Things are reaching a pitch in the American political arena. Trumpenstein will be the Republican nominee, and, while the last chapters have yet to be written, it is now almost certain, as it really has been all along, that Ms. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The next phase of the contest, the Big Face Off Between The Democrat And The Republican, is about to begin.
In social media, however, the contest between Bernie and Hillary seems far from over. Clinton supporters are upset by the expressed concerns of Sanders supporters and Greens like me, who feel that there is good reason to be wary of a Clinton Presidency. We are told that we are helping Trump get elected, that we are misogynists, that we need to deal with the world-as-it-is and not cling to “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” to steal a phrase from Charles Eisenstein. That’s all well and good, Clinton supporters say, but you must support Hillary or all hell will break loose. A la Margaret Thatcher, There Is No Alternative.
In an effort to respond to the many people I know who are telling me to get with the Clinton program, as well as those who seem to think Bernie would have won if only I’d supported him, and those who think I’m crazy, stupid, or sentimental not to back Trumpenstein, I want to examine all three of these candidates, as well as The Green Party’s Jill Stein, (cause, hey, this is a Green Party show/blog!) and talk about how they look from the ol’ Deep Green Perspective.
Let’s go for Trumpenstein first. I’m calling him that not just to make fun of him, but because he, like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, was, in a sense, brought to life by people who had their own motives for creating him, and who did not realize that he would get away from them and chart his own course. Trump was born (in the public mind) as a commercial, comedic figure, a Falstaffian man of bluff and bluster who was not afraid to say what he thought and exercise power, a man who drew viewers and made money for the network. When he chose to enter the political arena, he cut a sharp contrast with conventional politicians, who carefully shape what they say in a formal language that is intended to offend no one who might vote for them, but has begun to offend a lot of people for its vacuousness.
The other part of his “Trumpenstein” persona comes from his willingness to boldly enunciate what has been the subtle plane of the Republican message ever since Nixon: The Republican Party exists for the benefit of wealthy, or wanna-be-wealthy, white men, and anyone who is not a wealthy white man is only welcome on their best behavior–in wealthy white man’s terms. Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and capitalism are the unquestioned four pillars of this worldview.
“Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism….and capitalism? How did ‘capitalism’ get on that list?” you may ask. Here’s the deal. Capitalism, at its simplest, is the belief that the accumulation of capital–property and money–is the most important thing in life. “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins,” as they say. Capitalism is a form of prejudice–a prejudice in favor of money and those who possess it, and a rationalization for the mistreatment of those who do not possess large sums of money.
Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and capitalism all spring from anger, ignorance and greed, which are the wellsprings of pretty much everything that’s wrong with the human race. The ignorance manifests as, for one thing, widespread denial of global warming, since squarely facing global warming involves admitting that most of us here in the West have too much stuff; that we, both as a local culture and as a planetary one, need to learn to get along with each other; and that part of getting along with each other is making sure everybody’s got enough, but not too much, stuff. What constitutes “just enough” needs to be understood implicitly, not imposed on the unwilling by an outside authority. The transformation that needs to happen involves greater intelligence and self-discipline, not a bigger apparatus for the enforcement of external discipline.
These changes can be frightening to those who don’t fully understand them, and fright easily turns into anger. Angry, frightened people are easy to manipulate and stampede into supporting things that do not actually benefit them. For example, repeal of environmental and social justice legislation will benefit multinational corporations, as will lowering taxes on the wealthy. Limiting women’s rights and freedoms (so ironic to hear from those who profess a fear of “Islamic Shari’a law” being imposed in America), and increasing limitations on the rights of anyone who is not a white male both seem to be on Trump’s agenda. Even given the likelihood that many of his campaign promises will fall victim to a potentially uncooperative Congress, the dictates of the continuity of government crew, and just plain reality, I think it’s reasonable to believe that Trump’s election would nevertheless unleash a level of ugliness in America comparable to what we saw during the McCarthy era–I’m talking Joe, not Gene!, the lynching, imprisonment, and outright expulsion of African-Americans, dissidents, labor organizers, and war protestors in the teens and twenties of the last century, or the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South. In summation, a Trump victory will turn the country over to an ignorant, bigoted mob, and fail to address the real challenges we face on this planet.
So, vote for Hillary Clinton to stop this scary prospect, right?
Let’s look at what we are accepting when we cast our lot with Ms. Clinton, especially if we hold the belief that she will be a bulwark against Trump-imposed totalitarianism.
