The “lesser-of-evils” argument might not work for independent voters this year.
For those who hope for swift unity in the Democratic Party, there are reasons to believe it won’t happen if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.
While there are serious policy differences between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a deeper fault line must be acknowledged between their supporters.
Certainly the two candidates remain far apart on issues that matter to progressives and independents — fracking, the TPP, tuition-free public colleges, universal single-payer healthcare, racist policing, militarism in the Middle East — to name just a few. Indeed, based on policy and political strategy, many independents and Democrats see Clinton as more like a traditional Republican. Many even see it as indicative of privilege if one supports Clinton over Sanders, given the current state of the economy and the environment. Many intelligent progressives see the two candidates as representing different social classes.
Nevertheless, a debate about policy differences only partially explains the disconnect between Clinton, on the one hand, and Democrats, independents, and progressives, on the other. Clinton has begun incorporating into her speeches many core issues of the Sanders campaign, including some mentioned above, but there remain deeper reasons many intelligent left-leaning voters remain unable to support Hillary Clinton: dishonesty and scandals.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
These deeper issues aren’t generally considered important by writers in the mainstream media. They paint Clinton’s dishonesty and scandals as Republican fabrications or as remnants of longstanding political vendettas that no longer matter. Writers, like yours truly, are generally accused of supporting the Republican if we even mention Clinton’s deeper shortcomings; we are also accused of sexism if we happen to be men.
So I will be attacked for writing this article. But I find it important nonetheless to try to help Democrats understand why, on a level deeper than just policy, intelligent non-sexist progressives and independents are generally unable to support Hillary Clinton.
First, it’s important to state that some of the scandals and darker rumors about Hillary and Bill Clinton are indeed the result of baseless political attacks. I’ve left those out of this article as much as possible.
Some Clinton scandals however are about real events, crimes, and misdemeanors, and those scandals are what must be acknowledged.
Just because a Republican says something doesn’t automatically mean that it’s false. Just because you don’t like the news that a messenger brings doesn’t mean that the messenger is wrong. Just because a journalist writes about the many reasons intelligent progressives are unlikely to support Clinton does not mean that that journalist is sexist or supports the atrocious and fraudulent candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is very bad, and must be defeated, but that doesn’t automatically make Clinton good in the minds of independent and progressive voters.
The truth is that poll after poll finds that people across the political spectrum do not trust Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders polls way ahead of her on the topic of honesty and trustworthiness — by as much as 50 points — and if he’s the nominee, polls show he would unite the left and independents in a way that Hillary will not.
Voters find even Trump — who seems to concoct his own facts and policy positions during each and every speech — more trustworthy than Clinton, by 8 points and growing.
Corporate media pundits who write for publications supporting Clinton (I’m looking at you, New York Times, CNN, NPR, and MSNBC) shrug off these numbers as the simple product of longstanding attacks on her credibility by her opponents. This is exactly the kind of nonchalant dismissiveness and shoddy journalism that doesn’t wash with intelligent progressives and independents anymore. There are many, many politicians who have been in the public eye for decades; only a handful are seen to be as dishonest as Hillary Clinton.
It’s not rocket science. The unbiased history shows that she does lie and obfuscate more frequently than other politicians, and she has changed her policy positions more often than most.
Intelligent voters notice this. Clinton rarely seems to be speaking her mind. She appears to calculate before speaking which specific words she should use to kill off a line of questioning, rather than engage in open discussion.
Barack Obama once said, “Hillary Clinton will say anything, and change nothing.” These words resonated with voters in 2008, and they resonate again now.
What She Says, or What She Does
To really understand why non-sexist, intelligent progressives and independents are unable to support Clinton we have to look at some historical patterns that provide a basis for mistrust.
Author Michelle Alexander has eloquently explained that Hillary Clinton and her husband bear much responsibility for the rise of mass incarceration of African Americans and the “new jim-crow.” Alexander explores the uncomfortable awareness that the Clintons might be as racist as Trump, but just hide it better. When someone is viewed as dishonest, what they do and have done becomes much more important than what they say.
Intelligent progressives also know that because of who Hillary is, as journalist Naomi Klein puts it, she is unfit and unable to address the crucial issues of climate change and wealth inequality. In other words, regardless of what she says, her longstanding connections to corporations such as Walmart, Monsanto, and Goldman Sachs formed her worldview long ago and she is unwilling—and unable—to change. What is worse is that she can speak on the campaign trail as if she would challenge these corporations, but whether or not she would is less important than the sense that she is dishonest and secretive and will say anything to get elected.
Her Damn Emails
Let’s look at a very recent, pertinent event. FBI Director James Comey reported to the nation this month on the findings of an FBI investigation into Clinton’s secret use of a private email server to conduct official business.
Many people remember Hillary last year answering questions about this secret server. Even Bernie Sanders said, “We’re tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
It turns out virtually everything she said last year about her secret server was contradicted by Comey and the FBI:
To neutral observers, and to intelligent progressives, this scandal isn’t “much ado about nothing,” as some diehard Clinton supporters maintain.
The fact that she set up her own email server and used her own personal email accounts isn’t just probable evidence that she broke numerous parts of the Espionage Act and thus might no longer qualify for security clearance. It’s an even bigger deal when one considers the allegations, discussed below, that Clinton ran the state department partly for personal enrichment by accepting large donations to the Clinton Foundation from repressive countries for which she approved weapons deals. If she sent classified information via her personal email account or communicated secretly with countries or foreign nationals who were donating to the Clinton Foundation, and then wiped her private server, this could point to serious corruption.
An Honest Appraisal of Scandals, Fraud, and Worse
Dozens of scandals have swirled around the Clintons’ rise through Arkansas and national politics. It would be difficult to compile a full appraisal of these scandals, as there are so many, but doing a short survey of them should go a long way toward explaining why the “lesser-of-evils” argument probably won’t work for independent and progressive voters considering their options in November.
