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Pretending Clinton was Progressive Alienated the Left

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

You’ve heard the memes: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voted together 93% of the time.

This was a common refrain from the Clinton camp intended to paint Clinton as ideologically similar to Bernie Sanders, in an effort to minimize criticisms of Clinton’s policies and record.

The numbers themselves have a few figures to poke through, for example, Clinton missed some 31.5% of her possible Senate votes, so those don’t count against the statistic. But that’s not what this piece about. This piece is about how pretending Clinton was a progressive champion ultimately alienated some potential support from the left because it silenced valuable voices.

Bernie Wasn’t That Left

This may come as a shock, but the guy being painted as the second coming of Fidel Castro wasn’t actually that far left. In fact, much of his support came from people rather far to his left. Bernie wouldn’t take a stand against the Obama drone program. Bernie ultimately stands for reforming oppressive institutions. However, Bernie was a clear, stark step in a different direction than Americans were used to taking, and so he caught the attention of many who ultimately saw his policies as insufficient or even terrible. Hearing him voice actual, unapologetic critique of the U.S. status quo gave hope to many people who were otherwise hopeless.

This flies in the face of another popular pro-Hillary meme, that Bernie Sanders supporters were “demanding ideological purity.” I have a newsflash for you: Nobody thought Bernie Sanders was ideologically pure. Or at least, exceedingly few of his supporters did. For most of us, Bernie was simply the furthest we were willing to compromise our values. For many of us, checking that box (if we were even allowed) was done grudgingly.

93%

If you squint hard enough, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s voting records were 93% identical. That sounds good if you refuse to apply even a modicum of critical thinking. What did that 7% include? Literally millions of human lives, and essential human rights issues. Of course, Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq War. Numerous times on the campaign trail, her surrogates and liberal pundits claimed that the bill she signed was to investigate weapons of mass destruction, and indeed was a vote against war. Of course, that flies in the face of the name of the bill, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Not exactly obfuscated behind clever naming, was it?

As well, Sanders voted in favor of moving Guantanamo inmates to U.S. prisons, where they’d be treated better than in Gitmo. This is, of course, insufficient, but ending torture is something we simply have to do. But this refrain — necessary but insufficient — is key to why Sanders was an acceptable choice for some, but not Clinton. Clinton voted against the measure.

Likewise, they voted differently on the infamous Bush bailout bill, which redistributed unprecedented taxpayer funding to banks, while leaving millions of destitute Americans high and dry.

It’s also important to note that Clinton and Sanders only served in the Senate together for two years. That’s hardly a solid representative example of both people’s positions. And I think everyone touting this 93% number knew that. If you compare them closely, everything falls apart.

Call it a “purity test” if you want. But bleach is 93% water, and I don’t see you lining up to drink it.

Clinton Isn’t Your Abuela

Hillary Clinton is a former Walmart executive who oversaw the company crippling union organization. This isn’t a coincidence. In Hillary Clinton’s memoir, she romanticized about her first date with Bill Clinton, where the two broke a picket line together. Pretending a union busting scab is somehow a warrior for the working class is ignorant at very best, insulting at worst. It makes you look grossly uninformed, or simply unwilling to listen.

What was the better option? Simply acknowledging that Hillary was Not That Left, and working from there. If you pretend for a second that Hillary Clinton’s policies or record in any way align with my values or needs, I will get hostile. A few times, I spoke with Clinton supporters who acknowledged that she was a proud moderate centrist and simply agreed with those values.

While I personally believe that in a United States context, “centrist” is a grossly white supremacist, sexist, and homophobic stance, I at least respect the ideological consistency because I know what I’m dealing with. I can have discussions with people that understand what they’re supporting, in hopes I can change their minds. But if you’re ignoring every relevant fact to insist Hillary Clinton is a progressive hero, there’s no amount of rational discussion that’s going to change your mind.

This is a particularly relevant point right now, with the debate about punching Nazis. Some people say that you should avoid violence, and instead debate Nazis’ viewpoints. However, since Nazi viewpoints aren’t founded in rational thinking, and are simply driven by blind ideology, you can’t debate their points. If their stance is, “You don’t deserve to live,” you can say, “No, I assure you, I deserve to live” until you’re red in the face, but it’s not going to help. Likewise, if a Clinton supporter’s stance is, “Hillary Clinton is the most progressive leader in America,” no amount of saying, “No, look at what she, herself, said in her memoirs” is going to change their mind.

Let’s take a moment to look at a few conservative stances, Clinton stances, and basic leftist stances for comparison:

Borders

You know the conservative stance: Lock down the borders. Keep all the brown people out. That’s abhorrent.

Now, Hillary Clinton’s stance: We need strong, defended borders and immigrant children should be deported to send a message. She supports Obama’s policies, which have deported more people than the last sixteen administrations combined.

As a leftist, I believe borders are inherently wrong and stand in defiance of human rights. Any political action taken regarding borders should be in an attempt to eliminate them. I believe that immigrants should be embraced and protected, especially those coming from nations we’ve destabilized.

Can you see how my stance as a leftist in no way looks like Hillary Clinton’s?

