Donald Trump and America’s Decline

W.J. Astore

Donald Trump, as Tom Engelhardt reminds us today at TomDispatch.com, was a declinist candidate for the presidency.  He saw America in decline, in peril, and said so.  He deplored America’s trade policies, its immigration policies, its position in the world.  He was a unique blend of pessimism, realism, and optimism — but, as recent events have shown, it has all ended in opportunism for Trump. And that opportunism — combined with his ego-driven need for adulation — is only exacerbating the very real decline of America.

As a candidate, Trump was rightly pessimistic about America and its wars, outspokenly realistic about our “third-world” infrastructure, and cagily optimistic that America could be great “again.” But if his first five months as president have shown anything, it’s that his approach to governance is in the service of his own brand and interests.  His motto: What’s good for Trump is good for America.  And that motto defines as well as restricts his vision.

As a candidate, Trump had valid insights into some of the aspects of American decline.  If only he would act on these insights!  If only he’d get us out of debilitating forever wars; if only he’d invest a trillion dollars in U.S. infrastructure; if only he’d commit truly to helping the working classes with better jobs (support for higher wages and health care for all would be a start).  Yet Trump, who talked of draining the swamp of Washington, has only become the latest and scariest creature of that swamp.

Despite all his failings, Trump has managed to secure a base of support that is resilient (so far).  Why is this?  As undisciplined as Trump can be and often is (all those damaging tweets!), there’s a reality to him. He may be boorish, bullying, boastful, and belligerent, but he’s real in the sense that he’s not trying to hide his flaws (because he sees them as strengths).

Contrast Trump with the Democratic establishment.  Yes, Bernie Sanders is real; he resonated (and resonates still) with America.  But the Democratic Party?  It’s still caught in the past, re-fighting the election of 2016, re-fighting the Cold War with Russia, re-fighting its old dispute between its “activists” and its “pragmatists.”  It appears the pragmatists are still winning, despite the fact that its posing pragmatist of progressivism (yes, it’s an oxymoron), Hillary Clinton, crashed and burned so spectacularly last November.

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“It says so on his hat.”

But to return to Tom Engelhardt’s article.  The grim irony of Trump is that the man who campaigned on the slogan “MAGA: Make America Great Again,” is doing his best as president to lead America deeper into a ditch.

In a different context, the Gospel speaks of a day when the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Trump, posing as an American Firster, may well lead Americans to a new and shocking position as Lasters.

A Silver Lining?

Bernie
Bernie Sanders pointed the way forward for Democrats

M. Davout

Editor’s Intro: My good friend M. Davout is a Democrat.  Like me, he favored Bernie Sanders in the primaries.  After donating to Sanders, holding a Sanders fundraising dinner with like-minded Democrats, making calls on his behalf and voting for him on Super Tuesday, Davout gave his vote to Clinton in the general election. In this article, he suggests that, in this dark political moment, the Sanders primary campaign continues to have a positive impact. For those dedicated to a form of democratic self-rule based on mutual respect and fraternal solidarity, a silver lining exists in the example set by the Sanders campaign of an opposition movement built on a democratic socialist vision that is centered on America’s working families. W.J. Astore

Hillary Clinton was the best-known Democratic establishment politician in the country.  She led a state-of-the-art campaign organization, which enjoyed the unstinting support of a popular incumbent president and first lady, the incumbent vice president, her former primary opponent, and her husband/former president. Her shocking defeat at the hands of an authoritarian-minded political amateur who ran as an unapologetic nativist and bigot should give little satisfaction to progressives.

For the next two years and possibly for the next eight, the federal government will be entirely controlled by a Republican Party, whose decades-long promotion of an “every man for himself” ethos may finally result in the gutting of most, if not all, of the remaining institutional legacies of the Great Society, New Deal and Progressive eras. Or, if Trump’s most objectionable instincts and his impulsive nature are not adequately controlled by the Republican establishment, we may be in for worse—a destabilizing foreign policy that may land us in conflicts that will make George W. Bush’s Iraq adventure seem harmless by comparison.

