There was something about seeing Donald Trump on the stage at the Republican convention that brought it home for me, seeing Trump in the bright lights, alone and bereft of opponents — alternatively barking or basking in the glow of his victory. It all made it feel legit, legit in a very creepy, skin-crawling sort of way, but more than feeling disgust was my heightened sense of urgency, an urgency felt by most people in the face of fascism or other forms or totalitarianism. With Trump on stage, we can see ourselves going down that road, and it’s all too real now. The most obvious political course of action: do anything to stop Trump.
The Trump movement
The anger-energized Trump movement was all too predictable, not just now but over the recent decades. It’s become a movement and a way of life. Amping up the anger gives you conservative street cred, and over the years, there has been an ever-intensifying competition among conservatives for who can tough-talk the liberals with the most swagger. Recently, for example, there have been calls to execute Hillary Clinton alongside recommendations as to how to best achieve this end — and all of this is so normal, a daily bustle that buzzes through the right-wing media like a surge of angry hornets.
Political anger isn’t anything new, from the right or the left, but combine this anger with actual crises, both at home and abroad, and you get a chump like Trump, someone completely devoid of integrity appealing only to the basest human emotions, but given the trend on the right, it isn’t difficult for me to imagine that things could get even worse. A day may soon come when Trump will seem tame. So, yes, Trump must be stopped, but those even mildly interested in stopping Trump know that this thing is bigger than Trump. Trump, like any demagogue, is only as effective as the crisis, like a global recession or ISIS and an increase in the violence and war in the Middle East.
For these problems, it’s all too easy and all too typical to blame the right, to blame conservatives and Fox News. Don’t get me wrong, those who will vote for Trump are responsible for their actions, and we need to hold them accountable, because accountability is what we are desperately missing in America, but a closer examination is wise: who really created the conditions for the chaos we are living in? Because it is this chaos that has given Trump and his chumps the energy he needs for a national stage.
Yes, I blame Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” policies for setting us up for economic failure and stacking the deck in favor of the rich and powerful. And of course it’s easy to blame George W. Bush for charging two wars on the credit card of the American youth and destabilizing the world by fanning the flames of fanatical terrorism abroad (and then, just for good measure crashing the economy on his way out of office). And, yes, I blame the resurgence of racial prejudice on the so-called “war on drugs” and the right-wing political assault on the so-called “welfare state,” both of which have taken their toll on inner-city African Americans. But that’s the easy part.
It isn’t hard for those of us on the left to bash Bush or bitch about Reaganomics, but the reality is that the policies of the Clintons have been every bit as damaging, which is why there is a long and growing list of conservatives and Republicans who are openly backing Clinton.
Rumor has it she may even get an endorsement from Henry Kissinger, one of the central architects through recent decades, who “as Richard Nixon’s aide-de-camp, helped plan and execute a murderous, illegal foreign policy—in Southeast and South Asia, Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America—as reckless and immoral as anything Trump now portends. Millions died as a result of his actions….Kissinger, in the 1970s, not only dug the hole that the greater Middle East finds itself in, but, as an influential cheerleader for both the first Gulf War in 1991 and its 2003 sequel, helped drive the United States into that ditch.” [cited from The Nation] Clinton sings his praise and seeks his counsel.
Kissinger and Clinton
This is the Clinton world
There’s been a good deal of eye rolling and exasperation from liberals, directed toward those of us who have expressed our reservations about voting for Hillary Clinton. To not vote for Clinton, we are told, is to vote for Trump, and those of us who seem hesitant to cast our lot in with Clinton, we are told that we are being overly-ideological, that we are just sore losers and burned-out Berners. At the Democratic Convention, Sarah Silverman went of script to lecture us on how “ridiculous” we were for not getting in line behind Clinton.
Say what you will, but a vote for Clinton is still a vote for Clinton. After many decades of politics, we know who Clinton is and what she believes. We know what she will do, and we know — barring an act of God or an uprising of the people — how her Presidency will shape up.
First, something concrete and solid: a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war. It’s a vote for strong U.S. interventionism, a vote for violence, and in short, it’s a vote for more chaos around the world. A Hillary presidency — even more than Bill’s and more so than Obama’s — would almost certainly funnel big money back into the pockets of the military industrial complex, the prophets of war who profit from war and continually push for escalating violence.
