Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Is Voting For The Lesser Of Two Evils-- Even The MUCH Lesser Of Two Evils-- Any Way To Govern Ourselves?


If you're a Hillary fan, skip this post and save making yourself angry; just go tap the thermometer at the bottom and contribute to Hillary's campaign against Trump. Besides, there's nothing new here, I promise. Like I've said before, even if I still see myself through the internal eye of the kid who went to jail for burning his draft card and then left the country for over 6 years, I'm old enough now so that I feel like I don't have to ever vote for the lesser-of-two evils again. Hillary is certainly the lesser-- FAR lesser-- of two evils compared to Trump. But I've voted for enough evil politicians in my long life. The lesser evil, as you know, is still evil. Last week I ran across an interesting take on this by Bill Scher, from the Campaign for America's Future, in Politico explaining how the left came to hate Hillary after her health care debacle in 1993. Without really getting into the undisputed fact that she grew up a conservative Republican and still acknowledges-- even celebrates-- those values, Scher asks how she went from being seen as "a symbol of women’s equality and battler of corporate interests to being perceived as the personification of the corrupt intersection of corporations and government."

He acknowledges that the short answer is "her record, and her husband’s. Clinton’s 2002 vote in the Senate to authorize an invasion of Iraq was the first big crack in her bond with the Democratic base. Her 2008 presidential campaign further alienated anti-war voters when she criticized President Barack Obama’s pledge to meet with leaders of rogue states in his first year. She fed the perception of a craven, calculating politician when she gave a convoluted answer on whether undocumented immigrants should get driver's licenses. When Wall Street shenanigans tanked the global economy, Bill Clinton’s deregulation policies were fingered, and her ties to the financial industry were put under the microscope. But even that doesn’t fully explain why Hillary Clinton doesn’t have more street cred today with the progressive movement-- and why she herself often appears to lack faith in it. It’s an attitude, and voters notice. It’s the way Clinton talks when she dismisses Sanders’ ambitious proposals by saying they 'just won't work' and 'the numbers don’t add up.' It’s her squeamishness toward his desire to mobilize the grass roots behind single-payer health care ('I don’t want us to start over again [and] plunge our country into a contentious debate')."
The best explanation may be deeply personal and goes back to one of the worst moments of her life: the searing experience of being entrusted with the biggest piece of Bill Clinton’s domestic policy agenda in the first two years of his administration-- universal health coverage-- and failing totally, arguably contributing to her party’s loss of both chambers of Congress and with it, the end of hope for an ambitious legislative legacy for herself and her husband.

As described in Carl Bernstein’s biography, A Woman in Charge, the “near universal view” of White House staffers was that afterward, she sank into a deep depression. The preternaturally prepared Clinton had her confidence shaken, reportedly telling current Clinton antagonist but then-top strategist Dick Morris, “I’m so confused. I just don’t know what works anymore.” However, we don’t know the exact nature of her emotions because, as Bernstein writes, “Hillary appears to have kept to herself her deepest feelings about the wreckage of the twenty months between inauguration day and election day … Except for conveying her general despondency she did not even discuss with her close friends … her role in the debacle.”

Most strikingly yet rarely remembered, her health-care failure came from trying to win the battle Bernie-style: publicly attacking corporate interests and overcoming corporate influence by rallying the public behind reform.

Perhaps it’s because many progressive voters sense that she doesn’t have the religion when it comes to movement-style politics that they don’t forgive her as readily as they do other Democratic politicians.

After all, Obama raised a lot of Wall Street coin too, and rebuffed efforts to break up the big banks. While in the Senate, Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War authorization and wrote legislation that protected Delaware’s credit-card companies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren copped to taking Wall Street contributions during her 2012 race (“Securities & Investment” ranks sixth on the list of industries that have contributed to her), and has followed the wishes of home-state corporate interests including medical-device companies and defense contractors.

While Hillary Clinton’s associations with Lloyd Blankfein and Henry Kissinger are treated as damning, little is said about Bernie Sanders’ top aide, Tad Devine, who in the documentary Our Brand Is Crisis epitomized neoliberal meddling in Latin America.

