In 1954, a now-forgotten study was conducted that, looking back, reveals more about political thought than most voters care to admit. At a time when the debate surrounding human nature was not so imbued with meaning for ordinary folks, psychologist Muzafer Sherif wanted to see what human competition – and its evolutionary analogue, cooperation – might look like in its ‘purest’ state. Of course, this is impossible to truly test, for a variety of reasons, but it is possible to get clues, or at least be nudged a little closer towards them, if one merely puts one’s biases aside and looks at things anew.
Perhaps the hidden purpose of Sherif’s study was to look at group bonding over seemingly trivial things – emphasis on ‘seemingly’, as there’s an inner reason to words, rituals, and motifs which is frequently ignored. For the first portion of this test, he organized two groups of children in Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma, into a kind of summer camp, yet run in such a way that one group couldn’t guess the other group’s existence…at least not for a while. They were both supervised, but not excessively so, and thus left to find their own meaning. Despite being thought of as ordinary children, each group quickly developed an identity, a set of ‘arbitrary’ values, an agreed-upon hierarchy, and in-group cooperation as they staked out territory and passed the time hiking, swimming, and playing games. One group thought of itself as fighters who never cried. The other group adopted an almost puritanical refusal to use foul language. They both had rituals, songs, games, and territories they’d patrol, enjoy, or simply mull over. Yet as soon as the groups learned of each other’s existence, they quickly became even more tribal, growing upset when ‘their’ land was infringed upon, further emphasizing their own rituals, challenging the interlopers, and even starting fights with weapons that had to be taken away by the adults.
Now, it could be said that at least a part of all this was ritual war: an extension of men’s competitiveness into realms that only symbolized violence, thus serving as a safe outlet for ordinary urges. Or it could be said to be an example of something far more sinister, which, had the adults not been involved, would have led to the pointless attrition one sees in tribal groups today. At any rate, something in the kids ‘knew’ to behave in ways quite like the more well-known, violent specimens in the anthropological record. To be clear, these were not children who were competing over precious resources. They were not pressured by the environment to do this or that. They were not raised without culture, but came from families who at that point in human history had seen some of the lowest rates of violence ever known. Moreover, they were screened for good health and psychological standing, meaning, they could not easily be called sociopathic, or be manipulated by one or two sociopaths among them. More likely, they were falling into live-long patterns they could not quite understand, and didn’t need to, anyway, for they had opulence, access to authority and protection if they ever needed it, but chose to go along with their instincts, regardless, for between instinct and slow, rational thought in a state of nature, it is instinct that’ll win in most situations.
And in a way, politics are no different. Over the last couple of decades, especially, politics have become more, not less, divisive, where voters are in fact life-long voters for one political party. Of course, this is classic tribal behavior, similar to what’s seen in Muzafer Sherif’s study. Just as Sherif’s kids adopted seemingly arbitrary values – cursing, not cursing, toughness, whatever – and staked out territories that had very little tangible value, then justified their instinctive responses after-the-fact, so is politics an ad hoc rationalization much of the time rather than a true debate. Don’t believe me? Then simply consider the fact that Republican and Democratic voters are split rather neatly along a 50/50 divide, with just a little variation every four years. Despite this, most people on one side believe that the other side is ignorant, or evil, or just plain wrong, a convenient explanation, perhaps, for why they are on ‘their’ side, but one that does not seriously deal with why large-scale politics – a complex exercise we have not evolved to perform rationally – is such a clean split in pretty much every single nation in the world, if not in the parties, themselves, then in the individual positions, which follow trends that parties are able to smoothly group together, and get their constituents to act upon.
