The “lesser-of-evils” argument might not work for independent voters this year.
For those who hope for swift unity in the Democratic Party, there are reasons to believe it won’t happen if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.
While there are serious policy differences between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a deeper fault line between their supporters must be acknowledged.
Certainly the two candidates remain far apart on issues that matter to progressives and independents — fracking, the TPP, tuition-free public colleges, universal single-payer healthcare, racist policing — to name just a few. Indeed, based on policy and political strategy, many independents and Democrats see Clinton as more like a traditional Republican. Many even see it as indicative of privilege if one supports Clinton over Sanders, given the current state of the economy and the environment. Many intelligent progressives see the two candidates as representing different social classes.
Nevertheless, a debate about policy differences only partially explains the disconnect between Clinton, on the one hand, and Democrats, independents, and progressives, on the other. Clinton has begun incorporating into her speeches many core issues of the Sanders campaign, including some mentioned above, but there remain deeper reasons many intelligent left-leaning voters remain unable to support Hillary Clinton: dishonesty and scandals.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
These deeper issues aren’t generally considered important by writers in the mainstream media. They paint Clinton’s dishonesty and scandals as Republican fabrications or as remnants of longstanding political vendettas that no longer matter. Writers, like yours truly, are generally accused of supporting the Republican if we even mention Clinton’s deeper shortcomings; we are also accused of sexism if we happen to be men.
So I will be attacked for writing this article. But I find it important nonetheless to try to help Democrats understand why, on a level deeper than just policy, intelligent non-sexist progressives and independents are generally unable to support Hillary Clinton.
First, it’s important to state that some of the scandals and darker rumors about Hillary and Bill Clinton are indeed the result of baseless political attacks. I’ve left those out of this article as much as possible.
Some Clinton scandals however are about real events, crimes, and misdemeanors, and those scandals are what must be acknowledged.
Just because a Republican says something doesn’t automatically mean that it’s false. Just because you don’t like the news that a messenger brings doesn’t mean that the messenger is wrong. Just because a journalist writes about the many reasons intelligent progressives are unlikely to support Clinton does not mean that that journalist is sexist or supports the atrocious and fraudulent candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is very bad, and must be defeated, but that doesn’t automatically make Clinton good in the minds of independent and progressive voters.
The truth is that poll after poll finds that people across the political spectrum do not trust Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders polls way ahead of her on the topic of honesty and trustworthiness — by as much as 50 points — and if he’s the nominee, polls show he would unite the left and independents in a way that Hillary will not.
Voters find even Trump — who seems to concoct his own facts and policy positions during each and every speech — more trustworthy than Clinton, by 8 points and growing.
Corporate media pundits who write for publications supporting Clinton (I’m looking at you, New York Times, CNN, NPR, and MSNBC) shrug off these numbers as the simple product of longstanding attacks on her credibility by her opponents. This is exactly the kind of nonchalant dismissiveness and shoddy journalism that doesn’t wash with intelligent progressives and independents anymore. There are many, many politicians who have been in the public eye for decades; only a handful are seen to be as dishonest as Hillary Clinton.
It’s not rocket science. The unbiased history shows that she does lie and obfuscate more frequently than other politicians, and she has changed her policy positions more often than most.
Intelligent voters notice this. Clinton rarely seems to be speaking her mind. She appears to calculate before speaking what specific words she should use to kill off a line of questioning, rather than engage in open discussion.
Barack Obama once said, “Hillary Clinton will say anything, and change nothing.” These words resonated with voters in 2008, and they resonate again now.
What She Says, or What She Does
To really understand why non-sexist, intelligent progressives and independents are unable to support Clinton we have to look at some historical patterns that provide a basis for mistrust.
Author Michelle Alexander has eloquently explained that Hillary Clinton and her husband bear much responsibility for the rise of mass incarceration of African Americans and the “new jim-crow.” Alexander explores the uncomfortable awareness that the Clintons might be as racist as Trump, but just hide it better. When someone is viewed as dishonest, what they do and have done becomes much more important than what they say.