Law Enforcement

You’ve heard the conservative viewpoint: Law enforcement is sacrosanct, should be trusted, and is always right.

Clinton’s stance is that law enforcement is necessary and that it works so long as checks and balances are in place to build accountability. She believes that urban neighborhoods are dangerous places, full of “superpredators” who need to “be brought to heel.” The real difference here is that she wants token accountability.

 

I, as a leftist, believe that law enforcement embodies the definition of a hate crime. I believe that law enforcement as we know it should be abolished. Law enforcement exists to unequally enforce private property laws, which are oppressive by their very definition. Law enforcement exists to defend the status quo. In a system where the status quo is racist, sexist, and homophobic, that means that the police by their very nature are racist, sexist, and homophobic.

Bernie’s stances still relied on as a non-radical approach, but he was the first candidate (and only candidate) to acknowledge the legitimate problems with law enforcement, actually putting responsibility in the hands of the victimizers. The only major policy proposal regarding law enforcement that I respected from this election was Bernie Sanders’s, which was a promise to use executive action to guarantee a federal probe into every single death in police custody. While not a radical stance abolishing law enforcement, his proposal acknowledges the very real, institutional issues with law enforcement, and made a bold effort to confront the problem.

War

Conservatives love war. It makes them a lot of money. Liberals love war. It makes them a lot of money.

I don’t know if anyone isn’t aware of this right now, but a majority of Democrats supported the War in Iraq. Most supported Libya. These are not controversial stances for mainstream Democrats to take, and they’re right in line with Hillary Clinton’s policy choices. Hillary Clinton says she learned from Iraq, and wouldn’t make the same mistake again. However, she literally supported every single similar option on the table. She even worked with the Obama Administration to be involved in Honduras, to secure votes down the line.

If anything, Democrats and Republicans differ somewhat on which countries to destabilize, and sometimes to what degree. But their disagreements are negligible. If you want an example, this past week, Donald Trump killed an 8-year-old U.S. citizen girl in Yemen. Liberals were outraged. However, they weren’t outraged when Obama killed her 16-year-old U.S. citizen brother. There’s a double standard, and it’s based on who is slaughtering people, not about whether or not people are being slaughtered.

As a leftist, I am against interventionism and I’m against upsetting democratically-decided governments with external military force. Interventionism causes instability, which means we need more bombs, which means there’s more instability, which means we need more bombs. This cycle needs to end. We need to stop arming terrorist groups. We need to stop empowering right-wing regimes. Because the human face on these casualty lists almost always looks like the left wing and generally marginalized groups.

I know people who have lost limbs to cluster bombs Hillary Clinton approved for sale and had the chance in the Senate to ban. I cannot, will not, look those people in the eye and say that I’m willing to sacrifice them to perpetuate state violence in the name of “compromise.” I know Muslim voters who refused to vote Clinton, who are now being shamed for it. She promised to bomb their families. If you think they’re selfish for not being willing to put their families on the chopping block for your gay marriage, maybe you should look in the mirror for a moment. Maybe you should stand up and demand the Hillary Clintons of the world stop walking down that course.

Economics

Conservatives believe that unfettered capitalism is the solution to all problems. That government regulation hurts business, which hurts the workers (or at least, that’s the party line.) This means abolishing whatever regulations they can get away with.

Liberal politicians like Clinton favor “reforms” which conveniently target conservative corporations and institutions, while offering unfair competitive advantages to their friends. As an example, one of Obama’s biggest accomplishments was investigating and “reforming” for-profit education. This helped to tackle widespread corruption and abuse with schools like the University of Phoenix. This, on the surface, is a good thing. The University of Phoenix is a predatory college that abused taxpayer money and stole from innocent students. That was until Obama allies began eyeing a buyout of the massive college. Also, this “reform” conveniently didn’t target Laureate Education. Bill Clinton has received millions from Laureate, and they’re looking at dramatically expanding into the United States market now that there’s a competition vacuum.

Essentially, liberal politicians aren’t about helping people. They’re not about “right and wrong,” they’re about “my team and the other team.” Yet, they’re better at packaging their nepotistic corruption and making it sound humanitarian.

Hillary Clinton is notorious for claiming that industry bigwigs are the people you should go to in order to regulate evil, predatory industry. If Goldman Sachs is abusing the people, who better to craft regulations to protect the people from Goldman Sachs than a Goldman Sachs executive? She claims to support healthcare reform. However, her former campaign manager John Podesta is literally head of a lobbying board which takes money from the medical industry in order to gut healthcare reform. John Podesta is part of that “obstructionism” you keep hearing people use to defend the Affordable Care Act.

Pretending I should celebrate efforts like this is utterly abhorrent. It’s against everything I’m for. Pretending otherwise is a slap in the face.

LGBT Rights

Conservatives hate the LGBT community. This isn’t even worth hashing out.

