Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Clintonism Will Fail

Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president. Her opponent's outrageous behavior, both recently and in years' past, has landed him in an electoral ditch too big for him to claw his way out of in time for November 8, which means that in spite of Clinton generally being a vulnerable candidate, the fact that she's running against someone like Trump will let her defy the odds.

However, as we all become rightfully appalled by the revelations about Donald Trump's behavior towards women, information is being leaked about Hillary Clinton that's arguably even more troubling.

This piece is aimed towards those who supported Clinton in the primaries and intend to continue supporting her and her party in future elections. Clintonists, I feel the need to tell you that your leaders are giving you a completely false picture of the future that they're going to create.

To begin this argument against Hillary Clinton's agenda, I'll talk about those leaks mentioned previously. Specifically, the Podesta Emails. This series of documents uncovered by WikiLeaks (which, to be clear, is not part of a Russian plot) reveals that the Democratic nominee is not who she makes herself out to be; her private remarks to bank executives show that she's in fact in favor of so-called free trade deals like the TPP, thinks that she thinks Wall Street is able to sufficiently regulate itself, and that she doesn't see environmentalism as much of a priority.

So what, the Hillary Clinton Democrats reading this are probably thinking. She said all (or at least most) of these things years ago, and telling from how she's assured us so many times during the campaign that she understands the problems related to Wall Street, climate change, the TPP, and other issues, and that she intends to address them, we shouldn't take the Podesta Emails seriously.

While some of that defense is legitimate, I'm going to make the case that it's a lot more complicated than that. And this complication could very well be what makes all of her promises moot-which will have dire consequences for the future of the country and the planet.


Clinton's exact remarks on the matter, made in September 2015 in the context of talking about her encounters with environmental activists, where "They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know." She also said about their concerns, "They are after everything and I’m just talking through them. And of course they go support somebody else. That’s fine and I don’t particularly care. But I do think I have to say, look, given everything else we have to do in this country, this is not an issue for me that I’m going to say I support. I want to work on other stuff."

From the way she talked about the issue, you'd think that it was the time of her youth in the 1950's and 60's, when the public was only starting to become generally concerned with climate change. But these (presumably) young people aren't entering life in the same situation Clinton was.

As she made those statements, the hottest summer on record had just concluded, with average temperatures being 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit above what they typically were in the 20th century. 2015 then turned out to be the hottest year ever recorded, just as the last nine years previous surpassed all others before them in average temperature. What was different about 2015 is that it seemed to signal a trend of acceleration in global warming, with it having had a mean temperature of 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average compared to 2014's 1.33 degrees.

As a consequence, Eric Holthaus wrote in August of that year that "Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan." Signs of climate catastrophe, as the article recounts, were becoming dramatic enough that the emotional displays from the protestors that Hillary Clinton described were entirely appropriate. The point of no return on climate, wherein no amount of cutting carbon emissions could prevent  calamity, was fast approaching, with the average global temperature only having to rise 0.4 degrees more from the pre-industrial level before the 2 degree mark which scientists agree is the tipping point would be reached.

And with the climate situation having since seemed to reach such a point, Clinton's attitude can be compared to that of the captain of a sinking ship being annoyed with the alarmed mood of the passengers. Naomi Klein describes the position the next president will be in when they come into office as having "their back up against the climate wall." And as I'll talk about in a second, Klein also believes that Hillary Clinton is unsuited to confront the problem.

Though the list of actions to combat climate change offered in Clinton's website includes some worthwhile goals, it's ultimately the equivalent of trying to patch up the already severely damaged hull of the ship that I mentioned. Too often do her promises on the matter involve general or vague language that provides potential loopholes for not fulfilling the extremely ambitious task of saving the climate, and everything we know so far indicates she'll take full advantage of those exceptions.

Many parts of Clinton's record, from her being responsible for the worldwide expansion of fracking, to her support (in both the past and the future) of the climate progress-imperiling Trans-Pacific Partnership, to her being in favor of oil drilling in public lands as well as offshore, show that she cannot be relied upon to take this threat seriously.

By now, those who believe Hillary Clinton will be a better president than that might be thinking I'm not being fair to her-she did those things in the past, after all, and despite those flaws in her promises that I mentioned, surely we'll be able to live up to her generally proclaimed goal of fighting climate change.

Once again, it's not that simple.