The silver lining for progressives in this grim picture? It isn’t the expectation that Trump’s election will lead to such catastrophic outcomes that U.S. voters will finally come to their senses and swing in overwhelming numbers to the political left. Stories (whether apocryphal or not) about German leftists of the Thirties, who saw Adolf Hitler’s elevation to the chancellorship in just such terms, should disenthrall us of this idea.

The silver lining, rather, is that Bernie Sanders gave Clinton a real run for her money in the primaries. Had he not run and had she been coronated as the party nominee (an outcome fervently wished by the then-DNC chair and other DC establishmentarians), the electoral defeat of Democrats would likely have been worse and the current feeling of despair would be far deeper. That Sanders, articulating a compelling social democratic vision of sensible self-government for the common good, was able to motivate and mobilize so many young people offers Democrats and left-leaning independents a path forward.

Sanders demonstrated that there is a significant opening for a social democratic party that can appeal across racial and ethnic lines and forge alliances with unions and new economy business people (e.g., producers of green tech and energy, internet entrepreneurs, and urban-based economic interests supportive of mass transit). The importance of that demonstration, which came in the form of millions of votes and volunteer hours, a campaign funding juggernaut powered by small donations, and over 20 state primary or caucus victories, should not be underestimated.

Whether one believes that a party led by Sanders would not have lost Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the reality is that future candidates of the left cannot afford to cede those states to the party of Reagan-Bush-Trump. If the Democratic Party cannot be reshaped into the social democratic party evoked by Sanders (and soon), his and our goal should be to persuade progressive Democratic politicians to join a new party of the left.

One thing is certain: Another establishment candidate in the mold of a Hillary Clinton, a candidate who is so comfortably ensconced in elite circles that he or she would not recognize the problem in accepting quarter-of-a-million dollar speaking fees from a Wall Street investment firm that helped tank the economy or in declaring Henry Kissinger to be a foreign policy making role model, will only ensure the triumph of reactionary candidates such as Trump.

It’s time for Democratic politicians to recognize the economic realities of ordinary Americans and fight unashamedly for progressive policies that answer the challenge of fostering lives of decency and mutual respect.  It’s time not only to embrace progressive candidates willing to reject a rigged system in the cause of economic and social justice but also to create (or re-create) a political party deserving of such candidates.

Trump Wins! A Few Thoughts on Why

sap
“I won’t play the sap for you.”

W.J. Astore

In my last post, I predicted Trump would lose.  I thought his declinist message and his blatant vulgarity would ultimately cost him too many votes.  As Trump would say, “wrong.”

What are we to take from Trump’s stunning upset?  Here are a few quick thoughts:

  1.  The Democrats ran the wrong candidate.  Remember when Bernie Sanders was saying he had the best chance to defeat Trump?  That the polls favored him and not Hillary? Turns out Bernie was right. People were looking for a candidate who represented change. Real change.  Bernie had that. So too did Trump.  But Hillary was the establishment personified. Not only that, but she had extensive baggage that led to high negatives. Too many people just didn’t like her. Or they simply wanted a fresh face and a new approach — even if that face was Trump.
  2. The October surprise.  Does Trump win without the last minute intervention of the FBI in the email follies? We’ll never know, but Hillary had the momentum prior to the letter issued by the FBI. That letter may have slowed her momentum just enough to allow Trump to win.
  3. All politics is local — or, at least, personal.  The Democrats addressed global issues like climate change.  The Republicans basically denied it’s happening.  The Democrats talked about embracing immigrants and tolerating Muslims.  The Republicans did neither.  What the Republicans did was to emphasize personal pain. The pain of those who’ve seen their jobs disappear and their way of life suffer.  The Republicans also played to nostalgia.  Yes, America is in decline, they said, but we can make the country great again (by making it less inclusive, by keeping out the “bad” people, by being tough).  That message proved appealing to so many Americans who see in Trump the possibility of returning to “the good old days” (whatever that may mean).
  4. I won’t play the sap for you.”  That’s a Humphrey Bogart line from “The Maltese Falcon.”  Many Americans believe they are being played for saps by foreign powers. Trump recognized this.  He called for tougher trade deals.  He called for NATO and other U.S. allies to pay their way.  He promised a new approach to foreign policy, one where enemies would be smashed even as Americans would avoid dumb wars like Iraq.  Basically, Trump promised that America would no longer play the sap for the rest of the world.  And the American people liked what they heard.