Intelligent progressives also know that because of who Hillary is, as journalist Naomi Klein puts it, she is unfit and unable to address the crucial issues of climate change and wealth inequality. In other words, regardless of what she says, her longstanding connections to corporations such as Walmart, Monsanto, and Goldman Sachs formed her worldview long ago and she is unwilling—and unable—to change. What is worse is that she can speak out on the campaign trail as if she would challenge these corporations, but whether or not she would is less important than the sense that she is dishonest and secretive and will say anything to get elected.
Her Damn Emails
Let’s look at a very recent, pertinent event. FBI Director James Comey reported to the nation this month on the findings of an FBI investigation into Clinton’s secret use of a private email server to conduct official business.
Many people remember Hillary last year answering questions about this secret server. Even Bernie Sanders said, “We’re tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
It turns out virtually everything she said last year about her secret server was contradicted by Comey and the FBI: video
To neutral observers, and to intelligent progressives, this scandal isn’t “much ado about nothing,” as some diehard Clinton supporters maintain.
The fact that she set up her own email server and used her own personal email accounts isn’t just probable evidence that she broke numerous parts of the Espionage Act and thus might no longer qualify for security clearance. It’s an even bigger deal when one considers the allegations, discussed below, that Clinton ran the state department partly for personal enrichment by accepting large donations to the Clinton Foundation from repressive countries for which she approved weapons deals. If she sent classified information via her personal email account or communicated secretly with countries or foreign nationals who were donating to the Clinton Foundation, and then wiped her private server, this could point to serious corruption.
An Honest Appraisal of Scandals, Fraud, and Worse
Dozens of scandals have swirled around the Clinton’s rise through Arkansas and national politics. It would be difficult to compile a full appraisal of these scandals, as there are so many, but doing a short survey of them should go a long way toward explaining why the “lesser-of-evils” argument probably won’t work for independent and progressive voters considering their options in November.
I’ve chosen four that I think best provide an understanding of the state of mind of independent and progressive voters.
1. Election Rigging and Fraud.
This is a current scandal on the minds of voters today. As has been documented extensively in both the corporate and alternative media, this Democratic primary was rigged in countless ways for Clinton from the very beginning. The media began counting superdelegates in October as if they’d already voted even though today they still haven’t; the DNC performed something shockingly similar to money laundering for the Clinton campaign to circumvent donation maximums and funnel millions to her campaign; the debates were reduced, canceled, or scheduled at times few people would watch, which prevented Bernie Sanders from becoming better know earlier in the primary; and the primary rules as a whole were written and rewritten by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who happens to be a longtime Clinton friend and ally.
Even worse: voter rolls were mysteriously purged in many states; caucus rules were changed suddenly; and actual votes were flipped by the thousands in many states, according to scientific analysis.
In nearly every single instance, the election fraud and rigging of the rules favored Clinton.
The fact that Clinton benefited so much from all of this and never said anything about it, for many, is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s one thing if an imperfect system is a little bit unfair here and there. It’s another thing if the rules are systematically broken, always in favor of one candidate, and the beneficiary simply takes the spoils and runs. Mathematicians and election analysts have shown that when likely fraud is taken into account, Bernie Sanders may be rightfully winning right now going into the convention. At the very least, if Clinton values party unity, she should call for investigations and, where merited by evidence, request recounts or even revotes. That would go a long, long way to building party unity. Most voters want, first and foremost, a basic sense that the election has been fair.
This scandal has gotten little corporate media coverage so far, but it has been covered extensively in alternative media. Were Clinton viewed generally as trustworthy, this might not matter so much, but as it is, it’s a reason many independent voters remain uneasy, if not outright suspicious, about Hillary.
2. The Clinton Foundation.
Mentioned above, this scandal is problematic even from a nonpartisan standpoint. There is a disturbing correlation between large donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation from repressive regimes, on the one hand, and enormous weapons deals approved for those same repressive regimes by the Clinton-led State Department, on the other. To an honest, nonpartisan observer, it appears raising money for her foundation was at least as important as sending arms to repressive Middle Eastern regimes.
