Last month, I went on so long on the question of “how did we get here?” that I didn’t have time to address my next two questions,“What is the nature of this “here?” we now find ourselves in?” and “Can we/How do we change this “here” into a different, happier ‘here’?” I’m going to address that second question–the nature of our new environment–this month. I’m also going to examine just how much choice we really had about this change.
Trump has made it abundantly clear that his show of sensitivity to the needs of disgruntled, formerly or still barely middle class white Americans, was a huckster’s trick to draw in the marks. His promise to “drain the swamp” was nothing more than campaign rhetoric, like Ms. Clinton’s claim to be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had spent so much time promoting as Secretary of State, or her alleged concern for the welfare of that same sorta-middle class that Mr. Trump was wooing. More on that later. Trump not only isn’t draining the swamp, he’s bringing in bigger, hungrier alligators. His initial cabinet selections, if they are confirmed, constitute the wealthiest Presidential cabinet ever assembled, most have clearly made their fortunes by squeezing the common people, and none show any signs of remorse for their ruthlessness.
For example, Wilbur Ross, who may be our next Secretary of Commerce, made a good bit of his 2.5 billion dollar fortune through corporate raiding–buying companies that were in trouble and putting them through bankruptcy, which involves shedding workers, lowering wages, and reneging on pension plans. He iced his money cake by making millions in the mortgage bubble that prefaced the financial crash of 2008, and was further enriched by the policies Wall Street’s friend, Barack Obama, put into practice, which bailed out the banks and left homeowners hung out to dry. In The Nation magazine, David Dayan comments on this
Barack Obama’s handling of the mortgage crisis, by protecting bank balance sheets instead of homeowner balance sheets, may have cost Hillary Clinton the election. This was the biggest mistake of the Obama presidency, instituting a foreclosure-mitigation program that servicers used as a predatory-lending scheme, and then failing to take advantage of the extreme legal exposure of the industry after the revelations of foreclosure fraud. And in a sad twist, the very people who will benefit from that failure, and Trump’s election, are the ones who profited from foreclosures the entire ti
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that proposed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose net worth is around three hundred million, likewise hauled in a good share of his loot courtesy of mortgage fraud and the Obama bailout plan. Both of these guys should have been prosecuted, not offered cabinet positions. Thanks to Obama’s failure of nerve, or complicity, they are now in line to ruin–I mean, run–the country. Credit where credit is due: Mnuchin also helped finance Avatar, the most popular anti-corporatist movie of all time. It’s enough to make you wonder what’s really going on inside his mind.
In a different way, you have to wonder what’s going on in the mind of Betsy DeVos, who, it turns out, is Trump’s second choice for Secretary of Education. (His first choice was Jerry Falwell. Wow.) DeVos is cut from the same cloth as Falwell, however. She wants to impose the “religious” right’s “Christian values” on the rest of us, and shift taxpayer money from supporting public schools to supporting private, “Christian-oriented” schools. I have my quarrels with our public school system, but what Ms. DeVos wants to do instead is not the answer, and is designed to educationally short-change every child who doesn’t make it into a good private school–and, ironically, a so-called “Christian education” also short-changes every child who is subjected to that form of educational misdiscipline. Children need to learn how to think and solve problems. Indoctrinating them to be Bible-spouting, unquestioning servants of the wealthy does them, and our collective future, no favor.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, has said publicly that he thinks fears of climate change are “overblown,” even as he has helped hide reports from his company’s own research that show that global overheating is a serious threat to the human race. To compound his crimes, Exxon has used ostensibly “charitable” contributions to the American Legislative Exchange Council to lobby for anti-environmental legislation, even after claiming to have ceased such support. Recently, at an Exxon shareholders’ meeting, Tillerson’s faction of the company’s shareholders fought off an attempt by the Rockefellers to steer the company into investing more in renewable energy. When the Rockefellers are the good guys, you know you’re in fascist country, my friend. Tillerson’s single-minded devotion to corporate profit at any expense shows no compassion for even his own grandchildren. Does he think his 325 million dollar fortune will enable him to shield his family from the catastrophe he is pulling down on our heads?
