Clinton is the one who should be ashamed

August 1, 2016

Adam Sanchez examines the arguments of liberals trying to scold the skeptical into voting for Clinton and the Democrats--and instead makes the case for #JillNotHill.

RIDICULOUS. DELUSIONAL. Misogynist. Racist. Elitist. Privileged.

These are just a few of the colorful words that liberals have thrown around in the last week--not to attack their right-wing billionaire opponent Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, but to slander those on the left who dare to even contemplate voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton.

With the Democratic convention coming to an end in July, the liberal shame machine was in full swing, threatening anyone who dares to think outside the two-party box.

Given all the horrible names you'll be called by people who realize that politics means compromising your principles for the greater good, how could you even consider not voting for Hillary Clinton?

If you're still hesitant, though, here are a few facts, figures and questions that you can throw back at the scolders for Hillary Clinton.

FOR STARTERS, supporting Hillary Clinton would put people on the left among some strange bedfellows. Clinton is the preferred candidate of Wall Street, CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations and a small but growing list of Republican establishment figures.

Hillary Clinton speaks at a North Carolina high school

The roster of donors to the Clinton campaign should be particularly concerning after the e-mails released by WikiLeaks that seemed to show how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) plans to reward top contributors with seats on federal boards and commissions.

But let's set aside the tent so uncomfortably broad that it includes Occupy Wall Streeters and Wall Street executives. Any left-wing case against voting for Clinton should start with Clinton's actual record.

Many people will remember that Clinton supported George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003. But even beyond that, the Clinton-supporting New York Times describes Clinton as more hawkish than Barack Obama and most other Democrats. And since Obama has presided over the largest U.S. military budget since the Second World War, broken his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and drastically increased drone strikes in numerous countries, that can't bode well to those hoping for a world without war.

Clinton has made clear her complete support for Israel's war crimes, and she criticized Obama for not taking a tougher stance against Iran.

In Latin America, as Obama's Secretary of State, Clinton encouraged the destabilization of the left-wing government in Venezuela and supported the military coup in Honduras that toppled an elected president and led to the murder of thousands of indigenous and human rights activists, trade unionists, journalists and environmentalists.

And after encouraging the violence in Central America that fueled a new wave of migration, Clinton as late as 2015 was calling for migrant children fleeing that violence and hoping to enter the U.S. to be deported back to the disaster Clinton helped create. This doesn't encourage hope that Clinton would reverse the record number of deportations carried out during Obama's presidency.

FOR THOSE energized by the Black Lives Matter movement, it would be a bitter pill to vote for someone who, as The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander pointed out, played a crucial role in constructing the machinery of mass incarceration.

What about public education? Though Clinton won early endorsements from the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers and she repeats the now-perfunctory lines against "over-testing," Clinton's record is clear: She voted for No Child Left Behind in 2001, she has a long history of supporting charter schools, and she expressed support for the Common Core standards and tests. Even more troubling is her close ties with principal architects of education deform Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

On the clearly urgent need to take action to fight climate change, Clinton is moving in the other direction. At the Democratic convention, her campaign used its muscle to ensure that no proposals for taking a clear stand on cutting greenhouse gas emissions would become part of the Democratic platform. Clinton's pro-corporate record and the large contributions she's received from the fossil fuel industry should make anyone hoping for meaningful climate action skeptical.

Even on issues that are supposed to clearly show the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Hillary Clinton has blurred the borders.

Clinton didn't support marriage equality until 2013, long after Republican reactionary Dick Cheney. While debating Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, Clinton equivocated on supporting a woman's right to choose.

Then there is the key role she has played as part of the Democratic Leadership Council--founded by Southern Democrats as an effort to move the Democratic Party to the right by more openly embracing corporate power and joining Republicans to attack social welfare, civil rights, labor unions and the environment.

THOSE WHO say that not voting for Clinton is an act of "privilege" because of the damage a Trump presidency would do to the most vulnerable and oppressed ignore the harm that the Democrats have done to these very groups. As Jen Roesch said in a speech at the Socialism 2016 conference:

Arguing that poor people, Black people and immigrants, among others, can't afford a Trump presidency has an inverse effect politically. It amplifies the threat of Trump, branding him a fascist, someone who will usher in an unprecedented level of horrors if elected. But at the same time, it minimizes the very real and present danger posed by the Democrats in power and the prospect of a Clinton presidency.

We have to be very clear: poor people, Black people, and immigrants, along with the working class as a whole, have suffered very real losses under Obama, and this is likely to continue under Clinton, especially if she's given a blank check by the left in this election.

This last point--the "blank check" the Democrats enjoy when progressives surrender their criticisms in the name of stopping the "greater evil"--is critical. Clinton's liberal champions shaming those to their left ignore the fact that when Democrats know their base will support them no matter what, the only direction they will move is to the right.

During the primaries, Clinton talked more left wing, as Democrats always do on the campaign trail--and she continued to do so just before the convention to solidify support from Democrats who voted for Bernie Sanders.

But while Sanders brags that the Democratic Party's platform, passed at the convention, is the "most progressive in history," there's nothing preventing Clinton from ignoring anything progressive in the platform, just as Obama did after he was elected in 2008.

In fact, Clinton's choice of a neoliberal hawk, Tim Kaine, for a running mate; her naming of disgraced DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as an honorary campaign chair within hours of her resignation after WikiLeaks exposed DNC corruption; and the Clinton campaign's brazen repositioning after the convention to win over disaffected Republicans show that Clinton is sticking to the Democratic Party establishment's playbook: ignore the left and move to the right.