That’s my quick take.  Lots of Americans truly wanted a change in course — a sort of reactionary revolution.  That desire led them to downplay Trump’s sexism, ignorance, incivility, and vulgarity.  (Of course, there were some who embraced Trump precisely for these qualities.)  In essence, they simply had no patience for Hillary’s “politics as usual” message.

Finally, let’s not forget that Trump said the election is “rigged.”  He was a sore loser even before the results were in.  What kind of winner will he be?  Much will depend on the answer to that question.

Hillary versus Trump: How the Hell Did that Happen?

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Peter Van Buren

Editor’s Intro: At his “We Meant Well” blog, Peter Van Buren, whose first career was with the U.S. State Department, has an insightful (if somewhat depressing) post on how we ended up with Hillary versus Trump on next Tuesday.  His conclusion: Each candidate in her or his own way represents major cultural and political forces in America, even as neither truly represents the American people’s interests.  Here it is, in its (grim) entirety:

You hear the expression “lesser of two evils” when people talk about how they will vote in November.

Poll after poll shows a growing number of voters saying they will vote negatively – they’re against Hillary, so they’ll hold their nose and vote Trump, and vice-a-versa.

It is also likely a large number of discontented voters will simply stay home on Election Day. Both candidates are among the most unpopular and least trusted in American history. One of them will end up in the White House.

How did we get here? How is it the only two mainstream candidates left standing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

Hillary Clinton: All Appetite

Hillary Clinton is the archetypal 21st century candidate’s candidate, a fully formed tool of the oligarchy. Whether she wins or loses in November, she is the model for the next era of American politics.

Clinton sees The People as some mass to be pandered to and manipulated. She is simply a machine to gain power for its own sake (and money.) The One Percent tagged her early as exactly who they want to see in charge, someone who could be bought off, and she was nice enough to create her own vehicle to allow them to conveniently do that — write a check to the Clinton Foundation. As a bonus, it was also tax-deductible.

If Hillary did not exist, it would have been necessary for the wealthy who control most of America to create her.

The Once and Future Hillary

That wasn’t necessary, as Hillary Clinton had spent her entire life preparing for this.

By all accounts an intelligent, committed, feminist coming out of law school, she quickly fell into the TV classic 1950s role of dependent spouse, as “first lady” of Arkansas when Bill was governor, and of course, in the White House. Sure, she was given health care to mess around with during Bill’s first term, but when the issue crashed and burned, her role was reassigned to make safe speeches calling for more rights for women and girls. Safe in that she was allowed to pound the pulpit for those ideals in enemy territory like China, but not in countries like Saudi Arabia.

She was the good wife. And good wives look the other way when hubby strays a bit, even to the point of having sex in the Oval Office. And that’s because Hillary knew the Democratic Party would owe her for not blowing things completely apart in a messy divorce certain to reveal even more bad news.

First up was a Senate seat, a springboard for her presidential run.

In November 1998 four-term incumbent Democratic New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his retirement, opening a seat in a Solid Blue state. In early 1999 the Clinton’s bought a house in Chappaqua, New York (with “donated” money), all so that by September she was eligible to run as a “New Yorker.” While in the Senate Hillary was served up prime committee slots, and voted the safe votes (the Iraq War vote was safe at the time, of course, as everyone wanted to go to war. Nobody foresaw that one bouncing back the way it did.)