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now had this to say about Andrew Puzder, who is Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary:
….(He is) a longtime Republican donor who’s been a vocal critic of raising the minimum wage, the Fight for 15, expansion of overtime pay, paid sick leave and the Affordable Care Act. Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Puzder’s nomination, saying, “Andrew Puzder looks down on working people. At Hardee’s and CarlsJr, he got rich squeezing front-line workers on wages, overtime & benefits.” In 2012, Andrew Puzder made $4.4 million, nearly 300 times more than the average food worker. According to one count, 60 percent of restaurants in Puzder’s fast-food chain had wage violations.
So Trump, the working man’s friend, wants to install a Secretary of Labor who is against making life better for working Americans.
I could keep rolling through Trump’s cabinet for the rest of this hour, or even write a book about them, but I think I’ve made my point: Trump, who campaigned against the oligarchy, has used the opportunity of his election to install an even more nakedly oligarchic government than we had under Obama. The Democrats are “kinder, gentler oligarchs.” The Republicans are oligarchs with the gloves off and no holds barred.
music: Neil Young, “Southern Man”
It will be interesting to see how many of those who were hoodwinked into voting for Mr. Trump continue to support him as his agenda becomes clearer, and more clearly against the best interests of his proletarian supporters, many of whom have firearms and know how to use them. Many of them are also military veterans who have been trained in insurgency/counterinsurgency tactics. It could get ugly. Contrast that with Clinton’s effete supporters, whose most violent move against anyone seems to be to accuse them of being a Russian sympathizer, and then unfriend and block them on Facebook. Speaking of Ms. Clinton…..
During the campaign, many of my friends who supported her warned me of the dangers of a Trump victory and urged me to support Ms. Clinton instead of Jill Stein. I can’t begin to count the number of times I heard “A vote for Stein is a vote for Trump.”Now that their dire predictions about a Trump administration are coming true, do I regret my stubbornness?
Well, the short answer is “no.”
A vote for Dr. Jill Stein was not a vote for Trump. There are plenty of things wrong with America’s voting system, including the many difficulties it places in the way of candidates and parties who espouse ideas outside the narrow spectrum covered by Democrats and Republicans, but, even with all those limitations, voting is not a zero-sum game, in which any one candidate’s gain comes at the expense of another candidate. If everybody voted, that argument might have some validity, but in this “all-important election,” with “our democracy hanging in the balance,” voter turnout was somewhere south of 55%. Far more people didn’t vote than the number who voted for either of the two “major party” candidates. So no, a vote for Stein was not a vote for Trump.
The other argument for voting for Clinton over Stein was “equivalence,” the notion that Clinton’s program was a more toned-down, doable version of what we Greens advocate, so Ms. Clinton was the practical, pragmatic choice to make, since she had a much better chance of being elected than Dr. Stein. Let’s examine what a vote for Hillary Clinton actually was a vote “for.”
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Henry Kissinger, a man she idolized. And thus a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for everything Henry Kissinger stood for. Let me recount some of her close friend’s actions:
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to support apartheid in South Africa, a vote against Desmond Tutu, and a vote in favor of the oppression of all those who joined him in the struggle that eventually overthrew apartheid.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for the Vietnam war, for the killing fields of Cambodia, for dropping more bombs on the tiny country of Laos than the US used against Germany and Japan in World War II.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Anastasio Somoza, the US-backed dictator of Nicaragua, who amassed a huge fortune while his country sank deeper into poverty, and was finally overthrown by the Sandinistas. When Ms. Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders for his support of the Sandinistas, she made it clear that a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote against the right of people to free themselves from brutal oppression.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for the “dirty war” in Argentina, for “disappearing” anyone who opposes the government, for throwing nuns and liberals out of helicopters into the ocean, for bringing up the children of the disappeared in the homes of right-thinking, religious Army families who never tell those children their true history.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Augusto Pinochet, for the murder of a democratically elected head of state because he opposes US corporate interests, for imprisoning thousands of his supporters, for cutting the hands off of guitar-playing folk/protest singers before murdering them, for turning a country’s assets, that rightfully should be controlled by, and benefit, the citizens of that country, over to multinational banks to extract for the benefit of their already obscenely wealthy stockholders.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Fulgencio Batista, for giving Cuba back to organized crime. A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for eleven thousand hookers in Havana. Women’s liberation, yeah!
