Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why I voted for Bernie; Why I voted for Hillary yesterday; etc.

Why I voted for Bernie

Why indeed: I am poor. I am already against the next war. I want to see all Americans share in the wealth of this nation. I know that the electoral process is rigged in favor of those with the money to buy it. I also know that climate change is the number one horror we are facing, and that if we don't deal with it in a sane and significant way, none of the other issues facing us will matter, because we will be done as a species.

Being Poor in America: Don't say "the P-word"

I have been poor, on and off, for most of my adult life (Although I didn’t qualify for Medicaid last year because Michaela and I made 70 dollars over the minimum required to qualify as “Poor.” The bar is set so low that when you qualify for Medicaid, you’ve pretty much dropped off the edge.) I belong to the ranks of what is infamously called “the working poor.” There was a point a couple of years ago when I was making an hourly wage that was the same as I’d made twenty years before.

You may say, if you live on planet Mars, or have had your head in the sand for the last twenty years: “But, Christien, you have two degrees…how is that possible?” There are people in this country with PHD’s who are living in their cars (Drunken Boat/Glass House Shelter Project). Despite the endless upbeat messages from the government and the media about our economy, I know very few people who are doing well. Most are working forty, fifty hours a week for terrible pay – and remain poor. This is the result of thirty-five years of Republican “Trickle Down” policies and Democratic collaboration with those policies. As everyone is now aware, both parties are contracted out to the highest corporate bidder.

Bernie was different. His campaign took no corporate contributions. The money came from people like me. It was the first time that a candidate spoke about the poor since Jesse Jackson ran for president in the 80’s (I voted for Jackson in the ’88 primaries). Before that, the last Democratic candidate who spoke about the poor was RFK. Bernie said the P-word out loud. For the past thirty-five years, those words have been forbidden by the status quo establishment of both parties.
Bernie also spoke about other things forbidden in presidential campaigns: real government action on climate change, breaking up the banks, free state college tuition, the corporate prison system that feeds off of 2 million prisoners (the highest incarceration rate in the world - a veritable Gulag), a living wage (15.00 an hour - though that's still low-balling it), and – with a bit of prompting – the endless wars the US is engaged in around the world, the militarization of the police, and the murder of countless black men and women by a highly militarized police force.

When he first started giving speeches in the fall of 2015, it almost made me cry – from relief. Someone was addressing real issues!

Why I have never been a registered Democrat until this year

 I have never been a registered Democrat - until Bernie ran in the primaries. I have always been too far to the left to be much interested in the corporate-controlled Democrats. There are some goods ones, obviously (Barbara Lee, Russ Feingold), but the party as a whole...well...we all saw how they manipulated the primaries... 

But Bernie brought quite a few of us who had been marginalized back into the political system. You'd think the Democrats would have been cheering this on. Instead, the party establishment did everything in their power to keep Bernie's message from getting out. (It's public record. There are emails.)

In the late eighties and early nineties, I watched in disgust as the Democrats quickly moved to the right (with Bill Clinton's Democratic Leadership Conference in command) in order to lap up their share of corporate power. Ronald Reagan's rhetoric had changed the political landscape (denigrating the poor, especially those on welfare, using them as the scapegoat for all of America's ills; a cynical and craven appeal to the new power of Christian fundamentalism, even though many in the administration were not fundamentalists themselves; and getting away with a slap on the hand for one of the largest scandals in US history - Iran/Contra - actually trading weapons with a sworn enemy - making Watergate look silly and superfluous in the process) and the Democrats decided "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Instead of standing up for the poor, trying to figure out a way to remain true to the unions, the working class, to create a more equitable and just society, the Democrats embraced global capitalism as the panacea to everything. They abandoned the tenets of The New Deal. Entrepreneurship will save us! (See the book,
by Thomas Frank)  

Their new con: Money should go to the rich and the innovative (one of their favorite words) and the benefits from funding these brilliant and glorious geniuses will trickle down to everyone else. And so the Democrats became bona-fide apologists for corporate rule. They began to squawk about free trade. And de-regulation. And more punishment for the poor. The Clinton administration even struck down the Glass-Steagall Act - one of the causes for the eventual collapse of the economy in 2008 (Glass-Steagall Repeal - Wikipedia).

Why I reluctantly voted for Hillary yesterday: Fear

Every four years the Democrats offer the same basic platform: “We are not THAT.” They have helped foster the widening gap between rich and poor in this country (I'll go over it again: NAFTA, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, Workfare), have willingly engaged in more and more wars across the globe, have even deported more immigrants than previous Republican administrations (Article on Deportation - Fusion, statistics can also be found anywhere else throughout the net), and yet come crawling to progressives every four years with the same plea: “We’re not THAT.”

From where we stand, they have become exactly THAT.

As usual, I did not vote FOR something, but AGAINST something. I did not vote FOR Hillary, but AGAINST Trump. And, even though the margin in my state (New Mexico) is five points up for Hillary, it looks like that margin is slipping rapidly. To be honest, the only person I wanted to vote FOR was Jill Stein, of The Green Party. (If you're progressive in any way, especially in a state that has Hillary ahead by a good eight-point margin - make sure the margin is wide, my friends - I encourage you to vote for Stein. The point being to get Stein's percentage points up to 5%. Why? If she wins at least 5% of the popular vote, the Federal Election Commission must classify the Green Party as an official "minor party." This designation will result in approximately $10 million in federal funding for the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2020. It's about the platform going national. Read it here.)

