The Brexit vote has prompted a renewed debate about globalization. Here are 11 of my favorite old cartoons about free trade, especially NAFTA. Looking at these now, I remember that it was nearly impossible to get media outlets to run them.
At this writing, securities markets and the international community are reeling at the news that British voters have opted to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” has provoked angry reactions from the pro-Remain camp, who accuse Leave voters of stupidity, shortsighted ignorance and, worse, thinly-disguised racism and nativism posing as nationalism.
Political analysts point out that British voters were divided geographically – Scotland wanted to stay, England wanted to leave – as well as demographically. One chart that managed to go semi-viral online displayed high support for the Brexit among older voters, opposition among the young, alongside the actuarial average years remaining that each age group would have to live with the consequences of the vote. The smartest of these pundits focus on the class divide between shiny expensive youth-oriented cities like London, where pro-European sentiments are strong, and England’s version of the Rust Belt, abandoned hellholes where citizens barely subsist in a ruined landscape of shut down factories and widespread unemployment.
“If you’ve got money, you vote in,” a voter in Manchester told The Guardian. “If you haven’t got money, you vote out,” she said.
Amid all the concern about a collapsing British pound and the possible dissolution of not only the European Union – looks like France and the Netherlands may have a similar plebiscite in the near future – but also the United Kingdom, everyone’s out to cast blame. However, no one is pointing at those who are most responsible if (and it’s far from certain) Brexit leads to an economic downturn and/or a political debacle: the West’s incompetent political class, and its idiotic enablers in the corporate media.
The postwar order began to fray during the 1970s, when business leaders and their allies in government started to push aggressively for policies that encouraged the transfer of manufacturing industries to the developing world away from what was then called the First World in preparation for what we now call the information economy. Globalization is the shorthand term for deindustrialization – some call it outsourcing, others prefer the simpler “shipping jobs overseas” – and digitalization of culture and intellectual property.
This essay isn’t about whether globalization is good or bad. It’s about the way a trend that has been consistently declared irreversible has been poorly managed. That mismanagement led to the Brexit, and may elect Donald Trump.
Even during the 1970s, globalization’s downward pressure on wages was easy to foresee. Capital was becoming increasingly fluid, crossing borders with incredible ease in search of places and people where the production of goods and services could be done as cheaply as possible. If you own a factory in Michigan, and you can figure out a way to transport your product to market at reasonable cost, doing the patriotic “made in USA” thing feels like leaving money on the table when you consider what your expenses would look like in Vietnam or Indonesia.
Workers, on the other hand, are confined by international borders, linguistic and cultural limitations, family ties, and just plain inertia, to the nations — and often the regions within those countries — where they were born. If the highest wages in the world are paid in the United Arab Emirates, you can’t just hop on a plane and expect to find a job, much less a work permit. Workers are stuck; capital moves freely. This economic imbalance between labor and management is a significant contributing factor to the decline in real median wages in countries like Great Britain and the United States since the 1970s.
Now let’s say that you’re a high-ranking member of the ruling class: a Fortune 500 CEO, a head of state, a congressman, the publisher of a big-city newspaper. You don’t need a major in history or political science in order to anticipate that subjecting tens of millions of people to long-term unemployment and underemployment is a recipe for social dysfunction and the kind of class resentment that can be exploited by a demagogue or radical populist movement.
You can do one of two things with that knowledge. You can ignore victims of economic dislocation. Or you can help them.
If you ignore them, if you greedily grab up every dollar and pound and euro you can while city after city slowly collapses into alcoholism, drug abuse and rising crime, you know you’re setting yourself up for a future of political instability. It may take a long time, but the chickens will come home to roost. When things turn ugly, it could cost you a pile of cash you amassed during your orgy of greed.
That’s what happened during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan dismantled the post-World War II social safety nets. Precisely at a time when the UK and the US needed more welfare, national healthcare and public education programs, they slashed them instead. Those austerity policies continued under Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, David Cameron, and – against reason and common sense – under Barack Obama after the 2008 economic meltdown.
The British and American political classes made a conscious decision over the last 40 to 50 years not to lift a finger to help those who lost their jobs to deindustrialization and globalization. Go back to college, they say. Get retrained. But most Americans can’t afford college tuition — the jobless least of all! We need(ed) a GI Bill for the dispossessed.
Even this week, many establishment types continue to criticize aging pensioners and unemployed workers over age 50, denigrating them as selfish, clueless, unwilling and unable to adapt themselves to the new – brutal – world in which we find ourselves.