“Aw, c’mon,” Clinton supporters told me. “That’s ancient history. That’s not what she meant when she said she admires Henry Kissinger. You gonna let all that old stuff stop you from voting against Trump?”
OK, here’s what she’s done on her own–or should we say, under the inspiration of her “good friends, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright?
Yes, a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Madeleine Albright,
…who had told 60 Minute’s Lesley Stall in May 1996 that the “price” of causing the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to UN sanctions Washington refused to lift had “been worth it.”
…and that’s just the tip of the Madeleine Albright iceberg.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to continue the US’s long-term policy of destabilizing foreign governments, especially in the Middle East. What countries are we talking about? “Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran,” General Wesley Clark recalled in an interview. Ms. Clinton was a willing advocate of, and agent for, US covert and overt action in those countries, and thus….
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for more failed states, for even more US military intervention all over the world, for throwing more gasoline on the fire of angry Islamic fundamentalism.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for a “no-fly zone” in Syria that would have led to the US firing on Russian aircraft, and thus potentially to war with Russia.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for someone who laughed at the news that Lybian leader Muammar Qaddafi was murdered by being sodomized with a knife.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to support Israel’s war of aggression against the entire native population of the Middle East, and to criminalize effective protest of that aggression through the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to keep increasing tensions with Russia by reneging on our country’s earlier promise and expanding NATO right up to the Russian border, destabilizing Russia’s neighbors, and then holding “war games” on the Russian border. Plus, as I already mentioned, that “no-fly zone” in Syria….
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to spend a trillion dollars on updating the US nuclear arsenal and making it “more usable.”
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for the murder of Berta Caceres and many others in Honduras who dared to resist US government/corporate plans to evict them from their traditional lands in the name of “economic development” that would turn the evictees from self-sustaining rural peasants into helpless, rootless urban flotsam, grist for the dark Satanic mills of multinational factories.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to replicate the treatment of Honduras all over the world–to make the world safe, not “for democracy,” but for corporate profits.
In summation, a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for the program of that notorious neoconservative cabal, the “Project for a New American Century.” A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to “make America great again.”
“That’s all foreign affairs,” Clinton supporters would tell me. “It’s a complicated business. We amateurs have no business second-guessing the professionals who keep us safe here at home. She’s got a much more environment and worker-friendly domestic policy than Trump does.”
But–a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Alan Greenspan as her “Delphic oracle,” a vote for Ayn Rand, a vote for an arrogant elitism that spurned “the common people” on principle.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Vice-President Tim Kaine, a big supporter of fracking and offshore oil and gas drilling, and a big promoter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, until it became politically expedient to be against it.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for Ken Salazar, her transition chief, who was a tireless advocate for fracking, pipeline expansion, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Salazar, by the way, is also a marijuana prohibitionist. While she didn’t like to talk about it, her own record indicates that a vote for Clinton was a vote to continue the War on (Some) Drugs.
And it seems that, in spite of her apparently politically motivated denials, a vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “trade deal” that would have sucked even more middle-class jobs out of the US, but was about a lot more than trade. It would have given trans-national corporations the right to sue local governments if they adopted labor, environmental, or other laws that cut into the corporation’s expected profits, plus a host of other non-trade related regulations that would essentially have superseded the US Constitution and legal system.
A vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote for The Patriot Act. A vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote for increased domestic surveillance. Her campaign established an organization called “Correct the Record” that not only addressed genuine misstatements about her political record, but that went on the attack over any criticism of her. This led many of Correct the Record’s victims to fear that a Clinton administration would see serious curtailment of First Amendment freedoms, a fear that has only been fed since the election, as Democrats have chosen to blame “Russian manipulation” and “fake news” for their loss, seeming to call for limits on free speech instead of focusing on the Republicans’ demonstrable assault on the voter rolls and their own failure to inspire.