Here’s some things to consider.
Ms. Clinton voted for The Patriot Act, and for its renewal. She has called for “greater oversight of social media” to detect “terrorist recruitment.” Both as a Senator and as Secretary of State, she knew that the NSA was conducting illegal levels of surveillance, but she said nothing, then bemoaned the fact when it was made public.
When her campaign was beset with the attacks of volunteer “Bros for Bernie,” a PAC that supports Ms. Clinton spent a million dollars hiring internet trolls to go after Sanders supporters. It seems likely that this was not an independent decision on the part of the PAC, but, due to loopholes in campaign laws and the fact that the Federal Election Commission is gridlocked and unable to act, it seems likely that the legality of this operation will never be formally examined. We have to ask ourselves whether Ms. Clinton’s internet police force will continue to troll for those who disagree with her after she is elected.
Ms. Clinton’s statement that Edward Snowden should “come home and face the music” and that he would have been afforded “whistleblower protections” had he attempted to “go through proper channels” was, to be polite, disingenuous. To be rude, it was a lie, and she knew it. As Secretary of State, she certainly would have been aware that the path Snowden would have had to take as a whistleblower was, in the words of Michael German, a senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, “a trap” that would almost certainly have led to his persecution, prosecution, and imprisonment, without any public disclosure of the facts he discovered that upset him enough to do what he did.
Snowden’s revelations have sparked multiple lawsuits against the government’s illegal surveillance, yet Ms. Clinton’s view of him is that he is a criminal who has damaged American security, even though there is no evidence that any sensitive material he had access to has actually fallen into the hands of the Russians or the Chinese.
In contrast, she has been cavalier about her own use of a private email server, in violation of government rules. One standard for her, another for the hoi polloi. This is not a good sign. There may, however, be some very interesting consequences for her actions in the next act of the 2016 election drama. More on that later.
It may seem like something of a tautology to say this of someone who has been the US Secretary of State, but she has repeatedly shown herself to be an unabashed supporter of corporate/American hegemony, and that is the perspective from which her behavior makes sense. To those of us who are not supporters of The Corporate States of America, however, her actions as Secretary of State have shown her to be a danger to herself and, mostly, to others. She supported the destabilization of Libya because Gaddafi was trying to create a pan-African bank that would have placed the continent’s development in its own hands and taken it away from the World Bank and the multinationals. Six years later, Libya has sunk from being a stable country with a relatively high standard of living to being a “failed state.” She actively supported a coup in Honduras that removed a populist and unleashed a reign of terror, and then she lied about her involvement, even removing paragraphs from her autobiography that dealt with Honduras. She attacked Bernie Sanders for his support of Cuba and Nicaragua in the 1980’s, a time when those two countries represented the brightest hopes of oppressed people everywhere, demonstrating that it is possible to cast off tyranny and create, if not a totally just society, at least a fairer one, with the prospect of improvement.
She is a strong advocate for Israel and against the Palestinians, writing off all criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitism” and promising repeatedly to do whatever it takes to stop the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement for justice in Palestine. The US has passed laws to combat BDS, and further restrictions on this strategy for supporting the Palestinians are written into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as its Atlantic equivalent. I think this signals that activists for any cause that opposes the US government’s expressed wishes will find their lives more difficult under a Clinton Presidency.
As Secretary of State, she supported the spread of fracking and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although, under the influence of protest against of these extractive technologies, she has backed off of promoting them so unabashedly, saying she would like to see fracking regulated so that the environmental harm it frequently causes can be prevented. But–if those measures fail, how do you unpollute a watershed, much less a water table, that has become contaminated? How do you de-industrialize a rural area that has been turned into a national sacrifice zone? She says of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that she would like to see better worker and environmental protections written in. This hardly addresses the basic issue–that the TPP places corporate greed above local need for a clean environment and a workable economy.
I, and many others, will not be surprised if she changes her mind on both of these issues after the election–presuming, of course, that she wins. Running against Trump, the election is hers to lose. The result seems to depend on which one of this pair is disliked by the larger number of voting Americans.
Ms. Clinton’s backers include many of the country’s biggest banks and corporations, especially now that the Republican nomination has gone to a loose cannon like Trump. What these prime supporters want from her is the continued slow escalation of the National Security State. This means a civic environment in which neither capitalism nor its demands are challenged, a civic environment in which the government knows as much as it can about each of us, a civic environment where you can be free to marry who you please and get an abortion if you need one, as long as you acquiesce to being a good consumer, and keep your head down.