It took Clinton about 12 years (and the loss of the Democrat Primary race in 2008 to Barak Obama) to admit that she voted wrong on Iraq in 2002. There’s also Clinton’s most recent tenure as Secretary of State where her aggressive and questionable actions, particularly in Libya, helped to destabilize the Middle East and surrounding areas. This isn’t just the dull and dry stuff of foreign policy, my friends, it opened the doors for the blood-thirsty surge of ISIS, and ISIS has given Trump a stage and issue by which he might just get elected President.
This isn’t academic speculation anymore. Clinton’s interventionist policies, the tragic “overestimation in the U.S. ability to shape events around the world and an underestimation of the unintended consequences of change” have given rise to the global crises that have given us Trump.
If there’s one thing Trump will likely focus on to generate votes from the general public, it will be to say that the world needs a strong man to take on ISIS. Trump is a demagogue and a moron, but make no mistake, it was Clinton’s willingness to beat the drums of war, both as Senator and Secretary of State that escalated the violence that has created the instability that has allowed Trump to capitalize. Even if Trump loses this election, there will be someone to take his place.
Abroad there is chaos and at home we are all feeling the pinch of economic policies that favor an elite few. The Clintons, like Reagan and like Bush, have championed economic policies that privilege investors and funnel wealth away from workers. (This is also true of Obama, under whose watch wealth and income inequality only worsened.) Bill Clinton was a champion of the so-called “free market,” which for the past 40 years has merely code for allowing corporations and the financial sector to pursue profit, no matter the risk or cost to the public.
Most infamously Bill repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, but this wasn’t just a nineties thing. In recent years, the Clintons have actually managed to amp up their support of crony capitalism by blatantly and unapologetically charging the wealthy and elite hundreds of thousands of dollars for single “speaker fees.” It’s a fee that the 1% gladly pay in exchange for direct access to the Clintons and to political favors, but this is bald-faced political corruption that we’ve somehow become numb to, and in a context of such corruptions practiced by the Clintons, Trump actually appears to be a candidate of the people who can clean up the mess. This is the political climate that Clinton has created.
People in our nation are hurting because of the Clinton policies in the 1990s, which have disproportionately targeted African-Americans. “Clinton crime bill destroyed our communities” was one of the signs held by Black Lives Matter protesters who highlighted the devastating toll taken by a bill that imprisoned minor criminals, leading to hyper-incarceration and the resulting boom of the private prison industry.
People in our country are hurting and joining the Trump movement because during Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Clintons’ teamed with conservative Republicans to pass a welfare “reform” bill (so-called). The following are statistics, but not to the people who live the reality of poverty:
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $2 a day. Since 1996, and the Clinton era push ‘to end welfare as we knew it,’ the number of American families living in extreme poverty has spiked from 636,000 to 1.65 million by 2011 according to “The Rise of Extreme Poverty in the U.S.” (2015) by poverty researchers Kathryn Edi, and H. Luke Shaefer. In that mix, say the researchers, are three million children nationally. In Philadeplhia [the site of the Democrat Convention where Clinton was nominated to represent the Party] that translates to 60,000 kids. [cited from Salon]
We are living in the wreckage of a world created by the Clintons. This is a world where innocent kids in the Middle East have their family dinners interrupted by the terror of bombs and the threats of war. It’s is a world where jobs and resources are scarce because the wealthy and the elite are allowed to manipulate markets to their advantage. And ours is a nation where poverty is rising while videos of police beatings and shootings of black citizens have become so frequent that they are practically a new and grotesque form of reality TV.
It didn’t have to be this way. Things could have been different
Different decisions would have produced different results — a better world with less impoverished people and with less suffering, less war and less violence. The Clintons have helped create the conditions of chaos that gave rise to the fanaticism of Trump’s fascist rhetoric. In and of itself, this should be enough to push the Clintons completely out of power and to completely discredit them, let alone to be running again for the highest office and gaining the votes of progressives and liberals. Baffingly, it’s not.
But no, I am told, that’s not how to look at things. My vote for Clinton is not a vote for Clinton, or so I am led to believe. My vote for Clinton is a vote against Trump. Even some of my fellow Berners who previously rallied for a political revolution are now adament that if I don’t vote for Clinton then I’m voting for Trump. They tell me in all sincerity that they are voting for Clinton but that their vote for Clinton isn’t a vote for Clinton. A vote for Clinton is a vote against Trump. Even Bernie Sanders himself pushed pause on the political revolution and is now supporting Clinton: vote Clinton to stop Trump.
