Today’s date, September 11th, is, to borrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, “a day that will live in infamy.” On this date in 1973, Salvador Allende, the Bernie Sanders of Chile, who, unlike Bernie, had succeeded in become his country’s President, was killed in a military coup that had the full backing of the United States and especially our then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The Chilean military, with the assistance of the United States, didn’t just take out Allende. They jailed, tortured, and murdered thousands of Chileans, and forced tens of thousands more into exile. The US then used Chile as a base for “Operation Condor,” which orchestrated the murder of thousands of mostly non-violent left-wing activists all over South America, most notoriously in Argentina, where “the dirty war” killed at least thirty thousand people. That’s a US government program, directly approved by Henry Kissinger, that targeted people like me and, probably, people like you. So, when I think about Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly declared her admiration for Henry Kissinger, being President, when I notice the approbation with which her followers greet any mention of her faults or approval of the Green Party, when I read that a Clinton-supporting PAC has budgeted a million dollars to pay Clinton supporters to harass Sanders supporters and Greens on the internet, I start feeling a little nervous, and since today is the anniversary of the Chilean Bernie Sanders being murdered by Hillary Clinton’s inspiration, this becomes a more emotionally charged anniversary than it would be if a protegée of Henry Kissinger were not so likely to be our next President. Donald Trump is dangerous because he doesn’t really seem to have a plan.
Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, is dangerous because she does seem to have a plan–and it’s not one she’s sharing with the general public. With a horde of pundits and bloggers ready and willing to bend the truth to discredit any criticism of her, not to mention discrediting the critics themselves, I start wondering if we have a “Ministry of Truth” in our future.
Oh yeah, it’s also the fifteenth anniversary of the day a bunch of Saudis apparently hijacked several US airliners and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing a mere three thousand people. OK, it was three thousand all at once, not one by one, but…. Anyway, because the Saudis did that, the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. If that makes sense to you, then you can accept the World Trade Center story exactly as the mainstream media portray it. It doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t accept the story, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. The Allende-Kissinger story is much more apropos.
The 2016 election campaign continues its tortuous path. Trump and Clinton continue to be themselves, to the delight of their acolytes and the dismay of the rest of us. Although little noted in mainstream media, Libertarian Gary Johnson’s popularity is rising, or at least it was until he blew the “Aleppo” question. And Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein has caught a wave of disaffected Sanders supporters that has buoyed the party and her campaign, and set off alarms in the Clinton camp, which has done its best to drown Dr. Stein in a tsunami of hogwash, saying the kind of things about her that they would be shocked, simply shocked to hear some male chauvinist pig say about a Fine Upstanding Feminist like Ms. Clinton.
I find it somewhat amusing to watch, and occasionally annoying to experience, the Clinton crew running themselves ragged trying to intimidate us Greens into supporting their candidate. Somebody needs to remind them that that brown stuff in those sandwiches they’re getting from the DNC isn’t pate de foie gras. It isn’t even peanut butter, and, no, sorry, it wouldn’t taste any better if you got us Greens to eat it, too. And that Hillary Clinton lemon Kool-Ade you’re drinking isn’t lemon Kool-Ade. It’s…oh, never mind, you’re really determined to drink it, aren’t you?
Let’s imagine, dear reader, that you were to go into a Starbuck’s in a hip neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, and ask the people there—dyed-in-the-wool Democrats to a man, woman, gender-nonspecific individual, and child—to describe their nightmare presidential candidate, the person they’d least like to see in the White House next January.
They’d tell you that it would be a political insider openly in bed with banks and big business who spent years in public service pandering to the rich, who is also a neoconservative who pursued regime-change operations against Third World countries and was committed to military confrontation with the Russians. The candidate would have a track record supporting the kind of trade agreements that allow corporations to overturn environmental laws, and would also be dogged by embarrassingly detailed allegations of corruption on a stunningly blatant scale. The candidate would insist that everything was just fine with America, and anyone who disagreed was just being negative. Oh, and it would help if the candidate had engaged in race-baiting behavior, and had insisted that a woman’s claim that she was raped wasn’t to be taken seriously if it was directed at a member of the candidate’s own family. (my note: I am not entirely sure the rape claim should be taken seriously, either, but Bill does have a reputation for womanizing.)