Of course, there’s a difference between those mentioned and Clinton: They’ve had the opportunity to prove that they were not defined by past votes and individual ties. Obama built up early reservoirs of good will on the left for gutting out the Recovery Act and Obamacare, and maintained it in the second term with a steady stream of liberal executive actions. Biden has been depicted as a dovish voice within the Obama administration. Warren and Sanders have taken so many bold positions that they drown out the occasional discordant note. Clinton, on the other hand, didn’t have an unequivocally “liberal” accomplishment as secretary of state and rather prominently took the hawkish side of many internal White House debates. And serving as Democratic senator during the George W. Bush administration didn’t provide many openings for big legislative wins.

Understanding that her progressive bona fides were going to be questioned in the primary, Hillary has tried to re-introduce herself to the Democratic electorate in the past 12 months, with biographical spots covering her civil rights activism in the 1970s and Bill talking up her policy initiatives as Arkansas first lady in the 1980s. The idea was to define what’s in her core.

...It’s too pat to say that Hillary came into the White House a liberal idealist and left a chastened realist. Like her husband, her moderate and pragmatic strains were evident at an early age. “Very much a moderate” said one of her Wellesley classmates. She volunteered to ditch her last name, over Bill’s objections, to salvage his gubernatorial comeback in 1982. “She was always against raising taxes” in Arkansas, said Morris, because she was “nonideological, just pragmatic.”

Then “that all changed in 1993,” said Morris, and “she began to become more liberal.” For her first opportunity to wield power at the federal level, her impulse was to take on a corporate special interest in service of a decades-old liberal dream.

And she got beat, utterly and completely. How could her political worldview not have been shaped by that experience?

Clinton does not include this tale of humiliating defeat in her biographical narrative for understandable reasons. Not only does it trigger the image of a power-hungry ideologue and tin-eared politician, but the lesson of the fable is not terribly inspirational: You can’t always get what you want, especially when you go up against Corporate America. (It’s a lesson that President Barack Obama learned, having bargained with the insurance and drug lobbies to neutralize opposition to Obamacare.)

But without that piece of her story, how can anyone understand what drives her resistance to Sanders’ argument that change can only come through political “revolution?”

Most Sanders voters are highly allergic to claims that the Sanders agenda is too unrealistic to be enacted and that his revolutionary tactics are no match for the congressional grinder. Hearing one more lecture from a Democratic elder wouldn’t change any minds. But if Clinton told that part of her story earlier, might it have changed hearts?

To win in November, she doesn’t need Bernie voters to agree with her pragmatic approach to politics. She only needs them to believe that their disagreements are largely about tactics and scope of ambition. She needs them to believe that, at her core, she isn’t a neoconservative or a tool of Wall Street.

But without filling the gap in the narrative between her youthful activism and current incrementalism, others step in to fill in the blanks. The record of the 1990s was a “total repudiation of the FDR/LBJ legacy,” and Hillary Clinton “has been taken in by a fundamentally right wing paradigm,” argued Huffington Post blogger Benjamin Studebaker; never mind the higher taxes on the wealthy, the anti-poverty Earned Income Tax Credit expansion or the new Children’s Health Insurance Program the Clintons managed to establish in the second term.

The post-presidency Clinton Foundation isn’t seen as a good-faith attempt to encourage corporate social responsibility; instead, it’s, in the words of The Nation's Naomi Klein, “part of a never-ending merry-go-round of corporate-political give and take.”

Hillary’s relative hawkishness isn’t accepted as stemming from a sincere belief in the principles of humanitarian military intervention shared by most Democratic presidents; there must be a nefarious motive. As Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs speculated, “Is it chronically bad judgment? Is it her preternatural faith in the lying machine of the CIA? Is it a repeated attempt to show that, as a Democrat, she would be more hawkish than the Republicans? Is it to satisfy her hard-line campaign financiers? Who knows? Maybe it’s all of the above.”

