Nothing could be more mistaken, or more dangerous, than the perception that Hillary Clinton is the "safer" candidate for president. She is nothing of the kind, and voting for her will not save us from Donald Trump--or from anything else.
Many liberals I know say that while they like Sanders and admire his plans to take on Wall Street and global warming, they're afraid to vote for him. What about Donald Trump? they say.
What indeed about him? The idea that only Clinton can defeat Trump is a myth, promulgated by Hillary supporters. Polls taken over the last nine months in fact show Sanders faring better than Clinton in a hypothetical match-up against Trump. That shouldn't come as a surprise. Sanders would challenge Trump at his own game, showing himself to be the more "authentic" and independent populist of the two.
In a general election, Sanders would in fact likely siphon votes away from Trump, as moderate Republicans and independents recoiled from the specter of Trump in the White House. According to an analysis in The Atlantic last year, a number of Republican voters like the democratic socialist from Vermont, admiring Sanders for his honesty and directness, and say they would vote for him.
By contrast, Hillary would enter a general election with enough political baggage to open a Samsonite outlet. Even leaving aside the ongoing FBI investigation of her mishandling of classified information as secretary of state, the public perception of Hillary as a dissembling establishment pol who will say anything to get elected would hurt her in a face-0ff with Trump. While Sanders would attract independents and Republicans, a Hillary run would have the opposite effect, lighting up the Republican base like the East River on the Fourth of July, because there's nothing the far right hates quite so much as a Clinton (either sex will do).
In an election year that finds both the left and right clamoring for political change, then, it seems suicidal for the Democrats to be putting forward a candidate who is as much a creature of the establishment as Hillary Rodham Clinton is.
Even harder to account for, though, is how sanguine liberals are about the prospect of having another Clinton in the White House. Weren't they around for the first one? Haven't they noticed the shocking deterioration of our society, and of the world, under President Obama's watch? Do they just not care?
Liberals, beware: casting a vote for Clinton is to affirm militarism, economic inequality, and Wall Street. It is to vote for the ecological meltdown of our planet, duplicity in government, the control of our institutions by the rich, drone strikes, government surveillance of the people, and perpetual war. It is to cast a ballot against the interests of the working poor, and for the interests of Goldman Sachs and Big Pharma.
Clinton's war-mongering is a matter of public record. Just today, the New York Times published a devastating policy analysis of Clinton's role in the overthrow of Libyan president Muammar el-Qaddafi and the subsequent descent of Libya into chaos and civil war. "We came, we saw, he died!" Clinton exclaimed after Qaddafi was captured, tortured, and summarily executed. Afterwards, Hillary's aides developed a "brag sheet" to showcase her role in Qaddafi's overthrow. Then, Clinton and other Obama officials stepped back and let the nation disintegrate.
As the Times reporters recount, "Mrs. Clinton would be mostly a bystander as the country dissolved into chaos, leading to a civil war that would destabilize the region, fueling the refugee crisis in Europe and allowing the Islamic State to establish a Libyan haven that the United States is now desperately trying to contain."
Clinton is unrepentant to this day. She is a hard-core militarist and interventionist--a right-wing wolf in liberal sheep's clothing. Though Clinton has now found it convenient to rue her vote for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, she in fact fiercely defended Bush's Iraq war policy for years. (At least 174,000 people died in the conflict, including over 110,000 civilians.)
But Hillary's war-mongering is not the worst thing about her. Under President Obama, the gap between rich and poor widened to a degree unprecedented in human history. Though few liberals seem aware of the fact, poverty increased sharply under Obama, with blacks, Latinos, and women suffering disproportionately from the President's policies. So if Clinton continues down Obama's neoliberal path, as she vows to, we can expect the ranks of the poor--today, 47 million Americans, with more than one in five children living in poverty--to swell.
Because Clinton is a close friend of the big banks, big pharma, and "big" everything else that corresponds to corporate capitalism, millions of Americans already struggling will sink even further under the waves. Rental and housing prices, already astronomical, will rise to more heights of unaffordability. Drug prices and health care costs, which soared under Obama, will likely increase. So will homelessness and the national suicide rate--because those rose dramatically under Obama, too.
Meanwhile, we are plunging over an ecological precipice that is bottomless, and Clinton will do nothing to slow the fall. Hillary is at best indifferent to the global environmental crisis. Having thrown in her lot with the wealthiest banks and corporations, she is in no position to advocate for the kinds of radical changes that would be necessary to avert a planetary meltdown.
On President Obama's watch, the planet's ecology further unravelled: mass species extinctions, global warming, deforestation, vanishing fresh water, mass die-offs of pollinating insects, increasing carbon emissions from aircraft and animal agriculture, expansion of the petroleum industry, etc. Things will only get worse under Clinton, who has supported fracking, deep sea oil drilling, and minimal regulation of polluting industries.
No, Bernie Sanders is not the messiah. He won't single-handedly rid us of these and other global problems. But at least he could set us on the right path, while Hillary's big tent embrace of labor and capital, of polluters and environmentalists, offers the consolation only of mutual assured destruction.
Once in a great while, a people finds itself at a crossroads, a turning point when history suddenly breaks open. Where before, the citizens felt passive and immobile, part of the furniture of the world, a thing among things, they come to experience themselves as agents, as actors in their own drama. They sense freedom, and the proximity to it makes them giddy.
Watching the Sanders campaign soar, I and millions of others have felt light-headed with a sense of possibility. But freedom, the experience of it, is both rare and precarious. The power elite, fearing it, do everything they can to contain it. And if freedom overruns its authorized channels, they set about methodically to destroy it. In a liberal democracy such as ours, the weapon of choice for subverting a popular movement is propaganda. Misinformation is used to pacify the populace. The people must come to believe that living in a state of unfreedom is preferable to living a free life of uncertainty. That the devil they know is better than the one they don't. That risk is the same thing as vulnerability. That anyone who dares to question the status quo is a naive dreamer, or mad.
In reality, the opposite of these things is true. The devil we know is often worse than the one we haven't yet tried or tested. Change has never come from those who affirm the status quo, but from those who challenge it. The avoidance of risk has never saved a people from the abuse of power by an unscrupulous elite. And the truly naive are those who believe otherwise.