I am a lifelong Democrat living in one of the former Confederate states that will not turn purple in the 2016 presidential election cycle no matter what Trump says or does. I therefore feel free to withhold my vote from Secretary Clinton this election cycle because of serious doubts about her neoliberal domestic policy instincts and her hawkish foreign policy leanings. To the extent that she is responsive to the demands of electoral politics, I think her first term administration can be influenced in a progressive direction (especially in matters of political economy and foreign affairs). The following thoughts are intended to suggest one way of exercising progressive pressure.
These thoughts are aimed at people like me–progressives living in NON-battleground states who feel free to vote for a third party progressive at the presidential level in this election but who also hope for progressive leadership if (as currently seems likely) Secretary Clinton wins. As a result of the Bernie Sanders campaign, progressives have come to understand that they have real leverage and it doesn’t only consist of their votes.
During this past primary season, I engaged in a level of political activity that was unprecedented for me. In addition to donating to the Sanders campaign what turned out to be about one percent of my annual income, I held a fundraising dinner with friends that raised another (albeit smaller) chunk of money for the campaign. I made phone calls to voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma before Super Tuesday and lobbied friends and family members across several states to vote for Sanders. To the extent that tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of others had similar unprecedented experiences, we constitute a political force whose collective fundraising capacity and campaign labor are robust enough to make it worthwhile to a first term Clinton administration to try to earn our support for the 2020 campaign.
What concrete actions would earn my support? I could list several but I’ll limit myself in this post to the issue of presidential appointments in two areas. (I welcome contributions to this list from progressives out there from non-battleground states with similar experiences who see some promise in this approach.)
The first thing a first term Clinton Administration could do to earn my vote in 2020 is to demonstrate independence from the special interests who have financially rewarded Secretary Clinton, members of her family, and the Clinton Foundation with extremely generous speaking fees, lucrative positions, and/or donations. In the appointments process in the domestic policy area this would mean refusing to nominate people to departmental, agency, or judicial positions who are products or beneficiaries of, or otherwise beholden to, those special interests, which include investment banks, private health insurers, fossil fuel industry. For example, don’t choose a Wall Street insider for the position of Secretary of the Treasury. Better a Wall Street whistle blower or an academic Jeremiah who warned of the coming mortgage securities implosion.
In national security deliberations, ensure that the people at the table include those who have proven to be prescient about the limited efficacy of military force as well as those who have expressed concern about imperial overreach. Whether or not the rumor is true that Secretary Clinton was consistently one of the most hawkish people in the room during Obama Administration foreign policy deliberations, she needs to have at the critical meetings foreign policy and national security figures of weight and influence who can provide alternative perspectives to the drumbeat of hawkish advice which so often passes for serious thinking in DC foreign policy circles. In this respect, it would go a long way merely as a symbolic gesture for Secretary Clinton to make clear that she isn’t going to take advice from Henry Kissinger, that he won’t be visiting the White House, that his calls will not be taken, and that any efforts to give advice through back channels will be rebuffed.
Secretary Clinton’s impending choice of a running mate may be the best indication we have of the direction in which she will go in the appointments process. Will she pick a proven progressive and independent voice such as Elizabeth Warren or Tom Perez? Or will she opt for someone firmly in the Clinton mold (e.g., a cultivator of Wall Street and other special interest contacts and money)?
In a future post, the sort of policy proposals that could earn progressive votes will be taken up.
M. Davout is a pseudonym for a professor of political science and critic of US politics, culture, and empire.
13 thoughts on “What It Will Take to Gain My Support in 2020”
Yeah, Clinton will refuse to take Kissinger’s calls, she’ll have a progressive team of appointments, and she’ll suddenly disregard the “special interests” she holds so dear to her wallet. Her imminent enlightenment will surely produce foreign policy of a much different variety than her actions to date would indicate.
Let’s not fantasize please. When she’s not laughing to our faces, she’ll be laughing behind our backs. After all, she believes progressives have “no where else to go”.
By the way, I would be fascinated to see a list of competent Americans active in the foreign policy arena “who have proven to be prescient about the limited efficacy of military force” and “have expressed concern about imperial overreach”. Now let’s take that list to Clinton and with progressive leverage “ensure” that these people are at her table. Clinton is laughing some more.
And yes, my homework tells me it’s not a rumor, she’s neocon as hell. Straight from her e-mails.
As to V.P. picks? In 2008 I was not particularly gladdened by Obama taking Biden, but I understood (or so I thought) the choice. But the V.P. selection neither indicated nor presupposed Geithner, Gates, etc., etc.