That is to say, the rank and file Democrats’ idea of the worst possible President is Hillary Clinton.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. To be fair, Greer spends an equal amount of time skewering Trump and the Republicans, as well as the activist movement in general, but you’ll have to read, laugh at, and learn from those sections yourself. One of the things that his commentary points out is that the Democrats are running a Republican, and the Republicans are running a Democrat. This is confirmed by the number of prominent Republicans who are supporting Ms. Clinton, and the fact that the Democrats’ traditional white working-class base has shifted its allegiance to Mr. Trump. With the country’s financial elite filling their coffers and determining their policies, the Democrats are, in effect, the new Republicans.
The Democrats are dealing with this awkward situation by doing what they have done for at least the last twenty years: demonizing the Republicans, and, this year, the Greens, claiming that “a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump.” The main reason we should vote for Ms. Clinton is because of the terrible Mr. Trump, never mind what Ms. Clinton would do if she is actually elected, as she probably will be. Here’s what I said to a Clintonite who is my on-line frenemy, “If, as you are, I was trying to promote a candidate who admires Henry Kissinger and Alan Greenspan, has been endorsed by the founder of the Project for a New American Century and numerous other top Republicans, whose VP supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, and who has appointed a transition chief who supports fracking, pipelines, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I would be trying to herd people by whipping up fear of her main opponent and distracting them with irrelevancies, too.”
I’d like to address the “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump” meme by doing a little math.
In the 2012 election, approximately 127 million votes were cast. Sixty-six million of them were for Obama. Sixty-one million of them were for Romney. Four hundred and seventy thousand of them were for Jill Stein. In addition, ninety-three million people who could have voted did not vote at all. The Democrats and Republicans each spent about $850 million, The Greens about $900,000, roughly one tenth of one percent of that. That’s about thirteen dollars per vote for the D’s and R’s, but only two dollars a vote for us Greens. Let’s assume that spending, and turnout, will be about the same this time around. If, with all that money to spend, the Democrats can’t inspire some of those ninety-three million non-voters to get off the fence and mark a ballot for their candidates, it’s not The Green Party’s fault.
In 2000, a year that the Democrats really like to get upset about, Gore received about 51 million votes, Dick Cheney about 50 million, Nader received 2.8 million, and 89 million people who could have voted didn’t. In this race, too, the Democrats and Republicans had vastly larger campaign budgets than the Greens. Why couldn’t they inspire more voters to turn out? And why are the Democrats so intent on blaming us Greens for their failures?
In his recent book, “Listen, Liberal!” Thomas Frank addresses the question of what happened to the Democrats–the party that co-opted socialism with “The New Deal,” the party that has, for the last fifty years or more, been the party of African-Americans, labor unions, and the middle class. What he points out is that, while the Democrats have retained their populist rhetoric, they have slipped into being the party of “the professional class”–the people with college degrees who are the backbone of “the information economy.” In a recent article in “The Guardian,” Frank put it this way:
Support for Donald Trump… ran strong among (working class white) people, even among self-identified Democrats, but not because they are all pining for a racist in the White House. Their favorite aspect of Trump was his “attitude”, the blunt and forthright way he talks. As far as issues are concerned, “immigration” placed third among the matters such voters care about, far behind their number one concern: “good jobs / the economy”.
“People are much more frightened than they are bigoted,” is how the findings were described to me by Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America. The survey “confirmed what we heard all the time: people are fed up, people are hurting, they are very distressed about the fact that their kids don’t have a future” and that “there still hasn’t been a recovery from the recession, that every family still suffers from it in one way or another.”
Tom Lewandowski, the president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council in Fort Wayne, puts it even more bluntly when I asked him about working-class Trump fans. “These people aren’t racist, not any more than anybody else is,” he says of Trump supporters he knows. “When Trump talks about trade, we think about the Clinton administration, first with NAFTA and then with [Permanent Normal Trade Relations] China, and here in Northeast Indiana, we hemorrhaged jobs.”
