Clinton versus Trump this fall?

Good chums back in 2005

W.J. Astore

Last night’s primary results suggest it’s Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump come this fall.  What does this mean for America?

Hillary is the easiest to gauge.  She’s been in politics for a long time and possesses a lengthy and controversial record.  She is of course a transformative candidate, the first female candidate for president from a major party.  That’s where the revolution begins — and ends.  Hillary is a pragmatist who promises a continuation of Obama’s policies.  Even more so than Obama, she is an establishment candidate, well ensconced among Wall Street financiers, K Street lobbyists, and all the other special interests that rule America today through money and power.  If this were 1976, you could well imagine her running as a moderate Republican against a Democratic candidate like Jimmy Carter (or Bernie Sanders).  With respect to foreign policy, she promises a hard line and the continuation of perpetual wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Many liberal Democrats, and more than a few Republicans, will likely vote for her with noses held and fingers crossed.  Mainline Democrats will vote for her based on certain issues, such as Supreme Court vacancies, her pro-choice stance on abortion, and so on.  In a normal election year, an establishment Republican would have a good shot at beating her since Hillary’s negatives are so high.  But this is not a normal year.

Enter Donald Trump.  If Hillary promises more of the same, Trump promises unpredictability.  His simplistic rhetoric about making America great again has obviously resonated, just as Obama’s similarly simplistic message of “hope” and “change” did in 2008.  Trump is a man of (certain) people: unlike Hillary, he’s not a career politician. Unlike Hillary, he’s not tied to the political establishment.  In essence, he’s part wild card, part joker, and his outlandish statements on Muslims and Mexicans and walls and women suggest he’s not playing with a full deck.

No one really knows what a Trump presidency would look like.  I don’t think even Trump knows.  Trump has a habit of speaking off the cuff, of making statements that are more than a little grandiose, partly because he loves to grandstand.  He’s easy to dismiss — all too easy — yet look where he is now, closing in on the Republican nomination despite long odds.

Trump, as I wrote back in July 2015, likes to pose as a proto-fascist.  He likes to boast that the military will follow his orders even if they’re illegal.  (He backed off that statement, but the fact he made it speaks loudly about his judgement.)  On occasion he says something insightful and honest, as when he insisted the Iraq war was a mistake, costing the nation trillions of dollars, or when he attacks poorly negotiated trade deals as hurting working-class Americans.  But with the good comes lots of bad.

A big challenge for Trump this fall will be appearing presidential.  So far his policy knowledge in debates has been a mile wide and an inch deep.  He’s gotten away with this because of the size of the Republican field, but Hillary, the consummate policy wonk, will make mincemeat of him in the fall debates if he continues to speak off the cuff and glide over specifics.

Clinton versus Trump: it’s a grim choice for America.  An establishment oligarch versus a quixotic autocrat.  More of the same versus God knows what.  What they collectively represent is both the decline of progressivism and of conservatism in America.

For now I’m putting my crystal ball aside, except to say that one day (perhaps very soon) Americans may look back with fondness on the eight years Obama was president.

15 thoughts on “Clinton versus Trump this fall?

  1. There are a few thing in life that my brain simply cannot fully comprehend – like the universe, matter and anti-matter, and black holes. I think I will have to add the 2016 election cycle to that list. It simply make my head hurt.

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  2. If “more of the same” basically means continuing a relatively fixed range of policy choices, then I say “more of the same” might as well be “God knows what” because the consequences of those choices may not play out well.

    So in a tragic way, these past eight years could one day be looked backed upon fondly. But we won’t be giving Obama any cred.


  3. One has to hope that education is still possible for those in their 60’s and 70’s. If that is the case, Ms. Clinton may have learned from Bernie Sanders that she needs to shift on policy because it is the right thing to do or because the tide has shifted. And, Trump may have learn that he has to have more than hot air. Hope springs eternal.


