Monday, November 07, 2016

Progressive Perspectives on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

. . . shared in a spirit of hope,
awareness and love

There's just one thing I'll whole-heartedly be able to celebrate tomorrow evening: the defeat of Donald Trump.

Obviously such a defeat can only result from the election of Hillary Clinton as the 45th president of the United States. From everything I've read in the last 48 hours, a Clinton victory seems pretty much a sure thing. For one thing, she is leading in a greater portion of polls than Barack Obama was in the last two elections.

Trump Beats Clinton to Take White House
BBC World News, November 9, 2016

Yet I can't honestly say that I welcome a Clinton presidency. For reasons that I've documented previously (see here and here), I believe Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed and inadequate candidate, one who for reasons – some legitimate, some not – simply does not engender trust or enthusiasm. From the perspective of many she is too "establishment," too hawkish, and too tied to Wall Street and the neoliberal ideology to move the country in the direction it needs to go for the engendering of justice, peace, and environmental sustainability.

Michael Gerson sums it up well: "There has been a massive failure of the presidential nomination process in both parties; one candidate stale and tainted, the other vapid and vile. . . . America has two bad choices, but not equally bad."

No, Hillary Clinton is not as bad as the "vapid and vile" Donald Trump. But she's still a poor choice for president.

And if by some chance she loses to Trump? . . . Well, that would certainly be a great disaster for the U.S. and indeed the world. But make no mistake: if Clinton loses then blame lies squarely at the door of the Democratic National Committee which unfairly supported and promoted her at the expense of a genuinely progressive (and popular) candidate, one who consistently defeated Trump by wide margins in the polls. I'm talking, of course, about Bernie Sanders.

Voting Green

Sanders, to his credit, accepted his (unfair) defeat to Clinton with grace and generosity. He has tirelessly campaigned for her and insists that anything but a vote for her would be a vote for Donald Trump. He's partially right. Anything but a vote for Clinton in a swing state would be a vote for Trump. There are states, "safe states," where it is possible, even in this election, to vote for a third party candidate. Minnesota is one such state. Indeed, if my citizenship application process was complete, I'd probably vote tomorrow for either the Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate, Alyson Kennedy, or the Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein (along with every other Green Party candidate on the ballot that I'd be eligible to vote for).

A friend recently challenged me on voting Green, saying: "The time to build the movement for a third party is not during an election season, especially one that's close and where one of the candidates wants to move us back fifty years." I responded by noting that, actually, the only way for a third party to gain "major political party" status and thus help build a viable movement is during an election season . . . by securing a certain percent of the vote. Wherever that is possible, and there are areas of the country where it's safe to vote third party, even in this election, I think it's more than okay to do so. Some have even argued that it's actually the moral thing to do, given the level of corruption and dysfunction of the two-party system.

Another friend insisted that if the Green Party gets enough momentum to gain major party status during this election then "it will deliver the presidency and the Supreme Court into the hands of Donald Trump." Yet no one is anticipating a third party, including the Green Party, getting 5% nationally (Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is currently polling at just 4.4%, and Jill Stein doesn't even register at all nationally, according to Nate Silver's stats). I'm not talking nationally but locally . . . state by state . . . and in particular those states where it's quite safe for, say the Green Party, to win 5% of the vote without handing the election to Trump, Minnesota is one of those states. As my Green Party friend Seth Kuhl-Stennes* reminds us, "Minnesota is not a swing state this year, and hasn't been for a really long time (if at all). We haven't voted GOP since 1972, and since 1996 the Democrat has won by anywhere from 2.4 to 16.1%. In two recent Minnesota polls Clinton is up by 11 and 9 points, respectively. [This] is why we should be supporting an independent candidate in 2016."

Sanders insists that such a vote is a "protest vote." I respectfully disagree. The people I know voting for Jill Stein aren't doing so as a form of "protest." They genuinely believe in the Green Party platform and recognize that "winning" doesn't have to mean Stein as president (which we all know can't happen) but that the Green party secures major political party status and thus additional funding for its ongoing efforts to challenge the dysfunctional two-party system. I respect that. I admire Sanders immensely, but disagree with his blanket statement about not voting third party and his blanket way of describing such a vote.

Very real concerns

I should say that I not only have concerns about what a potential Trump presidency will mean for the U.S. and the world, but also what a Trump loss may mean. By this I mean I have very real concerns about how his supporters will respond to the defeat of their candidate. For as journalist and author Jeremy Scahill notes, "Whether Trump wins, loses or loses big, he has empowered fascists, racists and bigots. He did not create them, but he has legitimized them by becoming the nominee and openly expressing their heinous, hateful beliefs."

Trump has, without doubt, been inciting violence at his rallies. I'm therefore concerned about the safety of Hillary Clinton and her family and of regular citizens who may be caught up in any violence instigated by disgruntled Trump supporters in the days and weeks following the election.