“They look at that, and here’s Trump talking about trade, in a ham-handed way, but at least he’s representing emotionally. We’ve had all the political establishment standing behind every trade deal, and we endorsed some of these people, and then we’ve had to fight them to get them to represent us.”
Now, let us stop and smell the perversity. Left parties the world over were founded to advance the fortunes of working people. But our left party in America – one of our two monopoly parties – chose long ago to turn its back on these people’s concerns, making itself instead into the tribune of the enlightened professional class, a “creative class” that makes innovative things like derivative securities and smartphone apps. The working people that the party used to care about, Democrats figured, had nowhere else to go, in the famous Clinton-era expression. The party just didn’t need to listen to them any longer.
In other words, the Democrats are losing their base, because they haven’t been delivering on their promises to it. No wonder they’re scared, and no wonder a lot of “traditional Republicans” are endorsing Clinton, bringing lots of money with them. The Democrats don’t want to acknowledge that they have betrayed their base, so they are concentrating on blaming others, like us Greens, for their own failings. But we Greens are not just petulant, perfectionist Democrats. We have a whole other way of looking at the world, as expressed in our “Ten Key Values.” Let’s go through those, and contrast them with what the Democrats practice.
music: Jackson Browne, “Soldier of Plenty”
1. Grassroots Democracy
Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect his or her life and should not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process.
2. Social Justice and Equal Opportunity
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.
While the Democrats have done some good work in this area, especially in the “sexism and homophobia” category, they are also the party that broke up the Occupy movement and has failed to prosecute any of the white-collar crime associated with the 2008 financial collapse, while ramping up deportations of refugees from the global south and largely turning a blind eye to the many ways that people of color do not receive “fair treatment and equal justice.”
3. Ecological Wisdom
Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy-efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.
The Democrats seem somewhat clueless about this. They are promoting further expansion of the use of fracking and natural gas, when the best science we have makes it clear that we need to power down and convert to a solar/wind economy immediately if we want to keep our grandchildren from roasting. Likewise, the Democrats are completely in bed with Monsanto, a multinational corporation that promotes a fossil-fuel dependent, global trade dependent, and, well, multinational-corporation-dependent vision of agriculture that will work until the oceans rise and the oil and gas run low, and then leave whole continents hungry.
It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
Under the Democrats, the US has continued to maintain hundreds of military bases in 80 countries, radically outspends every other country in the world on its military, put “boots–and guns–on the ground” in 135 countries, and is planning on spending a trillion dollars to make “our” nuclear arsenal “more usable.” And then there’s that little matter of our country’s annual 36 billion dollars worth of weapons exports. That ain’t all hunting rifles, folks.
Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.
The Democrats are actively promoting “free trade agreements,” such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that give multinational corporations the right to sue any government that puts the environment and/or its people’s well-being ahead of the corporation’s chance to make a profit.
6. Community Based Economics
Redesign our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy. Develop new economic activities and institutions that will allow us to use our new technologies in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological and accountable, and responsive to communities. Establish some form of basic economic security, open to all. Move beyond the narrow “job ethic” to new definitions of “work,” jobs” and “income” that reflect the changing economy. Restructure our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy: those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, etc. Restrict the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation.
This is what Bernie really meant when he talked about “democratic socialism.” It’s about making society’s highest priority the well-being of the people in it. The Democrats clearly value the welfare of the financial elite above the welfare of the working class. That’s why, cleaning up after the mortgage crisis, they bailed out the banks and left the individual home owners, who bore the brunt of the damage, to their own devices. That’s why a lot of those people are supporting Donald Trump, who is at least acting like he speaks their language. (Really, they should be Greens, but Trump’s got a bigger megaphone than we do, dagnabit!)
7. Feminism and Gender Equity
We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.
Feminism is not about women succeeding in a man’s world by being as aggressive as any man would be. That’s what Hillary Clinton has done. Instead, Feminism is about “women changing the bigger picture to adapt to women’s values,” to paraphrase feminist writer and activist Genevieve Vaughn.
8. Respect for Diversity
We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines. We believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles. We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.