Here’s a short segment that covers this scandal in a vituperative but informative documentary by investigative journalist Abby Martin:Empire Files video clip
3. Drug Money in Arkansas.
Of the many other scandals surrounding the Clintons’ rise to power in Arkansas and Washington, DC— I’m leaving out anything to do with Bill Clinton’s affairs and alleged sexual violence — this one scandal, to many progressives and independents, is the most damning. You don’t have to be a Republican to become suspicious when you learn the role the Clintons played in the longstanding importation of cocaine into the rural Mena, Arkansas airport by the CIA; this took place as part of the Iran-Contra scandal, while Clinton was governor of Arkansas.
The corporate media at first ignored the Mena story, but as numerous independent sources reported that the Clintons’ reaped benefits from this cocaine trafficking, it eventually broke through into the corporate media too, where it was only somewhat contained.
Millions in cash were evidently laundered through a state agency the Clintons created — the Arkansas Development Finance Authority — and some of the money was used to fund their political rise.
4. Dead People.
This one is the most difficult to contemplate, most difficult to prove, and most difficult to ignore. I chose it because it would seriously stain a Clinton candidacy in the eyes of many independent voters come November.
Ninety-one people who have been close, politically or personally, to the Clintons have died in unusual or unexplained circumstances during the Clintons’ time in Arkansas and national politics. Not included in that devastating count are two people who died just in the past month: Young DNC data director Seth Rich, who was managing Democratic Party voter records and had a passion for election integrity, was murdered via four shots to the back in Washington DC; and John Ashe, former UN President who was about to testify in a corruption case surrounding a Chinese businessman with connections to the Clintons, died in New York apparently from a dumbbell falling on his neck.
Please note that I’m not making an allegation about either of these particular murders, just conveying the horrifying sense of this strange series of deaths. This piece recounts forty or so of the worst, if you want to read more. Perhaps it’s enough to say that many independent and progressive voters view the Clintons as actual criminals. For many people, there’s just too much evidence to reject out of hand these deaths as—to use the most anti-intellectual epithet of our time—a ‘conspiracy theory.’ It’s an ugly picture indeed.
Aura of Secrecy and Avoidance
Ultimately Hillary Clinton’s campaign managers must know that she either has things to hide or simply fears speaking freely. Whatever the reason, she hasn’t held any public news conferences this entire year. Let me say that again: While running for the highest office in the land, Hillary Clinton hasn’t held a single public news conference where the media can ask her questions.
This aura of avoidance adds to a perception that she’s dishonest and secretive. Whether or not she’s hiding something, avoiding the press provides another reason to think that she is hiding something. The easiest way to dispel perceptions of dishonesty and secrecy is simply to speak more and to speak more openly. Hillary Clinton doesn’t do this, and so we’re all left with our own assumptions about her.
Some voters will assume that she has nothing to hide and that all of this is a Republican or sexist plot to discredit her.
Other intelligent progressives and independents of all ages, races, and genders assume that she does have something to hide. There seem to be scandals within scandals surrounding her, and, in a nutshell, this is why so many intelligent people do not trust her and cannot support her.
If Clinton becomes the nominee, this mistrust does not bode well for party unity, and it might prove foolish to expect the “lesser of evils” argument to work in an election against Donald Trump, as ridiculously bad as his candidacy is. Many progressives and independents will vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein, write in Bernie Sanders on their ballots, or simply stay home.
If the Democratic Party delegates, on the other hand, cast the remaining 700 votes to award Bernie Sanders the nomination at the convention in Philadelphia, they will nominate a candidate not only more trustworthy than Donald Trump, but a historically honest, trustworthy, and scandal-free candidate. Bernie Sanders will likely appeal to progressives and independents across the spectrum, unite the entirety of the Democratic party, and defeat Donald Trump in a November landslide.
This article originally appeared, and since removed, on the Huffington Post Opinions page on July 20, 2016
June 22, 2016: Election Fraud ‘Conspiracy’
I watched HBO’s Hacking Democracy, Uncounted, footage of the AZ Committee hearing on voting issues, TYT, and numerous media coverage on the voter roll purges in NYC. It is overwhelming clear that democracy doesn’t function in the US. The obstacles to voting are often insurmountable. It is the epitome of hypocrisy that this occurs in a nation that invades other, autonomous countries under the guise of democracy.