There is also the very real concern about Republicans, led by Trump, engaging in what Paul Waldman of The Washington Post describes as a "kind of termite-level assault on American democracy, one that looks on the surface as though it’s just aimed at Hillary Clinton, but in fact is undermining our entire system." Here are just three examples of what Waldman is talking about:

• State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic; in many cases officials have been ordered by courts to stop their suppression efforts and they have simply ignored the court orders.

• High-ranking Republican officeholders are now suggesting that they may impeach Clinton as soon as she takes office. These are not just backbench nut-bars of the Louie Gohmert variety, but people with genuine power, including Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and veteran legislators like James Sensenbrenner and Peter King. The message is being echoed by top Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani.

• There is a growing movement among Republicans in the Senate to simply refuse to approve any nominee appointed by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court, leaving open any and all vacancies until a Republican can be elected to fill them.

• Republican elected officials increasingly feel emboldened to openly suggest violence against Clinton should she be elected.

Yes, real concerns, indeed.

Carrying it on

I've shared previously how, in the words of Buffy Sainte-Marie, I'm going to keep "saying, playing and praying" as I "carry it on."

And what exactly is this "it"?

I see it as our passionate embodiment of hope, awareness and love in a world dominated by political and economic systems that far too often heap contempt on such qualities and their embodiment through individuals and communities.

As we prepare to face tomorrow's U.S. presidential election and, no doubt, its tumultuous outcome regardless of who wins, I am very mindful of the need to embody hope, awareness and love. It is in this spirit that I share this evening a selection of progressive perspectives on tomorrow's election, its candidates, and its possible outcomes. Many of these perspectives either affirm or helped shape the thoughts I've shared in this post.


It's the presidential race the Democratic Party establishment wanted – Donald Trump v. Hillary Clinton. They couldn't invent a better match-up – a sexist, xenophobic billionaire bigot Republican versus the rational, experienced, status quo Democrat. . . . Throughout the long primary process, Clinton had a difficult time taking on [Bernie] Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist and was far more comfortable taking on Trump, an outspoken racist with little grasp of the world beyond real estate speculation.

The Sanders campaign helped inject into the debate progressive issues that are rarely heard during US presidential elections – single payer health care, a $15 minimum wage, a taxing the rich, for example – and gave voice to some of the concerns of a growing number of people who are being radicalized by the inequality in American society. Even while Sanders has said from the beginning that he would support Clinton if she were the Democratic nominee, her campaign still had to contend with his message, one that raised many people's political expectations.

But now that Clinton is facing Trump, the Democratic Party establishment hopes that all these expectations will be swept away and replaced with a determination to beat the monstrous Republican candidate, which means supporting the Democrat, no matter what you think of her past record or her police stances.

The politics of the "lesser evil" – the imperative to vote for something less awful than the right-wing alternatives – is at the heart of the US political system. Two parties that both represent US capital – Democratic and Republican – dominate the electoral process. Any attempt to break through the two-party stranglehold and put forward an independent left-wing alternative is met with fierce resistance. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign, which won some 2.7 percent of the vote (almost three million voted for him, leading many to blame him for spoiling the election for Al Gore), is only the most recent example.

Sanders posed no such independent political alternative to the Democratic Party and didn't intend to, aiming instead to inspire progressive voters to fight for a "political revolution" within the Democratic Party. And even while he promised he would support Clinton if she were nominated and his campaign likely helped draw younger voters toward the party, he was a thorn in Clinton's side.

In a choice limited between Clinton and Trump, the decision for many people will be voting for Clinton to keep Trump out of the White House. But the questions remain. Is Hillary Clinton the candidate we deserve? What has the Democratic Party done to deserve this support? And what does it mean for leftists to compromise on the things they believe in order to keep the Republican out?

Elizabeth Schulte
Excerpted from "Lesser and Evil:
The Inconvenient Truth About Hillary Clinton"
International Socialist Review
Issue 102, Fall 2016

The 2016 presidential election is widely regarded as a contest between the two most unpopular candidates in a generation, if not all time. The lion’s share of the attention has focused on the spectacle of Donald Trump, the wealthy real-estate mogul and television personality who has succeeded in capturing the Republican Party nomination in large part due to his capacity to manipulate a mass media system that has long favored sensation over substance.

In doing so, Trump has contributed to an unprecedented debasement of the national political discourse. His incoherent ramblings and lack of substantive knowledge, along with his predilection for explicitly sexist and racist appeals, outright lies, scathing personal insults and threats directed against his opponents and their supporters, and not least, sexual assault, have brought the bar to a new low. Yet, remarkably, his core supporters remain undaunted. They have bought the spin from the Trump campaign hook, line, and sinker and rationalized their decision to vote for him.

Clinton supporters like to believe that they are above such spin. However, this is not the case. On the one hand, Trump has been a dream come true for the Clinton campaign, which has happily focused the bulk of its efforts on the self-destructive Republican in an attempt to distract attention from Clinton’s serious flaws.