Thus, when we look at the average person, their political positions are not treated with much reason at all, deducted, as they are, from some pre-formed system our brains are wired for, rather than inducted piece by piece as discrete items to be evaluated on their own terms. I mean, just think how easy it is to spot a Democrat or Republican based on a mere handful of views, whether it’s abortion, capital punishment, taxes, gun control, or judicial activism. It is as if to even belong to one political party requires that most of these positions be taken, and, if not, the person is rejected for apostasy: even for one view, and particularly if that one view is quite popular (or unpopular) at the time. This utter refusal to think inductively is especially troubling given the fact that our five or six moral foundations do not change from period to period, as they are innate, although the expression of such in the ethical dimension – a subset of morality which treats morality in the utilitarian sense – can vary widely. Yes, I am, for example, obviously anti-racist, yet if I ever find myself in a crowd of protesters for my side – say, in an anti-cop rally – I never chant, deliver slogans, clap, nor engage much with other protesters at all, since I recognize it as mob behavior, no matter how well-meaning. For as passionate as they are, today, this same mob could have just as easily been cheering at a lynching a century ago, I could have been in the crowd, I could have gotten carried away, for the ethical dimension in all this is of recent vintage, is a slave to things not easily understood.
And nowhere has this been more obvious than in the 2016 presidential race, where a particularly bad batch of candidates received, on the one hand, a lot of criticism from their respective parties, but also, perhaps in response to this criticism, some of the deepest pathological support that any candidate has ever received, even as it’s from a smaller sub-section of voters overall. I call it ‘pathological’ because, true to deductive reasoning, voters are quite prepared this time around to overlook a candidate’s flaws for the sake of voting like they’ve always done. In this all-or-nothing system, to be against Hillary means you are pro-Trump, and to be against Trump means you are pro-Hillary, even though a rational examination would reveal huge problems with both. Let’s look at Donald Trump, for instance. Although Republicans tend to lie a good deal more about, well, everything, the sheer extent and frequency of Trump’s lies is quite hard to believe in the face of his decent, Mitt Romney-like numbers. I mean, we have lies about his business record, lies about his support among financial and military experts, lies about his involvement in the birther movement, lies about his racially discriminatory past, denials of his increasingly likely sexual abuse, lies about the objective, easily-quantifiable effects of his proposed policies, and pretty much everything else imaginable, really, from the details of this or that event, to internal contradictions when he’s pressed for specifics, as well as not lies, but admissions, such as his ‘buying’ of politicians, or pimping America’s abysmal tax code, that should have disqualified Trump in a purely ethical, rationally self-interested world months ago.
Yet as I’ve argued, we don’t live in an ethical world, but a moral one. There are things that drive Trump voters – as there are things that drive Clinton voters, and third-party voters – that defy logic and detached, utilitarian viewpoints. They are the sort of seemingly arbitrary values that the children in Sherif’s study attached themselves to: toughness, a contradictory refusal to go ‘low’, in-group security, notions of what’s sacred and what’s not, and so on, as expressed more generally in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. The point is that the arbitrariness of these values is in fact quite secondary to the way such values bind others, much like beginning with one non-negotiable and logically unjustifiable axiom can create an entire self-sustaining edifice from seemingly nothing much at all. Like it or not, politics is good at generating such axioms and especially good at getting people to accept them. In one world, a person can easily become what, in this world, is defined as a liberal, whereas the expression of ‘liberalism’ in some otherwise eerily similar cosmos might appear as conservatism to us back home, and vice-versa. Morality can generate such contradictions, for morality is explicitly fluid: must be so, in fact, if it can serve any sort of evolutionary function.
Yet what of ethics, its co-mingling with morality, and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton? And what does it mean to be against Hillary, vis-à-vis Trump? Now, if it isn’t obvious from the words, above, I do not consider Donald Trump a serious candidate, and it’s pretty clear that he will lose the election if one merely looks at the data:
To me, the implications of his candidacy are less horrifying for his impossible-to-enact policies, given the fracture within the Republicans, themselves, but more so for the fact that, in being a kind of tabula rasa, and likely holding no firm convictions of his own, he will indubitably be manipulated by more genuine conservatives who will use him for their own ends. And given that the Republicans will likely hold a majority in Congress until gerrymandering is finally addressed, the risk is obvious. At any rate, it should be clear to any sane observer that Hillary Clinton is the superior candidate in temperament, competence, and knowledge, and if you disagree, this essay is simply NOT for you. There is literally nothing that can be said to convince you otherwise, for just as so many Hillary supporters deny her manifest flaws out of a childlike attachment, Trump supporters do the same not only by denying his, but also in assuming that the hundreds of scandals he’s involved in somehow do not make him less fit to run a country than a mediocre but competent politician with decades of experience doing things with more success in her field than Trump has ever been able to do in his.
