Hillary Clinton in Context: Progressive-ly Capitalist

I’ll start by being transparent. If I were asked what the most important election issue is, my immediate response would likely be: the environment. But in truth, there isn’t a single most important issue because they’re all important. I’m not trying to sound corny or pretentious. When I say every issue is equally important what I mean is that all the issues are deeply interconnected. If you support environmental preservation then you simultaneously care for the sustainability of our communities, which is directly related to challenging corporate interests, and promoting minority rights. I hope the connections between seemingly disparate campaign issues becomes clearer as I proceed to tease out the relevant information about Clinton and Sanders. If the below feels heavily slanted against Clinton I hope it becomes obvious why. The thought central to my inquiry into ‘Clinton vs. Sanders’ is this: which candidate can we entrust the future to. I’m in no way concerned with my own welfare and how any of these issues affect ME; rather, I’m concerned with how these issues affect humanity as a whole, with the understanding that the Earth is the only home we have. So that’s where I’m coming from.

 Historical-Environmental Context

For years now our Earth has continuously gotten warmer, and this year climate change has contributed to the hottest temperatures ever since we started keeping track.

The next president will come into office with their back up against the climate wall. Put simply, we are just plain out of time…everything is moving faster than the scientific modeling has prepared us for. The ice is melting faster. The oceans are rising faster.[1]

You may not be convinced by the apocalyptic degree of danger that the Earth is in- which is fine, since a lot of people also didn’t think the earth was round or that it revolved around a sun at one point either- but you may be convinced that environmental care corresponds directly with impacting our economy, social welfare, and all things progressive. Taking care of the environment and reducing CO2 emissions, for example, have direct ramifications on big businesses, the most powerful of which are entrenched in the fossil-fuel industry, which in turn affects international relations and human rights. Addressing climate change means challenging the hegemony of the two most wealthy and powerful forces on the planet- fossil-fuel corporations and the banks that finance them. So which candidate is best equipped to go toe-to-toe against the unstoppable wave of capitalistic forces and redirect the course of history? (If you’d like to learn more about the environmental crisis we face I highly recommend this entertaining and easily digestible 9-episode Showtime series: Years of Living Dangerously)

Clinton Money Complicit in Climate Change

When challenged that her campaign was in part being funded by fossil-fuel companies, Clinton supporters- ranging from California Senator Barbara Boxer to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to NYT columnist Paul Krugman[2]– all came out of the woodwork attempting to silence a supposed non-issue, denouncing the fossil-fuel allegations as lies. Greenpeace calculates that $4.5 million of the Clinton campaign has received money from fossil-fuel connected donors. But there’s more. Among Clinton’s benefactors is one Warren Buffet who is “up to his eyeballs in coal, including coal transportation and some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country.” Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron have all contributed to the Clinton Foundation in recent years. Including Enbridge lobbyists– and it should be highlighted that as Secretary of State, Clinton signed off on the Enbridge pipeline (alternative to Keystone XL pipeline) to be constructed to transport crude oil from Alaska to Wisconsin despite the negative impact it will have on climate change.[3] This just screams abuse of power and an agenda that is clearly pro-corporate interests and antithetical to environmental ethics.[4] Three lobbyists from Enbridge, the company responsible for building the pipeline, are contributing to Clinton’s campaign. From fossil-fuel companies to its lobbyists to businesses directly tied to fossil fuel interests, Clinton’s campaign is buried deep in an ideology that is fundamentally opposed to environmental care. And it doesn’t end there.

On the issue of fracking, she has promoted and sold the idea around the globe. ‘Fracking’, for those unfamiliar, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture hard to reach rocks to extract the gas inside. It takes 400 tanker trucks to carry a total of 1-8 million gallons of water, chemicals and supplies to the site. Of the 600 chemicals used in fracking fluid, more than a few are carcinogenic and toxic: lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, methanol, hydrochloric acid, just to name a few. 500k active gas wells in the U.S. x 8m gallons of water per frack x 18 times a well can be fracked= 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals needed to run the wells. During this process methane gas and toxic chemicals are leaked out into nearby groundwater, 17x higher than in normal wells, water which is used for drinking in nearby towns and cities. Waste fluid is then left to evaporate releasing harmful compounds into the atmosphere adding to the concentration of all the shit already trapped up there.[5]

In 2011 Bulgaria signed a 5year $68m deal with Chevron granting millions of acres in shale gas concessions. This deal outraged Bulgarians and the government responded by passing a fracking ban. Clinton then intervened on behalf of Chevron -who conveniently financially supports Clinton- and weeks later Bulgaria’s parliament eased its moratorium on fracking.[6] (Which coincidentally also influenced neighboring country Romania to reverse its ban on fracking.) This is just one small episode in a much larger and insidious narrative of promoting fracking for political interests that are antithetical to fighting climate change.

