By Ronald Bruce Meyer
Now the balloons have fallen and the delegates have voted. The DNC got what it wanted: Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate to head a major party ticket in a general election.
Hillary has everything going for her: experience, connections, money. She is the most-qualified presidential candidate in modern history; she brought a lot of famous and high-powered testimonials to the convention stage. Videos showed Hillary’s softer side; her acceptance speech showed her toughness. The convention crowd sounded ready for Hillary and her response showed she is ready to fight for her program and against her Republican opponent.
And, incredibly and ironically, just about 100 days from today, she will lose. Why? I will give you five reasons.
Was there something in the American electorate that Bernie saw and tapped into that, perhaps, Hillary did not see? I think, more than anything else, Bernie read the anger and frustration of an economic system that is not working for the bottom 90% of the electorate: a jobless “recovery” from the Bush recession, bailouts for bankers but not homeowners, no prosecutions for the biggest failure of capitalism since the Great Depression and income inequality on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age.
I also think that the type of donor to each campaign was telling: voters saw who was donating to Hillary’s campaign—Wall Street and bankers (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley), the private prison industry, big media (Time Warner, etc), unions accustomed to being out of touch with their own workers, other large corporations (including Harvard and UC)—and assumed that, if elected, she would be working for them; then voters looked at who was donating to Bernie (voters with maybe $27 in their pockets and tiny donations from unions and a few other non-corporations) and hoped he would be working for them.
But Hillary was not completely tone deaf. Once she saw how popular Bernie’s ideas were with young people, a demographic she desired but was not reaching, she advocated some pale imitations of Bernie’s platform. But the electorate was not misled: Hillary’s corporate backers could see her wink when she repudiated the TPP and advocated health care for all and Wall Street regulation; young voters, engaged if not enraged, better informed than their parents were and personally suffering from centrist policies, could see where she borrowed her new ideas and reasoned that they should stick to the source rather than siding with the stream.
If we are judged by the company we keep, Hillary also had some tellingly bad friends: if it wasn’t feminist icon Gloria Steinem (“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie’”) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”), it was embracing former Nixon Secretary of State and putative war criminal Henry Kissinger as her foreign policy advisor.
And then there was Hillary’s VP choice. As front runner and all-but-nominee, she could have chosen anybody. With an eye toward her opponent, she could have taken a bold step and asked a true progressive to join her to energize disappointed if not disaffected Bernie supporters. Instead, she chose a white male of questionable loyalty to progressive principles. Sen. Tim Kaine approves of the disastrous corporate takeover known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and voted to fast track the agreement—meaning that, even if Hillary was sincere about working with Congress to change the TPP into something more palatable, she could not. Kaine, among other senators, urged the Consumer Financial Protection Board regulators to lighten up on their regulation of regional banks, which may have something to do with his securities and investment sector donors.
Tim Kaine, as filmmaker Michael Moore pointed out in a tweet, was a choice from a “center” that doesn’t exist. He is a feint to a constituency that will stay home, rather than vote for a policy blend that is more a throwback to 1992 than a vision for 2016; an appeal to a voting bloc that was disappearing over the past generation, but has evaporated since the crash of 2008. Voters who stay home cannot help her. If she fails this dismally in reading the electorate, Hillary Clinton cannot hope to win.
Her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was like celery: filling (full of clichés), but with no nutritional value (lacking a theme). Where she was best was in parroting policies, if not lines, from Bernie Sanders. But she didn’t pledge to ban fracking or promise to fight against the TPP. She gave her supporters and her skeptics nothing to dispel the notion that she is still pro-war, pro-Wall Street, pro-spying (domestic and warrantless), pro-censorship (of the Internet), pro-death penalty, pro-Patriot Act (and thinks Edward Snowden is a criminal, rather than an exposer of criminals). Furthermore, she is anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel to get equal treatment for Palestinians), anti-legalization of marijuana and anti-free speech (she thinks flag-burning should be a felony).
