Every now and then one comes across a political hack you can assail either from the left or from the right and be correct on both accounts. This is true for the current commander-in-chief of the United States of America, as it was for his predecessors; but usually it is a judgment made in retrospect, once the filthy business of political compromise has done its best to make everyone unhappy equally. Rarely does one aspire to combine the worst of capitalist excess with the worst of socialist bloating, and rarer still is he or she who gets away with it by doing both by turns. Understand this, and you will understand what makes Hillary Clinton so contemptible.
Here is the most mild and value-neutral way of putting it. The United States is a nation where the votaries of the “liberal” party lavish hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as forests of column inches, to discredit a center-left presidential candidate for the sake of a right-wing corporate cheerleader and weapons profiteer. The case against Hillary Clinton is self-evident to anyone who leans to Richard Cheney’s left—and this is before one even looks at all the dirty strings she’s pulled in the Democratic primaries, her campaign’s cynical exploitation of identity politics, or the downright fraudulence and shapeshifting deployed to make our politics the set piece in the Clinton family drama.
There were two moments in recent memory that helped to lift the curtain from the fact that Hillary Clinton is more than just a milquetoast moderate shill, but is rather an actual menace to civilization and inimical to anything resembling the left.
The first was her selection and advertisement of Henry Kissinger as a personal friend and mentor. Now I suppose it’s not entirely fair to judge a reptile by the company she keeps, and it may well be that she puffed up their kinship as an Agent Orange-flavored olive branch to the Republican elite. And yet—she couldn’t possibly have thought she might cavort with a known war criminal and historical archenemy of the left and expect to get away with calling herself progressive—but then again, she would. In point of fact she’s done her best to emulate that vile architect of Yanqui mischief and conspiracy, while boasting to her base of useful idiots about her chops in statecraft. It is tempting to label this an insult to liberals’ memory and intelligence; but that would presuppose the words “carpet-bombing of Cambodia” or “September 11, 1973” meant anything to modern liberals.
If there lingered any doubt that Clinton has the world’s worst interest in mind, you can rest assured of our mutual destruction after her performance at this year’s A.I.P.A.C. conference. Without needing to be asked, Ms Clinton volunteered uncritical allegiance to apartheid, colonization and militaristic mayhem, placing herself well to the right of most conservatives and in the lap of messianic thugs. We know that she was more than glad to sow the seeds of Middle Eastern chaos and to harvest Syrian blood as “a massive boon to Israel’s security [and to] ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly”—which isn’t quite an anti-Jewish “blood libel” so much as an actual statement in Clinton’s thought process—but is she even pretending anymore? If peddling war for geopolitical profit is part of a progressive agenda, then progressivism is dead.
A healthier left would have detected these toxic and malignant elements and expelled them from the get-go. It would at least have recognized the agent as alien to its system and catalyzed resistance to it. Instead the liberal establishment has proved itself allergic to the humblest ideals it championed just one year ago, and squirmed in positive alarm that someone came along and dared to challenge their anointed legatee. When liberals aren’t busy smearing Bernie Sanders from the right, you’ll find them moaning on about how basic democratic norms—you know, like candidates actually running against each other—are getting in the way of Clinton’s coronation.
Call me old-fashioned, but some of us believe the great task of democratic rule is something other than rewarding Hillary Clinton After All She’s Done For Us. Yet the liberals of today have buried their heads so deeply up their derrières that they’ve found company with Goldman Sachs and Lockheed Martin.
I understand that many “liberals,” mostly of the Augusto Pinochet variety, are content with this arrangement. But for those who do not wish to see our compromised republic degraded to a bona fide banana empire, the prospect of making our beds with tyrants and crooks would require us to slip into something rather more comfortable, such as a coma.
Never mind the fact that the progressive case for Clinton boils down essentially to: (1) her having faced a lot of mean and sexist bullies; (2) her having said a few nice things about women’s rights and same-sex marriage; and (3) Bernie and his bros being very bad boys indeed. And never mind that Hillary has been, or continues to be, on the wrong side of just about every “progressive” issue until green-lit by mainstream consensus. We are told, in all seriousness, to absolve these little flops as proof of Clinton’s “maturation,” and all the more reason to admire her—as if the millions of human lives laid waste by her evisceration of welfare, or bungling of health care, or propping up the police state, or neoliberal exploitation, or exporting weapons and war throughout the Middle East and beyond, were simply stepping stones on the winding path of Clinton’s personal narrative. We are assured, patronizingly (but “patronizing” is Hillary’s middle name, for more reasons than one), that the Clintonistas understand these criticisms—even share them, wouldn’t you know—although we shouldn’t make too loud a fuss, lest we make her look bad.
