Democrat Hillary Clinton has announced that she is running for president in the 2016 elections. In the goof-ball electoral farce US elections have evolved into, the current electoral campaign actually began shortly after the 2012 election.
So it isn’t odd that the campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats are now in earnest, 19 months before the actual election, something not seen in any other “advanced” country.
Before discussing the reasons behind this buffoonery, I want to take up a major aspect of the Democratic Party’s intent in this election: to dampen all forms of protest by the oppressed and exploited by corralling such protest into the Democratic election campaign. Arguments to this end are already being made.
Since Clinton is the Democratic front-runner, it is important to take a brief look at her real record, which is hardly “progressive” in any meaningful interpretation of the word.
Gutting welfare, backing war
The two defining features of Clinton’s tenures as senator (2001-09) and secretary of state (2009-13) were her promotion of US corporate profit-making and her aggressive assertion of Washington’s right to militarily intervene in other countries.
One of her first high-profile positions was at notorious retail outlet Walmart, which is known for its low wages, discrimination against women workers and aggressive anti-unionism. She was on Walmart’s board of directors from 1986 to 1992. She “remained silent” in board meetings as her company “waged a major campaign against labour unions seeking to represent store workers”, an ABC report found.
In her 2003 book Living history Clinton wrote that Walmart CEO Sam Walton “taught me a great deal about corporate integrity and success”. She remains a favourite with the Walton family, which owns the company. In 2013, Alice Walton donated $25,000, the maximum allowed, to Clinton’s “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC (Political Action Committee) – her pre-campaign campaign war chest.
As Bill Clinton’s “First Lady”, she played a major role in gutting welfare for the poor. In her 2003 book, she boasted, “By the time Bill and I left the White House, welfare rolls had dropped 60 percent” – and not because poverty had dropped. Hardest hit were women and children. Prior to this “welfare reform”, as it was sold to the public, more than 70 percent of poor families with children received some kind of cash assistance. By 2010, less than 30 percent did, and the amount of aid declined more than 50 percent.
She also lobbied Congress to pass her husband’s racist crime bill, which, observes Michelle Alexander in The new Jim Crow, “escalated the drug war beyond what conservatives had imaged possible”, expanding mass incarceration, which hit Blacks and Latinos the hardest. Today one out of four people behind bars worldwide is in US prisons.
Summing up her stint as secretary of state, Bloomberg Businessweek commented: “Clinton turned the State Department into a machine for promoting US business.” She sought “to install herself as the government’s highest-ranking business lobbyist”, directly negotiating lucrative overseas contracts for the likes of Lockheed, Boeing and General Electric. “Clinton’s corporate cheerleading has won praise from business groups.”
Her 2011 essay in Foreign Policy, “America’s Pacific century”, was upfront about her objective of “opening new markets for American businesses”. A major thrust is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration with the assistance of more than 600 corporate advisors. Like Bill Clinton’s North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, the TPP is designed to further empower multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers and the environment.
Her article also claimed that growth in East Asia has depended on “the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the US military”, and that “a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages” in the future.
In 2003, Clinton voted for the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq, and was a fierce critic of any resistance to the US agenda in the United Nations.
Senator Clinton was an especially staunch supporter – even by the standards of the US Congress – of Israel’s military actions and settlement building in the West Bank. She ensured that the Palestinians’ UN statehood bid “went nowhere” and in 2014, she ardently defended Israel’s new war of mass murder and destruction in Gaza.
As confirmed in her 2014 book, Hard choices, she supported the 2009 military overthrow of the left-of-centre Honduran president Manuel Zetaya, helping to create the present militarised narco-state that unleashes massive terror against the population.
In 2010, she demanded that Venezuela “restore private property and return to a free market economy”, the same goal the US has regarding Cuba.
In Haiti, Hillary and her husband have relentlessly promoted the sweatshop model of production since the 1990s. Wikileaks documents show that in 2009 her State Department collaborated with subcontractors of Hanes, Levi’s and Fruit of the Loom to oppose a minimum wage increase for Haitian workers, the poorest in the hemisphere. After the January 2010 earthquake, she helped spearhead the highly militarised US response and current repression by UN forces.
The lesser evil?
All this is being swept under the rug by “progressives” who are already campaigning for Clinton. The major argument is that she is not as bad as the Republican candidates – the old “lesser evil” argument to trap workers and the oppressed into the Democratic fold.
Another argument is that Hillary could be the first woman US president. The National Organization of Women has already endorsed her. She also stands in contrast to the openly misogynist Republican candidates. We must defend her against anti-woman attacks by the right wing, as we defend Obama against racist attacks.
But we must also recognise that her support for the fundamentalist regimes in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, etc., and the misery of the US wars she supports, which have hit women and children disproportionately, contradict her verbal support for women’s rights internationally.
Her record on the economy, from welfare “reform” to the pro-business and anti-worker response to the financial crash, Great Recession and subsequent stagnation is appalling. The great majority of working women, housewives and children have been hit hard. Her “feminism” concentrates on the advancement of women in corporate board rooms and capitalist politics, not on the majority of women.
Her position on African Americans is illustrated by her silence on the police killings of Blacks that has sparked a national movement. The orientation of the Democratic Party establishment has been indicated by Obama’s new attorney general, Loretta Lynch. She said upon taking office that she intends in the coming months to visit cities nation-wide, not to talk to the Black communities affected by police violence, but to the police departments in order to mend relations with them.
Clinton says Edward Snowden, the courageous whistleblower, should be tried under the notorious Espionage Act, which was first used against socialist and IWW anti-war activists during the First World War. She backs all the attacks on civil liberties that have accelerated since 9/11.
US elections are big money
Clinton must raise something like $1 billion to wage her campaign, as will any Republican candidate. That means she is dependent on the donations of billionaires and multi-millionaires. That is one aspect of the grotesque spectacle of modern US elections. It’s one reason why campaigns drag on for years – to raise money.
These long campaigns do serve the rich by drowning out the voices of those fighting for their rights and living standards, the great majority.
Even with the most democratic election procedures in any capitalist country, including when elections have been publicly financed, the capitalist class dominates politics and the state. Ruling classes, from the slave societies of Rome and Greece through the feudal states and up to capitalism, have always dominated not only economically, but politically. Capitalism follows the Golden Rule: he (or she) who has the gold, rules.
But this has mushroomed into truly grotesque proportions in the modern US. The Supreme Court has ruled that money is free speech and that corporations and banks are especially endowed with the God-given right to spend as much of their free speech on elections as they wish. Special Political Action Committees are set up so billionaires and their lesser brethren, the multi-millionaires, can individually exercise their free speech rights by spending as much as they wish.
The next year and seven months will entail relentless, vacuous TV ads, talking-heads “analysis” of the personalities involved and their hair styles and clothes, their faux pas and their folksiness ad nauseam. It will be the promotion of one or another of the candidates nominated by the very rich. That’s the miserable excuse for “politics” in these United States.
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