As Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Democratic primaries has become solidified, with even the supposed ‘anti-establishment’ Bernie Sanders giving the victor an endorsement, just one more fringe, ‘anti-establishment’ threat to a Clinton presidency remains: Donald Trump. Hillary’s supporters (including many who formerly backed Bernie) have made a bid to secure Clinton’s presidency by calling for unity with the Democratic Party against Trump to stop the victory of fascism in America, which they suggest would come along with Trump’s inauguration. It is said voting for a third-party, or otherwise not voting Democrat, is ultimately a vote for Trump, and therefore fascism. It is argued that not voting for Clinton in the coming election comes from a place of white privilege. (see here, here, here, here, and especially here) It follows that they ask those who are to the left of Hillary to hold their nose and vote Clinton this year, for the sake of protecting their marginalized friends. But how will Clinton as commander-in-chief protect marginalized folks?
Often cited is Trump’s most controversial, inflammatory statements about Mexicans and his infamous call to “build a wall”. According to his platform, a Trump presidency would crack down harshly on illegal immigration and impose more limits on legal immigration. It follows that a vote for Hillary’s more ‘moderate’ campaign is a necessity to protect immigrants (namely Mexicans) and refusal to do so on the grounds of moral or political principle comes from a place of privilege. However, Hillary’s history on immigration and what she calls the Mexico “problem” is not too dissimilar. In 2006, Clinton voted for the Secure Fence Act, calling for 700 feet of 2 layered fencing across the U.S-Mexico border (i.e, a wall), and just last year she doubled down on this vote, citing the vote as an example of her commitment to ‘secure borders’. (Bernie Sanders made similar remarks) In a 2007 debate, she stated that she favoured “much more border patrolling and much more technology on both of our borders” and “even a physical barrier because I think we’ve got to secure our borders.” On multiple occasions, Clinton has called for and defended the deportation of minors fleeing violence in Central America in order to “send a message to families in Central America”. Of course, Hillary has been playing the ‘moderate’ this election and has eased up on some (but not all) of her more hawkish rhetoric and stances, however, the convenient flip flopping combined with her less than stellar track record leaves many immigrant rights activists and Latinos skeptical, so maybe a vote for Hillary is not synonymous with a vote to protect immigrants after all.
Perhaps Trump’s second most controversial stance is on Muslims; calling for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country until the administration “can figure out what is going on”, as well as the creation of a database which all Muslims in the country would be required to register in. What has to be understood is that the U.S state – a structure which Clinton serves – already maintains databases on Muslims and spies on them in multitudes of ways, whether it’s through the TSC No-Fly List, the FBI Terrorist Watchlist, or perhaps even all user/viewing data compiled over the internet by the private sector. The NSA has targeted Muslim Americans with spying, as have the FBI and the CIA, on numerous occasions – especially since the Patriot Act, which Clinton voted in favour of, was passed. On a smaller scale, the NYPD even had a unit for spying on Muslims. The only difference, it seems, is that Trump would be more transparent about his faith-based spying.
Another concern of some of those jumping the progressive ship (or at least the pseudo-progressive ship) to vote Hillary is with regards to Trump’s stance on Black Lives Matter and what it means for Black people under a Trump administration. Trump has criticized BLM as divisive, anti-police, hateful, and all around “trouble”. This critique comes as Black protestors are assaulted by his supporters at his own rallies. Trump himself has said that he “would like to punch him in the face”, speaking of a certain protester at one of his rallies. He fondly remembers the “old days” when a protester like that would have been “carried out on a stretcher”. “There used to be consequences,” he has lamented, “There are none now.” Understandably, this leads many to believe Trump would like to see a few more Kent State massacres, although perhaps forgetting about the Obama administration’s suppression of BLM using paramilitary police forces, the declaration of martial law, the FBI, and mass arrests. Clinton’s personal record on BLM and Black people is not so great either, despite some supportive tweets. BLM was barred from one of her events and upon meeting with the activists afterwards, Clinton simply went on to criticize their tactics (on multiple occasions) – her husband has done the same. BLM co-founder Alicia Garza has put it bluntly, stating “the Clintons use black people for votes but then don’t do anything for black communities after they’re elected. They use us for photo ops.” It seems the BLM activists has not forgotten Hillary’s infamous “superpredator” comment about Black youth, even if the opportunist ‘lesser evil voters’ have. Nor have they forgotten her calls for more police and tougher sentencing, or her claim that Black youth have “no empathy’ and “no conscience” and finally going on to vow to “bring them to heel”. Not only did she make this vow, but she delivered. After successfully lobbying for her husband’s 1990s crime bill (which Bernie Sanders also supported), the trend of mass incarceration, particularly of the Black population not only continued, but was helped along by the Clintons. Both Clintons have gone on to vehemently defend the racist bill, perhaps now more sheepishly than before. Voting for Hillary on the basis of ‘helping’ to ‘protect’ Black people ignores her history of racist policies and completely disregards the position of Black Lives Matter – essentially doing the same thing Garza accuses the Clinton’s of: using Black people for votes.