When the electorate clearly longs for a progressive candidate, Hillary Clinton gives them Republican-lite. Is it any wonder people leaning progressive would rather have somebody else (and feel stuck with her) and people leaning Republican would rather go with a real Republican?
Her platform and her policy positions show voters that Hillary has no vision—beyond that of getting elected. And calling herself “a progressive who gets things done” is a bit disconcerting coming from Hillary: in her efforts to compromise with Republicans who already agree with her corporatist and militarist views, she may give away the store—just as Obama did with the public option during the fight for the Affordable Care Act.
The lack of meaningful recovery after the crash of 2008 hurt liberal and conservative citizens alike; the elites, not so much. But where liberals look for causes and cures, and work as a community to change their world, conservatives are encouraged to feel powerless to change their world, look for domestic and foreign “others” on which to fix blame, and yearn for direction from above. That is reflected in these telling words from Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination: “I am your voice. … I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
Moreover, Trump stole some progressive thunder from the other side: “Remember, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA, one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country. Never again.” And “[Hillary] has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership—which will not only destroy our manufacturing, but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments.” And “We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions more jobs.” And “Millions of Democrats will join our movement, because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly, and justly, for each and every American.”
By contrast, Hillary’s speech was long on cliché and short on progressivity. Maybe she thinks she can do without her progressive, working-class base, the Bernie Sanders supporters, or the 39% of the electorate who identify as “independent”—that is, those so turned off by hyper-partisanship that they can’t stand either party—which constitute a larger voting percentage that either Democrat (32%) or Republican (23%). Furthermore, Hillary was late to the table with holding big business accountable for economic devastation: “It’s wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.” And “I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.” And for a candidate who refuses to ban fracking, it’s ironic to hear her say, “I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.”
There are other troubling signs. As the popular meme goes, Trump only brags about doing bad things; Hillary has actually done them. What sounds like Hillary-bashing is supported by her record and that of Hillary and Bill during the Clinton administration.
Bernie Sanders is a gentleman, a statesman and a patriot, so he declined to make a big deal of the very clear evidence of primary election-rigging and millions of dollars’ worth of media bias toward Hillary Clinton. But the Republican right wing will not be so gentle or so gentlemanly. Hillary can take it, you say? OK.
How about her Iraq vote? Yes, she said a few times (but only after 2007) that it was “a mistake,” and in her 2014 book <em>Hard Choices</em>, that she “got it wrong.” But <em>she has never apologized</em> for the mistake that ended up costing 4,500 American lives, perhaps a half million Iraqi lives, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, occasioning in major cutbacks to important social programs—and resulted in the creation of ISIL. She wasn’t alone in this vote, but the only presidential candidate who voted <em>for</em> the AUMF is asking us to trust her policy judgment after this “mistake.”
But let’s take Hillary at her word. Did she learn from her “mistake”? Perhaps not: As Secretary of State under President Obama, whose legacy she vows to continue, Hillary backed a major U.S. “surge” in Afghanistan (70% of the U.S. soldiers who have died in Afghanistan have died since Mr. Obama took office). She supports torture by the U.S., including the war crime of waterboarding, just not when performed by other countries. She supports the illegal expansion of the state of Israel into Palestine. Indeed, her promise to continue meddling in the Middle East hurts people and helps only weapons contractors—her donors. According to <em>Time Magazine</em>, Hillary Clinton’s State Department “helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes [which increased 300% since George W. Bush left office]. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action.” She supported the illegal U.S. bombing of Libya, now a failed state. She supports boots-on-the-ground regime change in Syria: according to <em>Time</em>, “She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime.” And, after a coup to overthrow the Honduran democracy in 2009, she backed a fascist military dictatorship in its place.
Her legacy stems from support of her husband’s policies (1993-2001). She supported U.S invasions of or attacks against Haiti (1994 and formerly a democracy), Bosnia (1995), and Kosovo (1999). She “urged” her husband to bomb Yugoslavia (illegally, 1999)—indeed, this was a pretext to expand NATO, violating an agreement with Russia that NATO would not move “one inch” east of West Germany (and we wonder why Vladimir Putin gets upset at NATO encirclement!). As late as 2007, she supported the illegal U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Indeed, according to one website, “At the end of the year in which Clinton left her position as Secretary of State (2013), the Obama regime’s USA was voted, in a Win/Gallup poll of 65 countries around the world, as the single greatest threat to world peace, with the runner-up (Pakistan, an Islamic fundamentalist US ally) receiving three times fewer votes, and Russia receiving twelve times fewer votes.”