Though Paul Krugman doesn't like to hear this, there is a reliable indicator as to whether a politician is genuine in their promises to stand up to any given special interest group, and it is whether that politician has decided to take money from the same group. The Clinton Campaign's ties to the fossil fuel industry run deep, and they warrant simply no other explanation other than that she in fact has every intention of helping it when she's in office. As is the case with all of the other facets of big business which she accepts money from; contrary to a popular excuse that her defenders give, her campaign can absolutely afford to stop taking these donations. If she decided to give up this corrupt political model, her millions of average supporters would be compelled to make her campaign rely upon small donations as was the case with Bernie Sanders. There's no avoiding it; all you need to do to find out Clinton's positions is follow the money.

And as Naomi Klein explains, this is bad news for those who hope she will be the kind of climate president we need.
While Clinton is great at warring with Republicans, taking on powerful corporations goes against her entire worldview, against everything she’s built, and everything she stands for. The real issue, in other words, isn’t Clinton’s corporate cash, it’s her deeply pro-corporate ideology: one that makes taking money from lobbyists and accepting exorbitant speech fees from banks seem so natural that the candidate is openly struggling to see why any of this has blown up at all.
In short, given all of what I've said so far, it would be extremely (and dangerously) naive to think that Hillary Clinton will come through and sufficiently tackle climate change after she's elected. Just when we need reform to climate policy the most, the next U.S. president is set to be a representative of the powers behind the problem. And as Klein also says, those aware of this are very worried.
Eva Resnick-Day, the 26-year-old Greenpeace activist who elicited the “so sick” [see what Klein is referring to here] response from Clinton last week, has a very lucid and moving perspective on just how fateful this election is, how much hangs in the balance. Responding to Clinton’s claim that young people “don’t do their own research,” Resnick-Day told Democracy Now!:
As a youth movement, we have done our own research, and that is why we are so terrified for the future…Scientists are saying that we have half the amount of time that we thought we did to tackle climate change before we go over the tipping point. And because of that, youth—the people that are going to have to inherit and deal with this problem—are incredibly worried. What happens in the next four or eight years could determine the future of our planet and the human species. And that’s why we’re out there…asking the tough questions to all candidates: to make sure that whoever is in office isn’t going to continue things as they’ve been, but take a real stand to tackle climate change in a meaningful and deep way for the future of our planet.
No, Hillary, it's not necessary to tell those young people that they should get a life. They already have lives. They're just concerned that your policies will make it so that climate change ruins them in the long-term.


It's well-known that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy decisions have favored war over diplomacy in almost every case. But to help any Democrats in the crowd who may have glossed over her record on this issue, it's something that should trouble anyone concerned with keeping peace in a global stage that's ready for another world war. 

I'm not just talking about her Iraq War vote, though that certainly was an incident that reflected very bad judgment on her part. She has supported a 1998 military intervention in Kosovo which destroyed innocent lives and turned the region into a hotbed for Islamist terrorism. She has participated in the violent 2009 overthrow of the Honduran government, which created a new era of tragedy and instability for the country. She has partnered with the Saudi Regime to instigated a 2011 conflict in Yemen. That same year, she helped start a war in Libya with consequences similar to that of Iraq. She has played a role in escalating the War in Syria. And she has voted for a 2007 measure that would have enabled America to go to war with Iran had the charges against it of WMDs not been debunked.

Again, to find out why Clinton has acted this way, you need only look at her connections. She openly embraces legendary war criminal Henry Kissinger, and her eagerness to instigate wars which benefit the oil industry and the military-industrial complex can of course be explained by the campaign donations from big oil that I mentioned earlier, as well as her support from the defense industry and the Saudi Royal Family. It's no wonder that Christopher Hitchens once warned "The last thing we need is a Clinton in charge of foreign policy."

What does this mean for the effect her presidency will have on the geopolitical scene? It may literally be worse than you can imagine.

WikiLeaks has shown that in addition to wanting to increase troop levels in Syria and try to implement the dangerously naive "no fly zone," she has a desire to escalate the violence in the region seemingly for no other reason than that it will somehow help fulfill her unrealistic and costly goal for regime change. As Caitlin Johnstone explains in her piece A Vote For Hillary Clinton Is A Vote For nuclear War, this plan can be considered not only irresponsible, but insane:
Whatever your position on the confusing situation in Syria, this is clearly a profoundly stupid and dangerous thing to do. Even if you’ve somehow managed to convince yourself that Putin and Assad are the only bad guys in the conflict and that America’s only interest in Syria is as the noble protector making sure no innocent civilians get hurt, even if you are that brainwashed and brain dead, it should still be obvious to you that shooting down Russian military planes won’t end well for anyone.
Military attacks against another nation’s military can only elicit military retribution. Acts of military retribution can easily escalate to full-scale war. America currently has 6,970 nuclear warheads that we know of, ready to launch at the drop of a hat. Russia has 7,300 nukes that we know of, with thousands in the chamber ready to fire. The two nations are, by a truly massive margin, the largest nuclear forces on planet Earth.
This extremely sensitive situation can only be made worse with someone like Hillary Clinton in charge. And if worse comes to worst, her foreign policy decisions may have as big an effect on the future of the human race as her climate decisions will.