No doubt: nativism and racism played a role in the Brexit vote. England is an island nation with an island mentality. Though only a few thousand Syrians entered the UK last year, with nary a passport check, images of refugees riding the roof of trains from France through the Chunnel felt like an invasion to some Britons. But bigotry shouldn’t let us ignore the economic factor. When jobs are plentiful and salaries are rising, no one minds immigration. Xenophobia grows in the soil of scarcity.
What did the elites think? Did they really believe it was possible to make so many people so desperate and so angry for so long without a risk of them lashing out?
Donald Trump is not a brilliant man. But the political classes could learn a lesson from him. He knows that an awful lot of people are angry. And he knows why.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
What is wrong with Americans?
Okay, that’s a very open-ended question with many potential answers.
What I’d like to talk about this time is: why is it that Americans only begin to get serious about a problem after it’s too late to solve it?
Currently, I’m thinking about the latest, depressingly predictable response to the Orlando massacre.
As usual, right-wingers like Donald Trump want to restrict immigration. But even setting aside the obvious moral and practical economic objections to nativism, how would that prevent future mass shootings (in part) in the name of the Islamic State? Orlando shooter Omar Nateen wasn’t an immigrant. He was born in Queens, New York; his parents were from Afghanistan. If the Republicans’ goal is to get rid of potentially self radicalized Muslims, it’s too late. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. Many are full-fledged citizens.
Any group of people that numbers in the millions includes some who are mentally ill, some who are politically radical, some who are religious fundamentalists, and some who are some combination of all three. Since it’s illegal to deport U.S. citizens, millions of whom are Muslim, a few of whom are crazy – and the United States insists on pursuing an endless “war on terror” against Muslim countries – there’s no way that a policy of reduced immigration can prevent future attacks by homegrown Islamists.
On what passes for a Left, Democrats like Hillary Clinton are pushing for tighter restrictions on guns. As usual.
Indeed, it’s hard to argue that civilians require military grade weapons like the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle used to kill 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. Hunters don’t use them. If the AR-15 is legal, why not hand grenades? Had Nateen been forced to use a pistol or long gun instead, his bullets would have been smaller, the death toll lower. Some of his victims might have been able to overpower him as he tried to reload.
Here again, however, it’s too late to fix the problem. The cat is out of the bag. Two years ago, the national sport shooting foundation estimated that there were between 5 million and 8.2 million assault-style rifles in American homes. Sales of these weapons always spike after mass shootings, so it’s a safe bet that that number has risen by at least 1 million or two since then.
Even if Hillary Clinton were to succeed beyond her wildest dreams, assault weapons were banned permanently, what about those millions of AR-15’s already in circulation? Would she be willing to send jackbooted federal thugs door to door to search every home until every last one of them, or at least the lion’s share, were rounded up and melted down? Of course not.
The truth is, this ship sailed back in 2004 when Congress allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to expire without being renewed. Congress’s failure to act over the last 12 years has transformed the United States into a nation awash in military hardware.
Mass shootings are the new normal. Get over it.
“It’s too late to do anything about it, now let’s act” mania appears to have become as much of a part of our national character as the myth that everyone is a member of the middle class.
Progressives and liberals who form the base of the Democratic Party, most of whom supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries, are engaged in a robust debate over whether to switch over to Hillary Clinton this fall, support a third-party candidate like Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, or stay home on election day. It’s the same old question: Do you vote for the lesser of two evils? Isn’t that voting for evil?
Democrats for Clinton are trying to convince Bernie Sanders voters that November represents an existential threat, that if Donald Trump is elected everything we know and love about America will be destroyed. They don’t get it.
What the Clintonites don’t understand is that it’s already too late. Yes, if Donald Trump gets in, there’s a strong danger that what’s left of American democracy will yield to something radically new and terrifying, full-fledged authoritarianism. But Hillary Clinton also represents something horrible: a continuation of the neoconservatism that led to the invasion of Iraq, has made the United States a target of Islamist terrorism, complete capitulation to the banking class whose power structure relies upon the vast majority of American workers toiling for longer hours and shrinking wages – in effect, the last nail in the coffin of the idea that ordinary people have the right to imagine themselves and their children living better than they have in the past.
The existential battle isn’t in November. It was a couple of weeks ago, when Hillary Clinton appeared to nail down the Democratic presidential nomination. Whatever happens now, whether authoritarian Trumpism or steady-as-she-goes downwardly mobile Clintonism, we are screwed.
Perhaps no issue better illustrates my point than climate change.
I remember watching Jacques Cousteau on television in the 1970s, when he repeatedly warned that the oceans (along with the rest of the planet) were warming, and that it would soon – might already be – too late to stop it. The politicians and corporate executives, of course, ignored him and the other scientists who said the same thing. Now, finally, the political class is giving lip service to the crisis, though action remains in short supply.
