How Bad Could Hillary Clinton Be?
24 April 16
hile Bernie Sanders still has a statistical chance to win the Democratic nomination, the time has come to face the big question. How will those of us who support Bernie respond to the likely contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?
The answer depends. What will Bernie choose to do in the coming weeks and months? And how badly do millions of ordinary Americans – black, Latino, Asian, white, and mixed – want the political revolution that a grumpy old Socialist Jew proclaimed?
Bernie’s choices are limited. When he decided to run in the Democratic primaries, many purists like Chris Hedges condemned him for embracing the dark side. Had Bernie run as an independent, would he have enjoyed anywhere near the same impact? Absolutely not. But he did pay a price, going easy on Obama and all the money the president had taken from Wall Street in his first campaign. Hillary used Obama’s ties to the street of Capitalist dreams as an easy way to justify her own funding and speaking fees.
Now Bernie may have to pay an even bigger price. He has promised to run to the end, hoping to win as many delegates as possible, which will help him shape the party rules and platform. But the party elders and their spear-carriers in the media will put him under enormous pressure to play nice, toning down any criticism that might further weaken Hillary before her likely race against Trump.
Normally, party platforms are about as important as a cup of warm spit. But Bernie has done an amazing job of pushing Hillary to the left. Writing into the platform the promises he forced out of her will make it that much more difficult for her to backtrack on her current opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other job-killing trade deals, on her Krugman-approved regulation of Wall Street, on tax equity, and on ending the wholesale incarceration of young black men that she and Bill pushed through for their own purely political purposes during the first Clinton dynasty.
Once in the Oval Office, Hillary will likely find carefully nuanced arguments for going back to her earlier pro-corporate policies, but if she does, our job will be to hold her feet to the fire and make her look as bad as possible. A strongly-worded platform will help us in that effort.
Changing the party rules could also help reduce the control of the bureaucratic bosses, making it easier for independents to vote in the primaries and giving new insurgencies a greater chance of success.
These are all worth fighting for, and my guess is that Bernie will try to play the party game, securing his role at the convention in July and in the Senate for as long as he wants. But whatever he chooses to do, those of us who support him need to pursue a course of our own. Many of us have been fighting these battles long before Bernie entered the race, though nowhere near as effectively, and we will continue fighting long after he grows old.
One difference will immediately become clear. Whether we got our start opposing John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Democratic war in Southeast Asia or George W. Bush’s Republican war in Iraq, we generally oppose the foreign policy and empire-building of both major political parties, and do so more strongly than do Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, or most of their colleagues. As I have argued against historically shortsighted pundits, Hillary is no neo-con but far more dangerous ? a liberal imperialist with roots in the first Cold War and Woodrow Wilson’s interventions in Mexico and the new-born Soviet Union.
Will refusing to hold our tongues now hurt Hillary and help Trump? It could, but I’m not terribly worried. He’s so outrageous, so much of a racist bigot, and so closely tied to truly fascistic elements in American society that we can easily build opposition to him without ever having to hide Hillary’s failings. He has blurted out so many inconsistent positions that it’s hard to know what he stands for or what he might do if he ever became president, which he will not. But, just to keep perspective, he has been far more critical of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the allied intervention in Libya, and NATO’s Cold War mentality than Hillary ever has.
In all probability, most of us living in those states where it might make a difference will probably put clothespins on our noses and vote for Hillary against Trump. We prefer her likely picks for the Supreme Court to his. We look forward to making her remember Bernie and her promises every day of her time in the White House. We will have no trouble building a massive anti-war movement against her efforts to have America and its allies rule the world. And we will spend most of our time and energy building democratically controlled grass-roots movements wherever we happen to be, winning support for the kind of changes Bernie has promoted.
That is how change is made in America. Whether for civil rights, ending wars, organizing labor unions, winning free speech, or getting $15 an hour, activists on the ground provide the push and politicians ratify the change. So, let’s keep on pushing.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.
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