On the other hand, the campaign and its supporters have produced an impressive array of bite-sized, disingenuous, and specious claims designed to silence their leftist critics, guilt possible waverers, and win over Bernie Sanders supporters. Propaganda and misdirection have been deployed to great effect in 2016.

No social or revolutionary movement succeeds without a core of people who will not betray their vision and their principles. They are the building blocks of social change. They are our only hope for a viable socialism. They are willing to spend their lives as political outcasts. They are willing to endure repression. They will not sell out the oppressed and the poor. They know that you stand with all of the oppressed – people of color in our prisons and marginal communities, the poor, unemployed workers, our LGBT community, undocumented workers, the mentally ill and the Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans whom we terrorize and murder – or you stand with none of the oppressed. They know when you fight for the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed. They know this is the cost of the moral life, a life that is not abandoned even if means you are destined to spend generations wandering in the wilderness, even if you are destined to fail.

. . . Our only chance to overthrow corporate power comes from those who will not surrender to it, who will hold fast to the causes of the oppressed no matter what the price, who are willing to be dismissed and reviled by a bankrupt liberal establishment, who have found within themselves the courage to say no, to refuse to cooperate. The most important issue in this election does not revolve around the personal traits of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It revolves around the destructive dynamic of unfettered and unregulated global capitalism, the crimes of imperialism and the security and surveillance apparatus. These forces are where real power lies. Trump and Clinton will do nothing to restrict them.

It is up to us to resist. We must refuse to be complicit, even in the act of voting, with the fossil fuel industry’s savaging of our ecosystem, endless wars, oppression of the poor, including the one in five children in this country who is hungry, the evisceration of constitutional rights and civil liberties, the cruel and inhumane system of mass incarceration and the state-sponsored execution of unarmed poor people of color in our marginal communities.

Julien Benda reminds us that we can serve two sets of principles. Privilege and power or justice and truth. The more we make compromises with those who serve privilege and power the more we diminish the capacity for justice and truth. Our strength comes from our steadfastness to justice and truth, a steadfastness that accepts that the corporate forces arrayed against us may crush us, but that the more we make compromises with those whose ends are privilege and power the more we diminish our capacity to effect change.

Chris Hedges
Excerpted from "Defying the Politics of Fear"
November 6, 2016

Liberals in the media, academia, political circles, and on social media who support Clinton act as if your one vote – out of the more than one hundred million cast – determines the fate of the republic. If you vote for Stein (whether in a safe state or not), you are personally responsible for Trump’s inauguration.

These voices are often the very same people who, when challenged about Clinton’s voting record in the Senate or Obama’s policies, will say: Clinton was only one voice in a Senate, out of a hundred voices. Obama was one lonely man arrayed against three veto points.

Corey Robin
Excerpted from "The Ruling-Class Circus"
November 7, 2016

[Hillary Clinton] is what we have to work with. I have no choice at this point, especially considering who the other candidate is. The best candidate to run against Trump was called Bernie Sanders. I think this wouldn’t be so close, and we wouldn’t be so nervous, were he the candidate. . . . I think and I hope that [Clinton] is a different person. She says she is, she’s adopted two-thirds of Bernie’s platform. [I] believe she is going to follow through. And if she doesn’t . . . I’m going to be her worst nightmare, as are millions of other people who voted for Bernie Sanders. The revolution isn’t going away.

Michael Moore
Excerpted from "Michael Moore: 'If Hillary Doesn’t Follow Through,
I’m Going to Be Her Worst Nightmare'
The Ring of Fire Network
November 4, 2016

NEXT: Progressive Perspectives on the Election
of Donald Trump as President of the United States

* Wrote Seth earlier today on Facebook: "I'm voting for peace. I'm voting for justice. I'm voting for restoring democracy. I'm voting for sweeping climate action. I'm voting for Jill Stein because 'She's with Me'" (which is a play on Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan "I'm with Her").

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Carrying It On
Hope, History and Bernie Sanders

Related Off-site Links:
On Eve of Election, Progressives Ready to "Transform American Politics" – Lauren McCauley and Jon Queally (Common Dreams, November 7, 2016).
Bernie Sanders is Still Inspiring Voters to Find Truth – Reno Berkeley (Inquisitr, November 6, 2016).
Sanders Voters Get Behind Clinton With Varied Levels of Enthusiasm – Arit John (Bloomberg Politics, November 7, 2016).
I've Finally Had It with Trump – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, November 5, 2016).
How Neoliberal Economics Created Donald Trump – John Komlos (Evonomics, August 14, 2016).
Robert Reich: Don't Panic. Stay Active. Clinton Should Win. But the Aftermath Will Be Very Difficult – Don Hazen (AlterNet, November 6, 2016).
Whether Trump or Clinton Wins the US Election, What Follows is Up to Us – Rebecca Solnit (The Guardian, November 7, 2016).

Opening image: Eric Gay/Associated Press.

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