Tuesday Bernie Sanders enthusiastically endorsed Hillary Clinton, having said for the past few weeks that defeating Donald Trump is the priority. I deeply appreciate what he has done with his campaign, which I supported, but here we come to a parting of the ways.
If you favored Bernie's candidacy and can discern a lesser of the two evils now poised to become president, by all means support her. But I urge you to never seek a vote for her without exposing her for who she is and explaining why you think her opponent would be even worse. And don't send money to help her campaign propagate a different message. If you are among those who see her as emblematic of everything Bernie Sanders stood against, there is surely no need to emulate Bernie's now-uncritical support.
A Tale of Two Evils
In all honesty, I cannot foresee the future well enough to discern who will hurt the people of this country, the people of the world, and other life on this planet the worst. I do know two things. One is that Donald Trump would be extremely dangerous in his rhetoric and his continued stirring up of scapegoating, machismo, and misdirected white male and working-class anger; that he would be unpredictable; and also that he would be largely ineffective in pursuing whatever he may have of a real program.
I also know that Hillary Clinton, unopposed by a powerful movement or movements, would, like Barack Obama, serve the 0.01 percent with considerable effectiveness in her domestic policies; continue supporting coups and dictatorships and brutal, terrorism-feeding drone wars abroad; and do only enough on climate change to postpone the fatal cooking of the planet by a decade or so. In the meantime, also like Obama, she would blame Republicans for her "inability" to deliver on her promises, receive a pass on criticism from liberals who are afraid of feeding pro-Republican sentiment, and continue to falsely brand herself and the less overt of the two corporate parties as somehow progressive.
There are two related criteria for deciding whether to support Clinton or to let the chips fall where they may, i.e., by sitting out the presidential race or supporting Green candidate Jill Stein. The first is whether Clinton or Trump will do less harm and more good. (I include "more good" because, though I think that, e.g., Trump ending NAFTA, etc., or Clinton bringing college-debt relief, have but a snowball's chance in hell of coming to pass, I could be wrong.) The second criterion is which presidency will leave more space for a movement for an actual political revolution to do its work and grow, along with the many movements fighting in the shorter term for particular needs of the 99 Percent, including people of color.
The Harm Trump Can And Cannot Do
Trump has brought one of the dark sides of American political consciousness out into the open. But he also stirs it up and legitimizes it, and we certainly don't need four years of that from the Oval Office. His policy positions, to the extent he is consistent on any of them, are mostly wacky and extremely dangerous.
But, appearances to the contrary, the billionaire class and its minions disagree only within a fairly narrow portion of the range of possible policies on most foreign and domestic issues. No president can alone move that class's Congress, a gigantic bureaucracy, and the judicial system far from that fundamental consensus, as I noted when urging Bernie to help us build a movement rather than just an electoral organization. Moreover, the corporate media will also undermine any presidential attempt to act far outside the establishment's comfort zone. In terms of actual policy, Trump would be as relatively immobilized in the Oval Office as Sanders would have been.
Before the 2012 election Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report, made a cogent argument that is pertinent here as well. His stance was that Obama was not the lesser evil, but "the more effective evil." As a writer for The Atlantic, he summarized his position:
By virtue of being a Democrat, [Ford] argues, the president has been able to advance policies that would trigger resistance if the GOP attempted them. His deficit-reduction commission has created "a model for austerity," and he codified preventive detention in law, Ford complained. "He's expanded the theaters of war in drone wars, and he's made an unremitting assault on international law," he continued, adding that "what will go down as his biggest contribution to history is a kind of merging of the banks and the state, with $16 trillion being infused into these banks, into Wall Street . . . and the line between Wall Street and the federal government virtually disappearing."
Ford noted that another reason liberals and African-Americans were quiet in the face of Obama's betrayals was that he was Black.
This logic still applies. Liberal activists, organizations, commentators, and politicians will stand up against crazy Republican Trump in a way they never will with a Democrat, especially one who is also the first woman in the White House.
And Then There's Hillary Clinton
I can't repeat here most of what I've written recently about why Clinton would also be a disastrous president. (In this piece, see the two subheadings that begin with "Improving Democrats' Rhetoric.") But I have to reiterate the part about her claiming she's uninfluenced by receiving Wall Street's largesse:
She tells us, in effect: "True, I raised tens of millions of dollars from corporate heads, often at $225,000 for an hour-long speech. But you can trust me to represent you, not them. I conned them into believing they'd get their money's worth, but they won't. You, however, can trust me — I would never con you."
Her implicit stance is that being a good con artist proves her incorruptibility. Right.
Also, unmentioned in the earlier piece, were her 2009 role in supporting the death-squad-introducing coup in Honduras, her pushing for the disastrous intervention in Libya, and her embracing of various dictators. Jill Stein's concise recitation of Clinton's abominable track record is also worth consulting.
I truly am not ready to say whether this person would be "the more effective evil," but only because it is harder to predict what will happen under Trump.
The True Priority
The real priority for those who know what corporate rule is doing to our country and our world is building a nonviolent movement that can dislodge that class from political power. Bernie Sanders, in an email sent to his supporters the same day he endorsed Clinton, wrote, "In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the creation of successor organizations to carry on the struggle . . ." I have no idea what he means by that. I am angry that I don't, because this should not be a top-down project. What he should be announcing is a series of forums in which those of us who supported him and his program can decide for ourselves how to carry on the struggle. (If you agree, there is an open letter you can sign.)
And for those who feel they know that Trump would be a worse disaster than Clinton, I suggest a more nuanced principle than the one Bernie has offered: "The priority is to defeat Trump, while exposing Clinton and building a movement to contain her once she wins." Anything else promotes the greatest evil at all, the illusion that the two-party system gives us a choice about anything other than how fast we move towards collapse.
Photo credit: Hillary Clinton on Instagram