OK, so Clinton is clearly not qualified to lead the charge to save our environment. Likewise, she is unqualified to lead the charge in economic reform considering how closely climate change and big business is related. But she has ‘experience’. This misconceived belief in Clinton’s experience has led her supporters to arrive at the conclusion that she ‘gets things done’- but what kind of things?

The Clinton Experience

Sure, Clinton might be great at warring against Republicans, and has more experience in office than Sanders does, but what good is said experience if it just results in more of the same? Well-meaning voters pay lip service to this concept of ‘experience’ but what does it really mean other than feeling at home in a system that has become comfortable with zero accountability. The kind of ‘experience’ that Clinton embodies is not the kind that brings about change; to lean on this concept of experience is not progressive, it is being beholden to a concept of value correlated with accumulated and fetishized moments of time. The ‘experience’ of someone with a corporate ideology is the experience that her supporters are blindly referring to– the kind that votes for the Iraq war, that votes for the Monsanto protection act, that has promoted fracking around the globe, that has catered to fossil fuel and big business interests. Someone mired in the experience of this cesspool of power is not suited to the task of implementing or sustaining any notion of progressive change.

Since its inception the Clinton Foundation  has operated under the belief that any problem can be solved by partnering with the wealthy– so one shouldn’t be surprised by what powerful influences shape her policies. Her so-called ‘solutions’ always come packaged as market-friendly, appeasing the interests of the powerful and rich while giving the illusion of being progressive among voters. Such as the Bulgaria/Chevron incident above. How it looked on the surface was: providing affordable fuel, but underneath this supposed ‘win’ lurks the acceleration of global warming and the increase of a major corporation’s power, a corporation that helps fund her campaign. Scenarios like this have become the norm with the Clintons’ win-win ways. But this give and take, while on the surface seems effective, has been the very ideology that has brought our environment (both natural and economic) into the crisis it faces today.

Sanders and his supporters understand something critical: It won’t all be win-win. For any of this to happen, fossil-fuel companies, which have made obscene profits for many decades, will have to start losing. And losing more than just the tax breaks and subsidies that Clinton is promising to cut. They will also have to lose the new drilling and mining leases they want; they’ll have to be denied permits for the pipelines and export terminals they very much want to build. They will have to leave trillions of dollars’ worth of proven fossil-fuel reserves in the ground.

 Meanwhile, if solar panels proliferate on rooftops, big power utilities will lose a significant portion of their profits, since their former customers will be in the energy-generation business. This would create opportunities for a more level economy and, ultimately, for lower utility bills—but once again, some powerful interests will have to lose (which is why Warren Buffett’s coal-fired utility in Nevada has gone to war against solar).[7]

There exists a deeper underlying problem beneath the superficial critique of Clinton’s ties to corporate funding and influence: it’s not simply the money, it’s her fundamental worldview that cannot admit that the ties to corporate cash is a problem to begin with. Clinton is so deeply embedded in corporate relations that she is incapable of parsing the difference between problem and solution. Her solutions are simultaneously the problems, new and old.  Care for the environment is simultaneously the care for humans that inhabit this environment. But our economics has created an environment in which we treat the other as competitor, not as fellow participant and co-sharer in a world that no one can rightfully claim as their own. The legacy of control and domination over nature directly affects how we treat other humans.

When so much of Clinton’s policies are shaped by corporate interests antithetical to environmental preservation how can she possibly be seen as progressive, let alone a ‘democratic’ candidate with people’s best interest at heart? What Hillary represents is the inhuman corporate machine of capitalistic and anthropocentric interests that has forever paraded itself about as being concerned with the everyday man but this is simply not the case. This is the kind of experience that her supporters are so proud of? This is her stellar track record of getting things done? For who?