Another source of worry for the reluctant Hillary voters is the foreign policy a Trump presidency might bring. Perhaps this is because Trump has no real coherent foreign policy, criticizing intervention, including in the Middle East, yet declaring war on ‘radical Islam’ (which would seemingly require much intervention) in the same breath. Worryingly, he has openly advocated for U.S troops to commit war crimes. But before casting a vote for Clinton in a kneejerk response to this admittedly frightening rhetoric, it must be remembered that Hillary Clinton has more than hawkish rhetoric – she has a long, bloody history in the area of foreign policy, responsible for her own fair share of war crimes. Take, for example, her support for the Euromaidan coup in Ukraine, which brought to power an unpopular, right-wing, neoliberal government riddled with some disturbing neo-Nazi elements. In response to the Russian minority in Eastern Ukraine’s demands for autonomy and a federation to protect the minorities of Ukraine, the junta began shelling the east, at the same time cutting the citizens off from services, including the pensions so many of them rely on to survive. On top of this, humanitarian aid from Russia has been delayed by Ukrainian authorities – all of this amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Russian minority. Since the 2014 coup, more than 9000 people have been killed in the subsequent conflict, including over 2000 civilians. Ukrainian forces, often donning swastikas or other Nazi symbols, have been implicated in a number of war crimes, including rapes, abductions, and executions, but have been offered amnesty by the government. Numerous Nazi collaborators responsible for the butchering of Jews and other minorities and partisans have been honoured publicly in the streets (including by the government) while the poverty rate has hit 80% and the president’s approval rate has dropped to a mere 17%. In Honduras, Hillary Clinton played a role in the 2009 coup which ensured neoliberal privatization, sending the country spiralling into corruption and violence, becoming the murder capital of the world and a land where human rights are invisible and political suppression and U.S backed death squads are the norm. In Haiti, a country similarly embroiled in crisis, she helped to elect the neoliberal Michel Martelly (i.e, meddling in another country’s ‘democratic’ process), which has not helped improve life for Haitians, but (more importantly to Hillary) has kept the country ‘business friendly’ – so business friendly, in fact, that Clinton’s state department was able to pressure the Haitian government into not raising the minimum wage from 27 cents an hour to 67 cents an hour, in order to protect U.S business interests. Clinton voted for the destructive Iraq war, predicated on the infamous WMD lie, which has resulted in over a quarter million deaths. In Libya, Clinton was one of the main proponents of war. Since the overthrow of Libyan government led by Gaddafi, the country has been overrun by Islamists and hardly has any government to speak of. Libya is now a ‘failed state’ where different warlords and Islamist groups control different parts of the country. As hundreds upon hundreds of refugees drown in attempts to flee the now war-torn country, Clinton has no apologies or regrets – in fact, she has laughed and bragged about her role in the murder of Gaddafi. Going forward, Clinton wishes to pursue a tougher, more hawkish foreign policy towards the Middle East and Russia (including via arming the aforementioned Nazi riddled regime in Ukraine), perhaps even to the right of Trump. In fact, she has utilized this hawkishness on the campaign by deflecting when the corruption surrounding the DNC was revealed. She did so by accusing her opponent, Trump, of having links to a warhawks number one enemy – Putin’s Russia, echoing the McCarthyist scare that characterized the 1950s.
Finally, some worry not necessarily about Trump himself, but his supporters – namely KKK leader David Duke. However, the California Klan has recently claimed to have raised $20,000 for Clinton campaign, going so far as to call the Democratic candidate a “friend” of the Klan. This is not Hillary’s only troubling source of support – Wall Street has raised $23 million for the Clinton campaign and neocon upon neocon have abandoned the GOP for Hillary. She has been called “The Conservative Hope” and “2016’s Real Conservative” by some pundits. Once again, the same concerns one has for Trump must similarly be held with Hillary.
In 1906, Eugene Debs declared that “[t]he Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.” This is not to say that there is literally no difference whatsoever between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and the point of writing this piece is certainly not simply to tell anyone how to vote, instead, it is larger than that; the point is to expose the limits of voting and elections in American society. The point is that all elections in America offer two candidates who are fundamentally identical and differ to varying negligible degrees and, therefore, all those rightfully disillusioned with the state of American policy must move beyond the ballot, where third parties are systematically snubbed and even pseudo-progressives operating within the confines of the Democratic party are shut out. W.E.B DuBois poignantly put it this way, back in 1956: “There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party.” Americans have fallen for the lesser evil trap for decades, if not centuries, and it has gotten them nowhere. Instead, these people, whether they vote or not, must organize and agitate in their communities for something more. It is on the ground where people can make a difference.Lenin was correct when he identified capitalist democracy as “democracy for the rich“, just as he was correct when he posited that Communist participation in parliamentary/electoral can be useful, but also can not be the only political activity by a party which is supposed to represent the workers and broad masses of the oppressed, who will never be truly represented by such systems. Whether you vote or abstain this November, and whether you cast a third party or a Democratic vote, it is imperative that you recognize the limits of this action. Do not let the opportunists at the Democratic Party make you moralize over ‘protection’ or sacrifice your principles and values for a broken ‘democracy’ when their party has and will continue the systematic oppression of all marginalized folk, just as the Republican Party will. Do not let their fear mongering keep you buying into and participating in a corrupt, broken system. Most importantly, do not let your political action end at the ballot box.