BUT WE'RE supposed to ignore all this and vote for Hillary Clinton, because--well, Trump.

I share the fear of so many people about a Trump presidency. But the increasingly popular refrain that "a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump" isn't any truer than my perfected cynical Facebook response: "A vote for Clinton is a vote for Trump."

The crux of this argument against voting Stein is the claim that she is a "spoiler"--the same charge leveled at Bernie Sanders for refusing to capitulate quickly enough to Clinton and endorse her. But the full weight of the "spoiler" charge--with all its echoes of the 2000 election when the Green Party's Ralph Nader was accused of causing Al Gore's defeat and George Bush's victory--will now be thrown at Stein and anyone who supports her.

Stein addressed this argument well in an interview with earlier this year:

It's a myth that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidential election in Florida in 2000. It was the U.S. Supreme Court that stopped the vote re-count, which Gore would have won had it continued.

But beyond that, the problem is that millions of Florida Democrats didn't come out to vote for Gore. Nader's votes in Florida were a tiny fraction of the Democrats who either voted for Bush or stayed home. Blaming Nader is a self-serving fear campaign that the Democrats use to silence their opposition.

Blaming Nader or other third-party candidates is a strategy to intimidate people into a politics of fear that tells you to vote against what you fear instead of voting for what you believe. But in fact, the politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of.

We can list all the reasons people are told to silence themselves and vote for a lesser evil candidate: we were afraid of jobs going overseas, the climate meltdown, expanding wars, the attack on our civil liberties and on immigrant rights, expansion of the prison state, etc. Look around. This is exactly what we've gotten--much of it under a Democratic White House....

So the politics of fear delivers what we're afraid of. The lesser evil is not the solution. It merely paves the way to the greater evil. It ensures that the Democratic Party base gets demoralized and doesn't come out to vote. So the greater evil wins.

MORE RECENTLY, in a discussion on Democracy Now! Stein said, "Remember, you do not defeat neofascism through neoliberalism. Neoliberalism will create more neofascism."

Whether or not you believe Trump represents fascism, Stein's point is worth pursuing. The neoliberal economic policies of the Democratic Party, which are sure to continue under a Clinton presidency, have caused increasing inequality and more misery for the majority of the U.S. population. The reason Trump can gain a hearing for his call to "Make America great again" is the effect of declining living standards--coupled with scapegoating of those hit the hardest.

In other words, a vote for Clinton means a vote for continuing the neoliberal policies that have helped Trump win the Republican nomination. The refrain at the Democratic convention, as throughout Clinton's campaign, that "America is great already" is bound to further alienate those who got the short end of the stick during the Great Recession and after.

Clinton and the Democratic Party elites have no strategy for challenging the basis of Donald Trump's support. If the Democrats were serious about confronting Trump, they would stop spending so much energy shaming Sanders supporters and work on a campaign strategy to energize even larger number of Americans who don't vote and feel alienated from the political process.

But that would require Clinton to champion policies that directly contradict the interests of her wealthy backers.

Depending on how the campaign goes, we may yet hear more liberal rhetoric from Clinton--history teaches us that what is promised on the campaign trail has little bearing on what happens when a politician takes office.

But the tension between what gets said in campaign speeches and what gets done when the Democrats are in power is a central contradiction of the Democratic Party, which relies on votes from working people every few years, while it primarily defends Corporate America and the political elite.

THIS BRINGS us to the question of why you should support Jill Stein.

Supporting the Green Party's presidential nominee in this election is not about political purity. It's about the left taking a step toward breaking from the Democratic Party and building a political alternative based on the struggle for radical social change.

Many liberals agree with this idea in theory--but not in practice. They recognize the need to organize an alternative...someday. But in the meanwhile, we should vote for the Greens in safe states only, work on an "inside-outside" strategy or challenge the Greens to build locally first or simply wait until the next election to pursue an alternative.

Green Party members Howie Hawkins and Andrea Mérida Cuéllar have confronted these arguments well, so I won't repeat their points.

But I will add another: Many of the vote-for-the-lesser-evil-at-least-one-more-time arguments share an emphasis on electoral politics as the primary arena of political struggle. The people's historian Howard Zinn was making a different point in his often-quoted statement: "What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in."

Zinn wasn't saying that it doesn't matter who the president is--but that this alone doesn't drive what's possible politically.

Falling in line behind Hillary Clinton means systematic lowering expectations to accept what's currently "realistic." But political possibilities are shaped by the strength of social movements, and those social movements in turn thrive to the extent that they believe more is possible beyond what the mainstream system allows.

Those movements need to believe not that "America is great already," as the Democrats tell us, but that another world is possible--if we fight for it.

Throughout the primary season, the Bernie Sanders campaign raised people's expectations about what's possible under the U.S. political system. But the contradiction of his campaign is that he encouraged people to believe that change is possible inside a Democratic Party that is rigged against it.

If we don't organize now for a political party that supports the goals of the left--against war and imperialism; unequivocally for women's rights, LGBTQ rights and immigrants' rights; for ending the New Jim Crow, for vigorously combating climate change; for redistributing the immense wealth of this country to meet the desperate needs of the majority--the voice of our movements will be drowned out at election time.

Time and energy spent on building an election campaign for the Democrats is time and energy not spent on building an alternative--one that we desperately need.

There is an unsolvable contradiction in building movements and campaigning for candidates who don't support the goals of practically any of those movements. To continue Sanders' call for a "political revolution" and to build a real fight against Trump and the right, it's time to organize, protest and break away from the two-party straightjacket.

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