Hillary: the progressive choice?

24 Apr

When you’re young you’re thinking, ‘where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie. 
Gloria Steinem

Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other! 
Madeleine Albright

Clinton will put women’s rights (read: human rights) at the center of her presidency. And that should excite you whether you’re a man or a woman …  
Lucia Graves

Gloria Steinem – ‘woman needs man like fish needs bicycle’  – was a major figure in the sixties and seventies Women’s Movement, Madeleine Albright Secretary of State under Bill Clinton. Lucia Graves is a writer and Guardian US columnist*. All three use feminist arguments in urging Americans to back Hillary Clinton as the progressives’ choice.

US Secretary of State Albright oversaw sanctions on Iraq which not only crippled an advanced and largely state run economy but, according to UNICEF, caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five. In 1996, 60 Minutes presenter Lesley Stahl put it to her: was that price worth it?  Tough question, said Albright, but yes.

Hillary Clinton voted for the invasion of Iraq and, as US Secretary of State herself, was a prime architect of the mayhem in Libya and Syria, the rise of ISIS and Europe’s refugee crisis. Her own chilling epitaph on Gaddafi’s sodomisation by knife blade – ‘we came, we saw, he died’  – was delivered with a facial expression and body language that radiated both personal pride and confidence that her joy was widely shared. That confidence was probably justified. Gaddafi, like Saddam before him and now Assad and Putin, had been demonised for so long by our less than entirely impartial media it’s likely the only problem most westerners had with the manner of his death was that it was neither televised nor sufficiently protracted. There are major differences between each of those four men but when we leave out Putin the remaining three have this one thing in common: as Arab leaders they oversaw forms of state capitalism which, whatever their  faults – wildly and deceitfully overstated in the case of Syria and to lesser degree of Libya too – enabled levels of prosperity, literacy and social welfare greater than those of any comparable free market regime, for instance those dictated by IMF brokerage.

State capitalism is anathema to neoliberalism. (See Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine as the best non-marxist text on the mechanisms used by Washington to destroy it.) While dismayingly high numbers of westerners, including many on the left who really should know better, embrace with greater or lesser reluctance the quaint idea that these regimes horrified Washington with their unspeakable vileness and tyranny, history shows that to be marginally below flat-earthism on the credulity scale. America simply does not go around backing struggles for democracy out of the goodness of its heart. Look at its track record on Latin America, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine. What it does do, with a regularity almost as depressing as its success in passing itself off as a force for good, is hijack or fabricate struggles for democracy where that suits Wall Street in the short term, and/or US hegemony in the medium and long term. It’s too crude (pun unintended) to say western propensity to rain death on the middle east is all about oil, but even that kind of reductionism gets nearer the truth than the drivel on democracy.

Now let’s put all this together. First, Clinton’s warmongering, and closeness to a Big Capital whose support is always conditional on payback, are not separate but inextricable. (That’s true even before we get to a US economy driven by arms-spend – hence boosted by war – and world economy driven by arms-led US debt and China’s need to recycle its surplus.) Second, Albright is a special case who may herself have earned a hot seat in the afterlife. Steinem and Graves are in this respect more ordinary, more representative of those who see in Clinton a force for women’s liberation. (Younger women, perhaps because they’ve grasped that their sex experiences the worst of all  oppressions, including those of class and empire, are – as Steinem noted but misdiagnosed with a breathtaking condescension she’s since had the grace and wit to apologise for – less prone to this illusion.) Cheerfully skipping over Clinton’s record, if they even troubled to study it, Steinem and Graves take at face value both her feminist credentials and reputation for sober realism and getting things done – getting things done!  – these last echoing in more risible form claims made for house flipper Yvette Cooper in the UK’s Labour Leadership race. Why drag that  in? Because Clinton and Cooper have both been touted as candidates of choice, for those seeking progressive values tempered by steely pragmatism, in elections thrown into turmoil by the entry of anti-austerity candidates.

Which brings us to Bernie. Though to the right of Corbyn he is a product of the same wellspring of anger that has seen the rise of Syriza, Podemos and Die Linke. (That anger also nurtures – as it did in the twenties and thirties, when capitalism was last laid bare for all with eyes to see – a commensurate rise in right wing populism.) Sanders’ flaws are most striking on foreign affairs, are greater than Corbyn’s, and merit a dedicated post. For now let’s say neither could possibly deliver on the hopes and expectation they inspire, a fact reflective of the oxymoronic nature of democratic socialism within capitalist states run by and for their ruling classes. I’d be thrilled to see either man victorious but I’d be even more fearful of rightwing backlash, and more fearful still of a Syriza-like cave in that would demoralise the left for decades to come – and sound a death knell for real  progressive values.

Meanwhile I promise – cross my heart – not to accuse those who prefer Hillary to Bernie of antisemitism. In return please, please  do not take my detestation of all this unprincipled opportunist stands for as evidence of sexism on my part. Thanks.

Postscript 3/4/2016. Gary leupp, Associate Professor of History at Tufts University, gives a useful 10,000 worder on Hillary Clinton’s record in today’s CounterPunch
* 16/8/2016. My orginal post said her “father gave us I Claudius, White Goddess and Goodbye to All That”. Technically that’s bollocks – wrong Lucia Graves.

4 Replies to “Hillary: the progressive choice?

  1. I’ve been saying for at least a year that Hillary would carry the Democratic nomination. I admit that this was just my smart alec way of demonstrating my grasp of the utter predictability of the US political process. It’s Hillary’s turn. She’s waited long enough, kissed enough arse.
    ‘He came, we saw, he died’ is neither funny nor remotely witty, even though she herself thinks that in these debased times it might pass for something Talleyrand could’ve said. It’s a rotten, cruel remark, passed by a rotten cruel woman. The next president of the United States.

  2. I’m not saying that you are sexist but I fear a lot of the resistance to Hillary is . I worry about this (and not because I am a big Hillary fan) and am not surprised by an interesting analysis of her ratings in the US whenever she announces running for office (power!) her popularity plummets, when otherwise it is high, based on her work as First Lady, on welfare reform and as Senator). Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?

    Take a look here for more if you’re interested (too uncritical for me overall but got some good points): http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/11/1537582/-The-most-thorough-profound-and-moving-defense-of-Hillary-Clinton-I-have-ever-seen

    I’ve been musing on a Clinton/May/Eagle/Merkel/Colau scenario and there must be others….very interesting.

    • Thanks Jackie. Only a hard core denialist would deny there’s sexist – nay, misogynist – resistance to a female US President. However … one, Clinton’s sex is insufficient ground for ignoring the death she’s rained down on the middle east (it’s even possible some of the victims were female!) and the neoliberal outlook (it’s even possible some of those Americans thrown into poverty are female!) that puts her in such close relations with a Big Capital that, as I say in my piece, always looks for payback. Sanders, for all his faults, was always the more progressive choice.

      Two, there has been a coordinated drive in corporate and social media to paint all opposition to her as either sexist or, when coming from women, a betrayal. That second category is is why I began my post with the Steinem and Albright assertions.

      I’m afraid the Daily Kos piece mixes generalisation with strawman argument and fails entirely to address the nitty gritty of Clinton’s war mongering. I remain unmoved, and unimpressed by that throwaway finale: “She’s going to be a fine president. I’m with her.”

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