The fact is, Cousteau was probably right. It was probably too late to save the planet back then. It’s certainly too late now. The climate science is clear. The polar ice cap is never coming back; Antarctica is melting away. The process can’t be reversed. Even if every internal combustion engine in the world stopped running tomorrow morning, human beings have pumped too much energy into the closed system that is our atmosphere to reverse global warming.
My intention isn’t to bum you out. All I’m saying is, let’s stop focusing on problems we can’t do anything about and work on those we still can.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
Unless you follow politics closely, you could be forgiven for thinking that Hillary Clinton has locked up the Democratic presidential nomination. This is not true. She still doesn’t have the requisite number of delegates. That could, and probably will, happen next month when her lead in superdelegates puts her over the top at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia – when the superdelegates actually, you know, cast their actual votes.
The media, however, doesn’t want you to know that Bernie Sanders is still in the race. And so, based on that flimsiest of measures – an opinion survey of superdelegates who are allowed to change their mind at any point before July’s DNC – they’ve called the Democratic race for Clinton.
This completely illogical reasoning logically leads pundits to the question of the month: how can the Hillary Clinton campaign convince progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders – whose race was largely based on the assumption that Clinton is so far to the right that she might as well be a Republican – to vote for her?
Every four years mainstream political writers and commentators push Democrats to the right after the primaries, arguing that swing voters decide presidential elections. Like trickle-down economics, however, that doesn’t seem to have been true any time in the recent past. Political parties seem to perform best when they motivate their base to turn up at the polls. Given the fact that Republican voters are congenitally more likely to fall in line behind their nominee even if he turns out to be a potato – or, this year, a proto-fascist – than Democrats, it’s obvious to everyone that Hillary Clinton will need as many Bernie Sanders supporters as possible in November if she indeed becomes her party’s nominee.
Obvious to everyone but Hillary.
Last week, NBC’s Lester Holt asked her about Sanders: “Can you name one idea that he’s put forward that you want to embrace? That he has really changed your position on?”
Her answer: a big fat negatori.
“Well, it’s not that so much as the passion that he brought to the goals that–his campaign set,” said Clinton.
Granted, I can’t think of anything she could do to get me to vote for her. But there are millions of Sanders voters who could be convinced not to sit home on election day, support a third-party candidate like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or defect to Donald Trump. She’ll need those voters if there are any more Orlando-style terrorist attacks (great for Trump’s fear-based campaign) or, for that matter, after presidential debates in which I expect Trump to savage her.
Maybe Debbie Wasserman Schultz can schedule those debates for the middle of the night on Kazakhstani state television.
Except when she’s hanging out with investment bankers and Walmart board members, Hillary Clinton reflexively refuses to compromise. If she continues her “I have nothing to learn from Bernie and he’ll be lucky to get a speech at the convention” attitude, however, better get prepared for President Trump.
What do Bernie Sanders supporters want? As Trump says, everything is negotiable. So let’s negotiate!
“Add back the public option to the Affordable Care Act,” Howard Dean suggests to Hillary in the New York Times. “Let Americans vote with their feet about whether they want to be in a single payer or the current system.”
The problem with that is, big insurance companies bribed her with $13 million in campaign contributions to get her to say that single payer “will never, ever come to pass.”
Dean wants Clinton to back Sanders’ “massive overhaul of the criminal justice system, starting with emptying for-profit prisons and juvenile detention centers.”
Nice idea, except that here too, she’s owned: she collected as many big donations from lobbyists for the for-profit prison industry as Marco Rubio.
He also wants her to embrace Bernie’s push for reforming Wall Street – but how likely is it that someone who made over $100 million giving speeches to scumbags in the financial services industry will turn against her backers?
“She should release the transcripts of her speeches and explain any of the objectionable things she said in them,” says Stephanie Rioux. If Clinton were going to show us her speeches, it would already have happened.
It may not feel like it now, but Hillary Clinton is in a pickle.
Her supporters keep citing her willingness to support Barack Obama after her defeat in 2008 as an example Bernie Sanders ought to emulate now. But Clinton and Obama were ideologically virtually identical. Both were members of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council. True, Obama pretended to oppose the Iraq war, which Clinton supported. But Obama wasn’t in the Senate in 2003. When he did get the chance to vote on Iraq, he voted six times out of six in favor of funding it. And he continued the war long after he took office.
Conversely, there’s a huge gap between Clintonism and Sandersism. Bernie Sanders is essentially a Democrat circa George McGovern in 1972: he favors big government antipoverty programs, socialized medicine, and a limited role for the US military overseas. He’s skeptical of free trade agreements, and hasn’t met a Wall Street banker that he likes. Hillary Clinton isn’t just against all that – she’s diametrically opposed, essentially a Republican circa George W. Bush in 2003, many of whose advisers she shares.
“Sanders supporters…are motivated not by animosity toward Hillary Clinton but by a sophisticated analysis and belief that the system is irreparably broken and compromised,” says Sanderista Jonathan Tasini. Actually, only the second half of that sentence is true. As anyone who has attended a Bernie rally can tell you, there’s plenty of animosity toward Clinton.
So what does Hillary Clinton do if she wants to win?
She’ll have to sell out some of her big corporate donors – and she’ll have to do it in a big way. If she goes big, she could appoint Bernie Sanders as her vice president – a sure path to victory – or as an economic czar, like giving him both the secretary of the treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve Bank.
Failing that, she’ll have to adopt at least a few of Bernie’s major platform planks. But here’s the rub. Even if she does, are Bernie’s supporters naïve enough to think that she would follow through?
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
Though it might not always seem like it, the news media is composed of human beings. Humans aren’t, can’t be, and possibly shouldn’t be, objective. Still, there’s a reasonable expectation among consumers of political news that journalists of all political stripes strive to be as objective as possible.
At their minimum, media outlets ought to be straightforward about their biases.
They certainly shouldn’t have, or appear to have, their thumbs on the scales.
Unfortunately, all too often, it appears that the political system is rigged – and that the major media companies play an important role in gaming the system. That’s what has happened throughout this year’s Democratic primaries, in which the vast majority of corporate media outlets appear to have been in the bag for Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, against self-described “democratic socialist” insurgent Bernie Sanders.
Examinations of coverage have confirmed the impressions of cable news junkies that Sanders has been the victim of a blackout, thus depriving him of a chance to make his case to voters. When the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, scheduled the first round of Democratic debates at times the party hoped nobody would be watching – again, a seemingly obvious ploy to deprive Sanders of exposure – corporate media outlets had little to say about it.
Then there has been the media’s complicity in spreading Clinton campaign talking points that bore little relation to the truth.
MSNBC and other DNC-aligned media outlets kept pointing out that Clinton won 3 million more votes than Sanders. True, technically. But that’s pretending that caucus states didn’t exist. Sanders did better than Clinton in caucuses.
Most recently, they conflated pledged delegates – those won by a candidate based on votes cast – with superdelegates, the Democratic politicians and party officials who will be able to vote however they want at the convention this coming July. Back in November, an Associated Press survey found that Hillary Clinton – unsurprisingly – enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the superdelegates. Assuming that the superdelegates will not change their minds, the AP called the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton on Monday, the night before a set of important primaries, including California. Does anyone doubt that calling a race over as the effect of depressing voter turnout?
It’s impossible to quantify that effect, to know how many people didn’t bother to show up at the polls because they were told it was all over. In California, however, Hillary Clinton won 56% of the vote in a state where polls showed the two candidates neck and neck. (California’s state election officials also did their best to keep voters away from the polls.)
As a journalist, I’m reluctant to categorically argue that the AP ought to have held its statistical analysis of the race until after Tuesday’s vote. News ought not to be suppressed. When you have it, you ought to report it. Similarly, I’m not sure that the New York Times was wrong to report the AP story. However, I do question the editorial wisdom of running it as a banner headline. The United States is a democracy. We elect our leaders based on votes actually cast by real people, not polls. Even after Tuesday’s vote, Hillary Clinton still didn’t have enough pledged delegates to claim the Democratic nomination. Since those superdelegates aren’t going to vote until July, she won’t be able to really claim the nomination until then.
Agreed, it’s a silly system. But it’s the system the Democrats have. They – and the media – ought to abide by it. Besides which, think how embarrassing it will be if the Justice Department indicts Hillary between now and July. There’s a lot to be said for leaving things hanging.
The thing that disgusts me most about this system – besides the perpetual state of war, the manufacturing of mass poverty, the prison industrial complex, the miserable state of the justice system, the fact that it’s impossible to make a decent living working 40 hours a week – is that it doesn’t even pretend to follow its own rules in a consistent way. Consider, for example, how the New York Times couldn’t wait to report its “Hillary Clinton becomes first woman nominee from a major political party” story until after the primaries in California et al. Would one or two days have made a big difference? (Well, yes. Sanders might have won California.) If the idea is to get the story out first, no matter what, even if it suppresses the vote, I can respect that. But then they ought to be consistent.
It was a very different story back in 2004. A few weeks before the general election in November, the New York Times researched and came to the conclusion that George W. Bush, the incumbent, may have cheated in at least one of the presidential debates against Sen. John Kerry. Photographs of the debate clearly showed a suspicious bulge in Bush’s shoulder; the Times did report the story as a light he-says-she-says piece. But then experts concluded that the tongue twisted former governor of Texas had been using a receiver paired with an earphone in order to get advice and retorts to carry from an unknown co-conspirator.
Editors at the paper decided to hold a serious exposé until after the election so that its coverage would not affect the results. Then they killed it. Four more years of Bush followed.
Actually, the corporate media’s policy is brutally consistent. If holding a story benefits the forces of reactionary conservatism, it gets held. If releasing it does so, it gets released. Time after time, the system exposes itself for what it is.
After disaster strikes, it often turns out that there were several contributing factors behind it. Looking back, though, there was usually one key moment when One Really Bad Decision was made — when catastrophe might have been avoided had the people in charge done something different.
This feels like that moment.
Unless something dramatic happens soon, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will win the presidency this fall. Either candidate would be a disaster.
You already know why Trump is dangerous. He’s savagely ignorant of politics, history and, surprisingly considering his profession, economics. He advocates violence on a vast scale: against protesters, against other countries, against millions of children whose only crime was to be brought to the United States by parents who snuck them over the border. He’s a rude, boorish, hostile, aggressive jerk — not a personality you want in charge of nuclear launch codes, or talking to other people in other countries who have their own launch codes. He’s so incurious and anti-intellectual that he makes George W. Bush look like Slajov Zizek.
Yet Hillary is just as scary.
Hillary Clinton is taking foreign policy advice from the last people anyone wants near a sitting president: those crazy neo-conservatives. We’re talking about extreme right-wing nuts like Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Richard Perle — the same exact lunatics who convinced Bush to invade Iraq. Henry Kissinger, who belongs in prison at The Hague, is on Secretary Clinton’s speed dial. She brags about it!
She’s in the pocket of AIPAC, the Washington lobbying firm that leans on politicians to support Israel’s most disgusting atrocities, like the recent Gaza War — which puts us square under the crosshairs of radical Islamist groups. Under a second Clinton Administration, the Forever War will continue and expand. There will be more drones. More political assassinations, like the murder of Osama bin Laden, which she can’t stop crowing about. She will provide many more reasons for people in other countries to hate the United States. Just what we need.
It certainly isn’t what we want. Most Americans think Bush-Obama’s “war on terrorism” is a mistake, and that the terrorists are winning.
At a time when we need to wind down interventionism and refocus on our long-neglected needs here at home — infrastructure, jobs, healthcare — we get Dubya in a pantsuit.
Speaking of jobs, Hillary Clinton seems determined to make sure there isn’t a single American left working in America. With the exception of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton consistently supports job-exporting “free trade” pacts. (She backed TPP too before pressure from Bernie Sanders prompted her to change her mind.)
Hillary and her pet Democratic Party are planning to claim victory in the Democratic primaries over Bernie on Tuesday, June 7th. This is, of course, bull feces; neither candidate will have enough pledged delegates after the votes are counted Tuesday to claim the nomination. Hillary’s claim is based on her assumption that she will carry the majority of superdelegates, those establishment conservatives who make up a fifth of the total delegate count.
Thing is, the superdelegates won’t actually vote until the convention, which takes place in Philadelphia in mid-July. The Clinton campaign is relying on a November 2015 AP poll, which showed her with a commanding superdelegate lead over Sanders. A poll isn’t a vote. Moreover, it’s an old poll. A lot has happened since November, like the inspector general issuing a damning report about Hillary’s private email server, Sanders winning primaries and caucuses he was expected to lose, Sanders pulling in countless five-figure crowds at his rallies, and other polls showing Sanders beating Trump but Hillary, not so much.
Superdelegates can change their minds. In June 2008, when she was running against Barack Obama, Hillary urged them to do exactly that. As it played out eight years ago, they switched from her to him instead.
Much has been made of Sanders’ alleged hypocrisy: his only path to the nomination, Clintonistas smirk, is convincing superdelegates — a system that he opposes — that he’s a stronger candidate against Trump. Well, poo. I dislike capitalism, yet I charge money to media outlets that publish my column. Am I a dastardly hypocrite too?
Oh, and psst— Hillary Clinton was against the superdelegate system in 2008.
The base of the Democratic Party is moving inexorably left. Whether or not she beats Trump, handing the nomination to a right-winger like Hillary Clinton over an undeniably more viable leftie like Bernie Sanders could alienate so many liberals and progressives that it could destroy the Democrats’ future as a national political party. And if she loses — which now seems likely — we get Trump.
This is one of those weeks, or two of them, when it’s still possible to prevent a terrible thing from taking place.
On Tuesday night, the news media should refrain from declaring Hillary the victor. She won’t be. She can’t be. It’s not over until July, so that’s what they should report.
Between now and July, Democratic superdelegates should search their hearts, read the head-to-head matchups, and consider switching to Sanders who, for whatever flaws he has, is a real liberal — he’s not a Democrat, but he’s more of a Democrat than she is.
And the Department of Justice should stop running out the clock. Hillary Clinton is not one for mercy: she thinks the heroic Edward Snowden should be tried for treason, and she’s still for the death penalty. She ought to be held accountable for the email scandal. Indict her. Try her. Let the jury — and the voters — decide her fate.
Which will be the opposite fate of ours.
Hillary Clinton’s coronation at the Democratic national convention is likely but not a foregone conclusion. Since the superdelegates won’t vote until July, and neither she nor Bernie Sanders will arrive in Cleveland with the requisite number of pledged delegates to clich the nomination, there is still the possibility that the party bosses will see sense, internalize the polls that show she’s weaker than him against Trump, and push the superdelegates to support the populist senator from Vermont.
But sense is in short supply in American politics, especially this year. So I’m preparing for the worst: Hillary versus Trump.
It’s one hell of a choice. The more I delve into Donald Trump and his past (to research my biography, which comes out in June), the more scared I get. Nevertheless, there is no way I’ll vote for Hillary. I won’t vote for her if she stops shaking down rich right-wing Republicans for donations. I won’t vote for her if she adopts Bernie’s platform. I won’t vote for her if she names Bernie her vice president. I won’t even vote for her if Bernie invites me to spend the summer with him and Jane in Vermont.
#NeverHillary. That’s me.
There are millions of us.
Many progressives are baffled by this stance. Trump is a threat to democracy, decency, peace and the economy. He acts and talks like a nut. Why not suck it up and vote for Hillary? She’s experienced, steady and presentable. Unlike Trump, she understands the issues. Plus: first woman president! That’s 225 years overdue!
Here is my reasoning.
First, a vote is an endorsement. A vote tells a candidate: “I mostly agree with what you have done.”
I agree with nothing she has done. Most egregiously, she voted to invade Iraq. At the time, everyone knew there were no WMDs. She knew. More than a million Iraqis are dead because of that war of choice, a war no one but especially no Democrat should have supported. I will not, cannot, betray those dead. Casting a vote for Hillary says: “I love that a million Iraqis got murdered.” Or, at minimum it says: “I’m cool with it.” Well, I’m not.
For me, that’s enough. What she did was monstrous. She should be in prison for life.
Do you need more? Really?
- Here’s more:
Running a close second behind Iraq are Hillary’s vote to invade Afghanistan (another mistake, unjustified, illegal fiasco that left hundreds of thousands of innocents maimed or dead), and encouraging Obama, as secretary of state, to arm and fund crazy Islamist insurgencies in Libya and Syria, reducing two modern countries to failed states. I can’t let those go.
Voting for a politician also tells them: “I agree with what you promise to do.” There is no indication — none, zero, nada — that Hillary wouldn’t continue her every-war-a-good-war philosophy were she to become president. Unlike Trump, she has never questioned the usefulness, legality or ethics of use of force as America’s go-to approach to foreign policy.
I refuse to throw good blood after bad.
She’s sleazy — a cheater and a liar. I can’t forget how she willfully misrepresented her own take on the minimum wage: she wants $12/hour, but since Bernie’s $15/hour is more popular, she claimed she wanted $15/hour too, but it would be up to the states and cities. Pressed, she conceded she’d “like” $15/hour, but wouldn’t lift a finger to make it happen federally. Incredibly, she still does this.
Then there’s her lie about the auto bailout. Factcheckers call her claim that Bernie voted against it untrue; he voted against bailouts for Wall Street, some of which was attached to aid for automobile companies. Despite being called on this whopper, she still uses it on the campaign trail.
The primary fight against Bernie saw Hillary deploy tactics that went way beyond political hardball. Her allies in the Democratic National Committee schemed to deny Bernie media coverage or a decent debate schedule. They rigged the superdelegate process. They made sure votes and caucusgoers weren’t counted and that voter registrations in Bernie strongholds mysteriously disappeared. Can’t let that go.
I am highly sympathetic with the argument that we need, and that women and girls deserve, to see a woman in the White House. We do; they do. If Hillary Clinton were merely a flawed candidate, the woman thing would be enough for me.
But Hillary is not flawed. She is a monster. A mass murderer. A warmonger.
The fact that she wears bright-colored Doctor Evil suits and has a silly laugh and twinkly eyes and is kinda smart can’t change the fact she has never voted against a war, or apologized for voting for one, or promised not to start any new ones. Her resume can’t cover up for her record: zero sponsorships or votes for a major anti-poverty proposal, and only one vote against a job-killing free trade agreement.
I don’t vote for monsters.
Let Hillary or Trump destroy the world without the endorsement that would be my vote.
During the run-up to America’s war against Iraq, I told audiences that Bush would certainly win reelection. Some people broke down in tears.
That’s my job: telling people things they prefer not to hear, especially about the future. Being Cassandra isn’t much fun. Because we live in a nation in decline and yielding to incipient fascism, the more I’m right — i.e., most of the time — the more I annoy my readers.
So please believe me when I say this gives me no pleasure: Donald Trump isn’t bluffing when he threatens to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
Are you undocumented? Prepare to go underground.
Are your papers in good standing? Are you a good person? Prepare a hiding place in your home.
Dark days are ahead.
Do not take comfort in the fact that Trump flip-flops on all sorts of issues. Contrary to his initial, typically strident position on abortion, the master demagogue now says women needn’t fear imprisonment if they terminate their pregnancy (unless he changes his mind again). Even his much-ballyhooed Great Wall of Trump along the Mexican border may wind up as half a wall. He does this a lot.
But there’s no way he’ll back away from mass deportations.
Why are deportations different? Radical nativism, as defined by this promise to deport illegal immigrants, every single one of them, defined his campaign from the start. It’s why he’s here. It’s why he won.
Reneging on deportations would be like Bernie Sanders asking Goldman Sachs for donations or Hillary Clinton changing her gender — it would betray the raison d’être of his campaign. He can’t back down without losing most of his support.
The optics of the biggest forced population movement since those carried out by Hitler and Stalin would be awful. Police kicking down doors. Women and children dragged off in the middle of the night. Neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, spouses — disappeared.
Countries of origin would be reluctant to absorb millions of new arrivals, all unemployed, many of them who came to the U.S. as children and thus have no memory of their “home” countries. So the Trump Administration would have to build concentration camps to house them.
Because the idea is so outlandish, so fundamentally un-American, it’s too much to contemplate seriously, even for journalists. They’re in denial. If Trump wins, however — and it’s entirely possible he will — he will carry out his plan.
Legally, there’s nothing to it. Trump doesn’t need an act of Congress. He doesn’t even have to sign an executive order. All he’ll have to do to set this outrage in motion is pick up the phone and tell the head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to do his or her job: enforce the law.
Camps cost money. So do more agents. No problem. President Trump can shift his budget priorities in favor of ICE. He’s already said he would triple ICE’s enforcement division from 5,000 to 15,000 officers. The FBI would have to pitch in.
Backlogs in the nation’s 57 existing immigration courts run as long as two years. The system would have to be expanded.
I look to Trump’s authoritarian impulse to turn initially to the federal budget. I imagine him making a pitch that goes like this: “I won because the American people wanted my business acumen in charge of government. Congress has totally messed up the budget process with their budget stand-offs. Let me take care of the budget, and I promise you an end to this crap. Take your kids to a national park and I guarantee it won’t be closed due to some government shutdown, believe me.” Compliant media + perceived mandate + popular exhaustion = Trump gets his way.
Sad but true: subtracting 11 million people from the population, and thus two to four million from the workforce, will put money into the pockets of everybody else. Fewer workers means labor has more clout. Wages will go up.
Meanwhile, deportations will empty housing stock. Rents will decline.
In the short term, anyway, Trumpism could stimulate the economy. That would be popular.
Establishmentarians can’t imagine that Trump would actually go through with mass deportations, much less how he would carry them out. “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years when we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” says Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.
You don’t need imagination to game this out. You need history.
Right-wingers will call the cops to report their undocumented neighbors. As in Nazi-occupied Europe, anyone with a grudge against someone without a valid I-9 form — resentful ex-boyfriends, etc. — will drop a dime to Trump’s jackbooted thugs. Checkpoints will spring up on roads, at bus stops, in train stations. Not that they have to; mass surveillance by the NSA ensures that the feds already know where illegals live.
It won’t be hard to find judges to issue warrants based on those reports.
For Trump, deportations are a political necessity he can easily execute. For his critics, they won’t occur because they would run against our societal values. “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea,” Chertoff says, “it ain’t happening.”
More than most people, Chertoff ought to know better. After all, he served under a radical right-wing president who convinced us to go along with perpetual war, concentration camps, legalized torture, invading foreign countries for fun, killer drone planes and a new cabinet-level bureaucracy whose mission — and very name, Homeland Security — evokes Nazi Germany.
It doesn’t take much to convince Americans to accept the unacceptable.
After an election season in which nothing they predicted came true — their confidence that Donald Trump would never be the Republican nominee comes to mind — you’d think our losing-streak corporate pundits would be reluctant to underestimate Trump’s chance of winning the presidency in November.