Clinton Politicks- Gun Control and Minority Support

Give the Clinton campaign credit. They are great at politicking. They are great at spinning and distorting headlines to avoid the truth of issues. Here are just two examples that keep coming up during the primaries: the minority support for Clinton, and Sanders’ support of gun manufacturers. Both issues, when analyzed exposes just how deceptive the Clinton camp can be.

Clinton tweeted: @BernieSanders prioritized gun manufacturers’ rights over the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook. This tweet is entirely misleading but the way in which it is worded does its job: it appeals to voters’ emotions by using a false analogy. Basically, Sanders is on the progressive side of the gun control debate. He has voted to ban assault rifles, to expand background checks on gun buyers, and supports closing down the loopholes that allow people to illegally buy guns. Furthermore, he understands that the fundamental problem to gun violence is not the guns themselves or the gun manufacturers, it is the inability of our healthcare system to adequately take care of those who suffer from mental health issues. Basically, the problem is systemic. Sanders understands that to deal with gun violence one needs to address infrastructure such as education and healthcare. When a drunk person gets into a car and runs someone over with it, you do not sue the car manufacturer. It is the person using the car irresponsibly who is at fault. This is just one reason why the Clinton tweet is insidious in its intent and flat out false in its suggestion. The other reason is very simple: during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the U.S. made twice as much in arms sales to foreign countries (most with sketch human rights records) than the Bush regime did in total. Many countries whose governments donated directly to the Clinton Foundation! Clinton is flat out hypocritical here in her stance against gun violence. She pays lip service to it while profiting from arms sales to corrupt regimes elsewhere in the world.[8] Oh yea, she supports drones too. You can’t make this shit up.

The Clinton campaign prides itself on the overwhelming support it gets from minorities. During primary debates you’ll hear about how Clinton won all the states in the ‘deep south’ with large numbers of minority voters. To be fair, this is something that baffles me. I have absolutely no substantive explanation for why there is so much minority support for the Clintons. I’m tempted to think that the electorate is simply misinformed, deceived and blindly buying into the Clinton brand very much like how Trump supporters have bought into his brand. Or, as Sanders argues- they are simply incredibly conservative in the South.

The idea that Clinton is the candidate for minorities makes no sense. When you’re this deep in corporate influence and this complicit in climate change you are fundamentally opposed to ‘minoritarian’ values[9]. Trickle down economics simply does not work. The notion of a sustainable future is at the heart of the youth and green movements. Environmental ethics go hand-in-hand with human ethics. The present is one ruled by the wealthy and powerful. The future is promised to the poor and disenfranchised, to the structural ‘other’ of the white property-owning straight male. To challenge things like income disparity, an issue close to the heart of many minorities, is to challenge corporatocracy, which is simultaneously to be pro-sustainability and pro-environment. Clinton is none of these things and clearly does not represent ‘minority interests’.

Nate Silver published a blog piece addressing this very issue titled: “Clinton is Winning the States That Look Like the Democratic Party.”[10] Using statistical analysis Silver shows how all the states won by Clinton have somehow been more ‘democratic’ than states Sanders has won. Well, what exactly does the ‘democratic party’ look like? According to Silver, the larger the percentage of racial minorities, the more aesthetically democratic a thing looks. The very premise behind his article is faulty. Why? Because it suggests that a ‘democrat’ is directly equated with a certain racial makeup. It’s classic white-man power politics- the reduction of any complex issue to identity politics. This in turn becomes a tacit way of policing the democratic party, and what it ‘ought’ to look like. ‘Democrats’ are identified by more than just racial profiles, there’s stuff like, y’know, ideology involved too- justice, equality, ethics, etc. Masquerading itself as scientific evidence of Clinton’s minority support, it’s shit like this that every voter is up against when trying to sort through all the bullshit in the news. The suggestion that Clinton is the minority’s candidate is asinine. “The last thing we need is a second republican party.” Which leads me to my last major point of analysis.

Sanders the Outsider

“Ok, so maybe Clinton’s experience and policies have been sketch…but what has Sanders done?”