June 7, 2016: Our final Super Tuesday
The mainstream media announced last night that Clinton is the Democratic nominee, despite the fact that our largest state hasn’t voted yet and ~20% of the delegates remain. Based on my previous essay, I understand how it could come to this, but I’m still so disappointed in the people that can vote for Clinton IN A PRIMARY. In all my recent political conversations with family, friends & Democrats Abroad peeps, I’ve never heard convincing reasons to vote for her. Everyone says ‘because she’s better than Trump’ or because she’s a woman. Voting for her because you don’t like Trump is completely irrelevant because it’s a PRIMARY and we’re currently comparing two Democratic candidates. Furthermore, her favorability ratings are extremely low and many general election polls show her losing or very narrowly winning against Trump in November. People are completely ignoring the fact that Sanders BEATS Trump in every general election match-up by a nice, wide margin. I’m #stillSanders. Counting on you CA, NJ, MT, NM, ND, SD & DC! Meanwhile, to those who have said from the beginning that Sanders doesn’t stand a chance & haven’t voted for him: congratulations on contributing to a potentially self-fulfilling prophecy, let’s hope your district wins in Trump’s 2018 Hunger Games.
May 18, 2016: Voting woes & party foes
Including the latest results from Oregon & Kentucky, there has been a total of 48 contests in the Democratic Primary. There are 9 remaining contests with the District of Columbia wrapping things up on June 14.
|States & territories won||26||21||1|
|% Strong wins||38%||40%||23%||100%|
Source: NYT. *Narrow-margin wins indicate it was a near tie with the resulting delegate allocation being a difference of 2 or less.
This entire primary process has been marred by incessant accusations of election fraud, most notably in Arizona, New York, Maryland & Kentucky. In Arizona, voters’ registrations seemingly changed overnight and primarily affected Independents who had swtiched to Democrats in order to participate. Thousands of voting records were purged in New York, predominantly in Brooklyn. Baltimore de-certified its results to review irregularities. Out of 120 counties in Kentucky, 31 or 26% reported election fraud. Bill Clinton illegally campaigned for his wife outside polling places in Illinois, New York & Massachusetts. Of course, Clinton won in all of these states. Exit polls in many states differed significantly from reported results.
If it was easy to vote in the primaries, Sanders would have already cinched the nomination. While I believe that the Clinton campaign has some hackers and party insiders skewing results, the general dwindling of American democracy hasn’t happened overnight.
In 1965, LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act into law to prevent racial discrimination in the voting process. In 2013, the Supreme Court basically ruled the VRA to be irrevelant & outdated. Since its effectual inefficacy, some states, Arizona & Texas for example, have reduced & reallocated polling places and introduced voter ID requirements. These actions disproportionately affect blacks, latinos, and poor people. I don’t understand how the Supreme Court can naively, or perhaps conspiratorially, declare racism a non-issue in a country where Donald Trump gains support from uneducated sheep by scapegoating Mexicans & muslims.
Furthermore, closed primaries, superdelegates, corporate campaign donations & the 2-party system itself contribute to the disenfranchisement of all American voters. These developments could largely go unnoticed because the public had become so blasé about politics. People didn’t bother registering to vote. Of registered voters, less than half went to the polls. Of registered voters, more than 40% identified OUTSIDE the 2 main parties and instead registered as Independent, Green, etc.
Enter Bernie Sanders. Sanders has inspired millions of people to (re)enter politics. Millions changed, or at least attempted to change, their party affiliation solely to vote for him. This resurgence in participation has accentuated the undemocratic characteristics of our ‘democracy.’
