Clinton? Nope, nope, nope
I am, in almost every way, the voter Hillary Clinton is surest of getting.
I’m a lifelong Democrat who has voted in every national election since I became eligible, I’m on that liminal bridge between Baby Boomer and Gen Xer and I’m a woman, a feminist, and a Latina.
Which places me in almost every Clinton sweet spot there is.
According to a Jan. 26 NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll, 51 percent of registered Democrats and 57 percent of women support Clinton. A Jan. 12 version of the poll showed 54 percent of Latinos supporting her.
But — to paraphrase a line from a Warren Zevon song — while the mystics and statistics say I will ... I am not, actually, going to vote for Clinton.
“But she’s the pragmatist’s choice"
I'm bored by the pragmatism argument. Clinton made it when she ran against Obama in 2008, and she’s making now with Sanders. She’s a realist, she says. She is effective. She knows how and when to compromise to win some change (which is much better than no change), she says.
But Clinton completely misses the point.
Nobody disputes that compromises will have to take place. It’s just that I don’t trust her with what to compromise.
Clinton’s longstanding, strong ties to lobbyists and funders from both the private prison industry and Wall Street are deeply problematic, and her foreign policy “pragmatism” is downright deleterious. She’s all about our deeply immoral drone warfare, and turns a blind eye to human rights abuses when the country in question is an oil-rich ally or Clinton Foundation donor.
She made the pragmatic choice — while secretary of state — to legitimize and extend aid to the military-backed administration that had orchestrated the coup of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. The criminality of the coup regime is considered one of the factors in the dramatic escalation of violence in the Central American nation and its coronation (until quite recently) as the murder capital of the world. That violence has driven Honduran families — and unaccompanied minors — to flee to the United States (keep this in mind when I talk about Clinton’s stance on deporting Central American children later).
“But she’s so woman-centered”
As a second-wave feminist, Clinton has long been an exemplar of “fighting for equal rights, full and complete political incorporation, and the substantial removal of gender based discrimination in social and political structures,” according to WGBH’s Erin O’Brien. “Her ascension is a powerful political symbol — it alone does not negate rampant areas of gender bias — but it matters for young girls’ and boys’ political socialization and is the penultimate breaking of the glass ceiling.”
But a lot has been written lately about how second-wave feminism — a la Clinton — is too trained on the concerns on the relatively privileged to appeal to young millennial (fourth-wave) feminists, especially those of color. Clinton’s feminism, these young fourth-wavers seem to say, is a bit like redoing the guest bedroom and bathroom in your house while ignoring the dangerously rotten foundation. (Here is a piece explaining the disconnect with Clinton and here is a piece explaining it away.)
Clinton’s numbers with young women are bad enough that actor Lena Dunham has been brought in as a ringer — because she supports Clinton and is a millennial darling. But the choice of Dunham as a go-to reveals just how sheltered Clinton is from current feminist discourse. Dunham has been called out for her white-centric worldview, and for the version of feminism she espouses, which focuses on reproductive rights without examination of its intersection with racial and economic justice (as well as U.S. foreign policy).
Fourth wave feminism is demanding and revolutionary and probably a bit much to ask of someone of Clinton’s age (or my age for that matter). Still, if Clinton is going to accept the mantle of champion of women’s rights in this electoral campaign, it behooves her to look beyond her own definition of what fighting for and safeguarding women’s rights means — especially in our increasingly globalized and intersectional world.
In her 1995 remarks for the U.N.‘s fourth world conference on women, Clinton said “Women’s rights are human rights,” and it is impossible to not to see the disconnect between this oft-quoted phrase and her hawkish interventionism and approval of drone warfare, which has killed hundreds of civilians and exacerbated the insecurity of women and children — already disempowered populations — in war and strike zones.
Since Clinton claims some of her husband’s political policy as underpinning for her own, it is also impossible to except her from the decimating effect her husband’s crime bill (as part of the war on drugs) and the massive growth of the prison system during his tenure as president has had on African American and Latinx families.
Add to that the impact of Clinton’s own efforts (as senator) to increase police involvement in Department of Homeland Security matters; her willingness to detain immigrant women and children in sites where they have been vulnerable to abuse and have been used as a cheap labor pool; her desire to deport women and children back to situations of violence ....
“But other Latinxs like her”
Yes, they do. Dolores Huerta endorsed Clinton, and Julian Castro is stumping for her as we speak. But I don’t purport to speak for all Latinxs, just some of us.