A response to that criticism requires context. I will start by alluding to a statement I made above, that bad news reporting such as Silver’s functions as a way to police what the democratic party ought to look like. And Sanders does not fit this corporate media profile. Bernie hasn’t been able to get ‘much done’, as his critics are apt to point out, because he works in an environment where he is constantly the minority position. Being anti-establishment within the establishment doesn’t win you many allies. His critics are quick to point out, his ’marginal status in congress [has resulted in him having] done nothing’.[11] Stop to consider that this ‘nothing’ has everything to do with not supporting bad legislation after bad legislation, that this ‘nothing’ is the wisdom to withhold action, when said action panders to all that he stands against. The critic’s response then is that Bernie is too ‘extreme’, too far to the left- a place one cannot govern from because it does not represent a majority of ‘Americans’- to get along with the rest of the kids in the playground. So then the argument shifts towards the notion of compromise. But this is just not Sanders’ modus operandi. It is compromise after compromise, the slippery slope of working with big business, etc that has brought us to the dire situation we are in today. The question then becomes: would you rather a president that repeats much of the same that has created our current conditions, but sells the illusion of work and progress, or would you rather a president that may not be able to get much done, but will be able to stop our present collision course, and at the least inhibit the neofascist republicans and the ever shifting right-wards democrats from digging ourselves into a deeper hole?

The Progressive’s Responsibility towards the Future

The idea of ‘progressiveness’ is constantly paraded about by campaigners, and with it, the notion of ‘liberalism’ is usually not too far behind. But the use of the term by politicians adds oxygen to their fires of moronity- it’s oxymoronic. Progression implies a movement of change, not the continuation of the status quo. While a lot can be said to paint politics as something that is fundamentally opposed to progress (especially in the context of late-capitalism and neo-liberalism where the only notion of ‘change’ has to do with regime turnover. In other words, power remains the same), the intention behind this section is to compare Bernie and Clinton on this notion of ‘progressiveness’, and highlight the disparity between therein.

I’ll start by saying that there can be no concept of the progressive without the embraced recognition of youth movements. What typically comes with adulthood is resistance to change; in other words, the older we get, the more we become set in our ways. This is in-part a function of an inadequate way of how we tend to relate to our memories- we tend to mistake memories of personal experiences as ‘true’ or reflective of reality, but not just any reality, my reality, and in this way it becomes difficult to break free from a narcissistic and egocentric worldview the older one gets. Other phenomena are simultaneously at play of course- habit, routine, tradition, upbringing, social context, etc. Adults don’t have the free time at their disposal to play, hence they stop exploring or learning and relating to their world in a way that is not instrumental, or a means to an end. Adults tend to relate to their world in terms of utility, a place that they can manipulate and maneuver around to fit their needs. Children who, by virtue of having not lived as long, and hence not having been repeatedly beat in the head by socializing influences, are not ‘in’ the world, they are ‘with’ the world. Their sense of self is as yet amorphous and elastic, everything is affective, nothing is yet hierarchical, values are not judged relative to their instrumental worth but rather to the capacity to free the imagination. Hence a stick and wheel may be of more value than a bar of gold. All to say, youth are constantly relating to and reimagining the world in different ways that are creative and not bound to the static laws and standards that adults have become habitualized and medicated into.

Exit polls show that Clinton holds a large majority of voters over 45, while Sanders inversely has the large majority of the youth vote, especially of those under 30.  The interpretation of this demographic divide typically dismisses youth as being idealistic and naïve. Again, the underlying assumption of ‘experience’ looms large here. Just as they will appeal to Clinton’s political experience, older voters will similarly appeal to their own experience of being ‘veteran voters’; which, by some leap of entitled logic leads them to conclude that their judgment on what constitutes ‘good politics’ trumps the naiveté of the twitter generation. But what is unique about having voted after the fallout of the ‘60s through the cold war to now is that there forms a gravitational pull away from a sense of empowerment, or ‘hope’, and towards fear instead. What I’m suggesting is that fear seems to be a driving influence behind Clinton supporters who, despite recognizing Sanders’ progressive platform, base their vote on who will more handedly defeat whatever clown the Far-Right throws into the ring. And of course the repeated majority of the ‘fear vote’ has led to the ever-rightward shift of the political spectrum towards authoritarianism and ‘national security’ (i.e. imperialism and enforcing national interests abroad). The force of such gravity is great and difficult to withstand. As I stated above in my introduction, what concerns me in my decision to vote is not my own interest; rather, I’m trying to take in a holistic view and understand how it is precisely this logic of private interests that have co-opted the political process. I think this is a concept that a lot of young people are plugged into. Especially those of us dealing with high rent prices and unsustainable living conditions in urban areas, those of us who grew up listening to ‘Fuck tha Police’ and who realize that nothing has changed, those of us who’ve inherited this world of economic shambles and environmental decay. All these disparate issues that the older generations are able to so easily compartmentalize and seemingly so eager to dump onto youth are recognized by the youth as interconnected problems for which solutions need to be ‘revolutionary’.

