Friday, November 11, 2016

Clintonism is dead. Does the Democratic Party know it?

I’m an old protester. My first (in a long line) was way back in 1966 or 1967 when as a teenager I took part in a sit-in at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, something that makes me look back with pride. This was in Greenville, North Carolina, and we were taunted and spit on throughout, a badge of honor today.

Still I’m having a hard time ignoring my friends on the Right as they point today to the irony of the protests taking place in cities across the country as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. Didn’t a lot of those same protesters excoriate Trump when he said during the campaign that he might not accept the results of the election if he loses?

Of course, the protests are about much more than the election. They are about the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist comments and attitudes exhibited by Trump and his supporters during and since the campaign, and they are about the fear that now exists about the country’ future.

Still, a hesitation other than irony haunts me about these protests, and it has to do with Hillary Clinton and the idea of a protest that could actually be interpreted as saying, “Long Live the Status Quo!”

Let’s face it. Hillary Clinton was the quintessential embodiment of the political establishment, the status quo, the polar opposite of change. As bad as Trump was and is, and that’s really bad, he represented the only voice (by a major candidate) for change in the general election for millions of non-racist voters who cast their ballots for him.

How could a seasoned veteran like Hillary Clinton, backed by deep-pocketed moneymen and a Democratic Party establishment that helped scuttle Bernie Sanders' primary challenge, lose against a foot-in-the-mouth opponent with zero political experience?

Sure, Trump tried to appeal to the worst of many people with his “Build the Wall” talk and so forth, but he also tapped into a deep working class malaise that the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party has too long been too busy wooing Wall Street to see. When Trump talked about bringing jobs back home from oversees and ending lousy trade deals that Bill and Hillary Clinton both championed workers listened, and many of them defied their union bosses to vote for Trump.

I don’t expect Trump to deliver much on those promises or hopes. When you boil his big talk down, he’s still calling for tax cuts to big corporations and the rich, and his treatment of his own workers and contractors don’t bode well for an enlightened attitude toward worker rights.

Which means working class folks are likely still going to be left out in the cold once the dust settles. Malaise and frustration make fertile ground for demagogues—always have—particularly when the so-called party of the people decades ago began ape-ing the Republican Party in servitude to the rich and powerful.

The neoliberal establishment still doesn’t get it. The New York Times wondered this week whether losing Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine may be “the future of the Democratic Party.” Give me a break. New Yorker magazine conjectured in its latest edition that veteran Wall Street insider Thomas R. Nides was well-positioned for a major role and maybe even Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff had she won. Democratic National Committee interim leader and television commentator Donna Brazile has been unapologetic about her role in slipping the Clinton campaign debate questions.

If the Democratic Party s going to survive this debacle, it has got to reclaim its roots and turn to folks like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for guidance. Clintonism is dead. Dead. Even so, it is going to take a long time for the Democratic Party to reclaim the trust it has lost among working folks. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Labor South: Doing something I vowed I'd never do--Vote for a Clinton

OXFORD, Miss. – I drove back from my 50th high school reunion (yep, I’ve been around that long) in Sanford, North Carolina, Oct. 9, leaving behind the flooded creeks, downed power lines, and punishing rain Hurricane Matthew inflicted while my old school mates and I traded laughs and half-century-old memories.

The second presidential debate came on the radio somewhere near the Alabama-Mississippi state line, and my wife Suzanne looked at me as if to say, “Out of one storm into another!”

Listening to the debate--rather than seeing it--we missed Republican contender Donald Trump’s menacing stalk as Democrat Hillary Clinton tried to deflect her opponent’s charges regarding the 33,000 missing emails from her time as secretary of state.

Actually, the number jumped to 39,000 a few minutes later, as Trump borrowed a leaf from ‘50s-era communist witch-hunter Joseph McCarthy, who would waive a list of “known communists” in the Department of State ranging in number from 10 to 205. It depended on which speech as to whether there were 10, 57, 81 or 205.

Clinton’s responses to Trump’s attacks weren’t always encouraging. Regarding WikiLeaks revelations about her secret speeches to Wall Street executives, she essentially resorted to an ad hominem charge against the Russians for “directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election.” She did the same in the third debate on Oct. 19.

Certainly the United States would never try to interfere in the elections of another sovereign state, right? Well, there was Honduras and the brutal coup there in 2009 that had the implicit blessing of Secretary of State Clinton. And, of course, there was Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that Secretary of State Clinton convinced President Obama to support.

Clinton’s frequent evocation of Trump’s alleged ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a little unsettling. “Clinton wants an air war with Russia,” Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein told hundreds of students and local citizens in Oxford earlier this month.

If Trump indeed is too buddy-buddy with Vladimir Putin, he’s also more than willing to go to war with Iran, vowing in a speech last month in Pensacola, Florida, that Iranian ships would be “shot out of the water” if they so much as inappropriately approach U.S. vessels. He also took aim at Iran in the third debate.

Chalk up another reason many American voters are profoundly unhappy with the candidates from both major parties this election. Fifteen years of war are enough, you two! Americans are sick of war.

Over the years, I have aimed my pen many times at the Clintons. I think President Bill Clinton’s so-called “triangulation” of politics was an effort to neuter any passion for social justice that might remain from the old Democratic Party that brought us the New Deal and the Great Society. His subsequent repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act deregulating Wall Street set the stage for the 2007-8 financial disaster. His wife has done little to distance herself from these policies of her husband.

Yet I’m going to hold my nose election day and vote for a Clinton, something I once vowed I would never do.

Donald Trump, for all his anti-system appeal and legitimate criticism of Clinton-pushed trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (Hillary Clinton now says she opposes TPP), is a reckless, dangerous demagogue, the crowning achievement of Fox News’ years-long, 24-7 intravenous injection of poison into American minds. Just like Fox News, Trump is perpetually factually challenged, hysterically biased, contemptuous of others’ ideas, so asphalted into his own mythos that he no longer can know what he doesn’t know.

Remember, it was Fox News that helped promote Trump’s ridiculous “birther” campaign to try and discredit President Obama by saying he wasn’t born in the United States.

It’s no accident that accused sexual predator and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has been in Trump’s camp, advising him in his debates with Clinton. For Ailes, Trump is a dream come true.

Not for me. Trump is so bad I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m hoping pressure from her primary opponent Bernie Sanders and the millennials who are forcing the Democratic Party establishment to shift away from the Bill Clinton model are going to keep Hillary Clinton from breaking the progressive promises she has made on the 2016 campaign trail.

At my recent high school reunion, I thought a lot about my own youth and youthful idealism. I like to think I’ve held on to a little of it.  Maybe that’s why I’m hopeful the United States is going to survive this political storm, just like my wife and I escaped Hurricane Matthew--with a lot of war stories but no serious bruises.

This column, which appeared recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi, is a folo-up to an earlier posting on Labor South.