Let's face it, I voted from a base of fear. Fear of a Trump presidency. We have passed the tipping point for disaster to arrive in the form of climate change and Trump is a climate-change denier, so absolutely nothing will be done for the next four years; and our government is so dead-locked that the supreme court is the only place where policy can be established, and Trump will nominate someone so far to the right that the Supreme Court will continue to be the voice for corporate greed (Citizens United intro from Reclaim Democracy) for decades to come. 

Trump flaunts his racism, he is an open misogynist, a craven narcissist who is only interested in himself and his "ratings", he has - with a wink and a nod - even said that it would be okay to assassinate his opponent.

Trump's openly racist rhetoric is now bearing fruit in the form of arson. A church in Greenville, Mississippi was recently set on fire. The arsonist scrawled Vote Trump across the outside wall. That says it all, I think. "'We know what the black church means to the black community,' said Mayor Errick Simmons, Greenville's first black mayor, after the Hopewell fire. Calling the fire a 'hateful and cowardly act' sparked by Trump's incendiary rhetoric, he said, "This is a direct assault on black folks. It goes to the heart of intimidating folks...It happened in the ’50s. It happened in the ’60s. But it should not happen in 2016." (Washington Post article). 

If Trump is elected it will legitimize his rhetoric and you can be sure that there will be more of the same. Worse.

We know what a Clinton Administration will be like -

unless we make it impossible

A Clinton administration will be business-as-usual - unless people mobilize and make her political life hell. But, I think, it's possible to move a Clinton Administration towards reality. Because of Bernie, she slightly changed her rhetoric. Because of Bernie, the Democratic platform included a living wage proposal, mention of free college tuition, and many other things establishment
Democrats would never have even whispered to themselves in the safety of their own bedrooms in the middle of the night.

If we leave the Democrat establishment apparatchiks to themselves, nothing of any consequence will be done to make our lives better - we'll all still be struggling from paycheck to paycheck. And nothing of any consequence will be done to address climate change in a real and significant way (Clinton still believes that natural gas can be a 'bridge' to a clean energy future even though it's been proven that it causes as many problems as oil or coal New York Times). And you can rest assured that a Clinton Administration left to its own devices will do nothing more than pay lip-service to groups like Black Lives Matter. 

Here's what the Clinton people recently said in response to the Stand-off at Standing Rock:

“We received a letter today from representatives of the tribes protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. From the beginning of this campaign, Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects. Now, all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it's important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators' rights to protest peacefully, and workers' rights to do their jobs safely.” (Indian Country Today Media)

And we can expect more of the same from a Clinton Administration.

So, what now…

We vote for Clinton and then make her administration a living hell until they start to move on what matters.

What's Needed, What Matters

We need a works program on the scale of the New Deal that will mobilize the US into a Green Economy. We need what Bill McKibben wrote about in The New Republic back in August: A "war on Climate Change." He argues for a mobilization on the level of what we accomplished during World War II, reconverting industry into a massive war machine, only this time we mobilize to find solutions to climate change.

Bill McKibben: "We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict--except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planet wide occupation that follows." New Republic Article

In the article, the hard facts are faced (we long ago crossed over into disaster territory), but there is also hope - that we can do this if we have the resolve. But the only way it can be done is by massive government mobilization of the economy. The numbers are there. The research is ongoing.

We're up shits creek.
And everyone knows it -
except the two major candidates running for president.


Clinton will probably squeak by and win the election. But the only way she will be able to get anything of worth done and win re-election is if she holds her hand out to progressives. If she completely abandons them - does not address the massive gap between rich and poor, does not break up the banks, continues to engage militarily in the Middle East and across the globe, won't address the many problems involved with Obamacare, and plays the usual Democrat "incremental change" game in relation to climate change, she's lost. We're all lost. Her current conservative friends aren't going to help. You can bet that after the election the Republicans will spend all of their time doing their famous version of nothing. The great party of "No." They are so full of misogynist venom and white rage (at what? They're all rich and powerful!) that they will make the grid-lock during the Obama Administration look like paradise.

Of course, if Clinton loses, the Democrat establishment will immediately turn around and blame those who voted for Jill Stein, despite the fact that most of the people who voted for Stein aren't actual members of the party, or only registered as Democrats because of Bernie, so they were never going to vote for any establishment nominee anyway. The same thing happened after the 2000 election. The Democrats blamed those who voted for Nader for the debacle. No one questioned how it was even possible for Gore to be running neck and neck with a complete buffoon (George II), no one wondered why Gore and the Democrats didn't keep fighting for the right for every vote - voters that voted for him - to be counted, and no one in the party pursued election fraud (the dumping of thousands from the voter rolls by the Republican Party). Instead, they screamed at progressives: "It was the people who voted for Nader!" And this time, the same thing will happen: "It was the people who voted for Stein!" 

Odd, how none of the Democrat establishment people seem to be wondering how Hillary can possibly be running neck and neck with a racist, a misogynist, and a possible rapist. Maybe it's because they have so little to offer the American people.

Work for Peace & Justice

The divide between rich and poor, between black and white, between progressive and center-right liberals, between the tea party folks and establishment conservatives, between those that want peace and those that are okay with perpetual war, is going to continue to grow after the election, no matter who wins. No candidate is capable of healing these massive divides by themselves. So it's up to us, isn't it? As Abbie Hoffman once said: "Democracy isn't something you live in, it's something you do."

Work for peace and justice - however you can.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Christien. I reposted on my Facebook and hope that's OK. Hugs to you and Michaela. Appreciate so much that you take the time to think and write about all these important aspects of the mess that has become US politics.