Depending on how old they are, different generations interpret her record differently. Democratic voters age 45 and older, more than two-thirds of whom voted for Clinton, remember when the Clintons first took the national stage in 1992. They were the Democrats who saved the Carter-Mondale-Dukakis party from political oblivion and subsequently faced down Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution. Show them examples of when the Clintons veered right, and they’ll remind you they did what they had to do to win, and when seemingly no other Democrat could.

Democrats younger than 30, 70 percent of whom voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, were not yet teenagers during the Bill Clinton presidency. A college student today had not been born when Hillary was going 10 rounds with the health insurance lobby. Their political awakening stems from the 2008 market crash and the Iraq War debacle, and their introduction to Hillary Clinton was her war vote and her husband’s repeal of Glass-Steagall. While older voters see her as a left-of-center figure weathering decades of brutal attacks while valiantly navigating the realities of Washington, younger voters are quick to tag her as the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the current political system.

If younger Democrats were more aware of the enmity Hillary Clinton and the health insurance lobby once had for each other, they still probably would have felt the Bern. They still would have rejected the notion that the corrosive nature of big-dollar fundraising was worth stomaching to win elections. They still would loathe Wall Street deregulation and the Iraq War vote. They still would believe only a revolution could change Washington.

But if they knew more about her personal journey, they might be more likely to view Clinton the way many view Obama: as a decent person trying to push a lot of boulders up a big Washington hill. And that might have made it a little easier for a steadfast Bernie supporter to eventually get to “I’m with her.”

I accept everything Scher has to say and respect his thoughts and don't have the tiniest negative feelings about him-- or anyone else-- being with her, even though, to my mind, she stole every primary contest she "won." After the convention-- assuming she gets the nomination-- one would have to be certifiably insane or naive beyond belief to not understand that she is much better less terrible than Trump. So... if terrible, but not existentially terrible, is your thing, settle for Hillary. Don't worry, I'd cut off a hand before voting for Trump and my eyes roll when I hear delusional Bernie fans talking about doing just that-- voting for the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic narcissist. Vote for Jill Stein if you want to send a message that the Democratic Party is as bad as-- or even worse than-- the Republican Party. But Trump? Grow up. Bernie's from my 'hood. We both went to PS 197 and James Madison High-- so did arch-villain Chuck Schumer-- and I've supported Bernie and combatted Schumer before most Bernie supporters ever felt the Bern. My disdain for Hillary and what the Clintons and their crowd have done to the Democratic Party has nothing to do with Bernie and my decision to not vote for her is unrelated to Bernie's courageous and inspiring run. #NeverTrump:
Goal Thermometer

UPDATE: Good Hillary Speech

Whomever wrote the policy part of her speech did a good job. If I believed she gave a damn about any of what she mouthed, I'd consider voting for her. But I don't-- and won't.

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At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm voting Gary Johnson. He's a principled guy and far from clueless

At 6:44 PM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

I'll be voting for Jill Stein, I'm over 50 and I don't need to vote for the lesser of 2 evils anymore.

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous DebbyK said...

I'm 63 and won't vote for her.I just re-registered as a Working Families Party for 1st time since '72.Been demonstrating and marching since the 60's.Bernie 1st pol since RFK I felt this way about who is leading us where we need to go.I'm pushing for new progressive Berniecrat Party, this is the future with the youth onboard. Old style politics done. Think we should get him on ballot for November 3rd party NOW, also.

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's so much talk about Sander's young supporters, but like the other commenters here, I'm close to 60, and I won't vote for Hillary. I won't register as a Democrat unless the party changes drastically, which I don't expect.

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous wjbill said...

You have been right about this whole process being an extremely teachable event. It has certainly exposed the democratic party/process for what it is, not very democratic! The two party system is corrupt.
I have read much of the GP literature and platform and they, for now, seem to have a more democratic approach. Bernie is quite a remarkable person, and has been for what .... 40+ years, too bad he could not change the course of the status quo.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't buy that crap about how Hillary's corporate-friendly and neocon positions are an understandable result of trimming her presumed liberal tendencies in the face of political loss and disappointment.