A vote for Ms. Clinton was, in all likelihood, a vote for Ken Rogoff, her likely pick for Secretary of the Treasury, an economist who has argued for making our society cashless. Wouldn’t that proposal do wonders to heal the cultural divide in America? Beyond any one individual or any single policy, a vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote to keep letting an unleashed Wall Street run the US economy for its corporate benefit.
A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for nuclear power. A vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote to tell those of us who are justifiably concerned about the genuine threats of global overheating and its exacerbation by continuing to expand our use of fossil fuels to “get a life.” According to Bill McKibben, a vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for a “silly” plan to counter climate change.
And yes, all these things that Ms. Clinton would have done are things that Donald Trump is clearly going to do, and then some. Short of a miracle upset victory by Jill Stein, this election could have had no other result than to further seal the deal on oligarchic rule in America. A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote to ratify the rule of the oligarchy, not a way to defend our democracy from Mr. Trump. More people need to ask why the leadership of the wealthiest, most powerful nation on this planet came down to a choice between Trump the psychopath and Clinton the sociopath.
A vote for Ms. Clinton was a vote for the illusion that we were electing somebody who was going to do something about the strong possibility that we are making this planet uninhabitable for ourselves and the many other complex creatures in our current ecosystem. She was not going to take the bold, radical steps our situation demands. She was just going to spout the nostrums that made her middle-class supporters feel better, whether the subject was race relations or the environment or income inequality, while she carried out the wishes of her corporate sponsors.
One of the main differences between her and Trump was that she pitched her appeal to those of us who are more socially liberal–i.e., who are not opposed to abortion, favor easy access to birth control, and who support the civil rights of those who are not conventional heterosexuals, while Mr. Trump’s appeal was aimed at people who are threatened by those three things.
Another difference between the two campaigns was that the Democrats claimed to be more inclusive and tolerant of Americans who are not of European descent, even as they pursued policies that persecuted the people they claimed to tolerate. The Republicans, on the other hand, are currying the support of European-Americans, telling them that the erosion of the economy, and their once cushy way of life, is due to the influx of all those darker-skinned people, whether they are African-Americans whose ancestors were kidnapped by our ancestors and have been mistreated ever since, Central Americans whose economies have been laid waste by the same trade treaties that destroyed our middle class, or people from the Middle East whose homelands have become uninhabitable due to America’s wars for oil and the planetary overheating that has resulted from burning all that oil. The Democrats are definitely not the only Americans who are blaming the wrong people for their problems!
So, it looks to me like it didn’t matter whether the Democrat or the Republican won the election. If the Democrats had won, we would just have a “kinder, gentler” oligarchy robbing us. With the Trump cabal in power, the gloves are off and the grift is obvious. Trump and his crew are going to force a whole lot of “liberals” to define what they really want and stand up and fight for it, while a Clinton Presidency would have left them happily nodding along with Our Wonderful First Woman President. If the world doesn’t totally go to hell in the next four years, the radicalization of these Americans could be a very good thing, especially if enough Trump supporters become disaffected to swing an election.
As for me, I’m going to continue to support The Green Party. As Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they make fun of you, then they fight you, then you win.” The Democrats wasted no opportunity to make fun of us this year. However, we in the Green Party were the ones who used our position to reveal that the results of the election were not what they seemed. Even though the Democratic leadership has chosen to ignore the obvious manipulation the Republicans employed to win the election and has gone chasing after imaginary Russians, a great many individual Democrats know what went down, and will remember who told the truth and who blew smoke. While I would like to believe that Bernie Sanders’ attempt to turn the Democratic Party into the Democratic Socialist Party could succeed, I’m not sanguine about his chances. Anyway, America would be better off with a multiparty democracy and the changes to our form of government that would entail, so I’m sticking with the Greens, even though the Green Party is likely to remain an outlier in American politics until those changes I mentioned take place. If we all vote Democratic, they certainly won’t happen. The “interesting times” we live in are in the process of getting a whole lot more interesting. Hold on to your hat and your principles, and let go of your expectations. It’s going to be quite a ride.
Fairport Convention, “Come All Ye“