It’s time for the 2-party system to end. Every general election poll shows Clinton & Trump nearly tied and many ‘supporters’ are only voting for one out of contempt for the other. Contempt for the system is now creating space for additional parties. With the media attention (though nothing compared to the free publicity Trump receives every time he opens his mounth, but that’s for the ‘Medien’ section) Sanders has garnered thus far, he would be a successful third-party candidate. I hope he says screw the system & runs on an Independent or, in a collaboration with Jill Stein, Green party ticket. The second-time Green party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, is starting to breakthrough mainstream media barriers and has more than doubled her support base since 2012. Stein & Sanders have essentially the same platform and I especially like Stein’s inclusion of food-process reform and investment in active & public transportation as part of the overall overhaul of our healthcare system. Both candidates will put “people, planet, and peace over profit” (Jill 2016).
Democratic candidate comparison
Facts about HILLARY:
- 8 years experience as an elected official in the Senate.
- Opposed same-sex marriage until 2013: opposed during 2008 presidential campaign; Defense of Marriage Act & ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ created under Bill.
- She SHAMED sexual assualt victims – hello 90s!
- Expects to raise > $1 billion from corporate PACs in this campaign though says she wants to overturn Citizens United. Furthermore, top campaign contributors incl. investment banks & credit card companies – the sectors she says she’ll be tough on; presumably by telling them to ‘cut it out’ again.
- Voted YES for all the WARS in Iraq*, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, which destabilized the region & caused the formation of ISIS.
- Will not outright oppose fracking & promoted it around the world. Let’s not forget she was also an early supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
- Supported/supports trade agreements that send jobs overseas.
- The Clinton Foundation is charity fraud that receives millions in donations from oppressive regimes (where women’s, religious, & human rights are nonexistent) in exchange for arms deals, favors, & access.
I honestly believe that people who support Hillary Clinton as our next president have extremely limited or selective memory, are completely delusional, or are generally uninformed about domestic & foreign policy. Based on her policy & record, I will NEVER vote for her. I cannot vote for her. I will not be scared into voting for her by the DNC. I owe nothing to the DNC and people should vote based on politican’s policy positions, NOT party lines.
I think it’s time for a new party system altogether. Millions of Americans are completely dissatisfied with choosing red or blue. Maybe I want green or a whole rainbow. If a party does not accurately & honestly represent people’s beliefs, then it’s time for that party to go. It’s time to take back our democracy.
I voted for the guy who has ALWAYS supported equality & peace.
Facts about Sanders:
- 34 years experience as an elected official as mayor, Representative and Senator.
- Lifetime supporter of same-sex marriage; LGBT, family, & civil rights: he marched with MLK & got arrested protesting segregation!
- Against corporate money in politics, i.e. Citizens United, and not accepting it in this campaign.
- Dedicated environmental proponent. My favorite quote from the debates was when the candidates answered if they support fracking. Clinton rambled on for like 10 minutes explaining the restrictions she would put in place while Bernie simply said, “My answer is a lot shorter than hers… NO, I do not support fracking.” Ha!
- Calls for a national $15 minimum wage incl. tipped jobs.
- Tuition-free university to be paid by Wall St. speculation tax.
- Supports minimum 12-week paid family leave to give us, especially new parents, a better work-life balance.
I hate when people say that the U.S. can’t afford Sanders’ proposals or that it is an utopian dream. To them I say, “Stop! Your ignorance is showing!” All it takes is a REALLOCATION of tax dollars AWAY from interventionist wars in the Middle East and INTO education, healthcare & infrastructure. Look at basically every country in Europe & Scandinavia if you don’t believe me.
I also think it’s quite barbaric & heartless to be against democratic socialism on the grounds that it makes people lazy, dependent or unmotivated. Isn’t the human species civilized enough to have empathy? Or doesn’t your religion encourage empathy? MILLIONS of Americans are one minor accident away from financial disaster, living hand to mouth or paycheck to paycheck. I WISH my tax dollars benefited society as a whole instead of supporting the military-industrial complex.
*Clinton now says voting yes for Iraq was a mistake. A President can NOT make these kinds of mistakes that cause loss of life, destabilize regions & create increased terrorism. We can begin MANY sentences with “Clinton now says…” because she is consistently on the wrong side of history.
If you feel obliged to vote for a woman, then vote for Jill Stein!