    1. Clinton isn’t going to magically become ethically responsive and her finger in the wind is only up as a gesture to us, not having anything to do with political direction. Hope may spring eternal, but the Clinton-Trump “choice” is a damper from hell.


  4. Presidents are not our leaders. They are our rulers, selected by the ruling class, not by us. Democracy is myth. That is why Clinton will defeat Sanders. As FDR said, “Presidents are selected, not elected.”


  5. I think I’ll pass on living in the future before today has ended. Someone has gotten ahead of someone else in the rat-race delegate statistics, so I’ll just leave it at that. Neither of America’s two corporate political subsidiaries will discuss dismantling our bloated, ravenous military/”security” empire and returning the United States to a constitutional republic content to mind its own business. Therefore, it makes no difference to me whom the Republicans and Democrats ultimately select as their artificially inseminated surrogates for the ruling oligarchy. A few billion dollars will evaporate putting on the quadrennial circus, but the two puppet pugilists will spar over nothing of substance. Little, if anything, will change. The few people who own most of everything wish to keep it that way.

    I do, however, take issue with the term “oligarch” as used in this article. To wit: “An establishment oligarch versus a quixotic autocrat” — assuming that the foregoing statement refers to You-Know-Her and The Donald, respectively.

    First, to qualify as an oligarch, one must have amassed wealth in the billions of dollars, and the Clintons, for their part, have only managed to put together a paltry few millions. Furthermore, oligarchs buy (or rent) politicians, not the other way around. The Clintons, as anyone knows who wants to know anything, have put together their few millions by gutting New Deal programs while in office and then giving paid speeches to — and openly soliciting bribes from — real oligarchs, foreign and domestic, after leaving office. As no less an oligarch than The Donald himself has said (see the picture illustrating this article): “I gave them (the Clintons) some money and they came to my wedding.” Real oligarchs do not just own a few politicians here and there. They own entire governments — like in Ukraine. In the case of The Donald, it appears that one of America’s establishment oligarchs has simply decided to cut out the pathetic political middlemen and run the government subsidiary himself. Cutting out unnecessary levels of middle management frequently makes a business more efficient and profitable. So who needs a pathetic political puppet like You-Know-Her when you can have a real oligarch running the show out in the open and loving it?

    Yes, I would characterize The Donald as “quixotic” but that only contrasts with “shape-shifter” as applied to the relentlessly focus-grouped “positions” of You-Know-Her. The term “autocrat” cancels out because both presumed contestants seek to wield autocratic power such as President Obama dispenses every week when he checks off his “to-die” list and condemns some unknown foreigner(s) to death halfway around the world for “reasons” too secret to disclose — as if a real autocrat actually needs any reasons for what has simply become dreary habit with the likes of President Obama.

    To summarize, then: I would characterize a putative match-up between The Donald and You-Know-Her as a Wednesday-night, sham television episode of World Wide Wrestling, pitting a renegade autocrat and establishment oligarch against a wannabe-killer parvenu in a pantsuit. Something like that.


    1. Mike: Apparently the Clintons are worth $2-3 billion; see this link to a Time article from 2014 for their “fundraising” exploits:

      Of course, $3 billion is small change for America’s oligarchs, but I don’t think money is the only measure. The Clintons wield much power, and if trends hold, soon they’ll be back in the Oval Office.


      1. “The Clintons wield much power…”

        And to think that, in You-Know-Her’s own words, she and Bubba Bill left the White House in 2009 “dead broke.” Some satisfied oligarchs must have ponied up some real money really fast. Probably Donald Trump among them.

        Anyway, whom have the Clinton’s ever used that “power” of theirs to enrich — other than themselves and the ruling oligarchs who discovered that, in the Clintons, they could rent two Democrats for what they usually paid to buy only one Republican? Hence, the true meaning of their self-serving slogan: “Two for the price of one.” Much of the gnashing of teeth that one hears from the Republicans every time the name “Clinton” comes up, stems, I think, from the Clintons — and now, Obama — underbidding them for economic services rendered for relatively cut-rate bribes. Always cheaper to rent a Democrat than to buy a Republican — although the corporate oligarchy can easily afford to do both.