Liberals like Hillary Clinton pay lip service to the LGBT community. Democrats wait until the last possible moment to support LGBT causes, then do so with the vaguest, milquetoast scraps they can toss. In 2008, NOT 1992, not even 2002, Hillary Clinton sneered at the very idea of gay marriage on national television. Gay marriage, which is one of the most basic expressions of gay rights. Gay marriage, which most of the rest of the country settled on years prior. It’s probably a big part of why Obama won. But she didn’t stop there! In 2012, as Secretary of State, she actively opposed gender-neutral parentage fields on passport applications using aggressive, dismissive language.

We found this out from her emails. You know, the vague “emails” everyone ranted about, while ignoring what was actually in them.

As an LGBT person, I’ve always known Bernie Sanders had my back. For decades, he’s been a fighter for LGBT people. There are a few silly arguments against this, but they’re paper thin and can’t hold up to even an ounce of context. And as an LGBT person, this is what I want in a leader. Someone that’s bold, someone who takes a position because it’s right, not just because it’s popular. As a leftist, I hold inherently minority views. So, it’s essential to support those interested in putting forth minority interests.

Healthcare

Conservatives want people to die if they can’t afford care. It’s as simple as that. We’re seeing evidence of it now, and there is no question about it.

Democrats want the majority of people basically covered. They’re not invested in people that fall through the cracks. Programs like the Affordable Care Act live and die on manipulated numbers. They want me to celebrate that 90% of Americans have health insurance thanks to the ACA. But they also want me to ignore that some around 40% of those people do not actually get the care they need because their premiums, deductibles, and copays are too high.

As a leftist, I believe that for-profit healthcare is evil. This isn’t a point of compromise for me. If profit drives my ability to have healthcare, I, a poor working person, will always lose out.

During the election season, my wife lost a family member because that family member didn’t receive necessary care. But she had Obamacare! She didn’t get care because her copays and deductibles were simply too high. It added up to more than her income, even with coverage. So she died.

My wife visited the States to grieve her lost loved one. During that time, she had an emergency which needed an operation. It was relatively simple, but we were tagged with a $27,000 bill. If she’d have had the same exact procedure in Japan, we’d have walked out with a pat on the back and a wish for rapid recovery. I may have had to pay about $10 for supplementary medications, but aside from that, we wouldn’t foot the bill.

What I Want

Pretending Clinton Democrats share any major stances with me demonstrates that you haven’t been listening to me, and have no idea what I actually want.

When I say I want Socialism, I don’t mean I want more taxpayer dollars to firefighters. I mean I want workers to control their labor. When I say I want Socialism, I don’t mean I want to be forced to give even more of my money to predatory private industries.I want people to care more about Overton Windows moving right than Starbucks windows breaking.

I want less state violence. I want a “left” that’s willing to demand less state violence, instead of celebrating Hillary Clinton promising more state violence.

 

I want to stop celebrating leaders who claim progressivism, but once fascism takes over, they tell us we “owe them the chance to lead.” I don’t care if she’s your YAAAS SLAY KWEEN, anyone that tells me I owe Donald Trump anything is my enemy.

I want to stop celebrating leaders who tell us everything is going to be okay between raids that devastate civilian communities. Obama’s response to the people of the United States was “this is fine.” Which is easy for him to say, being that he won’t be meaningfully affected by Trump’s policies. To his fans, Obama was a historic leader, and Hillary Clinton was ready to uphold that legacy. To his detractors, he was a warmonger on par with his most conservative rivals, who dropped over 26,000 bombs in 2016 alone, many of which killed or maimed civilians.

I want to stop celebrating the same neoliberal economics that gave us Donald Trump.

I want people to stop ignoring the people that fall through the cracks, and start thinking about how we’re going to get rid of the cracks.

I want people to stop defending a person getting $200,000+ for an hour-long speech, and start protesting that people are able to get $300,000 for an hour’s work while others starve despite working 80 hours a week.

I want us to stop celebrating diversity in the ruling class, and start looking at how we can get rid of the ruling class. Just because my oppressor is a woman or a person of color, doesn’t mean I’m any less oppressed.

I want us to acknowledge that identity politics is a tool that can be used against us. While it’s utterly necessary we strive for diversity and representation, that’s insufficient. We cannot ignore class warfare fought against us in the perverted name of diversity.

If you’re not acknowledging that I want these things, you’re not my ally, and we don’t want the same things. Hillary Clinton doesn’t want these things. Democrats don’t want these things. And until the Democrats start acknowledging these wants, they’re dead in the water.

Written by David A Hill Jr.

David A Hill Jr.

David A Hill Jr is a game designer and freelance writer from the US, living in the mountains of Japan. He's fond of using both video games and tabletop games to tell unique and personal stories, and examining individual and regional contexts as they apply to class theory, anarchism, and a lot of other things we're thankfully hearing more and more of every passing day.
David writes on Medium.

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John Flaherty
Guest

Brilliant piece!

Melissa Gee
Guest

Spot on! Thank you!

Susan Frost
Guest

But isn’t “open borders” a George Soros stance and so is all those disastrous Trade Treaties (TPP, TTIP etc.)? And doesn’t he support Hillary, and even sponsor all those protests? I am a progressive but am not sure why we should not keep our country’s law sovereign.

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