Now. Let us forget Trump for a while, and move on to Hillary Clinton and her supporters. In writing against Hillary, I’ll avoid the scandals, for the most part, given how irrational most of the stranger allegations have been against both Clintons, and focus on what really matters: the record, the conduct, the stuff that’s provable, and, if not provable, then pretty easy to surmise from the available data. Let’s start at the beginning, before the e-mail bullshit, before high office, and simply look at what she’s done, what she’s likely to do, and the probable fallout from that. Then let us decide, in purely utilitarian terms, whether such a person is deserving of a presidential term, or whether our vote belongs elsewhere.
For those who might have forgotten, Clinton didn’t enter politics when she became Senator of New York in 2001. Nor did she enter politics when she became Secretary of State during Obama’s first term. Indeed, for all the praise she’s gotten for her experience, few details prior to 2008 are ever discussed, with a good chunk – half, maybe – of the criticism she’s received over the last thirty years having been unfair, or at least immaterial. That said, it’s undeniable that Hillary Clinton displayed both aptitude as well as a surprising lack of judgment practically from the beginning, even as she worked on some good, progressive issues. Recall that Clinton is an ex-conservative, and still has leanings – particularly in foreign policy – far to the right of the Democratic Party. As a kid, she campaigned for Barry Goldwater, then, in an about-face, took George McGovern’s 1972 presidential loss as a cautionary tale for trying to do too much, too soon. In a way, she’s still liable to not push too much, and is always prepared to offer concessions for reasons valid and not.
And, at first, this lesson seemed to be re-affirmed with Clinton’s ‘HillaryCare’ agenda of 1993, which began, prior to any proposals, with a skeptical public unsure of why Hillary, of all people, was tasked with such a huge overhaul even though there were more qualified candidates to choose from. In the coming months, Hillary Clinton and Ira Magiziner hammered out a plan in secret: meaning, they received little input from the politicians they needed to sway, and even ignored the advice they did receive. Later, when it was time to actually get others on board, they refused to do what was promised – get input from Republicans – despite having called a meeting with more than fifty Senators, and still remained secretive as to what the plan would do, oddly proposing tax hikes on alcohol and tobacco, for instance, or forcing unrelated corporations to shoulder the plan’s burden, and remaining unclear on more logical sources of financing. At any one time they’d float 20-30 financing ideas, some of which were better than others, as the plan became more and more bloated with needless hypotheticals. Another meeting confirmed the public’s suspicions that Clinton was out of her depth here, as she attempted to discuss policy details with lawmakers who knew the issues far better than she did. This is especially troubling given that, by some accounts, both Republicans and Democrats were impressed with many of her proposals, yet confused by the execution and how to sell what to their constituents. In the end, both parties were unhappy, with Democrats offering up their own feeble counter-plans to Hillary’s, and the entire thing died in 1994.
Contrast that with Obamacare, where Obama, from the beginning, laid out the specifics of what he wanted, then left it up to Obama-friendly lawmakers to come up with the plan’s ‘how’. Even though this was early on in his term, and without the Clintons’ advantage of having both Senate and House majorities, the plan went through regardless. More, the critiques of Obama’s plan couldn’t really come from a place of policy, but ideology, since it was economically sound and supported by medical and financial experts. Yet Hillary Clinton campaigned against Obamacare in 2008, opting for a single-payer system that’d go beyond Obama’s plan. Had Clinton finally changed her mind? Well, in 2016, when the climate’s a little different, she’s also campaigned against Bernie Sanders’s universal health care proposal, and opted, instead, to reform Obamacare: more regression, more ways of establishing some ‘difference’ between her and her opponents, even where none actually exists. Thus, I’d argue that HillaryCare did not die because it attempted ‘too much’, as the charge commonly goes, but because it came with promises and stipulations that were neither transparent, nor ever worked out in the technical sense. It wasn’t pushed forcefully, no matter what today’s revisionism says. Instead, it was given to the public piece-meal, and without confidence, as if Hillary expected it to fail, whereas Obama laid down the law from day one, insisted he’d go along with the reforms no matter what, then invited Republicans to dismantled what they needed in order to get it passed. The wisdom of this last bit can be debated retroactively, but it’s clear that while both plans were fairly similar in their end-goals, only one was ever competently worked out.