The economy

Once again, Hillary Clinton's donor list says everything about what kinds of actions she'll take. Her ties to the financial sector are famously significant, with Wall Street being behind her even more than it's behind her Republican opponent. And while the representatives of the industry who have donated to her are relatively few and in some cases support higher taxation or greater regulation of big business, overall much of her campaign is made possible by defenders of the economic status quo.

And again, this should be regarded as a red flag that she's not up to the task of reforming the economic system. Liberals trusted Bill Clinton to fix it despite him running the most big donor-funded Democratic presidential campaign so far, and then he signed NAFTA, killed welfare, deregulated the financial sector, and got America involved in the WTO, which contributed to the fact that income inequality spiraled out of control during his administration. They trusted Barack Obama to do the same despite the vast majority of his campaign money having come from big donors, and then he helped pass Wall Street bailouts, failed to sufficiently regulate Wall Street and revive the economy, and passed the trade deal that led to the Panama Papers scandal, resulting in a faster transfer of wealth towards the top than the one that occurred during Bush's term.

It's laughable to think that Hillary will be an exception. Under the policies of her predecessors on both the Republican and Democratic sides, income inequality in America has risen to levels that may be higher than at any other point in history, and if such an estimation isn't the case now, it likely will be by the end of her first term.

But the gradual, steady draining of wealth on the middle class that such policies will create isn't all we'll have to worry about in the next four years. Thanks to the Wall Street deregulations that Hillary Clinton's husband is responsible for, and the Wall Street bailout that she voted for as Senator in 2008, the economy is set for another recession. In spite of claims from bankers (who would have guessed?) that breaking up the big financial institutions would harm the economy, in reality it's the opposite, with the economic paradigm that such actions ushered in having created a market so financialized and concentrated that the next time the banks go under, the rest of us are going down with them.

There's of course no telling just when this crash will start to occur, or how big it will be when it does. But factors indicate it's going to be bigger than 2008-and that it's getting more likely all the time. The stock market rally that's been occurring since the last crash will, as this chart of the market's historical trends  illustrates, set off the next one as soon as it ends.

When the market reaches the top of the hill, the economy will be in deep trouble. And since this bubble looks likely to pop in time for 2017, President Hillary Clinton will be entering office while having to manage what may be the largest economic downturn in history. When her administration inevitably pushes for new Wall Street bailouts, which would endanger the middle class in addition to her other neoliberal policies by setting the economy up for an even bigger crash several years later, a backlash from the American people is going to occur. And it won't necessarily be a positive one.


Precedent tells us that the elitist, business-as-usual paradigm which Clinton and Clintonism represent is always bound to be overturned by the people. Chris Hedges writes in regards to this inevitable shift that "History has amply demonstrated where this will end up. The continued exploitation by an unchecked elite, and the rising levels of poverty and insecurity, will unleash a legitimate rage among the desperate. They will see through the lies and propaganda of the elites. They will demand retribution. They will turn to those who express the hatred they feel for the powerful and the institutions, now shams, that were designed to give them a voice. They will seek not reform but destruction of a system that has betrayed them."

Intuitively, this sounds hopeful. But Hedges then says that "Failed states—czarist Russia, the Weimar Republic, the former Yugoslavia—vomit up political monstrosities. We will be no different."

By this, he means that the populist movements that eras of income inequality produce often take the form of negative, not positive, social change (the regimes that followed the examples Hedges gives are, respectively, Leninism, the Third Reich, and the nationalist movements that sprung up amid the breakup of Yugoslavia). And indeed, following the neoliberal shift that's been implemented in the economic systems of so many countries throughout the last four decades, the fascist, reactionary model of populism-what Americans recognize as "Trumpism"-has emerged as opposed to the more constructive, sane alternative offered by the left.

