Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)
01 May 16
oor Hillary. She just doesn’t get it. Neither do the Very Important People who back her. Call it arrogance, willful blindness, or rotten judgment, their collective failure to understand Bernie Sanders and those of us who support him could cost Clinton the presidency – not to Bernie, but to Donald Trump.
To understate the case, a victory for bully-boy Trump would not be good news. Not for the planet. Not for women. Not for Mexicans, other Latinos, and blacks. Not for Muslim-Americans. Not for Jewish-Americans. Not for immigrants facing deportation. Not for disaffected white working-class men, whom he would inevitably betray. Not for the poor, whom he despises as losers. Not for the different or disabled. Not for the Supreme Court. And, not for those of us committed to continue our fight for a democratic socialist revolution.
On foreign policy, he will run well to Hillary’s left. His open support for improved relations with Russia and China, his skepticism toward NATO, which I share, his iffy opposition to the no-win war in Iraq and French-led intervention in Libya make him appear far more realistic than the hawkish Hillary. But he favors torture whether it works or not. He revels in targeted assassinations far more than do Obama and Clinton. He speaks too easily about using nuclear weapons. And he’s too xenophobic, simplistic, reckless, and unpredictable to be allowed anywhere near the CIA, the Pentagon, or the nuclear button.
Hillary is bad enough. Look at her history as an imperial warmonger long before the neo-cons backed her. Listen to her self-righteous avowal of “American exceptionalism,” which is just another form of too much nationalism. But, like her or not, she has shown herself more cautious, circumspect, and open to dissuasion by allies than Trump would ever be. She is indeed the lesser evil.
Trump has already sharpened his tongue against her, calling her “Crooked Hillary” and promising a devastating campaign against her supposed foreign policy strengths as well as her personal unpopularity, which easily rivals his own. I still don’t think he can win, but she would be a fool to underestimate him. This is especially true because he poses a threat that takes us into a very dark realm. By spouting his off-the-cuff racist, religious, and nationalist bigotry, Trump has opened wide the door to America’s venomous Ku Kluxers and other white supremacists, violent skin-heads, and Christian nationalists with all their armed militias. He has even begun to extend his hand to Europe’s neo-fascists, welcoming a visit and endorsement from Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s racist and anti-immigrant Northern League. Trump is still showing caution about getting too close to other of Europe’s neo-Fascists, many of whom have shown caution about getting to close to him. But, stay tuned.
In the meantime, Sanders understands that Hillary will almost certainly win the nomination and has once again promised that he would vote for her against Trump or any other Republican. He is playing nice, but he will not play dead. Asked on the Today show about Trump calling Clinton crooked, he condemned it as “an ugly statement.” But pressed on whether his own attacks on Hillary for taking money from Wall Street did not imply that she was crooked, he simply smiled. “In that case,” he said, “the entire United States government is crooked.”
He has also refused to call on his supporters to back Hillary, explaining – quite correctly – that he did not have the power to demand that they fall in line behind her. She would have to win them over, he said. How? He has told her quite clearly.
“We are in this campaign to win,” he told a crowd of students at Purdue. “But if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen.”
This is Bernie’s price. If Hillary refuses to pay it – as she is now doing by using her party apparatchiks to stand in the way of a truly progressive platform – she will lose many who voted and worked so enthusiastically for him. Some of us may put clothespins on our noses and vote for her, even as we build a movement to oppose much of what she or Trump would do as president. Others will vote for the Greens. A few will vote for Trump, damned fools they. And no one knows how many will write in Bernie’s name or just stay home. The choice is now Hillary Clinton’s, and she appears to be making the wrong one.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.