The questioning of Hillary Clinton and her political and financial ties via the Clinton Foundation and other sources is nothing new. This conversation and its concerns have been happening for some time (see Hillary Helps a Bank—and Then It Funnels Millions to the Clintons and The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview, both from 2015), It is not a plot to discredit Hillary. Nor is it a strategy to give Trump more votes. Or Jill Stein, or any other candidate. It is about questioning a political worldview that deserves scrutiny, attention and challenge. It is not about painting anyone as evil or a monster. I, personally, don’t believe in such things. What it is about is addressing our decisions as human beings trying to do right by ourselves and others and looking closely at the choices we make and the repercussions and effects of those choices.
I understand that many people are concerned about criticisms of Hillary. I don’t point them out because I want to see people not vote for her. I keep the conversation alive because I believe Hillary will be the next president of the United States and – though we’ll be spared a Trump presidency which is no small achievement – we will nonetheless have a president whose approach to politics is via a corporate worldview that became popular in the Reagan era and, via Bill Clinton, also became part of the Democratic political landscape.
I believe deeply that it is an immensely unstable and detrimental approach that desperately needs to change if we are to avoid the wars and military actions already in the making that I believe Hillary Clinton will likely lead us into. If we are to build a thriving middle class, offer Americans a genuine profit-free health care option, and – maybe most importantly and dire – tackle Climate Change in the precariously short window we have left.
I understand the thought process behind a piece like Clay Shirky’s “There’s No Such Thing As A Protest Vote”. I’d like to offer a different perspective. I chose to focus on Shirky’s piece because I believe it accurately reflects a particular perspective that is out there and the article itself is currently being shared extensively on social media and elsewhere as a school of thought some people are connecting with.
I think Shirky’s viewpoint runs the danger of functioning as a narrative for those who want to feel irreproachable in their voting decision by making any other voting choices or perspectives ineffective, irresponsible, and/or a sign of weakness. Shirky’s insistence that “Presidential voting is an exercise in distinguishing the lesser of two evils. Making that choice is all that’s asked of us, and all that’s on offer” can be seen as one example of a school of thought that indirectly (or even directly) stifles political change. It most certainly can be argued that it stifles progress.
Shirky sees only three options in voting this election (or any other):
A. I prefer Donald Trump be President, rather than Hillary Clinton.
B. I prefer Hillary Clinton be President, rather than Donald Trump.
C. Whatever everybody else decides is OK with me.
I’m not trying to paint a picture of Kaine or Clinton as monsters. They are not. Nor are they Trump. Not even close. But they also do not represent the values of the Democratic base, which feels continuously irrelevant and disregarded and I think there’s a real danger in that. More immediately to the outcome of the election come November, but even more globally and long-term in what the Democratic Party stands for and how it can and desperately needs to affect positive change. I want the Democratic Party I believed in back. It is not that anymore. And I obviously do not stand alone in that deep desire and commitment. And there is no easy or faultless path.
I do not believe being silent now and waiting till after the election will change things, In fact, from where I stand, we may lose this election if we cannot get Hillary Clinton to up her approval rating by directly embracing her base. The center/right, the moderates, are not the Democratic base. And right now the base is being made to feel like they are more of an annoyance than anything else. Even though they are fighting so hard and in the face of so much criticism from many of their friends and neighbors and a near-complete disregard from their own Party’s establishment. This is not a fun road, nor is it a straightforward one. There are many unknowns in every direction.
Just after I decided to start posting some of my Facebook commentaries here, Tim Kaine was picked by Hillary Clinton as her choice for VP. Much of what I’ve been posting lately addresses both that possibility and reality. I’m gonna lay out some of my thoughts below as originally written for Facebook posts and commentaries. There’s definitely some overlap of ideas, here, but I wanted to share them nonetheless. There are some insightful articles attached to the comments below which I think make for some thought-provoking and informative reading:
July 6, 2016: Despite the title of this article and many others like it (“Bernie Sanders Booed By House Democrats For Refusal To Endorse Hillary Clinton” by Sam Stein), there were FAR more Democrats, apparently, who did NOT boo Sanders and were respectful.
But those who DID boo… Those are the very ones that make this journey all the more important, all the more crucial. I understand that what Sanders is doing is out of the ordinary step-aside deal-making that happens at this junction in an election cycle, but if Bernie were to abandon his ideals and whatever leverage he has now to simply fall in line, then he would be no better than most of the intimidated, for-sale politicians he has been criticizing, who are now, of course, trying to intimidate him and his supporters to be more like them.
This is why Bernie Sanders represents the conviction, the integrity, and the alternative of genuine ideals that speaks SO loudly to SO many of us and that goes so far beyond the outcome of a presidential race. And this is why his supporters remain so committed and see him as walking the walk. Unlike those we know who just talk the talk.
I’ve never seen Hillary Clinton display the courage of her convictions. So I get that when her direct challenger does, it makes her look bad. As it should.
