Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Policies Are LESS Dangerous Than the Rhetoric That Belies Them

If you support Hillary Clinton because she is at least willing to acknowledge the reality of climate change (as opposed to Donald Trump, who continues to deny the phenomenon), then you apparently believe it's okay to overcook the planet as long as we have the paperwork to show that we smelled it burning a long time ago.

If you support Clinton because she hides her warmongering behind convoluted diplomatic relationships (as opposed to Trump, who talks cavalierly about murdering innocent civilians simply because they're related to suspected terrorists), then you apparently believe that World War 3 won't affect you as long as the corporate media agrees not to cover it.

If you can make peace with Clinton's dogwhistling brand of white supremacy (which is commendably circumspect compared to Trump's overtly racist rhetoric), it's probably because you think that disproportionately imprisoning people of color for nonviolent crimes only becomes a problem for Americans when our leaders use language ill-advised enough to make us confront it.

Over and over again, people insist that Clinton is somehow a "lesser evil" than Trump because even though she will make the same mistakes, she will at least dress those mistakes in palatable language for the population. Whereas Trump would argue, "Let's get rid of freedom of the press because I don't like what reporters are writing!", Clinton knows to say, "Because we can't afford to have journalists tipping the hand of investigators to our ISIL opponents, I'm afraid the authorities will be unable to comment further on [insert tragedy/scandal here] at this time, and we're asking our friends in the press for a temporary suspension of all coverage relating to the subject."

Clinton is a lesser evil than Trump in the same way that a coral snake is less deadly than a garden hose. Sure, the hose can kill people if someone turns it into a noose--but such a noose would be crude and inefficient and prone to breaking. The coral snake, on the other hand, knows how to kill silently and repeatedly without calling attention to itself.

Trump isn't just wrong about everything. He's obnoxiously wrong--wrong in a way that will catalyze American citizens and the rest of the world to oppose him.

Clinton is wrong in a different way: the politically expedient way of Obama. She is wrong about Wall Street the same way that Obama was wrong not to jail the CEOs of the big banks (or even to break up their institutions). She is wrong about race in the same way that Obama has been wrong to defend the trappings of the carceral state (the school-to-prison pipeline, the war on drugs, and a two-tiered system of justice). She is wrong about the environment in the same way that Obama has been wrong to use non-binding agreements (such as the Paris climate deal) as sops to people who want their grandchildren to have fresh air and clean water.

Trump's brand of wrong will essentially provoke change, whereas Clinton's brand of wrong is carefully designed to perpetuate the status quo.

And yet thoughtful people continue to assert that Clinton is somehow less dangerous than Trump.

I'm talking about people like Benjamin Dixon, who fell headlong into the Clinton bungee pit on last night's installment of The Benjamin Dixon Show:

Twenty-three minutes into the video, Dixon says, "If you are a black person supporting Trump, you may not be a white supremacist, but you're sure as shit standing next to white supremacists this week at the Republican National Convention . . so I need people to explain [their] thinking and [their] rationale and give me [their] priorities."

One rationale is this: If we really want to address the institutional racism that compromises our justice system (from the beat cop to the local district attorney all the way to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Barack Obama), then we have to confront the inequities of that system. The fact that Lynch and Obama are both black only muddies the waters around the inherently racist nature of the oppressive system they support. If Trump is elected president, then when he attempts to appoint an avowed white supremacist as attorney general, the public will be galvanized into opposition (instead of blithely accepting the enforcement of white supremacist policies by Obama and Lynch simply because they happen not to be white themselves).

Dixon goes on to say: "Donald Trump may not be a Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan, but he has the support of all the Grand Masters of the Ku Klux Klan." He knows perfectly well that Hillary Clinton also has their support, but he seems to take comfort in the fact that she knows better than to brag about it. Does that really make her less dangerous than Trump? Really?

"I want to know how a gay person can vote for Trump," Dixon demands at the twenty-four minute mark. But why doesn't he want to know how any LGBTQ person of voting age can justify supporting Clinton after witnessing her absurd mental gymnastics on the question of gay marriage? 

"I want to know how a poor person can vote for Trump," he says just 20 seconds later--and goes on to argue that in a single-factor analysis based on poverty, a voter would almost certainly choose Clinton over Trump.

Why? If two people are equally committed to robbing me blind, but I know that one will later deny having robbed me and the other will brag to the police about what he did--then I would definitely prefer to be robbed by the braggart. At the very least, his bluster will make it easier for me to convince the people around me that I was robbed. And at most, it might embolden those people to stand up for me.

Dixon is plainly conscious of identity politics. He is astute in his critique of the left's inability to talk about intersectionality as effectively as neoliberals do, but that doesn't seem to keep him from assuming that someone who overtly champions the oppression of the marginalized (Trump) is less likely to lead to an overhaul of the system than someone who covertly champions their oppression (Clinton).

Despite apocryphal reports to the contrary, Abraham Lincoln probably didn't credit Uncle Tom's Cabin (by Harriet Beecher Stowe) with starting the U.S. Civil War. But he may as well have done so in light of the novel's tremendous popularity (which made it second only to the Bible in U.S. sales in the 19th century). Even though Stowe's novel didn't start the Civil War all by itself, it helped solidify public opinion against slavery in the 1850s by presenting millions of readers with a despicable slave owner named Simon Legree. If a fictitious Legree could have such an effect in the age of the printing press, just imagine what a flesh-and-blood Trump will do for progressive values in the era of social media.

With an option like Jill Stein available to us, I believe that only a lunatic could vote for either Trump or Clinton. But if you are a) committed to change and b) convinced that you have to choose between either Clinton or Trump, then I don't see how anyone (from ethnic minorities to the LGBTQ community to environmental activists and peaceniks) can doubt that Trump is the far saner choice.

1 comment:

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