Clinton, who never met a donor or a war she didn’t like, has also never seen a cause that she could not exploit. But what again has Clinton even done for all those women, queers and persons of color whom, we keep hearing, straight white Bernie failed to court? Was it the consolation of being branded for arrest as a “super-predator” by someone just like your abuela? Is it empowering to earn two bucks a day in factories set up to capitalize upon a national disaster by a self-proclaimed feminist? Or to be blown up with bombs gifted by a champion of gays’ right to be killed equally? Perhaps we may concede that Clinton’s boardroom feminism and pinkwashed imperialism show that her lizard heart is in the right place. Her credentials as a progressive, or even as a liberal, are not unlike her credentials to be president: that she really, really wants it.
So we are asked to overlook the “dehumanizing” and “perverted” ills (their own words, not mine) that Clinton helped to magnify, and to look instead at the petty gains in bourgeois identity politics as reasons not to rock the Party boat. Let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton is from the generation that took sex, drugs and revolution and left us only condoms, pharmaceuticals and political correctness to show for it. The Clintonites have spooked themselves silly over Donald Trump and now demand submission to the Party line where progress goes to die.
What Hillary Clinton represents is the total and complete capitulation of American liberalism. It’s been certainly refreshing to discover that, after all, American liberals don’t care about material conditions or global carnage and are happy to side with capital and empire, so long as they indulge their Benetton rainbow complex. All this, just to ensure the other millionaire won’t intrude upon the Clintons’ second lease of the Oval Office? It’s enough to make Hillary’s fat cat laugh.
Speaking of Donald Trump, how convincing is the Democratic scaremongering about their orange-tinted bogeyman? Leave aside for now the fact that Hillary and Donald represent competing sides of the same financial capital class; and that, weirdly enough, Trump’s style of populist protectionism puts him squarely to the left of Clinton. (How embarrassing it must be to witness this inversion when Donald Trump reveals his power level and outflanks you from the left on foreign policy.) The most striking distinction between the two is which brand of bourgeois identity politics they pander to—white nationalists or social justice types—and, like with Donald, the most visceral threat of Hillary is not her policy per se (although it certainly is one too) but what her victory would mean for our political discourse.
The moment there emerged a modest but genuine leftish movement—one with popular appeal and based upon what used to be the basic liberal platform—the chattering class of Party stooges did their best to snuff it in the crib. It’s no surprise that Clinton’s apparatchiks would pull their usual routine; what’s disheartening is to see a brand new batch of yuppies step groveling in line behind the Boomer agenda, and shaming those millennials who don’t.
Besides those tribalists who think that “representation” counts as politics (what I call Cultural Reaganomics, or trickle-down social justice), no one even tries to argue anymore that Clinton is the best progressives can muster. Any serious Clintonista must resort either to a Trumpocentric lesser-evilism, or else to outing themselves as shameless capitalist shills. But you didn’t hear it from me. Here’s just one example of what’s fast become a whole new genre of liberal apologetics: the I Love You Bernie, BUT…
“I’m angry too. I haven’t had a decent raise in years. Our employers often express an attitude that our fundamental humanity can be reduced to a dollar amount. Capitalism is broken and dehumanizing, our democracy is perverted by racism and voter suppression, but are things all bad? (emphasis mine)”
Reasonable minds may differ, but these are the table crumbs we’re offered: “Millennials are less religious than ever, gay marriage is accepted by a majority of Americans, and we are arguing about how far left to move the Democratic Party.” (Well when you put it like that!) Actually, what we are arguing about is whether to have a left at all, or to dive straight down the right-wing hole of Deep State capital and surveillance and empire that Hillary Clinton helped to dig.
I’m reminded of the last time a grassroots leftist movement was brought down and redirected to the election of a Democrat. In many ways, Occupy Wall Street was the testing ground for the sort of divide-and-conquer-and-discredit tactics Clinton’s cronies have deployed—dismissing class consciousness as “sexist”; splintering movements along axes of race and gender and identity; shaming left ambitions and pleading for “civility.” By the time Zuccotti Park was forcibly dispersed, a generation of malcontents had learned to check their privilege, the President gained a few new soundbites, but guess who got off the left-wing hook? If I may paraphrase Robert Browning: a Democrat’s in his White House—all’s right with the world!
Now here we are, faced with a worst-of-all-possible-worlds dilemma handed down by capitalist decree. One of them is a blithering and sadistic crypto-fascist, slanderous to women and contemptuous of minorities, who’ll say anything for power and inflict irreparable damage to democracy, the global order and the visions of the left. And the other is Donald Trump.