Gregory– You beat me to it with that ironic reference to “competent Americans active in the foreign policy arena.” I got a HUGE belly laugh out of that one. Sort of like those rumored “moderate rebel” jihadis fighting to overthrow the Assad govenment in Syria so that Saudi Wahabi, Apartheid Zionist, and neo-Ottoman Turks don’t have to do that fighting and dying thing themselves. I mean, who has ever met one of these “moderate rebels” in the flesh? Who has ever met an American make-work militarist “competent in the foreign policy arena”? Echo answers.
As for life in the real world: in the upscale sewer of Washington-Wall Street corporatism, no good political deed goes unpunished and no egregious political error goes unrewarded. Getting it right offers no career advancement. Getting it wrong offers nothing but career advancement — just as long as everyone gets it wrong in the same way at the same time. It sure looks like the old fuck-up-and-move-up U.S. military has returned from Southeast Asian days to infiltrate the American government and finally win a “war” — against the American taxpayer.
And just look at all those stink-tank neocon-humanitarians lining up with their leaked memos and Washington Post op-ed ramblings fairly begging for cushy jobs in You-Know-Her’s “new” administration. As Walt Kelly’s cartoon caracter Pogo truly observed: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Glad to give some small return for all the times your incisive wit has jostled my belly.
Well, I haven’t met him in the flesh, but I see Assad as a moderate in rebellion to the dictates of Sam. Our “moderate rebel” is non other than Assad himself!
“…the upscale sewer of Wasington-Wall Street corporatism…” Priceless!!! I see a poem in the works.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” — Frederick Douglass
Dear anonymous person — Let me see if I’ve got this right. You say that your vote doesn’t count in your state and so you feel free to “waste” it voting for someone other than the Democratic party candidate who will lose no matter what the Republican party candidate says or does. This implies that if your vote did count in your state, you would not “waste” it but would vote for the Democratic party candidate as presumably the lesser of two evils possibly inclined (in some as-yet-undemonsrated manner) towards something possibly and theoretically resembling liberal — scratch that, I mean “progressive” — policies. Perhaps. Maybe. No guarantees, though. Only right wing corporatist Republicans can count on those from their fellow right-wing corporatist Democratic party colleagues, most especially those with the surname Clinton.
In other words: the Republicans in your state do not fear you and the national Democratic party does not esteem you. In both your state and nation, your vote doesn’t matter. You know this because you have said as much. Why, then, do you bother deluding yourself that four years from now an incumbent President You-Know-Her will esteem your vote any more than she does now — meaning not at all?
Actually, until the United States does away with the Electoral College and moves to a one-person-one-vote, ranked-choice electoral system, the ludicrous idea of a “democracy” in America will remain the laughing stock of the civilized world.
Your vote doesn’t count, Anonymous person. Not now. Not four years from now. But thank you for your opinions, anyway.
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Reply to Herr and Murry from M. Davout
I share the general skepticism about Clinton. However, there is no harm in remaining open to the possibility that Clinton will beat our very low expectations in a significant way. (Personally, I doubt that she will on many issues.) And my point certainly wasn’t about whether my (or any progressive’s) vote in 2016 or 2020 counts but about whether the demonstrated collective power of progressive activism and (especially) money might count in changing Clinton’s first term governing calculus. Sanders raised over $200 million in small donations, after all, and benefited from countless thousands of hours of volunteer labor. His message would not have won 20+ states without that unprecedented amount of money and volunteerism. And that power remains available to a credible progressive challenger to Clinton in 2020 if President Clinton does not beat our very low expectations in a significant way.
Dear anonymous person — I got up this morning, read your comments, and then started writing a response of my own. But before I could complete my doctoral dissertation on the subject of standard Democratic Party perfidy vis-a-vis the working-class, anti-war, anti-imperialist “base” of the party — otherwise known as “fucking retards” by former Obama chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel — I discovered that Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report had already written it for me. Please see: Sanders Supporters Need to Split or Get Off the Pot
If you have any questions after reading it, I will gladly add my two-cents worth of purple, poetic (if not profane) prose. Does the Pied Piper of Hamlin ring a bell?
The question of “whether the demonstrated collective power of progressive activism and (especially) money might count in changing Clinton’s first term governing calculus” has an answer. Not might or maybe (except perhaps in the most superficial way via lip service or bone throwing), simply no. The possibility that progressive activism and fundraising would have your desired effect on Clinton running for reelection is slightly less farfetched. If she gets to a second term her “governing calculus” will be completely freed up except in the equally unlikely event that she faces real danger of impeached removal and prosecution. Hey, if we’re gonna dream, let’s dream big.