Democrats would say that this is their view, too, but, on inspection, maybe not so much. When the people of Wisconsin rose up to protest the takeover of their state by reactionary Republicans, the Democrats weren’t there. When the Occupy! movement raised the profile of a disempowered generation, the Democrats acted to break them up. When Black Lives Matter spread the message that, well, black lives matter, the (half-black) Democratic President remained silent. When police officers were ambushed by a frustrated African-American veteran, then we heard from President Obama about what a tragedy that was. Let me make my position completely clear–the deaths of those policemen was tragic, and completely uncalled for. But so are the hundreds of deaths of civilians at the hands of the police every year.
9. Personal and Global Responsibility
We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. We seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
At a time when the fragile health of the planet demands that nations become more co-operative and peaceful, the Democrats are raising tensions with Russia. The precarious situation we are in demands a radical shift in our spending priorities if we are going to keep the planet habitable for our grandchildren, but the Democrats are spending a trillion dollars making our country’s nuclear weapons “more useable.” Nuclear winter is no way to end global warming!
10. Future Focus And Sustainability
Our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or “unmaking” all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions. Make the quality of life, rather than open-ended economic growth, the focus of future thinking.
“Economic growth” continues to be the cornerstone of Democratic Party economic policy. If my body had a “growth” that behaved like “economic growth,” I’d have it removed and tested for cancer. Furthermore, the Paris agreement on global overheating that the US and China just signed on to, with much fanfare, is, when push comes to shove, unlikely to even significantly slow, let alone reverse, global warming.
That’s where we stand. We’re not just “sore losers,” Democrats. We won’t support you because your corporate-friendly program will not create a world we can all live in. It’s about the survival of not just the human race, but a broad spectrum of complex life forms on this planet. This is no time for compromise. There is little time left before the overheating of our only planet gets completely out of control.
Bernie Sanders did us the enormous service of getting a national microphone, talking about this kind of thing, and proving that there’s a political hunger for our vision. Hillary Clinton is doing her best to convince those who hold it that she is their best option, but she has clearly turned her back on that vision. The Democrats have become the Republicans. Can the Greens become the new Democrats?
The first stage of that process is that we need to fight for our civil rights. In this supposedly free country, if you’re not a Democrat or a Republican, there are remarkable, and Constitutionally dubious, roadblocks in the way of getting your political party and its candidates on the ballot. That can change. In Canada, after years of domination by a minority Conservative government, because the progressives in the country were split between Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens, the Liberal Party has regained power and is pushing electoral reforms like preferential voting and proportional representation that will make it easier for minority opinions to be represented in the country’s political process. It would be wonderful if the Democrats grew up enough to adopt this view instead of attempting to bully Greens into submission. What, are we stuck in junior high school?
Before I close, I’d like to speak to the criticism that we Greens receive from deep radicals for buying into the electoral process as if change were really possible through such a rigged system. It’s certainly true, as Robert Newman points out, that “empire is just armed robbery on a vastly larger scale.” Why should Greens aspire to take part in armed robbery? Do we really think the gangs who are currently running the show are just going to move over and make room for us? Would we be able to change the nature of the game if we did take power?
In my view, it’s easy to say the electoral system is a rigged game and refuse to play. It’s much harder to go into the political system and do our best to play by–and change–the rules. If we Greens can’t succeed, then we have, to some extent, demonstrated that, indeed, the system is impervious to change from within, and will likely lumber on until some sort of superior force–likely a natural one–takes it down. On the other hand, we might just succeed in taming the apocalyptic beast and transforming it into some more useful creature–a flock of chickens, perhaps, or a good buggy horse. If we don’t try, we’ll certainly never succeed.
So, to sum it up, the Democratic Party’s vision of the future of America seems to be full of compliant, corporatized consumers, while The Green Party envisions a country full of creative, co-operative citizens. It may take a few more election cycles for things to come around for us, but I think we are on the way to taking our country back. Meanwhile, the climate clock is ticking. I just hope we’re not too late.
Leonard Cohen, “Democracy”
Zakir Hussain, “Nines Over Easy”