Will Ms. Clinton’s government do more for the rights of minorities and women than a Trump administration? Yes, but within the constraints of an “austerity” mindset that puts continual downward pressure on how much assistance the average citizen can expect from the government. When we look at the overall picture, it seems that the Democrats are using women’s and other social justice issues as a kind of human shield to help them get away with their corporatist, imperialist agenda. “Let us bomb the Middle East, spread industrial agriculture and a centralized economy, and let the rich get richer, or the woman and the black kid get it.” It’s hard not to fall for that, I admit. I wrote earlier about how the Republicans use fear and anger to manipulate people into supporting policies that are not good for them. What we see here is how the Democrats do the same thing.
While the Republicans might repeal environmental legislation to let corporations have their way, a Clinton administration will merely bend the regulations to let corporations have their way.
Attempts to further control gun ownership will only deepen the paranoia of those who think guns make them safe, and worsen that national divide. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work. Marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked. Is there any reason to believe gun prohibition will work?
Ms. Clinton’s foreign policy seems heavily influenced by her inner need to prove that, even though she is a woman, she is tough. The war on terror will not be over during her administration. There may be a few other flare-ups, as well. They’re such a good cover for increasing our government’s level of internal surveillance.
And yes, she will, given the opportunity, appoint a Supreme Court Justice or two who will support a woman’s right to abortion, and probably other civil rights as well, but who will be less sympathetic to cases that challenge a corporation’s right to impose its will on individuals and communities in order to make a profit. Get ’em by the short hairs, and their hearts and minds will follow.
Would a Clinton administration do something about the impending climate catastrophe? To the extent that it doesn’t negatively affect corporate profits, she will take action. Her solutions will be wrapped in populist rhetoric to motivate the masses, but will mostly benefit the survival–and prosperity–of the 1%, and such of the rest of us as have useful skills and make good servants.
What I said at the beginning of this piece, that Ms. Clinton and many of her supporters seem to share a Margaret Thatcher-like attitude that There Is No Alternative, looks all the more chilling and totalitarian when we consider all the factors I have mentioned since. When criticism of the President is strongly discouraged on the grounds that it aids his or her opponents and enemies, foreign or domestic, we are not living in a democracy any longer, even if we go to the polls and vote from time to time. While a Trump Presidency empowers the ignorant, a Clinton Presidency empowers an elite who believe they know what is good for the country, and us, better than we do. To support this view of a Clinton Presidency, consider her involvement in “The Family,” a secretive, right-wing Christian group that has successfully set its sights on influencing people at the highest levels of government, perverting Christianity from a religion that supports the downtrodden to a religion that supports the elite, and that has “forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most oppressive regimes in the world,” not in the name of moderating their oppression, but in the name of using their power to spread Evangelical Christianity. Her connection with this group, which dates back to the early 90’s, raises questions about the genuineness of her claims to be progressive.
Rule by the neoliberal elite is a somewhat less brutal prospect than a Trump mobocracy, but it’s hardly something I’d want to vote for. Factor into this that, if Ms. Clinton is the winner, the Trumped-up mobs will be unlikely to go away. The victory of their perceived arch-enemy may inspire considerable domestic unrest, and the response would almost certainly be a crackdown–which would inspire deeper unrest, and so on, spiraling out of control into a domestic war between the reactionaries and the neo-liberals, with the rest of us caught in the crossfire.
OK, those are cheery prospects, aren’t they? Now let’s look at two other candidates, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.
I have to hand it to Bernie. When he started his campaign, I looked at the way previous populists had been dissed and left in the dust in the Democratic Presidential selection process, and I thought he wouldn’t get anywhere. I mean, Dennis Kucinich couldn’t even get into the debates, right? But Sanders had a lot more going for him than even he, I think, expected. The many young people who had been in the Occupy movement were all too aware that they had been squashed not by Republicans, in most cases, but by so-called “liberal Democrats,” and were eager to channel their energy into a bid to topple the “liberals” who had squashed their radicalism. There are a great many Americans who are suffering from environmental degradation, economic stagnation, and the high cost of a frequently useless college education, but are more thoughtful than the average Trump supporter. Because of them, Bernie’s effort snowballed, but even so, the Democratic Party has been the object of many left takeover attempts through the decades, and has proved well armed to resist this one. Like Trump’s supporters, the “Sanderistas” are not going to go away, and many of them are not going to just shrug their shoulders, hold their noses, and vote for Ms. Clinton. They are all too aware of who she is and what she stands for, and they know she’s not standing with them.