I’ve chosen four that I think best provide an understanding of the state of mind of independent and progressive voters.
1. Election Rigging and Fraud. This is a current scandal on the minds of voters today. As has been documented extensively in both the corporate and alternative media, this Democratic primary was rigged in countless ways for Clinton from the very beginning. The media began counting superdelegates in October as if they’d already voted even though today they still haven’t; the DNC performed something shockingly similar to money laundering for the Clinton campaign to circumvent donation maximums and funnel millions to her campaign; the debates were reduced, canceled, or scheduled at times few people would watch, which prevented Bernie Sanders from becoming better known earlier in the primary; and the primary rules as a whole were written and rewritten by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who happens to be a longtime Clinton friend and ally.
In nearly every single instance, the election fraud and rigging of the rules favored Clinton.
The fact that Clinton benefited so much from all of this and never said anything about it, for many, is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s one thing if an imperfect system is a little bit unfair here and there. It’s another thing if the rules are systematically broken, always in favor of one candidate, and the beneficiary simply takes the spoils and runs. Mathematicians and election analysts have shown that when likely fraud is taken into account, Bernie Sanders might be rightfully winning right now going into the convention. At the very least, if Clinton values party unity, she should call for investigations and, where merited by evidence, request recounts or even revotes. That would go a long, long way to building party unity. Most voters want, first and foremost, a basic sense that the election has been fair.
This scandal has gotten little corporate media coverage so far, but it has been covered extensively in alternative media. Were Clinton viewed generally as trustworthy, this might not matter so much, but as it is, it’s a reason many independent voters remain uneasy, if not outright suspicious, about Hillary.
2. The Clinton Foundation. Mentioned above, this scandal is problematic even from a nonpartisan standpoint. There is a disturbing correlation between large donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation from repressive regimes, on the one hand, and enormous weapons deals approved for those same repressive regimes by the Clinton-led State Department, on the other.
To an honest, nonpartisan observer, it appears raising money for her foundation was at least as important as sending arms to repressive Middle Eastern regimes.
Here’s a segment that covers this scandal in a vituperative but informative short documentary from investigative journalist Abby Martin.
3. Drug Money in Arkansas. Of the many other scandals surrounding the Clintons’ rise to power in Arkansas and Washington, DC— I’m leaving out anything to do with Bill Clinton’s affairs and alleged sexual violence — this one scandal, to many progressives and independents, is the most damning. You don’t have to be a Republican to become suspicious when you learn the role the Clintons played in the longstanding importation of cocaine into the rural Mena, Arkansas airport by the CIA; this took place as part of the Iran-Contra scandal, while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.
The corporate media at first ignored the Mena story, but as numerous independent sources reported that the Clintons reaped benefits from this cocaine trafficking, it eventually broke through into the corporate media too. Millions in cash were evidently laundered through a state agency the Clintons created — the Arkansas Development Finance Authority — and some of the money was used to fund their political rise.
4. Dead People. This one is the most difficult to contemplate, most difficult to prove, and most difficult to ignore. I mention it because it would seriously stain a Clinton candidacy in the eyes of many independent voters come November.
Ninety-one people who have been close, politically or personally, to the Clintons have died in unusual or unexplained circumstances during the Clintons’ time in Arkansas and national politics. Not included in that devastating count are two people who died just in the past month: Young DNC data director Seth Rich, who was managing Democratic Party voter records and had a passion for election integrity, was murdered via four shots to the back in Washington DC; and John Ashe, former UN President who was about to testify in a corruption case surrounding a Chinese businessman with connections to the Clintons, died in New York apparently from a dumbbell falling on his neck.
Please note that I’m not making an allegation about either of these particular murders, just conveying the horrifying sense of this strange series of deaths. This piece recounts forty or so of the worst, if you want to read more. Perhaps it’s enough to say that many independent and progressive voters view the Clintons as actual criminals. For many people, there’s just too much evidence to reject out of hand these deaths as—to use the most anti-intellectual epithet of our time—a ‘conspiracy theory.’ It’s an ugly picture indeed.
Aura of Secrecy and Avoidance
Ultimately Hillary Clinton’s campaign managers must know that she either has things to hide or simply fears speaking freely. Whatever the reason, she hasn’t held any public news conferences this entire year. Let me say that again: While running for the highest office in the land, Hillary Clinton hasn’t held a single public news conference where the media can ask her questions.
This aura of avoidance adds to a perception that she’s dishonest and secretive. Whether or not she’s hiding something, avoiding the press provides another reason to think that she is hiding something. The easiest way to dispel perceptions of dishonesty and secrecy is simply to speak more and to speak more openly. Hillary Clinton doesn’t do this, and so we’re all left with our own assumptions about her.
Some voters will assume that she has nothing to hide and that all of this is a Republican or sexist plot to discredit her.
Other intelligent progressives and independents of all ages, races, and genders assume that she does have something to hide. There seem to be scandals within scandals surrounding her, and, in a nutshell, this is why so many intelligent people do not trust her and cannot support her.
If Clinton becomes the nominee, this mistrust does not bode well for party unity, and it might prove foolish to expect the “lesser of evils” argument to work in November, even against Donald Trump. Many progressives and independents will vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein, write in Bernie Sanders on their ballots, or simply stay home.
If the Democratic Party delegates, on the other hand, vote to award Bernie Sanders the nomination at the convention in Philadelphia, they will nominate a candidate not only more trustworthy than Donald Trump, but a historically honest, trustworthy, and scandal-free candidate. Bernie Sanders will likely appeal to progressives and independents across the spectrum, unite the entirety of the Democratic party, and defeat Donald Trump in a November landslide.