Back to the Future

The concept of ‘future’ is often alluded to during election campaigns. ‘A better tomorrow’ is always the goal. Building a sustainable present for future generations. If this is so then climate change needs to be front and center of our election discussions since there is nothing threatening the very existence of tomorrow more than global warming. I’m pretty sure no one is gonna deny the importance of the future, which is why our policies in the here and now need to change and cannot be about legacy dedicated to buttressing outdated ideologies (i.e. Clinton Foundation). Environmental ethics is, to me, the most important political issue of our time because it directly affects all facets of social life.

To be able to move forward in a progressive way demands transparency. Secrets of the past continue to mire Clinton in shadow politics while Sanders is as transparent and honest as can be. Take for example how Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs have yet to be released to the public; which just adds ammunition to the critique that Clinton and corporate America are bedfellows. And then there’s Sander’s courageous stand for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

This is why Sanders is more progressive than Clinton, and why Clinton has increasingly become difficult to distinguish from a Republican (see following chart). While it is extremely important, the topic of climate change isn’t simply about environmental ethics; it is also about economic policy and corporate influence, and ultimately about a philosophy and worldview that treats minoritarian values with respect. To be pro-environment is to be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist. Sustainability is directly correlated with corporate responsibility, which economically impacts the poor.

(courtesy of politicalcompass.org)

“But Hillary has this thing in the bag. She will win.” In a world where we show our absolute fear and hostility towards an uncertain future in our unwavering faith in risk analysis and risk management, ykno- the statistical revolution- the concept of the future or tomorrow has been negated in favor of a predetermined and manufactured ‘land of tomorrow’. But who creates this vision of the future? The statistics show that the outcome of the primary race is all but assured. The force of mathematical trend is absolute and undeniable. While there is a fundamental and deeply concerning flaw to such uber conservative logic- making decisions, living life based on the best odds- even if we could look into the future and see that Clinton indeed does win, how would one vote regardless? And this comes down to what it means to vote. Does one vote to be part of the winning team? To be able to say, I made the ‘right’ decision…conflating ‘rightness’ with ‘majority outcome’? That’s just one side of the problem with election rhetoric- that there must be a winner and loser. In reality there is neither. We only declare winners and losers when all is said and done, but the end is never reached. If one does not vote to have made the ‘right’ prediction, then does one vote to have their voice be heard? Voting in the face of inevitable loss is a vastly different experience from voting in the face of certain victory. The former shows courage. Kinda like the way Sanders continues to campaign despite all indications that he is fighting a losing battle.

This election season is the rare occurrence where those that feel beaten down and completely disempowered and incapable of actively doing something to effect change…can actually do something about it. Places of power are VIP access only. You and I have very little influence to affect the kinda change necessary to curb the tides of war and destruction our politics are so drawn to. So the opportunity to be a part of placing a representative of actual progressive interests in a seat of power is not an opportunity to be wasted or taken for granted. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as cynical as they come. Even if the ideal candidate in an imaginary scenario winds up in the White House I’d still think ‘we’re all screwed’. But the Clinton corporate machine and all its bullshit was just too much for me to ignore. Even if Sanders loses (which is likely), the hope is he’ll have pulled Clinton back towards the left some.

[1] http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/

[2] Krugman published a morally induced and moronically self-righteous piece in the NYT lecturing the Sanders campaign on ‘guidelines for good behavior’. Just another example of the waning influence and authority of the NYT in general. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/feel-the-math/?_r=0

[4] https://casetext.com/case/sierra-club-v-clinton

[5] http://www.dangersoffracking.com/

[6] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron

[7] http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/

[8] http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

[9] I use the term ‘minority’ here with great unease, but for practical purposes since everyday voters will equate ‘minority’ issues with poor, urban, issues related to income equality and racial justice. But make no mistake about it, the very use of the term ‘minority’ already structurally fixes non-whites in a position of disenfranchisement.

[10] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/clinton-is-winning-the-states-that-look-like-the-democratic-party/

[11] http://www.democracynow.org/2016/4/15/robert_scheer_v_torie_osborn_a

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