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hillary clinton

Hillary Clinton before the House Select Committee. Photo: Wikipedia

The longer Sanders fights on, the more apparent it will be that Clinton is nothing but a neoliberal corporatist ideologue, write Jude Fernando and Kali Tal

During periods of acute political and economic crises, corporate elites will always prefer a Hillary-type Democrat to a Trump-like Republican. Candidates like Clinton absorb society’s discontent, drawing attention away from corporations. Instead, they divert the public’s attention by putting a human story in the forefront (“the first woman President!”), and mask neoliberalism with traditional liberal stumping.

But Clinton, like her husband before her, will enact policies that discipline the entire political economy to function according to corporate interests, and will continue to ignore and punish the victims of those interests. She (and her corporate backers) are depending on the desperation of Democratic voters to avoid a Trump presidency, and campaign on the promise that there is no viable alternative: it’s either Clinton or Trump.

Admittedly, it’s a hard moment to be a liberal when the party of liberalism has moved so far to the right, but this notion of no alternative (“Hillary, or else!”) is not a cure. Even those who hope it will be a temporary salve while we work to move the Democratic Party back to the middle-left where it theoretically belongs, will be deeply disappointed.

The labour unions who have supported Clinton (sometimes in direct opposition to the wishes of their rank-and-file members) will find Clinton is far less concerned about their interests than their votes. When the Service Workers International and American Federation of Teachers endorsed Clinton, it practically tore the unions apart, and the rank-and-file, as usual, have the right of it. Union heads may feel betrayed, but the rank-and-file know she was never with them in the first place. In fact, unions run by the rank-and-file, like the ATF, Communication Workers of America, the American Postal Workers Union, and the AFL-CIO locals, are backing Sanders.

The real story of Hillary Clinton’s relationship with labour is diametrically opposed to her campaign rhetoric (rhetoric she never uses when she is not campaigning). She is not and has never been a “tireless and tenacious fighter for working families.” In fact, her top political strategist, Mark Penn, is the head of union-busting public relations company whose corporate clients range from Microsoft to Shell Oil and Pfizer. Hillary Clinton herself sat on Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors, without ever once speaking out against Wal-Mart’s anti-labour policies and union busting efforts.

When Clinton says she supports labour, it is a matter of cynical political expediency, lacking any ideological convictions. She finally managed to muster tepid disapproval of Keystone XL and the Trans-Pacific Partnership when unions forced her to take a stand in an election year, but don’t count on that to last 15 minutes beyond her election, when she will shift her positions to serve the corporate interests who have backed her.

Trump, of course, makes no pretense to supporting labour. Trump is a CEO run amok, whose power has convinced him that he, and he alone, is responsible for his own successes (and for none of his failures). He does not hide his intent to run “his” government as if it were a corporation and he the Chairman of the Board. His loathing for anyone who isn’t a financial success and his unwarranted and overweening pride in himself as a paragon of achievement are positively megalomaniacal – in fact, it is hard to overstate the case about Trump, and danger he holds for the country.

His supporters are an anti-intellectual, anti-democratic, and atheoretical mob, and he is a wannabe populist dictator whose candidacy  and its popularity – have stunned Europe and much of the rest of the world. There is no telling what excesses Trump may embrace as President and Commander-in-Chief of one of the world’s most powerful militaries, and this is why the big money is behind Clinton. Nobody – not even other corporatists – can control the freewheeling mass of ego that is Donald Trump.

So of course Hillary Clinton looks good in comparison. But only in comparison. Of the Presidential candidates, Trump has the highest unaffordability rating; Clinton is not all that far behind. There comes a point when the lesser of two evils may simply be too evil to pull a lever for, and if a Clinton candidacy depresses Democratic turnout, the result could be a gift for Trump. Democratic voters who are flocking to Sanders may just not turn up for Clinton, because they are quite sure she doesn’t support their interests. They know she is committed to “free trade” and doesn’t support fair trade. They understand she will not tax the capital assets of the rich, but will help make them richer. They have heard her say that one of her chief goals is to “save capitalism from itself”. And, finally, they know that electing Clinton will make the situation of 99 percent of Americans worse.

Instead of hurling vituperation at this group of disaffected Democrats, and assuring them that it will be their fault if Trump is elected, Clinton supporters who still believe themselves to be Democrats might want to think long and hard about the positions that Clinton has actually taken (rather than the positions she gives lip service to in her campaign). She is unabashedly a neoliberal corporatist ideologue. If that is your idea of a Democratic candidate, then she’s your woman.

Sanders, on the other hand, offers an ideological alternative. He has been consistently anti-corporatist and, whether he has the power to defeat them or not, he will undoubtedly challenge corporate interest and their expansion into arenas like education and health care. He would fight privatisation. His tax proposals are designed to favor small businesses over corporations, and to support a more socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurial culture. He takes our civil rights seriously. He believes Black Lives Matter. He believes the poor need social support, and that students need free school. He is opposed to foolish wars.

Clinton ridicules Sanders as a “dreamer,” but what is the benefit in electing a neoliberal cynic? If her argument is that she can “get things done” in office, isn’t she effective only because her goals are aligned with those of corporations (and the few moderate Republicans left)? Sanders should fight on for as long as he can, because the longer his campaign continues, the more apparent it will be that he is the only viable Democratic candidate who actually stands for Democratic values. He might not win, but if he keeps up the fight, rank-and-file Democrats might realise, finally, that it’s time to throw the bums out – corporatist Democrats and Republicans alike.

Jude Fernando teaches at Clark University. He can be reached at [email protected].

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