By the time the George W. Bush era finally gave up, everyone on earth knew the next president was going to be a Democrat.

So 2008 was going to be Hillary’s big moment, the first woman president, the one to clean up the Bush wars, who knows, maybe even score a Nobel Prize. But Hillary misread the degree of change Americans wanted, and in return for putting her plans on hold for another cycle or two, she settled in for four years as Secretary of State as a consolation prize. And have you heard? She sat in the Situation Room the night bin Laden was killed!

Taking No Chances

As the 2016 election approached, the Clinton’s took no chances.

The favors Hillary accrued as Secretary of State via the Clinton Foundation were transformed into money and support. As she pretended not to run, Clinton packed her campaign war chest with big-money speeches. A happy “listening tour” (remember the Scooby Van?) was created to show everyone how human Hillary was. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz lined up the Democratic Party machinery. Designated chump Martin O’Malley was set up as the loyal opposition so Hillary could create the appearance she was running against someone in the primary.

Then, oops, Bernie.

When Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere (as had Obama in 2008), Clinton again misread or did not care about how much change many Americans sought. As many long-suspected, and as we all now know after the hacks of the Democratic National Committee servers, the Party machinery was brought to bear against Sanders. The mainstream media was lined up to belittle, marginalize and ignore him. The millennial vote Sanders inspired was largely written off by Clinton. Bernie was reduced to a sad, little old man helping nominate someone at the Democratic Convention he clearly loathed.

Add to that the flood of disdainful remarks talking points-prepped Democratic pundits spewed forth, announcing as one support for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein is near-treason. A voter’s well-reasoned, act-of-conscious decision to support one of the two is held as nothing less than support for the Dark Lord.

The Democrat machinery and the people who control it made Clinton the inevitable candidate. There was no one else who ever had a chance. America was told to suck it up and vote for her, whether they liked it or not.

Trump Stumbles into His Role

The Republican Party fully misunderstood its constituency, thinking one of a spray of robo-candidates would be good enough to simply run as Not Obama, Not Hillary.

Each candidate on offer fell into the mold of ultra-mainstream, such as the why-am-I-here Jeb Bush, or the nut case category with Ben Carson. Ted Cruz couldn’t make up his mind, and vacillated between the two options. The plan was likely to meld the two wings into a ticket and scoop up as many conservative votes as possible.

Whatever Trump may have really been thinking when he started his campaign, he stumbled on to something hiding in plain sight. Large numbers of Americans, mostly white and formerly middle class, were angry. They were really angry. They had been left behind as the country changed, left like an audience at a magic show who saw the trick done, but couldn’t for the life of them figure out how it had happened. These people knew they were getting poorer, they could not find decent jobs, and they wanted someone to blame.

Enter Trump.

He told them it was not their fault. It was because of Obama, it was the Chinese, it was the Muslims, the Blacks, the Democrats, NAFTA, immigrants, refugees, whoever they feared and hated, whatever they wanted to hear. He told them their racism and hate was valid, and gave them a place to express it as no one in the mainstream had ever before done in a modern campaign.

Trump became a predator sniffing the wind. When he sensed people fed up with Hillary’s scamming for donations, he said he was self-funded. When he sensed people wanted change, he said he was an outsider. When voters tired of Hillary’s lawyerly answers and outright lies, Trump came out as plain spoken, even rude and crude — what candidate before had ever spoken of his penis size on the national stage?

Weakness overseas? Bomb the f*ck out of them. Worried about China? Renegotiate. Tired of terrorists? Torture them, maybe kill their families. Problems with the economy? I can fix it, says Trump, and he didn’t need to explain how because while no one really believes it, they want to believe.

Whole races and religions were condemned. People were bored with long think pieces and empty political language. Trump dished things out in 140-character Tweets. Voters made up their minds with the same tool they use to follow Beyonce.