In a way, George McGovern was thus simultaneously becoming a kind of focal point and personal excuse barely two years into Clinton’s presidency, no matter how immaterial 1972 had become for Hillary. Now, instead of blaming her own lack of judgment in this or that issue, the blame could merely be placed on the zeitgeist: convenient, perhaps, and partly true, but only partly true, which is a crucial distinction to make. And this was nowhere more apparent than in Hillary Clinton’s public support for Bill Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed into law in 1996, which ran counter to Hillary’s reputation as a fighter for kids’ rights. That’s because the law placed stricter time limits on welfare, cut major benefits, and did not come with the promised co-legislation helping ex-recipients find work, as well as other stipulations discussed as part of a true compromise the Clintons were originally on board with. Indeed, with just one piece of legislation, Hillary had managed to undo pretty much everything she worked for a decade prior, to the point that her former colleagues at the Children’s Defense Fund publicly disowned her, down to her manipulative use of a black child during signing to signal the law as somehow being ‘friendly’ to poor blacks that would now be on their own. There’s much evidence that Bill Clinton, himself, ignored data suggesting that vetoing the bill wouldn’t help his re-election, yet, beyond numbers, both Clintons wished to appear likeable, to bridge the gap, as it were, even as the gap might lead to more gaps, and little else further on. Thus, one could say that Hillary’s principles were put aside – ‘just this once’, the thinking must have gone, harking back to McGovern, yet quickly turning into twice, thrice, more, as post-HillaryCare Clinton would become a kind of disembodied nobody.
Naturally, this remarkably poor decision was never admitted as a mistake, and even defended as late as 2008 as Clinton tried to court the white vote away from Obama. Interestingly, Hillary is similar to Trump in this regard since neither apologize, but move on, attack, get with the next issue because there’s always ‘more’ to be done, and less to learn from past indiscretions. Or perhaps this gives her too much credit in her pre-presidential life? For while Hillary has only become rich over the last two decades, she’s served Wal-Mart’s interests for even longer, sitting on their corporate board through the 1980s, refusing to criticize Wal-Mart’s terrible, praising Wal-Mart shoppers for ‘buying American’ even as most of its products came from abroad, including sweatshop clothing in the midst of Hillary’s own campaign against child labor! Predictably, this culminated in a huge donation to her campaign late last year, and whatever Wal-Mart, or any other large donor, really, decides to do, I think it’s fair to judge that Hillary will turn a blind eye as far as it’s politically feasible – but no more. The point is to keep office. This is what it takes. And George McGovern is no longer part of these calculations, for at a certain point, pragmatism does breed complacency, and complacency, rationalization.
If that wasn’t enough, there was also Hillary’s campaigning for Bill’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, emphasizing the ‘need’ to better police streets, fund additional private prisons, and escalate the ridiculous drug war, even as Hillary, today, bemoans the fact that incarceration has exploded over the last 30 years…despite partly being behind it, and continuing to take campaign donations from private prisons and their surrogates. It is especially shocking to consider Bill Clinton’s high favorability ratings among black voters in the face of this, given how badly this law destabilized the black community over the most anodyne offenses, yet without offering any counter-measures to deal with the inevitable fallout. No, Hillary Clinton has not admitted to this, either, choosing, instead, to get ‘back to the issues’, in her classic, smarmy, condescending manner. Indeed, for while Republicans (as under Reagan) promised a return to conservative values, more weak-willed Democrats, including the Clintons, decided they needed to outdo even them for the sake of elections, even as they understood that pushing the ‘wrong’ platform meant not only damage to their own party in the long term, but immediate damage to those whom these policies targeted. In a way, the Clintons were merely the face of Reagan-era capitulation, and would go on to perfect the things that Democrats would be unable to reverse to this day after having changed the norms so quickly, and so much. To undo these policies means to admit just who pushed these policies, and why, and what could be done to avoid them in the future, all things that Hillary refuses to tackle to this day, thus paving the way for future capitulations over new issues down the road.
