to make that possible. He’s also pledged to reject the Paris agreement on controlling global emissions. Therefore, expect full-blown climate disaster.

It’s the worst time for this to happen, and it’s something that could never be undone.

Clinton would press to alleviate climate change, as would Sanders, the latter perhaps more single-mindedly. Clinton would have to be persuaded: to stop fracking, for example; to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, to stop leasing public lands for oil/gas/coal extraction. But she would know that a significant part of her constituency would support her for doing this. She has also supported the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s followers want more drilling, more fracking, more digging, more fossil fuel jobs. Why worry about grandchildren?

Bernie Sanders is right on all these issues: taxes, banks, inequality, climate change, etc. And he acknowledges the danger of Trump and the violent passions being unleashed — on both sides. But it looks from here as if Bernie’s unexpected successes have turned his head, just a little, even though it’s virtually impossible, given party rules, for him to win a pledged delegate majority.

Bernie didn’t say he’d hurt Clinton to weaken her if she were the nominee, but he does imply she deserves to be hurt, that she’s corrupt and that her allies have skewed the primaries in her favor (probably true). He’s also, reportedly, trying to win over super-delegates with the argument that he’s better positioned for the General Election and less vulnerable to Trump attacks. He may be, but, no one knows what would happen if Bernie were the nominee. He’d certainly be labeled “crazy Bernie,” by Trump and attacked as a radical Commie. He can’t become the nominee unless existing party rules are abandoned, but how could he run as Democratic nominee, if Hillary has garnered more votes and delegates? As fantastic as his latest victories have been, even landslides in California and New Jersey would not earn him the necessary delegates to win at the convention.

Reforms are clearly necessary in Democratic Party rules, and Bernie supporters will demand revisions, but negotiations are in order, not diktats. I hope we don’t have 1968 redux. The nominee and the party were weakened enough in 1968 that Tricky Dick Nixon was elected, just four years after Democrats had one of their greatest victories. If progressive Democrats tear down Clinton and the party on which she runs, a Trump triumph becomes more likely, especially if progressives vote third party in the election, or write-in Sanders, in effect, a half-vote each, for Trump.

Nevertheless, the Bernie or Bust movement is a real one. A lot of Berniers are repelled by “establishment politics.” To them, Sanders represents the real thing; he addresses the real issues and confronts the inherent corruption of a party (the Democrats). Most of its office-holders still claim they can accept money from big banks, fossil fuel corporations and other representatives of what Bernie has labeled “ the Billionaire class,” without being corrupted by them.

Hillary points out that she never changed a vote or has given a favor in return for money she received from Wall Street interests. Outright bribery is rare. It is more subtle corruption that’s a major problem. Having friends like JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, is not bribery, but it does change the way you view the world. Familiarity between Wall Street leaders, Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries probably explains why, despite widespread evidence of fraud, Wall Street executives have not been prosecuted for it: their banks have been fined billions, instead. Therefore their questionable activities continue.

Having been politically awakened, many Berniers feel there is no going back. How can you support a party (Democrats), or a candidate (Hillary), when you know that both are major contributors to systemic corruption?

And yet, to reiterate: if Trump is elected there will not be just systemic corruption, but government by and for billionaires, abortions banned, services for the many slashed, taxes extracted from the not-wealthy, while the wealthy’s taxes are cut. Minorities would be discriminated against even more, immigrants would be driven out, torture would be revived, and civil liberties would be under threat. The environment would be under sustained attack, and Trump would likely have ongoing conflicts (some armed) with many nations around the world.

Protest votes can have real consequences. While Hillary haters won’t feel those consequences as soon, or as deeply, as non-whites, immigrants and the poor, everyone would ultimately regret their short-sightedness if Trump is elected.

The would-be protest voter should consider her/his complicity if a Trump regime is made possible by their electoral protest, principled as it may well be.


Douglas C. Smyth is an author and scholar, based in New York’s Hudson Valley. His new novel, Princess Olga, will be published by Imagination Fury Arts in 2017.