Trump Ascendant

As a sign of Trump’s populism, and his popularity, he has garnered more small-dollar donations for the GOP than any other Republican candidate in history, and all that only since he seriously started asking for contributions in June. “He’s the Republican Obama,” Politico quotes one operative about Trump monetizing his Republican supporters.

Like nearly every person in the media, and the Democratic and Republican parties, I suspect when he first started out Trump never expected the ball to bounce as it did. Running was an ego thing, an elaborate prank, performance art, something maybe good for business. No such thing as bad PR.

But as others wrote him off, including the oligarchy, Trump learned.

Every time someone said “well, that’s the end of Trump” after some outrageous statement, Trump learned he needed only to top himself in the next sound bite. People wanted him to be racist, they wanted him to be larger than life, and they didn’t care if he lied or exaggerated. Most of the media, still reporting his latest statement (birther, debates are rigged) as a bad thing, still don’t get it.

Face It: They Are Us

America will have Trump or Clinton in the White House for the next four years because they are us.

Clinton is the ultimate end product of a political process consumed by big money. She is the candidate of the One Percent. She believes in nothing but the acquisition of power and will trade anything to get it. The oligarchy are happy to help her with that.

Trump is the ultimate Frankenstein product of decades of lightly-shaded Republican hate mongering. He is the natural end point of 15 post-9/11 years of keeping us afraid. He is the mediagenic demagogue a country gets when it abandons its people to economic Darwinism, crushes its middle class, and gives up caring what happens to its minorities.

Both candidates are markers of a doomed democracy, a system which somewhere in the past reached its apex and has only now declined enough that everyone, not just the boiling frogs, can see where we are. They’re us, people. We watched this happen, and we’ll be stuck trying to live with the results.

Why This Year’s Presidential Election Is So Depressing

furiosa_2015
I’d vote for Imperator Furiosa before Hillary and Trump

W.J. Astore

This year’s presidential election is depressing.  I suppose Trump and Hillary supporters are fired up.  They want to see “their” candidate win.  But for me, I wish a pox on both their houses, even as I hope the eventual winner is not as bad as he or she appears to be.

With respect to foreign policy, neither candidate comes close to representing my views.  Instead of American exceptionalism, instead of global reach and global power, I believe the U.S. needs to learn the merits of minding its own business.  I want a country that is not imperial, not militaristic, and not intent on waging forever wars against inchoate forces (terror) and with a changing roster of enemies (Al Qaeda/ISIS/radical Islam, North Korea, Iran, and now possibly Russia and China, and who knows who or what else next).  I want active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to end.  I want U.S. troops to be brought home.

We don’t need a new Cold War, America.  Nor should we be elevating terrorism, a containable threat, to an existential threat.  The true existential threat is incessant greed-wars, which will bankrupt our country even as they administer the death blow to our democracy.

The main candidates, Trump and Clinton, are committed to feeding the national security state.  Both promise more wars, especially war-hawk Clinton.  With Trump, honestly, I have no idea what to expect from him.  Trump has all the makings of a Nero.  He’ll fiddle (or Tweet) while the world burns.  And Hillary?  She’s a self-styled Imperator Furiosa (from the latest Mad Max movie) but without her heart.

So much of U.S. foreign policy nowadays is about selling weaponry.  We sell billions and billions to the Israelis and Saudis (among others), and the peoples of Palestine and Yemen suffer and die as a result.  Are U.S. hands clean merely because we made the weapons (and in some cases subsidized their purchase)?  What kind of “democracy” dominates the world’s arms trade?  In more enlightened days, the U.S. excoriated European countries and their “merchants of death” (this was in the 1920s and 1930s).  Now we are the merchants of death, boasting of all the money we’re making.  We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Trump and Hillary: one a Nero, one an Imperator.  Both American exceptionalists, both believers in the military, both willing to wield big sticks while never speaking softly.  Yes, I find that depressing.

