I’ve always tried to keep across the sordid goings on in the USA presidential elections, as they become more and more like wrestling and less connected to intellectual engagement. US elections give an early warning of what’s coming down the pike at the rest of us. The stone breaks the pond’s surface in the US and the ripples drench us in the polluted water. What passes for a “left” in both the US and the UK threw up their hands against the Thatcher/Reagan onslaught and so you got the “Third Way” of the “New Democrats” in the USA, later followed by the nauseating vicissitudes of “New Labour” over in the UK.
Jump forward to today and US citizens are presented with a “choice” of candidates (who can actually become president in the winner-takes-all political system) who were only put forward by 9% of Americans: an allergic-to-the-truth flim-flammer and someone else, Donald Drumpf, who is even worse. No one likes ’em; many are just voting for one of them as a vote against the other. Indeed, both are so bad that many might break party lines and cast their ballot elsewhere: Republicans for Hillary; leftists for Drumpf; the Green party; the Libertarian party; the PSL; communists for the Democrats.
I don’t have to make a choice but what would I do if I was looking at contributing to whether Hillary or Drumpf would be the next president? In the UK, although I think of myself as a Green, I’ve never voted Green in a General Election because of a similarly stacked electoral system; I’ve always voted for the strongest anti-Conservative party in whichever seat I’d resided. The terrible thing, if the person with whom you’ve reluctantly deposited your vote gets elected, is that that winner, soaked in self-satisfaction, says thank you for all of the voters who placed their faith in them, purposely forgetting that many only gave them their vote as a bulwark against the other deadbeat. Herein lies the problem, especially in such a binary system as in the US. Drumpf is terrible but people don’t want their vote against him (by voting “for” Hillary) to be then co-opted into a vote for Hillary Clinton.
If Hillary Clinton does romp to a clear win against the short-fingered vulgarian, both Hillary and her media soldiers probably won’t be able to help themselves from smugly vuvuzela-ing her victory as a mass vote of confidence in her, rather than its actual vote due to terror in the face of a scoundrel like Donald Drumpf being allowed to play with the nuclear football. How does one break this choke hold?
I think that the election only gets decided on 10 – 15 swing states with the other 35 – 40 states already certain to go Republican and Democratic. Serious progressives in those non-swing states might vote for Doctor Jill Stein and the Greens with a somewhat clear conscience. I gather that if the Greens can gain a certain percentage of the vote then they’ll get federal funds for the next time. I’d vote Green….at least I think I would have done prior to the short-fingered hysteric’s ‘Second Amendment‘ comments.
It was such a foul, disgusting thing to say. He tried to backtrack, with bletherings about him joking, being sarcastic, thus putting himself on the same level as a 10 year old boy/cartoon character. As one of the chalkboard jokes in ‘The Simpsons’ said: “Adding “just kidding” doesn’t make it okay to insult the principal”. It’s just shameful that this emotional age version of Benjamin Button says this; portrays it as a legitimate tactic and gets away with it. So, I would want Drumpf and the Republicans to be hit as hard as possible for this hatefulness and I’d vote Hillary in any state just to add my little stone to the landslide.
Many know that, in an episode of ‘The Simpsons’, they once projected a future President Drumpf but perhaps an even more apposite edition was when Homer ran for Sanitation Commissioner against a Ray Patterson. A lazy, bone-headed, know-nothing bore manages to win an election, armed with nothing more than frivolous criticism and a few verbal zingers. Said bone-head than blows the department’s entire budget in a month; makes crooked, under-the-table deals to stop himself being found out before messing up Springfield so badly that they have to move the whole town. It was scarily prescient viewing this in light of Donald, the short-fingered vulgarian.
I don’t think that Drumpf can win….but I think that Hillary can lose it. Her comments recently about half of Drumpf supporters being baskets cases and racists has some uncomfortable echoes of Mitt Romney’s 47% fiasco. And now she faints or almost faints in New York City and (supposedly) has pneumonia. It was 83 degrees; she was standing for 90 minutes; and probably wearing respectful black clothing that would have absorbed the heat all the more: everyone can Monday morning quarterback but a black umbrella over her head could have really helped. It doesn’t augur well at all. Hillary advocates, when pushing her candidacy would, almost under their breath, admit to her being a terrible campaigner and a war hawk: both attributes being huge issues and problems rather than afterthoughts. Leaving aside her war-mongering and support from some real right-wing dregs of society, her 278 days without a press conference and her political tin-ear are real and dangerous impediments when up against, as Rand Paul called him, a ‘truth-teller without the truth’; an insider posing as an outsider.
Not that Hillary would be this great president but Drumpf doesn’t believe in climate change and he would be able to appoint two or three supreme court justices for life, just for example, but what passes for a US “left” would undoubtedly get figuratively “necklaced” with Hillary’s failure if she lost to such a short-fingered simpleton. It’s not that Hillary advocates are bad people, per se, but they pushed Hillary because, for all her drawbacks, she was supposedly a winner. If she fails, that would be such a huge, categorical disaster for those pushers and supporters that they would have no choice but to point their (normally proportioned) fingers elsewhere. In other contexts – being members of a political cabinet; being sports coaches – these talking heads would and should offer their resignations for their total failure but they won’t. So the left will take it in the neck instead. The usual circular firing squad formation.
So what if it’s not true? So what if the left did not cause Hillary’s defeat? As Winston Churchill, or Mark Twain, said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”. The ‘Ralph Nader and the Greens cost Al Gore the 2000 election’ myth still has great currency despite not conforming to facts.
