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Bronner writes: "With the implosion of the Donald Trump's presidential campaign, extended arguments are unnecessary regarding the choice between Hillary Clinton and her proto-fascist adversary. She is a ruthless neo-liberal politician with great polish and sophistication, whereas Trump is a bully, a liar, and a threat to American democratic traditions."

Hillary Clinton listens to questions at the Rochester Opera House campaign town hall meeting in Rochester, N.H., on Jan. 22, 2016. (photo: Faith Ninivaggi/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton listens to questions at the Rochester Opera House campaign town hall meeting in Rochester, N.H., on Jan. 22, 2016. (photo: Faith Ninivaggi/Reuters)

Our Hillary

By Stephen Eric Bronner, Reader Supported News

23 October 16


ith the implosion of the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, extended arguments are unnecessary regarding the choice between Hillary Clinton and her proto-fascist adversary. She is a ruthless neo-liberal politician with great polish and sophistication, whereas Trump is a bully, a liar, and a threat to American democratic traditions. Hillary is erudite and always prepared, while Trump is erratic and shoots from the hip. Hillary served her country as a first lady, a senator, and a secretary of state, while Trump is a huckster businessman born with a silver spoon in his mouth who declared bankruptcy six times, cheated small investors, supports unrestricted gun rights and deregulation, and betrayed Atlantic City. Hillary’s judicial appointments will surely support equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to choose, civil liberties, and an attack on Citizens United. Hillary’s administration will fund Planned Parenthood, restrict gun sales, and inject a degree of civility into a polarized environment. There is also symbolic importance in electing a woman to the highest office, especially when a blatant sexist is intent on representing the worst elements of the American polity in the aftermath of the election. Such differences alone provide enough reason for any rational person to vote for Hillary.

No doubt the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was rigged. Former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee played favorites. Hillary was also aided by established liberal media outlets like CNN and MSNBC and progressive commentators who, now full of righteous indignation, fawned over Wasserman Schultz in her seemingly incessant guest appearances. Along with the disparity in financial contributions by elite donors and the more than 400 delegates pledged to Hillary before the primaries even began, it was as if Bernie had to win a baseball game in which he was losing 6-0 before the first pitch was even thrown. Indeed, from the first, Hillary benefited from anti-democratic organizational tactics and structural imbalances of influence and power that favored the mainstream in the Democratic Party.

Most progressives understand that elections are always about choosing the “lesser of two evils.” But there remain enough angry Bernie supporters, depressed by his defeat, who seem unwilling to sully their radical principles in theory even though their refusal to vote can only up whatever legitimacy Trump and his “alternative right” retain. What will Hillary do if she wins? She represents the right wing of the Obama administration, which has supported international free trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Perhaps she will switch gears, perhaps not. In any event, from a neo-liberal standpoint, gaining a competitive advantage in the international free market means lowering labor costs and welfare programs. Hillary has made concessions to Bernie’s people on a number of issues and she drew up the party platform with him. But suspicion is warranted. After all, while president, Bill Clinton proclaimed that he would “end welfare as we know it.”

Hillary is legitimately characterized as a “liberal hawk.” Obsessions with her emails while secretary of state, and the outrageous attacks on her role in the Benghazi fiasco, deflect attention from what is far more important. Hillary is uncritical when it comes to NATO and she seems to have learned little from the Iraqi War or her “mistake” in supporting it. Hillary’s commitment to “regime change” in Libya produced the disintegration of a sovereign state, ongoing conflicts among warring tribes, extremists spilling over the borders, and the heightening of regional instability. She has called for increased bombing in support of a fractious and ineffective Syrian opposition, strengthening the American military presence in Iraq, and an unworkable (and potentially explosive) “no fly zone.” Her stance on Israel has also been far less critical than that of President Obama. Admittedly, she has championed human rights. But this should fool no one: human rights mostly serve liberal hawks as a cover for the pursuit of interventionist strategies. Hillary enthusiasts, especially, should inform themselves about the dark side of her politics rather than dogmatically protect her from criticism.

President Obama hit the mark in his convention speech targeting Trump with the phrase: “Don’t boo! Vote!” But we should know what we are getting into – and our position will need to change the day after the election. Those who are not DNC style enthusiasts will undoubtedly find themselves on the outside. They will recognize the need for protest and going into the streets soon enough. No less than her husband, Hillary tends to employ a “triangulation” strategy that targets what liberals have called “the vital center.” The strategy works like this: Trump is against raising the minimum wage; Bernie Sanders endorses raising it to $15 per hour; and then there is Hillary calling for $12 per hour. The Republicans have little to say about student debt; Bernie raises the prospect for free education at public universities; and Hillary comes in with “debt-free” education. Hillary has turned compromise into a principle and, conceptually, she surrenders strategy to tactics. Down the road, Hillary’s willingness to endorse radical proposals will depend far less on whether she is a nice person or a feminist than upon the degree to which social movements and non-governmental actors exert pressure, and (regarding reforms) make her do it.

American movements come to life when Democrats are in office. They flourish more under liberal than explicitly right-wing administrations. That has been the case under President Obama as well. Marches in support of immigrants had a pronounced political impact. So did Occupy Wall Street as well as the Living Wage campaign and Black Lives Matter. Insofar as she represents the right wing of the Obama administration and is less indebted to those on her left, however, Hillary will probably be more difficult to influence than he was. All the more reason to support Bernie’s insurgents in trying to create their own organizational structure: “Our Revolution.” Maybe it can function like the Poor People’s Movement of the late 1960s with one foot inside and the other outside the Democratic Party. Perhaps it will go in another direction entirely.

Time will tell whether “Our Revolution” can sustain itself. Bernie has remained relatively quiet during the presidential campaign and he has stuck to familiar themes. There is even a sense in which his movement is on hold. But it has brought hundreds of thousands of people into the political process and it has provided the Democratic Party with the most radical platform in its history. Who would have thought that “Feel the Bern” was possible? For decades, we were told that using the socialist label and talking about class was politically suicidal. As usual, the “pragmatists” were not only wrong but out of touch. Thirteen million people were inspired by a different and radical message. When the presidential primaries began, free tuition at public universities, breaking up the banks, single payer health insurance (or even the public option), $15 minimum wage, and a transformed tax code were blasted by mainstream media as “unworkable,” “unaffordable,” and “utopian.” Not anymore. Concessions to the rebels have already been made by the liberal establishment and, after Hillary’s victory, radicals will need to keep up the pressure. Of course, something dramatic can always happen that might change their focus (not least the unlikely triumph of Trump). The Republicans will be in shambles, but it is foolish to believe that the alternative right will go away. Only one political posture makes sense for progressives with regard to the Democratic Party: critical solidarity.

Stephen Eric Bronner is Board of Governors Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. His most recent book, The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists, will appear in paperback next month with Yale University Press.

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