Staring into the void
I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, because it’s a difficult decision, I know. I feel it deep inside me, and I don’t blame anyone for their vote. I understand why even my former Berner friends are embracing such a tortured logic. At the end of the day, when the decision has to be made, there are many concerned people and decent citizens who simply want to stop Trump. I get that, and to make it even more personal, there are yet others who are directly under attack from Trump and the hard right.
What would I do, for example, if I were Mexican or black or Muslim? What if one of my loved ones, a friend or family member was in immediate danger because of Trump and his supporters whose identity-politics blame all of the chaos and injustice they see on one of these minority groups? What if it were my religion or my race that Trump had declared war on? Or what if I were a woman faced with a choice between voting for Hillary, who would be the first woman in the Presidential office, or else risk electing Trump, a misogynistic asshole who would, no doubt, use the Presidential podium to swagger his shameless sexism? What if it were me or someone I dearly loved who was the crosshairs of this narcissistic megolomaniac?
So let me be clear, let me join with you in stating emphatically that this election must be about stopping Trump. This thing is madness, and there’s no telling how far it will go or how many casualties it will claim. It must be stopped, and it can be stopped, and we must continue to fight and continue to maintain hope — but all of this is bigger than Donald Trump, bigger than the man and the person. He is merely preying on a mentality and a political movement that has been gaining momentum for decades, and since this is bigger than Trump, it’s also bigger than this election. Here’s another hard truth: a win for Clinton will not stop it. It will likely only make it worse.
If a vote for Clinton would truly defeat Trump, then I’d vote for Clinton, no question. To defeat Trump and the movement he represents, I’d vote Clinton without reservation, even given all the compromises and ethical conflicts that I’ve discussed; but a vote for Clinton will not stop Trump.
Stopping Trump is not about winning this one, isolated election, it’s about creating a new America. That’s what Bernie used to say, and it’s what many of us still believe. I understand the struggle many progressives have about voting Clinton this November, and I respect differences of opinions, but it seems undeniable to me that the only way to truly defeat Trump’s movement and all the anger that energizes his campaign is to build a new movement of opposition, something that addresses the conditions that create this chaos and give a demagogue like Trump the ability to build a movement.
What terrifies me far more than Donald Trump is that we currently have no opposition. Rather than having a political movement to address the conditions of chaos, we are on the verge of electing someone who actually created the conditions of chaos, and as long as these conditions go unaddressed, there will be plenty of Trumps lined up to take their turn at the microphone.
For those of you who even mildly followed the Republican primary, you know that by the end the entire field of Republican candidates were merely slightly more mild, only slightly more polite versions of Trump. Now that the politics of Trump have taken the Republican trophy, there will be more Trumps to out-trumpet Trump, and it is quite likely that they will be more even more sever and unyielding. Trump’s hatred and bigotry have won the day, but it’s been easy because the conditions of chaos have not been addressed, they have only expanded in scope and power. Until there is a real alternative to the status quo corruption, we can never hope to defeat Trump or would-be Trumps.
A new movement and a real political revolution
The only way to defeat Trump and overcome the threats of totalitarianism is to build a new political movement. This means not voting for Trump and not voting for Clinton. It means rejecting the corruption of the Democrat Party machine. It means that when we vote, we vote for someone and for a movement that has the moral integrity and conviction to counter the chaos and begin a process of healing. The Democrat Party has proven impotent to elect a candidate who can address the chaos in our world — instead, they’ve selected someone who has created the very problems that they wish to fix. So it’s time to draw a line in the sand.
That’s my choice. For me it’s time, it’s past time, and there’s no more time to waste. The madness of Donald Trump demands a sense of urgency.
We can’t build a new movement if we are still clinging to the old failed leadership. New wine, as Jesus put it, demands new wineskins, and just as old wineskins will not support new wine, so also old and corrupted political machines will not allow room for the kind of political revolution necessary to address the suffering and chaos in the world. With Clinton at the reigns of power in the Democrat Party, there is no chance for a real political revolution to occur, because the Clinton machine will have even greater influence than ever — and all the while the chaos and suffering will continue. We don’t have time for that, and we should not vote for that, because a vote for Clinton is still a vote for Clinton.