Sanders has been invited to join the Green Party, but I suspect he will decline that invitation. He made a pledge not to run as anything but a Democrat–this year. He has a reputation as a man who keeps his word, and, while he has hardly been treated fairly by the Democratic establishment, I think he will honor his promise. Besides, there remains a distant possibility that he could win the nomination, so why should he upset the apple cart now? His Senate term has two more years to go, so we have not heard the last from him, but he will be in his late seventies by the next Presidential election, and by then he may have passed the torch on to someone younger.
And last, but hardly least, let us consider Dr. Jill Stein, the courageous spokeswoman for a tiny band of misfits and rebels engaged in a nearly hopeless struggle to overcome a vast, intergalactic empire–no, I mean an electoral system that has been carefully designed to exclude us, and anyone like us. I remain loyal to the concept of The Green Party, although I have found that some of its members are even more opinionated and difficult to get along with than I am. Exclusion from power breeds certain forms of neurosis, and they have a tendency to arise whenever Greens get together. Until some kind of legislative miracle happens and American politics and media open up to us, or until so many frustrated left Democrats, sensible Republicans, and open-minded independents jump ship and go Green that we long-suffering amateurs are pushed aside–to our great relief, I might add–unless or until that tidal wave floats our Green boat and leaves the Democrats high, dry, and severely diminished, the Green Party will exist as a kind of political theater, an exercise in conceptual art that demonstrates the closed nature of American politics. If, by some freak chance, Dr. Stein becomes our next President, she and her entourage will not drive down Pennsylvania Avenue in a motorcade, but glide down the street on flying pigs. All the same, I will be voting for her, and any other Green candidate I can pull a lever for. It may only be symbolic, but hey, at least it’s in line with not just my ideals, but a reasonably practical vision of what this country needs to do to restore itself to sanity. No, not Hannity. Sanity.
So, let’s look at our possibilities. A Trump Presidency is likely to come with an uncooperative Congress and/or an uncooperative public. There will be no forward motion on mitigating climate change, and there will be serious assaults on our civil rights and liberties. Clinton supporters will take out their anger and frustration on Sanderistas and Greens, rather than taking responsibility for their own failure to motivate enough people to win the election, for whatever that victory would have been worth.
A Clinton administration will likely be saddled with an uncooperative Congress and a lot of public hostility. There will be little forward motion on climate change, and, as with Trump,serious, if more subtle, assaults on our civil rights and liberties.
Sanders and Stein Presidencies, while they would both have a much saner view of what needs to happen to really “make America great again,” not to mention keep the planet habitable, are pretty much out of the question, and, absent serious turnover in Congress, would be victims of partisan gridlock just like Clinton and Trump.
One of the wild cards in this scenario are the ongoing civil fraud case against Donald Trump, which will not go to trial until after the election. The other wild card is the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Ms. Clinton’s private email server. The head of the FBI is a Cheney/Bush appointee, and no friend of the Democrats. He could ask the Justice Department to indict Ms. Clinton for mishandling government documents, charges similar to those prosecuted against David Petraeus. It’s not considered a “serious” offense, but in the year of a highly charged election, it would re-enforce many voters’ distrust of her.
And then there’s Gary Johnson and the Libertarians……
So, some of why there is such an air of panic and desperation around this election is that it’s not about who we want to be President–for many voters, it’s more about who we don’t want to be President. What compounds this is that, deep down, even global warming deniers and those who say they believe we can transition to a renewable energy economy without letting go of “The American Way of Life” know that they are wrong, that we are rapidly running out of time, that whoever wins the election will be incapable of fixing things, and that the sands are rapidly falling through the hourglass. Some election, soon, will prove to be our last, and we will be stuck with the fact that we are far out at sea, on a sinking ship, and no amount of rearranging the deck chairs will compensate for the fact that there are no life boats. Some of us understand, however, that the deck chairs could be turned into rafts. Will we get a chance to share our knowledge before we’re all sucked under?
Have a nice day.
Leonard Cohen: “The Future”
Ani DiFranco “Splinter”
Bruce Cockburn “The Gift“