Historian Rick Shenkman in his book Political Animals has brilliantly analyzed how our stone-age brains have prevented us from governing ourselves properly and electing sensible politicians. Instead of studying the issues and reading widely, American voters more often than not rely on television entertainment news that places heavy emphasis on a candidate's personality or other superficial qualities and deadens them from human suffering. They fall prey to emotional appeals that cater to their base instincts or racism, to red-baiting tactics, to appeals from local leaders with patronage ties to political candidates and to smooth-talking con-men and women who promote values they themselves have constantly betrayed.
Though they like to think they are more sophisticated than the Fox news watching crowd, liberals are often little different from conservatives in this latter score. The lionization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, including among minorities whose communities have been adversely affected by their policies, is an excellent example.
While coinciding with a period of prosperity, Bill Clinton's free trade policies resulted in the outsourcing of huge numbers of manufacturing jobs and his crime bills led to the growth of mass incarceration. The Clinton administration also gutted social welfare, promoted banking deregulation and presided over record military spending, developing drones and other hideous weapons later used in the War on Terror. His foreign policies included bombing a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and supporting jihadist fighters in Serbia, where Pentagon officials set up an illegal arms pipeline reminiscent of Iran-Contra. Clinton has admitted that he helped to destroy Haiti's rice supply by pushing free-trade policies there, and armed repressive governments from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia to Colombia to Turkey as it crushed the Kurds and Rwanda and Uganda as they invaded and plundered the Congo.
Some would blame Clinton's failures on the right-wing, suggesting he was forced into a defensive position and achieved what he could amidst Republican obstructionism and pressure. However, Clinton was always a conservative Democrat, who from his days as Arkansas' Governor, received funding from the big corporate interests in his state (Tyson Chicken and Walmart) and was tied in with the military-industrial complex. He even made a bargain to allow clandestine arms and drug smuggling flights to the Nicaraguan Contras out of Mena Arkansas, as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair detailed in their book Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press.
Following in her husband's footsteps, Hillary Clinton has a long record of serving corporate interests and has made many disastrous judgments in her political career including backing the Iraq War. A two part series in the New York Times disclosed that she was the major figure in the Obama administration promoting the preemptive war in Libya to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. The article reveals that while Clinton and associates in the "cruise missile left" like Samantha Power were claiming that Qaddafi was committing genocide, the number of protestors killed was actually three hundred and fifty, ten times less than was being publicly broadcast. The U.S.-backed NATO bombing itself killed hundreds of civilians and fostered the disintegration of the country. Today Libya is controlled by roving militias and gangs and is a haven for Islamic extremism and Al-Qaeda.
Besides the illegal Libyan war, waged without congressional authorization, Hillary Clinton was a driving force behind the expansion of Plan Mérida in Mexico, a $1.7 billion dollar drug-war program modeled after Plan Colombia. In an example of the corruption of money and politics, several companies profiting from Mérida contracts including General Electric, Lockheed and United Technologies which owns Sikorsky, were contributors to the Clinton Foundation. Many of the weapons in turn bolstered the arsenal of the cartels responsible for perpetrating grisly violence and were used by the Mexican army to suppress peasant uprisings in Chiapas and Oaxaca provinces driven by rampant inequalities, and to force the displacement of peasants to make way for megaprojects by multi-national mining corporations.
Drug supply rates were little affected all-the-while because of ongoing corruption. Journalist Anabel Hernandez wrote that "what Mexico has experienced in the last decade is not a war on drug traffickers but a war between drug traffickers, with the government taking sides for the Sinaloa Cartel."
While purporting to stand up for women's rights, Hillary as Secretary of State embraced a regime in Afghanistan allied with fundamentalist warlords. She also helped oversee massive arms shipments to the Saudi Royal family which has one of the worst records towards women's rights and is "the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," according to Clinton's own assessment, as revealed in a 2009 cable from Wikileaks.
Clinton's legitimization of a coup government in Honduras that paved the way for horrific drug-related corruption and violence in that country is another black spot on her record. In a CNN debate before the Florida primary, Ms. Clinton had the audacity to claim sympathy for Honduran migrants who had escaped to the United States, though was never pressed on their reason for fleeing. Hillary, with encouragement from the CNN moderators, subsequently resorted to red-baiting tactics, condemning Bernie Sanders for sympathizing with Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas when he was mayor of Burlington in the 1980s.
The Sandinistas it should be noted achieved power in a popular revolution that overthrew a vicious dictatorship backed by the U.S. and actually won fair elections in 1984, so there should be nothing wrong with supporting them. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega later returned to power after winning elections in 2006.
Ignoring that aspect of the history, Hillary, to contrast herself with Sanders, professed her opposition to authoritarian governments. No one thought, however, to bring up her backing of the Honduran coup and Saudis, or her warm relations with Central Asian despots like Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan who cooperated with U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. He was an ex-Soviet apparatchik described as "somewhere between Franco and Chile [Pinochet]," who granted lucrative uranium mining concessions to Clinton foundation donors in return for an HIV-AIDS prevention program.
While it is true that elections often hinge on domestic policy, Hillary's record as Secretary of State and the frequent contradictions between her rhetoric and actions should make her suspect in the eyes of any serious voter, particularly one who purports to espouse liberal values. Support for preemptive wars, political assassination (Hillary even gloated after Qaddafi was killed) and coups, the arming of repressive governments and supporting arms dealers who line the coffers of her family foundation, has nothing to do with liberalism by my definition. Neither for that matter does giving $225,000 speeches to Wall Street financial conglomerates like Goldman Sachs.
Why Democratic Party voters who turned out in droves for Hillary on Super Tuesdays cannot see through the smokescreen is a great tragedy. It reflects a pervasive ignorance of foreign affairs and the phenomenon by which emotional attachment to a candidate -- in this case because she is a woman and many women are priming for the first female president, or because she presents herself as the more "responsible" candidate compared to the wild-eyed socialist -- clouds rationale judgment and breeds disaster for our society. Liberals are no different from conservatives in this latter respect.
Jeremy Kuzmarov is J.P. Walker assistant professor of history at the University of Tulsa and author of Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (Massachusetts, 2012) among other works.