But it doesn’t end there. Hillary Clinton has been, and will be, the subject of multiple investigations—especially should she be elected without clear Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans will (I think treasonously) tie up the people’s business in favor of hamstringing and stymieing any progress Hillary tries to make on her agenda. Just as they did to her husband with the Monica Lewinsky “scandal”; just as they have tried to do with Mr. Obama. Republicans will block her at every turn, dog her with scandals real or invented (it’s a distinction without a difference to the Fox News crowd) and, if anything, be harder on her than on the scandal-free Obama. It would not be surprising to find Articles of Impeachment land on her desk the day after she takes office.
In 2008, Hillary was the front-runner, but then voters abandoned her in favor of a freshman Senator from Illinois. Was it because they would rather have voted for the first African-American president than the first female president? Or was it because voters felt they could trust Mr. Obama more than Mrs. Clinton? Polls seem to indicate that voters favored Obama largely because he was not Hillary.
A June Rasmussen poll, quoted by Fast Company, found 46% of likely voters saying Hillary was less honest than most other politicians (45% said the same of Trump). This may be confirmation bias, as the article claims, in which case tough for Hillary. People already “know” she is a liar—there are many instances in which she has verifiably stretched the truth, but no more than many male politicians (including her husband)—but this explains why Republicans don’t trust her. What about the 33% of <em>Democrats</em> who think she is less than candid? She plays the gender card, but denies she plays it; she denies being part of establishment politics, even while reveling in it; she offered multiple excuses for why she used a private e-mail server instead of abiding by State Department and Public Records law (FBI director James Comey, a George W. Bush appointee, said there is evidence that she was extremely careless in her handling of very sensitive, highly classified information, including eight chains with highly classified information, 36 with secret information and another eight with confidential information); she even distorted the record of a true progressive (Bernie Sanders); to prove that she is really a progressive.
Then there is the election rigging. As usual, Hillary’s fingerprints are not found on this, but the evidence is clear and convincing—as the leaked e-mails and other sources demonstrate: targeted voter suppression, registration tampering, illegal voter purges, exit polling discrepancies, evidence for voting machine tampering, the security (or lack thereof) of various voting machine types. In any other country, this election cycle would trigger a U.N. investigation.
There is not much I can say to recommend Trump, but as one pundit put it, “[W]ith every force in the Republican party against him, [Trump] won fair and square. He abided by the rules.” The same cannot be said of Hillary: “Hillary Clinton had all the money, name recognition, and advantages any candidate could. And yet, the DNC had to rig the election in her favor.”
For all these reasons, Hillary Clinton will have a difficult time winning the presidency in November. Many of her problems stem from her personality and her background as a corporate Democrat. Many of her problems, like the right-wing haters who will never accept her, are out of her control. But whether it is her bad policy decisions or the perception of her duplicity, whether it is her misreading the electorate or misreading her opponent, whether she plays the First-Woman-President card or the Be-Afraid-of-Donald-Trump card, there is a sliver of hope in her electoral prospects. If Hillary were to become and behave as progressive as Bernie Sanders actually is, addressing with real solutions the real problems that galvanized Bernie’s followers, and even some Trump supporters, she might get independent voters to emerge from their dejection and eke out a win in November, in spite of her frighteningly negative numbers.
I don’t see that happening. It’s not in her nature. And that is why I believe Hillary will lose. And she will lose YOOGE.
Here’s your Week in Freethought History: This is more than just a calendar of events or mini-biographies – it’s a reminder that, no matter how isolated and alone we may feel at times, we as freethinkers are neither unique nor alone in the world. Last Sunday, October 21, but in 1833, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel […]