I happened to watch MSNBC this past week. It was airing a live Trump rally somewhere in the Midwest where he reiterated his commitment that he’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, but he toned down the “rapists and murderers” narrative and reframed it as ‘preserving the quality of life and national security for Americans’ for the audience of mostly white people. After about ten minutes of his non sequitur ramblings, it cut to a commercial break. The commercial that aired was a video compilation of all of the prominent Republicans voicing their disapproval for Donald Trump (Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain etc) and it ended with Hillary Clinton’s voice over ‘this message is approved by Hillary Clinton’. It wasn’t an ad about her achievements, which according to her and her supporters are vast and varied, spanning across thirty years of public service. It wasn’t an ad about her record and achievement as a senator and later as Secretary of State; it was literally just campaign ad with assorted Republican lawmakers stating why Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency of the United States and she approves of that message. As if their criticisms of Trump is a ringing endorsement of her.
Since Donald Trump became the official candidate for the Republican party and Hillary Clinton officially became the candidate for the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders faded into the background, the general election officially became about choosing ‘the lesser evil’. And the lesser evil in this sorry contest for the presidency is clearly Hillary Clinton according to most pundits and talking heads even if you hate her. Even mainstream Republicans who loathe the Clintons with every bone in their body reluctantly conceded that Hillary Clinton is the only way to go. They’ll ‘support’ her now and deal with her four years later during the reelection. The few snippets of MSM news I’ve followed about the election have all been about how Hillary Clinton is the lesser evil. No matter what you think about her positions and record, compared to Trump, she is the far superior candidate, at the very least, she’s less of a national embarrassment than Trump. Occasionally it will be about some policy about equal pay for women, free college tuition for qualified families but mostly it’s just ‘I am not Trump so I am the only choice in this race.’ Hillary Clinton herself has lowered her standards and bought into the lesser evil narrative as well. If nothing else, what a demoralizing and degrading turn for the potential first woman president of the United States. Instead of campaigning on her achievements and how she shattered the glass ceiling, she’s campaigning on how at the very least, she’s far better than her orange faced, mop wigged opponent.
Everyone is talking about the lesser evil and how in the interest of preserving this nation, we must choose Hillary Clinton. It’s the only choice; it’s the responsible choice and anyone voting third party is helping Trump win a larger share of the vote. Many blame Millennials especially for not jumping on the Clinton wagon despite her overtures and pleas on social media late night television (Note to Clinton campaign: Lena Dunham isn’t a good spokesperson for the Clinton cause, Lena Dunham isn’t well liked amongst her peers either). Clara Jeffery, editor-in-chief of Mother Jones in a since deleted tweet said “i never hated millennials more” accompanying a retweet of a New York Times article where polls show Millennials still refuse to jump onboard the Clinton campaign. As an almost Millennial, I can safely say the feeling is mutual; we hate you too, there’s no love lost, now let’s move on.
The problem with the lesser evil argument is we already had one but he was roundly rejected, sabotaged and undercut by the Democratic establishment. His name is Bernie Sanders. Sanders has been branded by the Democratic establishment as this radical socialist who will never win over middle America but he isn’t. He’s not a socialist but a democratic socialist nor is he very radical. He’s just radical when compared to the neoliberal Clintons. It was Bill Clinton who betrayed the party base when he took the Democratic Party right to make himself electable after the George McGovern slump by incorporating neoliberal policies into his agenda. He cut welfare by telling people to take ‘personal responsibility’ in their lives. He signed into law criminal justice reform bill which saw the rise in mass incarcerations for Black and Latinos. By locking up large swathes of people of color, making them unemployable since employers are not required to hire anyone with a criminal background and people with criminal backgrounds are not eligible to public assistance as well; with a few strokes of the pen, he eliminated millions of people from welfare rolls and payrolls, which then allowed him to claim credit for the strong employment figures during his presidency and reducing welfare rolls at the same time.
Bernie Sanders is only seeking to redress some of that injustice by ending mass incarceration, free college tuition for state institutions, single payer health care and living wage with a minimum wage of $15 per hour so that all wage workers get a raise and alleviate some of the pressure of living in poverty, paycheck to paycheck. None of these ideas are particularly radical. They are practical and necessary in an era where jobs are only getting fewer due to globalization, capitalism and neoliberal policies, and in absence well paying jobs, the government has to step in and provide more basic services for people. Some countries in Europe are already contemplating a universal income legislation, which means the state guarantees a minimum income for each person. So that the repercussions of unemployment and poverty doesn’t disrupt civil society. Bernie Sanders did not call for the destruction of capitalism. He isn’t promoting an end to America’s militarism and imperialism overseas, he’s called for a drawdown of US military presence around the world and let NATO step into a larger role, but NATO is just the US military in another manifestation. NATO doesn’t make a move without the approval of the United States. On paper he still supports the apartheid state of Israel, though the support isn’t unconditional and he’s shown more support to the Palestinians than any major presidential candidate before him. He’s given Israel a serious dressing down on the blockade in Gaza, the theft of water resources and tax revenues in the West Bank but he’s not called for dismantlement of the Israeli apartheid police state nor has he promoted withholding of US monetary or diplomatic support of Israel. The Jewish State stands.
Bernie Sanders was the lesser evil, but he was rejected. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both evil, but evil in different ways. The voters are not choosing a lesser evil, they are choosing a different shade of evil. Do you want a racist and misogynist buffoon with ties to the KKK for president or do you want a faux-inclusive, warmongering, neoliberal, corporate feminist with ties to the Saudi regime (one of the most abusive towards women in the world) for president? All of this speculation about the actual state of Hillary Clinton’s health is not only overtly sexist (John McCain was not in perfect health when he ran for president but that was just a blip on the screen) but it obscures the real problem. The problem is not whether she had pneumonia and lied about the underlying causes of it (one doesn’t usually just get pneumonia out of the blue, there’s usually a preceding illness), or how she misused private email servers during her tenure at the State Department or that she knew what and when before, during and after the bombing at the US embassy in Benghazi. The problems with Clinton are the contents of her emails, her involvement in dismantling the Libyan state and shipping Libya’s weapons cache to Syria, her dealings with the corrupt Saudi regime and other questionable people through the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has been accused of lying, but even that’s a generic accusation, it’s the repercussion of the lies, half-truths and behind the scenes manipulations which have worldwide consequences.