Alas, there is no limit to the willfully oblivious hubris of the barking dogs of the political class. Despite last week’s cataclysm the airwaves and opinion pages are still dominated by the smug meme that It Can’t Happen Here.
Never mind that half of that It, Trump’s capture of the nomination, has Happened. But this is where Trump’s juggernaut stops, say the center-right prognosticators. Polls show him losing to Hillary Clinton by 14% — er, now it’s 2%. But still.
Trump’s disapproval ratings are as big as his ego. Women hate the guy. So do Latinos; Republicans can’t win without them. Trump, they assure, has a ceiling: 45%. No way no how will more than 45% of Americans vote for him. (Remember when the same folks told us his ceiling was 30% — of Republicans?) He’s a guaranteed loosah.
If Hillary Clinton prevails over Bernie Sanders and the Department of Justice to become the Democratic standard-bearer, she’ll be welcomed as a liberator against Trump, Democratic leaders say. Most GOP insiders say/fear the same thing: she’ll win by a landslide.
I wouldn’t be so sure.
There are plenty of good reasons to believe that Trump will defeat the former secretary of state.
Before we list them, please bear in mind something no one talks about: what an amazing candidate Trump has proven to be. Not only does Trump have no political experience, this is his first run for president, or for any elected office. For a novice to win a major party nomination on his first time out, spending hardly any of his own money, is a triumph, a trifecta without historical precedent. (True, there was Eisenhower. But Ike was the supreme commander of Allied forces during World War II, and president of Columbia University. Those were essentially political positions.) With Trump, we are in uncharted territory. The man is a beast.
Now for the factors that run counter to the widely accepted Hillary-is-a-shoo-in narrative.
First, Hillary is a weak candidate.
Her negatives are nearly as high as Trump’s. A recent poll shows her even or losing against Trump in key battleground states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The liberal base of the Democratic Party, which mostly supports Bernie Sanders, is not at all Ready for Hillary. If the Bernie or Bust movement convinces even a few percentage points worth of Dems to stay home, write in Bernie’s name or vote for Jill Stein, that shortfall of support could be enough to throw the race The Donald’s way. If anything, Hillary is the one with a ceiling: she’s been in public life so long that it’s hard to believe that anyone who doesn’t like her now will find a reason to do so in the next six months. Politically, we’re just getting to know Trump.
Also, Americans’ hardwired historical amnesia is tailor-made for Trump.
His insane pronouncements would sink a conventional candidate. But when his racist or idiotic statements stir controversy, he doesn’t apologize: he denies that he ever said them. Then he doubles down. He constantly contradicts himself, sometimes in the same speech. This drives the media crazy. But it doesn’t touch Teflon Don. Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his ideological progeny, we’re living at a time when we choose our own facts along with our opinions — and no one is held accountable for their broken promises, hypocrisies or flip-flops. The past? Even when it isn’t past, even in real time, the past so doesn’t matter. As a conventional politician, Hillary will be forced to defend herself and her long record in public service from Trump’s attacks. Because he has no such record, and the record he does have is something he’ll just lie about — and voters will be perfectly fine with it — she can’t go after him the same way.
Because GOP campaigning is so much more effective, Democratic presidential candidates need to be at least 10% ahead of Republicans in August in order to win in November. Trump and Clinton are single digits apart, and it’s only May. Just wait until the zillions of GOP attack ads do their thing.
Trump’s Republican Party may not be as unified as they would like. But it will be unified enough to beat Hillary. Because she’s unwilling to make the policy and personnel concessions necessary to bring Sanders’ supporters into her fold — $15/hour minimum wage, offer Sanders veep — she’ll never be able to recover from the bruising primaries. Her party will be the more fractured one.
Trump is also in the unique position of being positioned to attack her from both the left and the right. He’ll go after her as a warmonger and a free trader and fiscally irresponsible and corrupt. As we’ve seen in the primaries, he has an uncanny ability to hone in on his rivals’ Achilles’ heels. Then he kicks them until they fall.
In the end, Hillary’s biggest liability may be overconfidence. She clearly doesn’t think much of Trump’s intellect, his political acumen or his campaign chops. Big mistake. This guy is many things, some of them very bad. But he is not stupid. Donald Trump is one of the most formidable politicians of our lifetimes. He can win.
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Pre-order at Amazon!
Everyone in America thought they knew Donald Trump: the real estate magnate, reality TV star and bigger than life personality lived his life in the tabloids. Little did they know – though he hinted at it repeatedly – that he planned to take American politics by storm. This graphic biography explores the little-known episodes that helped form the man who shocked the U.S. media by launching the hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and whose wild political agenda could subvert representative democracy for years to come.
Current Events/Biography, 2016
Seven Stories Press Paperback, 5″x7″, 192 pp., $16.95