And what of the last decade – the recession, rising inequality, depressed wages, and financial institutions getting away with the worst offenses? Well, a portion of that has roots in the Clinton administration, as well, whether in NAFTA’s pro-corporate entrenchments abroad, or the de-regulation of the financial world in other Clinton-era reforms. Bill Clinton, again with Hillary’s backing, passed the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, which repealed Glass-Steagall, and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act all within one year of each other, which led the way to the sort of financial nonsense that utterly defined the new millennium after the promise of ‘endless wealth’ in the 1990s. There is, again, no rational, progressive case to be made for such laws, particularly because they were not really a concession for the Clintons to be able to do more in other areas, given how badly they’d given up on key issues already. At that point, there were no other areas to plumb! I mean, hell, even George W. Bush was more aggressive in his policing of Wall Street than the Clintons, signing Sarbanes-Oxley despite Bush’s advisers attempting to undo his work. At the very least, then, this shows how much the Clintons had misjudged the popularity of conservative positions, not only opening up America to harm but further ossifying their own party as a wan sort of counter-point to Republican rage.
1993’s NAFTA was also a big selling point for both Clintons, and whereas Hillary Clinton claimed to have changed her mind about today’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, albeit only after Bernie Sanders made it an issue for Democratic voters, she will try to get it passed just as she tried to get NAFTA passed almost twenty years ago, praising it for about a decade then deciding – once again – to go with the crowd after it became politically expedient to do so. Now, to be fair, NAFTA was formally introduced by George H. W. Bush, not Clinton, and proposed, in the abstract, by Reagan. And whereas Bush wished to pass it just as it was, Clinton tried to make it a little more labor-friendly, although it’s hard to say what effect (if any) this has had. Trump’s comments on NAFTA – that it and it alone was directly responsible for the loss of manufacturing jobs, for example – are ridiculous, yes, but they’ve stuck. And that’s because the brunt of NAFTA’s ill effects revolved around tangible things: the export of American jobs into cheaper labor markets, a depression in American wages, a trade deficit, the entrenchment of new, corporate-friendly norms for globalization, and no measurable improvements to the Mexican people. Yes, there’s been some controversy regarding the quantifiable effects on Mexican corn farmers, but it’s clear that Mexico was negatively affected in other ways, reversing twenty years of progress with the advent of Latin American neoliberalism. The odd assumption at NAFTA’s core was that the slight edge to Mexico in trade could somehow make up for Mexico’s lack of dynamism, from severe inequality to lopsided investment and a looming drug war. That, coupled with America’s blocking of Mexican goods when NAFTA did, in fact, start benefitting Mexico, meant that America clearly wished to absorb all upside – with not a word from either of the Clintons against this manipulation of the ‘free’ trade they so championed. And, hell: let’s not discuss the effects of NAFTA’s de-regulatory provisions in Canada, the other country involved in all this, whose more circumspect approach to financial institutions decades prior gave way to the sort of entanglements that put America at risk in the new century. In a way, then, it’s not merely that NAFTA was a bad trade deal for so many involved, but that it also put the spotlight on trade and corporatism as the way out of poverty, thus giving Democrats a decade to ‘wait it out’ rather than focusing on more nuanced, testable solutions that would be fair to everyone and deal with more fundamental issues in a rational way.
Yet the Democrats already knew this, implicitly. Had Bush been re-elected, they would have never gone along with NAFTA, harking back to Muzafer Sherif’s insights into tribalism, and people’s willingness to follow their in-group no matter the ostensible costs. I’d like to apply this to Hillary’s next 8 years as Senator of New York, but it’s a touch hard to do because, well, she did remarkably little of note in those 8 years, voting like a typical Democrat on some matters, and like an idiot in others. More than anything, however, she’s shown a willingness to have both a public and a private position, precisely as she’s told financial institutions in her speeches. Among the more regrettable things she’s ‘changed her mind’ about, she voted, as Senator, for No Child Left Behind in 2001, when it was considered an important pivot to get Democrats back on the ‘right’ side of things, yet criticized it in 2008 when she needed a fresh position. Clinton voted for the Iraq War when, again, it served as a natural pivot in the face of 9/11, then regretted her choice when the tide had turned. Clinton famously supported her husband’s 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act, went on to claim, as Senator, that marriage ought to be a ‘sacred bond’ between a man and a woman, but then, when the poll numbers turned in favor of gay marriage, and her position was no longer tenable even among fringe Democrats, completely changed her view on the topic, culminating in an idiotic Facebook post indicating her “pride” over LGBT progress…despite ever taking much leadership on the issue, and doing all she could to sabotage it when the time was right. Of course, instead of admitting that she fucked up, Clinton, much like Trump, decided to present a revisionist account of DOMA, wherein the Act was necessary to prevent something even more dramatic from the Republican side: an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution that would be harder to undo down the line. This is untrue, such things were NOT being considered, and Occam’s Razor suggests that the simplest explanation not only offers a glimpse into a common and predictable political strategy, but is also consistent with the Clintons’ lifelong pandering to America’s lowest common denominator year in and year out.