From Poland to the UK to France to Germany (yep, you read that last one right), nationalist demagogues are enjoying increasing success due to neoliberalism. And Trump's loss this year is anything but proof that America's own fascist movement is dead.

Liberals like to cite the demographic changes in America's electorate as proof that the right, or at least the far-right, is doomed. Michael Moore has called Trump's campaign "the last stand of the angry white man," likening the angry complaints of Trump supporters to the final cries of the dinosaurs before they died out ("build a wauuull! build a wauuull!" is his imitation of them). The truth is that after 2016, Trumpism will be stronger than ever.

In the months following Hillary Clinton's inauguration, I expect an unprecedented backlash from the right to begin. As occurred in 2009 after Obama became president, we may well witness a rise in right-wing media demagogues-this time bolstered by the nationalist propaganda empire built by Donald Trump-rallying the hordes of angry former Trump fans for the battles ahead.

In the 2018 midterm elections, I predict that we'll also see something resembling the Tea Party's victories in 2010, except in this case it will be more significant. This upset could come in the form of the rise of a new, neo-fascist party, or in many establishment Republicans facing primary challenges from the far right, but either way, Trumpism is bound to make a major comeback that year. And that will only be the start of it. As the 2020 election approaches, we'll likely see the rise of a presidential candidate that's just as bad or worse than Donald Trump.

These are serious possibilities. The person who's warning that Hillary Clinton and America are "headed for a larger reckoning" and saying that the policies of her administration will produce a demagogue "possibly far worse" than Trump isn't some street corner ranter-it's Robert Reich.

And just like how Clinton and the Democratic Party will be the ones who created such political horror shows, they won't be able to protect us from them. The alienation that Hillary causes her progressive base with her politically triangulating tactics makes her a very weak general election candidate, and the only reason she's winning this year is because Trump is such a terrible opponent. In 2020, when she's up against what will probably be a more competent and skilled demagogue, she won't stand a chance. The same will be true in the case of the hundreds of races in the House and the Senate wherein "mini-Trumps" are running against Democratic candidates, most of whom are similarly centrist and politically impotent.

I'll conclude this analysis with another Hillary Clinton quote from the Podesta Emails: "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."

This vision of an ideal America-which also involves what she describes as a political system dominated by two "moderate" parties, along with, no doubt, what she considers a strong military-may make sense on paper, but on so many levels it's absurd. As long as the country has two corporatist, militaristic parties led by people like her starting unnecessary wars, passing anti-worker trade deals like the TPP, allowing banks and corporations to wreak havoc over the economy, letting the climate deteriorate, and leaving the door open for dangerous figures like Donald Trump to gain control of politics, the future will be bleak.

Four years from now, with Hillary Clinton in charge, this will not be the same country. After so many decades of the status quo, just four more years of it will have driven many facets of modern civilization to the breaking point.

We will not get "incremental change." We will not get "reform from working within the system." Those who believe that Hillary Clinton and Clintonism are the solution in spite of the corruption that they represent are kidding themselves. When Joan Walsh wrote in her endorsement of Clinton that "I genuinely believe she'll make the best president" in spite of having just admitted that she has reservations about Clinton's agenda, she failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation that the next president will be facing.

Hillary and the other representatives of Clintonism are not the future. They're just the veil that the established order has put up in a last, floundering effort to keep the public unaware of what awaits it if society continues on the current path.

However, if enough people can break out of this illusion, there may still be hope to make these next defining four years a victory for humanity rather than a defeat. Though Clinton's victory is not the thing that climate progress needs, it's preferable to one for Trump, who's clearly even worse on environmental issues. At least with her as president, with enough effort from climate activists, we can potentially influence her decision-making on the matter enough that she takes serious steps on it. A strong anti-war movement might be able to prevent her from behaving too recklessly on foreign policy. After the financial crisis hits, a new version of the Occupy Wall Street movement will likely emerge which will give us leverage to pressure the government to stop the bailouts, give up on the TPP, and work to solve the wealth gap. And in order to prevent the next wave of Trumpism from resulting in the implementation of a fascist dictatorship, we can bring about the rise of a genuinely progressive alternative party to the Democrats which has the ability to counter the dark power of the far right.

To realize the future that you want happen, Hillary supporters, you'll first have to give up the belief that the candidate and the party you've chosen to back shares your goals. After the election, I invite you to join me and others in putting aside our past disagreements and taking the job of working towards a sane future into the hands of the people-not Hillary's.

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