On domestic policy, Hillary hews closer to what I believe, at least in theory.  But in practice who knows with Hillary?  She speaks with forked tongue on so many important issues.  I think liberals/progressives can count on her to be pro-choice, to be pro-LGBTQ, to be (or appear to be) sensitive to racism, to be inclusive (compared to Republicans), to be pro-immigration (again, compared to Republicans).  For many liberals/progressives/democrats, Hillary’s predictability on these issues is enough, especially compared to the hard right positions embraced by Trump/Pence.  And indeed more than a few of my Democratic friends are voting for Hillary based on these positions, together with their faith (fingers crossed) that her Supreme Court nominees will be somewhere to the left of Antonin Scalia.

Is that enough?  Not for me.  Again, it’s Hillary’s opportunism, the way she slips in and out of positions as if they’re so many interchangeable pantsuits, that I find so depressing.  Whether it’s the TPP or fracking or the $15 minimum wage or health care reform or bank reform or what have you, she changes her tune, much like a piper responding to requests.  Yes, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and I can’t pay the piper what Goldman Sachs can.  So I’ll never hear my tune played; only theirs.  And I know how that song ends: with even greater inequality followed by another financial meltdown, and this time maybe the middle class will die.

I can’t vote for more of the same (Hillary) only with more fury.  I can’t vote for random acts of caprice and belligerence guided by ignorance (Trump).  Honestly, you know what I want to do?  Write in “Bernie Sanders.”  He’s not perfect (who is?), but he has character and integrity, and that’s what this country really needs.  I know: Bernie told me to vote for Hillary.  But dammit, Bernie, I can’t do it.

Did I say I was depressed?  After I write in Bernie’s name on November 8th, I’ll walk away from the voting booth with a smile.  And to me that’s not a “wasted” vote.

Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s Choice for VP, Speaks Volumes About Hillary

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Tim Kaine, the non-progressive choice for VP

W.J. Astore

Hillary Clinton has selected her vice president and it’s Tim Kaine from Virginia.  Kaine is known as steady, Catholic, in favor of “free” (corporate) trade agreements like the TPP, a man with foreign policy experience, and also a man with the right pedigree (Harvard-educated lawyer).  Being from Virginia, naturally he’s considered to bring “balance” to the ticket.

But what about all those progressive passions that Bernie Sanders mobilized?  What about tapping that movement?  What about a candidate like Elizabeth Warren?  By choosing Kaine, Hillary is saying, Forget all that, Democrats.  I’m in charge here, and they’ll be no tomfoolery about progressive issues like health care or education or bank reform.  They’ll be no reform of a “rigged system” because we are the rigged system and we like it that way, thank you very much.

Hillary is banking that progressives have nowhere else to go, so to speak.  They’re not going to vote for Trump.  Sure, a few might go Green or Libertarian.  But most will stay with her, Hillary believes, as the best and only chance to keep Trump at bay.  And perhaps she’s right.

An interesting statement from a puff piece at the New York Times: “He’s a company man,” said Dan Allen, who was an adviser to George Allen (no relation), the Republican Mr. Kaine beat in 2012 to win his Senate seat. “He was in Mark Warner’s footsteps as lieutenant governor, then he was in the footsteps of Obama. From a Clinton standpoint, this is a guy who’s shown a pattern of, he’s more than willing to be a follower in the footsteps of whomever is the leader.”

That makes perfect sense.  Hillary wouldn’t want a VP who would eclipse her.  Elizabeth Warren would have.  Plus Warren is tough-minded, a fighter, an independent thinker.  Hillary’s number one priority has always been herself and keeping those beneath her loyal and subservient.  Seems like Kaine fits the bill.

In the aftermath of the Tim Kaine choice, if anyone out there still believes in a “progressive” Hillary, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, some great vacation land in the swamps of Florida …

What It Will Take to Gain My Support in 2020

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What kind of Progressive hugs Henry Kissinger?

M. Davout

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.