Like many people, Facebook has pulled me away from my daily blog as a source of expression. I still post here, but so much of what I think and feel about what is happening in the world gets lost in the fleeting panorama that is Facebook.
So I thought I would start posting some of my shorter thoughts and essays, as well as my responses to particular articles or others’ comments and commentaries. When separate thoughts are contained in one space, they often reveal a much larger, deeper narrative. If nothing else, they tell a story. So long as my own story continues to unfold, I’d like to share more of it here.
From July 19, 2016:
Here’s why incremental politics doesn’t work for me: We’ve been fighting for gun control laws for decades now. Organizations like the NRA and the people they pay off keep guaranteeing that nothing changes. After this most recent horrific gun massacre here in the U.S., we talk again about maybe trying to ban certain semi-automatic weapons. Mainly the AR-15. But since we can’t find a way to make that happen, we try and at least pass a law that would keep anyone on the terrorist watch lists from being allowed to legally purchase a semi-automatic weapon.
And IF we manage to get that law passed – after YEARS of trying – we will celebrate our success. Our incremental success. We ask for so little – we aim so low – and we celebrate the smallest concession the NRA and other conservatives will give us. And people will still be able to purchase semi-automatic weapons in the U.S.
From where I stand, it seems like we’ve confused our goals with what we’ve “settled” for as being all we deserve or can attain. If you FIGHT to repeal the Second Amendment – with everything you have to give – then it’s the NRA and conservatives that will eventually have to make concessions and THEY can celebrate when we give them just a little tiny bit of what they have asked for. It is THEY who will have to settle. So much more will get done. So many more lives will be spared. Remember, the majority of Americans support this. It’s powerful moneyed organizations like the NRA and their lobbyists that have managed to completely control the direction of these issues and laws, despite public desire and outrage. That’s our current system of government in a nutshell.
One of the more unfortunate accusations that I’ve been hearing lately is that Bernie Sanders supporters are tearing apart the Democratic Party. That Sanders needs to “back down” so we can unite. But Sanders supporters are fighting for the Democratic party to be more democratic. The media and others, however, have done a bang-up job framing real political challenges from the people (which Sanders represents) as “selfish” and “hurtful.” And a good number of Democrats are taking up those pitchforks and torches and joining the chorus without truly understanding what it is they are attempting to self-righteously snuff out.
John Nichols’ article in The Nation, A Contested Convention Is Exactly What the Democratic Party Needs, (an article widely forwarded by Bill Moyers) speaks directly to why it is so very crucial to continue to challenge not just Hillary Clinton, but the entire Democratic Party. THIS is what Democracy is all about! This is our job description! But so many people have lost sight of that – or never really knew what they could or should do beyond just casting a vote – or what the Democratic Party used to be, its history, and so they don’t recognize what it has the potential to do right now. Hillary might be the nominee in the end (though that’s STILL not a guarantee), but there’s more to be done and more to be gained by continuing to challenge her and those she surrounds herself with. At the very least to the Convention. Hopefully, a lot farther.
“Prospective nominees tend to favor weaker platforms; Harry Truman would have preferred milder civil-rights commitments than were made in his party’s 1948 platform, and it took steady pressure from unions, liberals and Ted Kennedy to get Jimmy Carter to finally embrace spending on jobs programs. It will take similar pressure to get Clinton and her inner circle to accept a Democratic platform that Sanders says must include “a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.” Clinton stalwarts may want to keep things vague, but look for the Sanders team to demand specifics, such as an explicit endorsement of a national $15 minimum wage instead of the $12 proposal that Clinton initially offered, and an unequivocal rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama supports and that Clinton once championed but now criticizes.”
I understand why the “Bernie Or Bust” movement has left a lot of people bewildered and resentful. But like so much out there in our political orbit, an ability to momentarily alter perspective is required, in earnest and without caveats, in order to even begin to understand the thinking of others. It’s a difficult thing to do and something we are, as a culture and society, not often propelled to do. Achieving this requires a degree of separating immediate emotional responses and impulses from the “bigger” picture. That’s a hard thing to accomplish under normal circumstances. It’s a seemingly near-impossible one when there are institutions and organizations whose very existence is not only dependent on, but who are wholly dedicated to keeping you in a reactive state of near-constant emotive retaliation.
However, empathy is fostered in many areas of our culture, and it thrives in pockets despite many attempts to deride or discredit it as a form of “weakness.” Artists, art, and artistic communities, for example, are dependent on a measure of empathy for art to exist. By definition. But even within those communities and those cultures, there is the notion that one must become “hardened,” that success is dependent on learning to be cut-throat, a shark. Walk into any art class with an industry bent and you have a 50/50 chance of being taught that those who “make it” are the ones willing to walk over the bodies of their classmates. Ask any actor who has made the rounds of acting classes in Los Angeles.