More on this fairy tale in another post but it was Al Gore, not Ralph Nader, who was such a terrible candidate that 308,000 registered Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush rather than Gore: that’s over three times the 97,488 Greens who so “egregiously” didn’t vote for Gore, when Bush “won” by 537 as the supreme court stopped the vote. 308,000 voters starting in the Gore column and ending in the Bush column self-evidently isn’t the fault of Ralph Nader and the Greens. Nor was it Ralph Nader and the Greens’ fault that Gore banned the 63% approval rating popular President Bill Clinton from campaigning for him in Gore’s home state of Tennessee (a victory in Tennessee for Gore would have had him home and hosed on 277 electoral votes, without Florida).And it wasn’t the Greens to blame for Gore failing here either, because if you take all of the Greens’ 2000 Tennessee votes and add them to Gore’s, Al Gore would still have been 60,448 votes shy of Bush. Nor can one pin Gore’s choice of Joe Lieberman as a vice-president onto Ralph and the Greens…..but it doesn’t stop this tiresome fiction still being pumped out as a finger-wag sixteen years on.
Conversely, the left won’t get any thanks if Hillary wins, it’ll get disdain for making Hillary’s run such a long, hard, boring, slog but it’ll definitely get utterly killed if Donald Drumpf takes the White House. Hillary surrogates have a mainstream voice whereas the US left has great but marginal people like Jimmy Dore, Katie Halper, Tim Black, Benjamin Dixon, TYT, The Real News and maybe a few others? The Hillary surrogates have large and numerous megaphones, all amplifying each other; the US left has yogurt pots-with-string by comparison. Hillary’s people will construct the narrative and the left will get slaughtered and be made patsies. Maybe there’s an answer, a way to win, to survive, without buckling over? Progressives and leftists can try to make a vote against Drumpf (thereby voting reluctantly for Clinton) into a visual, social media event.
Finding a vote “for” Clinton to be so toxic, although it would bulwark against a Drumpf horror, progressives should perhaps vote in swing states while wearing protective gear; the more eye-grabbing, the better: dressed head-to-toe like a beekeeper or an ice hockey goalkeeper or wearing ostentatiously thick gloves, or as if cleaning up a spillage of industrial waste. TV news crews will be on the streets all day, bored out of their minds as they try to think of ways of making lines of people waiting into televisual eye-candy so they’d probably be more than happy to shed light on the voters playing a strange kind of dressing up game. Make it into an event; get it on line too; make it fun by showing your contempt for having to choose between two such shady characters, and on a Tuesday too, through the medium of dressing up to get on television. If all that could be parlayed into a social media campaign it might help break the back of the hateful ‘vote least worst’ syndrome: a successful vote *against* the ‘worst worst’ but one which makes clear that it wasn’t voting *for* the least worst.
Progressives and liberals in swing states, I’d argue, have got to think in terms of using whatever meagre tools are to hand, if not for themselves then for the poorer and disadvantaged in society who’d be first to feel the wrath from Drumpf. Think in terms of the first two Jason Bourne films. Faced with an assassin, Jason picks up whatever is to hand – in one it’s a pen, in the second it’s a thick magazine. He would have liked a great big gun or a machete, for sure, but he had to make do with what was there…and he improvised and he survived. Vote Hillary out of self-preservation or else you take the rap for her defeat. With either Hillary or the short-fingered maniac in the White House, street protests will have to become the rule rather than the exception but with Hillary they’ll be slightly less police looking to crack heads, bind wrists and inflict socket bruises.
If history’s any guide, when a Democrat gets into the White House, progressive groups ‘turn off’, think the job’s done and sometimes get co-opted and neutralised whereas there’s a strong, united opposition if it’s a Republican. People maybe need to consider the notion that politicians aren’t their friends and that the Democrats and the Republicans are two wings, or the same wings, of the one corporate party. They should get after a President Clinton from week number one and treat her as someone who’ll only do what’s right if she’s feeling the heat from a figurative progressive ‘oxy acetylene torch’ from the start and throughout her term(s). From Paul Street’s typically long and excellent piece ‘Second Thoughts on Bernie’s Viability‘:
“…As the likely Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein (for whom I expect to vote) recently noted in an interview with me, Hillary Clinton will have considerably less capacity to deceive and bamboozle progressive and young workers and citizens than Barack Obama enjoyed in 2007-08. “Obama,” Stein notes was fairly new on the scene. Hillary,” by contrast, “has been a warmonger who never found a war she didn’t love forever!”…”
Those who constantly bellow about misogyny being the reason why Americans don’t like a flim-flamming, tap-dancer like Hillary actually have a point. If she was yet another male neoliberal, she’d probably have an easier time in getting elected but I’d argue that the issue isn’t why the public are resistant to ‘the woman’ for being ‘a woman’ but why they waved Obama, Kerry, Gore and Bill Clinton on through. Maybe it’s not that Hillary’s a woman but that Americans are just sick and tired of being taken for easy marks? Having said that, seeing the horrific, short-fingered, snake-oil selling alternative, I’d still give her my vote; hope that she wins and would let all of her supporters spuriously crow about what a great victory it is for women and how it was never in any doubt.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney said that he would have easily voted for Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary or Drumpf because Sanders is a great legislator who’d even leave his name off of legislation to get things through. Hopefully the left will have the wisdom to also not worry about getting their proper credit.
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