Yet as we get closer to contemporary events, an interesting thing starts to happen. The attacks on Clinton both become more shrill, ridiculous, and flat-out wrong – hints of which could be seen in Nannygate, Travelgate, the White House FBI files controversy, and other minor scandals from the 1990s – even as her behavior in actual, more meaningful spheres of policy and self-conduct become demonstrably worse. Recall Hillary’s disgusting presidential run in 2008? The one where she made racist after racist attack upon Barack Obama, circulating a picture of Obama in African garb to feed into the fringiest of white Democratic voters, then going on to criticize Jeremiah Wright – whom she had no need to even mention – in a kind of proxy war against the future president? Sure, she apologized to him in private, yet gave the go-ahead for her campaign to continue the wild, surreptitious attacks, subtly charging Obama with ‘possibly’ being a Muslim (as if it’d matter, anyway), painted him as non-American, and equivocated when explicitly pressed on these issues, despite the fact that John McCain, months later, did more to defend Barack Obama from such charges than Hillary, the supposed fighter for minority rights, ever did.
Of course, this backfired, badly, as per yet another miscalculation on Clinton’s part regarding the Democrats’ reception of conservative values, and Hillary’s ‘pragmatic’ approach towards co-opting them. Yet for whatever reason, she was made Secretary of State under Obama. And what happened? Well, merely an intensification of the same sort of foreign record she had been building up for years, and – at least in my mind – the biggest argument against Hillary Clinton for holding the presidential office. Now, she had already voted for the Iraq war: a mistake, naturally, but only in hindsight, and only because it was pushed by a Republican administration – she’s made plenty of other mistakes since, which, going purely on history, she can’t admit to being mistakes, since the responsibility this time is purely hers. She tried to ramp up, for instance, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a means of undoing the damage she’d already done with her vote, despite having very little historical evidence of escaping such quagmires by brute force. She continues to back an unstable, irrational, and almost purely instinctual Russia into a corner through NATO, confusing NATO’s purpose as a balancing act with a means of bringing nations – no matter how justified! – into the Western orbit. She wished to ramp up our involvement in Syria, even as Obama’s far more nuanced refusal to back his infamous ‘red line’ paid dividends, and set the tone for a truly visionary approach to the Middle East. She made a disastrous incursion into Libya for no discernible reason, further cementing the kind of Iraq-era vacuums that led to ISIS in the first place. She’s a hawk on Iran, which is, to be fair, the view of many politicians, in their hypocritical ‘need’ to enforce a nuclear status quo that sees non-proliferation as something only vassal-states might do, as opposed to what nuclear arms truly are, a bargaining chip, and nothing more. Like Obama, she’s not done much to change America’s toxic relationship with Saudi Arabia, and continues to whip Iran to ‘prove’ America’s commitment on that end. And it gets stranger. Clinton even participated in a bit of dick-waving with Pacific commander Robert Willard, attempting to divert an aircraft carrier headed towards North Korea after Kim Jong-il’s 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, so that it could travel through China, first, to piss off a wholly unrelated country that is – for all of its egregious faults – still trying to transcend its own history. That she wishes to so indiscriminately apply an 1800s military ethic both to where it’s needed and unneeded means that, unlike Obama, she’s only half-prepared to deal with the 21st century, and will only get things right about half the time precisely at a time when a handful of potentially world-altering nations – China, Russia, the bit-players of the Mid-East – can go any which way if not properly nudged. Yes, some of her supporters have argued this is nothing more than ‘realpolitik’, and that Clinton is responding to basic truths of human nature. But what is missing in this analysis of human nature are other features of the anthropological record: envy, resentment, the fact that every person, state, and organism wishes to have for itself what others have taken for themselves, and that, small as they are, are still self-interested actors, and will therefore act in quantifiable ways. This is why something so conceptually simple as nuclear non-proliferation is so difficult to achieve, for those involved merely take themselves as measures of the good, whereas we are dealing with overwhelmingly amoral choices that come down to little more than respect, survival, humiliation, things few should have a monopoly over, and fewer still be able to dole out, take away.
