by Mara Ahmed
October 24, 2016
IT’S LIKE clockwork–every four years, the U.S. presidential elections kick in and unleash a spate of summary unfriendings on social media. This year in particular, the country is seized with a paroxysm of fear, and any sign that a so-called leftist is implicitly supporting Donald Trump by not voting for Hillary Clinton leads to colorful displays of righteousness by keyboard warriors.
The scourge of “lesser evilism” has resurfaced, without the necessary contextualization that voting for subpar politicians consistently is exactly what has brought us to this juncture in history and made Trump’s political genesis possible.
Police brutality, mass incarceration, the breakup of families via record deportations, pre-emptive wars, remote-control wars, dirty wars, the deepening of the surveillance state and the widening of economic disparity, the continuing corporatization of the government and the poisoning and pillaging of the planet–these didn’t just start with Bush or slow down during Obama’s presidency. If anything, these policies were turned up a notch over the last eight years.
In his discerning article “Neoliberalism–the ideology at the root of all our problems,” George Monbiot describes how the idea of competition forms the core of neoliberal ideology:
It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Regulation of competition, expansion of government services taxes, or even the existence of trade unions are seen as impediments to efficiency and freedom. Inequality becomes a virtue, as it reflects the indisputable justice of the free market, with dire economic, social and political consequences:
As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: In the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.
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THIS HAS been going on since the 1980s, and we are seeing some of the most clear-cut cumulative consequences of this rightward movement in the present elections.
It’s important to remember that Bill Clinton’s eight years in power did nothing to reverse, or indeed stall, this neoliberal shift. His strategy was to appeal to middle-class Republicans, not embrace liberal principles of social justice and egalitarianism–hence the drive to dismantle welfare, produce a crime bill that would assuage the white middle class while wreaking havoc on Black families, cheerlead free trade, push through NAFTA and deregulate Wall Street.
Although Hillary Clinton cannot be fully implicated in these disastrous policies, it is good to remember Hillarycare and Travelgate, and acknowledge that her role as First Lady went far beyond White House niceties.
As senator, Clinton famously voted for the Iraq War, one of the most shameful crimes against humanity in modern history. Then, as secretary of state, she led the military campaign in Libya with high-spirited abandon, supported the coup in Honduras and continued to spew retrograde rhetoric about Iran. In terms of domestic policy, too, Clinton is the out-of-touch, corporate-sponsored establishment to Bernie Sanders’ grassroots revolution.
Our choice is clear. It’s true that the Electoral College distorts democracy, but what’s the point of voting at all if one cannot support the policies one wants? What if those policies cannot be found in the highly circumscribed two-party system? Was this what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to achieve? Was this what the fight for women’s suffrage was all about? Lesser evilism and the compromised calculus of who can win?
But more than that, it’s time to boycott the Democratic Party and its apparatchiks. Clinton’s blatant condescension, her description of Sanders supporters as “baristas” and disillusioned nobodies “living in their parents’ basement” who need a political revolution to reboot their self-worth, and finally her own estimation of “occupying the center-left to the center-right,” should be enough grounds for a final divorce.
The Democratic Party doesn’t care about liberal concerns. They sabotaged Sanders, their own candidate, because he was not properly aligned with neoliberal values. This is why rather than rally disaffected liberals, they choose to focus on Trump’s following. They should not be able to count on our votes, come what may, every four years.
On a more personal note, I have to confess that what scares me as much as Trump’s racism and misogyny (I know something about that, I am a woman of color, an immigrant to this country with a Muslim last name) is Clinton’s impermeable cult following.
Lesser evilism is one thing but hardcore Clintonism is another. The complete break from reality (couched in inclusive, feminist language), the privileged belief that as long as we recycle our trash and drive fuel-efficient cars, we are going to be okay, and the lack of empathy with the pain we create in the world and at home, astonishes me.
This criminal indifference is embodied by the “Pantsuit Power” flash-mob video for Hillary Clinton. It’s a particularly troubling skill to cover up real-life stink with well-choreographed dance and peppy music, and make oneself believe that everything’s hunky-dory.
Let’s not forget that however reprehensible Trump’s words (or life) might be, Hillary Clinton has been responsible for the destruction of entire societies. That’s a far more vile obscenity.
Trump hates Black and Brown people, Clinton incinerates them. Trump is a sexual predator, Clinton is an imperialist one, who gets women like Honduran indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Cáceres exposed to murder. Trump is a scam artist, Clinton is a fraud who profited off of the most vulnerable people in Haiti in the aftermath of a gruesome disaster. Is this the kind of experience third party candidates are supposed to lack?
The thing is, it’s not morally viable to prop up the status quo anymore. As to the rest, que sera sera.
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