Bernie Sanders has faced a lifetime of political loss and disappointment. He's spent a career in the House and Senate watching progressive policy goals get shot down. In response, he learned incrementalism, he became the Amendment King by tucking amendments into key legislation. And he never abandoned his principles. He never made a career of tacking with the prevailing winds to the right, of basing his policies and persona on polling and focus groups.

Clinton learned lessons in Washington, too. And they were all the wrong lessons. I remember a long piece in the Times a few years into her first term as Senator. The author marveled at how well Clinton was getting along with her erstwhile Republican enemies. Another victory for comity! I was struck by the description of Clinton's new-found friends among the insurance and health-care industry lobbyists. The lesson she had learned from her failure at health care reform was not that she was too secretive or that she underestimated her opposition, or that she had an amateurish and incompetent roll-out of an overly complicated program. No, the lesson she learned was that "reform" will now consist of crumbs dressed up as turkey dinner and you'll still be a rent-slave to corporate interests. But she'll have a win in her column.

I am lucky, I suppose, that I live in NYState, so I can vote for Stein or whoever in protest and not jeopardize Clinton winning the state. But it's all still totally galling. BTW, I also went to PS 197 and Madison HS, graduated in '67. We're an ornery bunch, except for Schumer who's a bum.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Spencer Dow said...

Choosing the lesser of two evils... Such a term, isn't it?
Why is it nobody ever talks about choosing the greater of the good?

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms Clinton actually said: "I don’t want us to start over again [and] plunge our country into a contentious debate"?

Isn't THE point of this country precisely to resolve inevitable differences by debate?

That is an attitude sufficient enough to put any candidate well into the "too terrible to consider voting for" category.

In addition to the approaches mentioned above, abused registered Democrats might consider changing party affiliation ... to whatever non GOP (actual and "lite") alternative is available in one's state.

John Puma

At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing has changed for me today. I will not vote for Trump. I will not vote for $hillary. No more votes for DLC, Third Way, New Dems, ever again.

At 5:12 AM, Blogger steve said...

Jill Stein for me. Libya, Iraq, Honduras, single payer not happening "ever", embrace of Bibi, fake reconsideration of the TPP, bankster speeches, sabre-rattling with Russia, etc. Not sure I see--at all--the case for Hillary's lesser evilism. I think the case could be made for Trump using that metric.

But neither one imho deserves the presidency.

At 5:32 AM, Anonymous mc said...

Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter. .44 gun shot wound or gangrene. Flying off a Flagstaff mountain road at 500 mph or 400. They all mean ontinuing the destruction of this country, its middle class, and Lincoln's "last best hope." "Lesser" only means slightly less messy, slightly longer to happen. Dismemberment by chain saw or scalpel. Just like we've been doing for decades when told to vote "lesser evil."

Can't stop it but don't have to contribute to it. Not anymore.

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I'm sorry to say this to the Establishment but i'm not voting for the lesser of two evils this go around sad day for you my vote won't be a corporate hijack vote it will be for Democracy i'll probably vote for Jill Stein or an independent candidate. I'm also gonna work 24/7 for ActBlue & Wolf-Pac getting money out of politics & electing true progressives in Congress is ginormously important in this country. Out with systemic corruption & neoliberalism & in with democracy & Progressivism.

Thank you Bernie Sanders for entering the presidential race & starting & building a revolutionary movement for the country we the American people will take it from there.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Rich Goldstein said...

Moorehead/Lilly 2016 [https://www.facebook.com/mooreheadlilly2016/]

At 5:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who attended Bernie's first large rally in July 2015, and sent him money many times after that, this has been my POV as well. But I can't ignore the sober reality any more: sometimes when faced with a choice of "the lesser of two evils" the difference between the two evils can be much larger than the difference between a good and an evil, or between two goods. This is like allying with Stalin in World War II: yes he was awful, but, my god, not stopping the other monster is a thing too horrible to contemplate!


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