        As the late Sheldon Wolin so astutely observed, the Republican Party exists to promote and perpetuate inequalities of wealth and privilege while the Democratic Party exists to demoralize its working class and anti-war base so that they won’t trouble the Republicans with demands for peace and higher wages. The Clintons know their appointed task and whom they truly serve. That kind of “power” I can only fear and loathe for I have seen how it has hollowed out my country and devastated much of the world. “We came. We saw. He died.” Indeed.

        If the oligarchs really have to win, then at least let one of their own do the dirty work and take the blame for it. I hate to think of watching the same two Clintons doing it for them yet again while leaving the stain of their many betrayals on the Democratic Party, what little of it still remains.


  6. How long before Trump turns the Presidency into a Reality show, and how long before Hillary is convicted by the F.B.I.!!?? If either one gets in Power… Unless her Star status keeps her above the Law!. Read it and Weep– for America… L.B.M. lives: Gen. Custer to Jack Crabbe on the battlefield “We can’t have a Man/ Woman like You in the White House”!!


  7. The forthcoming “debates” between The Donald and You-Know-Her leave me feeling deflated and dismayed by the utter effrontery of the proposed charade. I mean, assuming that these two dreadful pretenders actually receive the nominations for president of their respective cargo-cult corporate subsidiaries, what will they have to discuss that relates in any way to America’s accelerating decline? I doubt that either of them will note what the late Sheldon Wolin had to say about America’s greatest, most debilitating problem, namely:

    “That … conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate” [emphasis added].

    For example, even while railing at the many abject failures of the U.S. government, The Donald continues to blather and bloviate about “rebuilding” the U.S. military, without a doubt the Greatest Vampire Parasite in the History of the World (or, GVPIHW). In truth, the people of the United States have no greater enemy than the U.S. military whose ravenous demands for MORE! MORE! MORE! ALWAYS MORE! have bankrupted the country, leaving future generations deeply in debt for “defense” products and services neither required nor produced. The United States needs to disband it standing military, not “rebuild” it, but I seriously doubt that either The Donald or You-Know-Her will come anywhere near questioning the true source of the power-to-kill that clearly causes each to salivate with anticipation.

    I could go on, but I could hardly offer a better critique of Vampire Militarism than Dmitry Orlov’s masterful essay, The wrong kind of victory. Read it and laugh while weeping.

    Also as preparation for viewing “debates” that will studiously avoid mentioning anything real or meaningful, I recommend reading the always insightful Tom Englehardt’s recent article: The ‘Greatest Military Force in History’ Pretty Much Fails at Every Turn.

    As a matter of simple fact, the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945 rendered conventional military forces obsolete. No fighting will ever take place between nuclear-armed nations because the smallest incident will immediately escalate into a nuclear exchange that will exterminate most life on this planet. Therefore, enormously redundant and useless military boondoggles like the U.S. military can only find limited employment wasting vast sums of money bashing impoverished, barely armed nations whose enraged populations will still find an inexpensive way to multiply, disperse, and win against the Greatest Loser Military in Galactic History, or GLMIGH.

    And to think that The Donald and You-Know-Her can’t wait to become Commander-In-Brief of such a colossal, bloody money-laundering scam. When Marine Corps General Smedley Butler called himself and his fellow miliary officers “racketeers for capitalism,” he most assuredly hit the nail on its proverbial head. But expect no such perceptive honesty at these forthcoming “debates.” The ruling oligarchy long ago took that kind of necessary assessment “off the table.” So there it lies on the floor, so to speak.


    1. Mike: Of course you’re right. There will be no real debate about the military this fall. The only difference will be that Hillary wants more, and The Donald wants even more, when it comes to military spending. They’ll both vow to “rebuild” the military and make it bigger, stronger, tougher so that it can rampage against ISIS and all other enemies, real or perceived.


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