Anonymous, I am simply afraid that if Clinton kisses her crown, well, sorry…
Something relevant to the subject of preferential powerlessness and comfortable captivity, from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions:
“Then [Kilgore Trout] thought about what Bill [his pet parakeet] himself might want. It was easy to guess. “Bill, he said, “I like you so much, and am such a big shot in the Universe, that I will make your three biggest wishes come true.” He opened the door of the cage, something Bill couldn’t have done in a thousand years.
Bill flew over to a windowsill. He put his little shoulder against the glass. There was just one layer of glass between Bill and the great out-of-doors. Although Trout was in the storm window business, he had no storm windows on his own abode.
“Your second wish is about to come true,” said Trout, and he again did something which Bill could never have done. He opened the window. But the opening of the window was such an alarming business to the parakeet that he flew back to his cage and hopped inside.
Trout closed the door of the cage and latched it. “That’s the most intelligent use of three wishes I ever heard of,” he told the bird. “You made sure you’d still have something worth wishing for – to get out of the cage.”
And there you have it, “progressive” Democrats. Do you really want to get out of your DLC cage? Or do you prefer to remain in it by choice, forever wishing for something you claim to want but which you wouldn’t accept no matter how often the world offerered it to you?
This is purely speculative, but let’s imagine if the Democratic Party splits into two parts: a Social Democratic party and a DLC-Corporate party (Hillary et al.). Now, let’s imagine the Republican Party splitting into two parts: a Trumpist nationalistic party and an Establishment-Corporate party (Romney, Ryan, et al.).
Under these conditions, with four parties splitting the vote, I can see Trump (or a Trumpist authoritarian figure) easily winning, especially during an economic recession and/or “terrorist” attack, perhaps with 37-39% of the vote, a percentage analogous to the Nazis in 1932.
Why? Because Trumpists have the courage of their (angry/mad/crazed) convictions. They show up. The Dark Side may not be stronger, but it’s assuredly quicker, easier, more seductive. I can see the young Social Dems becoming disillusioned and staying home, and enough of the corporatists from either “big” party striking deals with the new Trump to “make America great again.” America, America, uber alles.
So I wonder if the current duopoly of parties truly is the worst case. History shows it can always get worse. Nationalism is on the rise again — just look at the Brexit.
Please don’t read this as a defense of the duopoly. I’m not voting for Clinton or Trump.
General response by M. Davout to above comments:
As long as we have constitutionally-mandated single member districts for Congress, seats in Congress will be divided between the two major parties (with a very, very few independents thrown in). The only chance a third party has to gain power under such a system is for it to be concentrated in a region or to displace one of the two major parties. Sometimes the regional concentration allows it to grow in strength until it overtakes one of the two major parties.
In what region would a social democratic party find consistent majorities that would enable it to build a regional base? I would guess the Pacific Northwest. Consistent success there might enable the party eventually to persuade social democrats in California to switch from whatever party they currently happen to be voting (whether Democratic, Green, or other). Once California goes, anything could happen. Does anyone on this thread see this or a similar scenario happening anytime in the next decade?
My post assumes that a regionally-viable social democratic party will not arise by 2020 but who knows? Major changes are on the way for European politics in the next two years.
I’m beginning to think a parliamentary system of government the better form. Witness Brexit, when Mr. Big lost the “Big One,” he also felt it necessary to walk the plank.
Yes. My sentiments exactly. Elections should only require a month, two at the most — publicly funded — and none of our bungling blowhard presidents should get a guaranteed four years in office irregardless of how many pooches they screw, or how badly. Why should we in the United States have to endure manifest coruption and incompence in our “leaders” when a simple vote of no-confidence should send them packing, as many times and as frequently as necessary to rid us of them and their thievery?
Way past time for a People’s Constitutional Convention, starting with a series of national “teach-ins” like we had back in the 1960s, educating the public to the outrageous blunders and criminality of our ruling corporate war party. The American electoral system badly needs a re-design. It doesn’t work any longer. First to go: the so-called “Electoral College” which clearly violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law” — a. k. a., “one man one vote.” And so on and so forth. Why should it matter where an American citizen lives?
Senator Bernie Sanders likes to throw around the word “revolution.” Do he and his followers really want one? If so, then Senator Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein need to start holding joint rallies and teach-ins laying out a real program for redesign and re-implementaiton of truly democratic government in the United States. I vote “no confidence” in the Government of the United States as presently constituted. It has to go.
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