As Trump secures the Republican party nomination and Clinton nudges Bernie Sanders out of the running for the Democratic nomination, Conor McFall looks at what has happened in the run up to now and asks if there really is a lesser of two evils in this race.
Did you know? Poverty, debt and insecurity don’t affect you as much if the system that creates them is figureheaded by a woman.
Did you know? Bombs that destroy your village and kill your entire family don’t hurt so much if the commander in chief giving the launch order is a woman.
Now these statements may not seem real or genuine to a sensible reader, but these are the positions one must adopt if one is to be enthusiastic about the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. With the Democratic nomination all but secure, Clinton and her supporters have already begun to turn their attention towards November’s run-off against Donald Trump. Yeah, Donald fucking Trump. It’s an election season full of incredulity. Given a) Trump’s shocking appeals to the most vulgar reactionary sentiments and b) the widespread lack of enthusiasm for a Clinton presidency, it seems clear that the Democratic appeal will be that of the lesser evil. You’ve got to vote Clinton because it’s the only way to stop Trump. This needs to be examined.
Firstly, what a state the modern Democratic Party is in that the best thing that can be said for their candidate is, ‘Well, at least she’s not Donald Trump.’ Trump, a cartoonish construction of reality TV, is a man whose skin pigment falls somewhere between tangerine and mahogany while his politics ranges somewhere between Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini. He appeals to his followers not like a statesman, but in the manner of Hulk Hogan trying to sell a fight with the pesky foreign bad guy of the month. While I don’t intend to spend all my time simply making jokes at Trump’s expense, as easy as that would be, it is important to note the sheer ridiculousness of this situation. If the Democrats are a mess, the Republicans have fallen into the abyss.
While there are reams of material out there on what exactly the rise of Trump means – fascism rearing its ugly head in the United States or the logical conclusion of Republican machinations going back decades (or both) – one thing should be clear: this represents a massive opportunity for the apparent progressives of the liberal establishment in the United States. After all, Trump is going to lose in November, right? He is historically unpopular among practically every demographic in the country. His only remaining supporters are racists, white supremacists, Nativists and gun nuts A.K.A the ‘Trump Rump’. So with the Republicans tarnished and in disarray, this is an opportunity for the ‘progressives’ of the Democrats to push home their advantage and offer serious programmes of reform. After all, a lot of what we ever hear from such figures is that poor Obama would have been a much more radical president if only for those pesky Republicans obstructing him. But instead the party has put its weight behind the corporate-approved neoliberal war-hawk Hillary Clinton. Why have they not taken advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for radical change when presented with an open goal? Simple. They don’t want to.
The Clinton campaign is massively out of touch. Unable to offer any material appeals to the predominantly younger and poorer Americans who make up Sanders’ support base, they are instead shushed and patronised. This takes two forms: the first is to dismiss programmes such as single payer health care and free university tuition fees as unrealistic in spite of various forms of these policies being in place across other western states; the second is to weaponise identity politics in order to denounce them. The absurd Clintonite commentator Amanda Marcotte accuses Sanders of misogyny for having the temerity to question Hillary’s credentials for the role of president. According to this piece, criticising Clinton’s support for the Iraq War and her Wall Street funding is sexist. Sanders is ‘Just like a Bernie Bro’, the ridiculous caricature employed to dismiss his supporters because some people once said mean things about Hillary on Twitter. There has also been the somewhat bizarre suggestion that Sanders’ desire to remove Barney Frank from his position as co-chair of the rules committee of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) is homophobic. Sanders alleges that Frank, with whom he has had a longstanding political rivalry, will act as an ‘attack surrogate’ for Clinton. However, according to the rules of Identity Politics for Dummies, Frank is beyond reproach because he is gay. Hey, maybe I should run for office. Also, Bernie is bad because he’s white, apparently unlike Clinton.
All of this attempts to create a narrative in which there can be no ‘legitimate’ reason to oppose Clinton becoming the president. Not her position on the anti-union Wal Mart board, not her support for the most odious aspects of her husband’s stint in the White House, not her support for the Iraq War, not her obscene Goldman Sachs speaking fees, not the disastrous intervention in Libya she has overseen, not her steadfast opposition to marriage equality until the exact moment when switching her position was more popular, not the shady connections between the Clinton Foundation and dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, not the donations to her Super PACs, not her links to a coup in Honduras, not her undying loyalty to Benjamin Netanyahu and not her desire for a no-fly zone in Syria that would be a de facto declaration of war on Russia. Nope. If you oppose Hillary Clinton it must be because of sexism. While Trump’s racism and misogyny openly opposes struggles for equality, Clinton supporters simply debase them for electoral ends.
All this is to say that choosing a lesser evil between these two is not as easy as it may seem on the surface. The fact that Reagan- and Bush-era foreign policy staffers are rushing to back Clinton should say it all about the nature of the Democratic candidate. If Bernie Sanders is to endorse her, as it seems he might, it will be a huge setback to any emerging Left movement in the United States. As the conduct of her supporters shows, Hillary will be defended strongly when she is in the White House no matter what, especially against challenges to her left. But while a Trump campaign may offer more opportunity for the Left, it is clear that the man and the ragtag movement he is building more and more resembles a fascist upsurge. Historically, this is what happens when the centre collapses. The neoliberal centre, which Clinton represents, is crumbling. But to deliver the death blow by electing Trump is flirting with catastrophe while Clinton simply offers more of the same, though with more bombs. Pleasingly, more of the same won’t be sustainable for much longer. Both candidates are deeply unpopular, Sanders supporters are overwhelmingly the young and socialism is no longer a dirty word. For now, if one cannot bear to hold their nose and pick either of these two cretins, vote Jill Stein, the only true progressive on the ballot.