Clinton’s made some stupid missteps with Latinxs — both her ¡Basta! to Trump and her “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” campaign were widely mocked as hispandering by Latinxs online but, really, those are the least of my concerns about her.
Clinton’s immigration record is so protean it cannot be categorized — except maybe to say that during electoral campaigns she realizes immigration is important to the majority of Latinxs and shifts her positions accordingly.
• She has been very vocal in her criticisms of Donald Trump’s call for a border wall, but as a senator she voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
• In House hearings on the healthcare plan she elaborated as First Lady in 1993, she was adamant about excluding undocumented immigrants from coverage, but during this campaign she has said that undocumented immigrants should be able to buy into Obamacare.
• In 2007 she was against issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, but in April of 2015 — the month she declared her candidacy — she said she supports them.
The point is, even when Clinton is saying what I want to hear about immigration, I don’t believe it is genuine, only momentarily expedient.
Some telling moments: at a town hall in November 2015 in New Hampshire, in front of a mostly Anglo audience, not only did Clinton use the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to undocumented individuals but emphasized her border enforcement and militarization cred.
And while some mainstream media has rewritten history to depict Clinton taking the lead on decrying the terror-inducing home raids DHS has been effecting since Jan. 4, 2016, those of us who actually tracked the roll-out of the raids know that not only did she NOT take the lead, she waffled and lagged and made sure to issue weak responses through spokespeople until she just couldn’t get away with that strategy anymore.
Even pushed by O’Malley (who was really the candidate who took the lead) and goaded by Sanders (who responded very quickly after O’Malley started criticizing the raids) into finally making a strongish statement in her own voice, Clinton, nevertheless, has left open the option to expedite the deportation of the Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan children and mothers targeted in the raids.
Remember that private prison industry she begrudgingly cut ties to in October 2015? It has multiple for-profit immigration detention centers in the U.S. through which nearly 2.5 million immigrants have passed since 2003; two of them in Texas are where the mothers and children grabbed in the latest home raids are sent before their expedited deportations. Also note that some of these refugees-in-all-but-name, were directly impacted by Clinton’s policies and actions during her time as secretary of state.
I do not consider Clinton pro-Latinx or pro-immigrant, no matter that one of my personal heroes (Huerta) keeps trying to convince me she is.
Nor do I consider Clinton an ally to those of us who think that mass incarcerations, detentions and deportations without due process are among the pressing civil and human rights issues we face today.
You know how people have litmus-test issues? This one is mine, and given her history, I won’t trust Clinton with it.
Let’s talk about trickle-down democracy
There are genuine and significant differences between the Democratic presidential candidates this cycle. This is a good thing.
Or, it should be.
But the Democratic National Committee has been enacting a sort of trickle-down democracy: it has been accused by Bernie Sanders’ campaign of sabotaging them by curtailing their access to their own voter database; and Martin O’Malley has said the DNC rigged the debate calendar to benefit Clinton and hinder the visibility of any other candidates. Increasingly, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is being characterized by some progressive groups as abusing her leadership position and having repeatedly tipped the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton.
It’s hard not to give these assertions some credence given the otherwise outrageously stupid/inept scheduling of the Democratic debates, and given the revelations that Wasserman Schultz deliberately exaggerated/mischaracterized the Sanders data breach in media interviews. Even the placement of Clinton campaign field offices inside Democratic Party headquarters in caucus states, while not prohibited, begins to look suspect.
Lots of perfectly reasonable Democrats assert Clinton’s ability to win rests, at least in part, on her extensive and effective network of political influence (back to the pragmatism argument) and characterize the desire of Sanders’ supporters to challenge the political process itself as naive idealism. Many Clinton supporters blank O’Malley altogether, and excoriate those in the Democratic electorate who might consider “throwing away a vote” on him.
I’ve lost count, actually, of the number of a-vote-for-anyone-but-Hillary-is-a-vote-for-the-Republicans posts that have crossed my social media timelines since Sanders’ campaign has gained some steam. And I have to wonder what cost the deep cynicism of those posts exacts on the democratic process itself. I wonder about the way they will disengage and disillusion the newly engaged and excited voter by claiming there is no place for anything but the status quo.
Since any party machination and manipulation — even Tweed-and-Tammany extra blond and extra lite — really sticks in my craw, if come November I have to write in a candidate to be able to cast my vote for someone I support, so be it.
“Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder,” Plato said. I intend on doing my part to make sure it stays that way.