That’s enough, at any rate, to disqualify Hillary Clinton from any vote of mine. Yet in writing against Hillary, I keep getting reminded of more. I’ve not touched most of her scandals, yet there is at least one scandal worth looking into, and that’s Hillary’s WikiLeaks problem. In some ways, it’s not a ‘real’ scandal, since there’s nothing illegal, and pretty much remains an intensification of the sorts of things we’d already seen from her. This includes her utter carelessness – bordering on impropriety, if not worse – in accepting de facto bribes from donors for personal access to the Clintons, to speeches that re-affirm, in seemingly coded language, her hands-off approach to Wall Street, and in a kind of déjà vu of her 2008 presidential bid, the undeniable corruption of the DNC vis-à-vis Hillary’s campaign, from the undermining of Bernie Sanders, to the feeding of questions before her television appearances, to her not even giving a shit about what she’s being accused of, infuriatingly giving a top campaign spot to the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz just hours after she was forced to resign, and the media’s silence on this fact. In other words, she’s not changed from the trickster of 2008, and will continue engaging in such as long as she’s politically active. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism from being treated so unfairly for so many years. Yet people don’t seem to realize that you could be wrongly maligned in one portion of your life, yet still be an utter fuck-up in other ways, too. The brain tends to look for compensations, as if to even out some cosmic score. But the tally will stick precisely as it wants, unless one could actually do something to change the numbers. My argument, quite simply, is that she has not.
Has Clinton done any good? Of course. HillaryCare was well-intended, bold – bolder and more progressive than any such measure before – but poorly designed. She’s worked on climate change, abortion laws, labor, and so on, pretty much like any other Democrat in her position does. Yet as a key Democrat, in two utterly defining administrations that spanned a total of 16 years, with another 8 years in the Senate, she’s worked just as hard to undermine the very things she’s publicly endorsed in her best moments, and developed a knack for handouts, conflicts of interest, pandering to whatever opinion might be popular at the time, and “extremely careless” behavior – to quote James Comey – that went on for the hell of it, merely because she’d once brushed off a dozen smaller scandals before, and could be reasonably confident that the future would resemble history.
And for all the attention that Hillary Clinton’s scandals have received, the media, supporters, and especially those against Hillary have lost something essential: the actual record. And the actual record suggests that we might get a president – for Clinton will be president in about a day – who sticks to an OK platform. After all, it’s a progressive agenda, is it not? But Bill Clinton’s agenda included health care, welfare reform, trade reform, and something about financial institutions, all strung together after establishing a reputation as a left-leaning populist. The results, of course, were a little different than one might expect. But that’s because Bill Clinton was a relative unknown at the time. Not so with Hillary. She’s shown exactly what she is, as well as her willingness to not be even that, when the time’s right. Because, as of now, America’s two little tribes still have two distinct chants: “I’m with her.” Then, “Jail the bitch.” The first is louder. It’ll win out. Then some other chant will start, perhaps as equally nonsensical as the first two. And Hillary will be that. It’ll stop. Then, she will stop. And wait. It will repeat, and she will continue to mime history, not make it, for she gave up on making it shortly after her commencement speech at Wellesley. She was young, speaking of the ‘impossible’, wishing to do a lot, and hoping to get a lot for it. Ah, the naivete, for here she is, almost fifty years later, having done almost nothing, yet getting everything by way of luck and regulation: for that is America, too, Clinton’s America, the America she wishes to preserve.