Goliath has won. Barring something truly extraordinary or tragedy, the Democratic presidential nominee will not be Bernie Sanders. Not only does Hillary Clinton have a nearly unassailable advantage in pledged delegates and the support of the vast majority of super delegates, she is ahead in the few states which still haven’t held primaries and which she needn’t win in any event. Under these circumstances, it does not behoove progressives to engage in magical thinking.
Federal agents are not going to frog-march Hillary Clinton out of her Brooklyn campaign headquarters for maintaining classified materials on a private email server contrary to federal regulations. Likewise, rich and influential Democratic establishment delegates, are not going to switch en masse to the socialist because polls show he does better against each Republican candidate in hypothetical matchups.
It is easy to see why progressive Democrats would cling to the belief that the “
dishonest thin-skinned, private, controlling, . . . distrustful, . . . lawyerly, and shifty” choice of investment bankers, military contractors, and perhaps even Charles Koch couldn’t – just couldn’t – head our party’s ticket. But she will.
Clinton will not be charged with any crimes associated with the classified materials that turned up on her home-brewed email server in Chappaqua for several reasons. Most importantly, she shouldn’t be. Although Clinton violated federal regulations, probably due to a secretive Nixonian nature and a careless disregard for the rules, it does not appear she deliberately broke any criminal laws. To my knowledge, individuals accused of negligent mishandling of materials classified after the fact have never been charged criminally.
President Barack Obama has made clear that Clinton is his first choice to lead the nation when he steps down in January. Given her ties to Wall Street and the Clintons, Attorney General Loretta Lynch knows she is far more likely to become the first African-American woman to sit on the Supreme Court it if she chooses not to prosecute the former First Lady. Under these circumstances and given the extremely weak (at best) criminal case against Clinton, it beggars belief to think Obama and Lynch will prosecute.
It is even less likely that the establishment delegates, whom Sanders supporters have slammed for months, will reject a candidate with whom they share a close class affinity and who, not incidentally, has racked up many more votes in the Democratic primaries. Doing so would alienate two core Democratic constituencies – voters of color and seniors – who overwhelmingly support Clinton. It might well therefore reduce Democratic chances to keep the White House, take the Senate, and erode the Republican advantage in the House.
So what should Sanders supporters do? If we live in a state that hasn’t yet held its primary, we should of course vote for our candidate. The narrower Clinton’s margin of victory the more likely she will make meaningful concessions to the progressive left in the run-up to the general election. But we must also reflect on how best to bring about the political revolution we need to ensure economic and environmental justice after her inevitable nomination this July.
When it comes to the top of the ticket in November, a vote for Clinton will likely be the only rational move. A major factor behind our nation’s self-destructive embrace of economic liberalism has been the Supreme Court’s systematic dismantling of campaign finance rules starting in the mid-1970s with the Buckley v. Valeo decision and culminating with the disastrous Citizens United ruling in 2010. Given Antonin Scalia’s salutary death earlier this year, a Clinton appointment or two might well lead the Supreme Court to repeal Citizens United. Such a development could create a fertile environment for a populist movement that sweeps the land over the next few years. But it will only happen if a Democrat is in the White House next year.
There are at least two other reasons to vote for Clinton. The obvious one is her Republican opponents. At this writing, the odds favor a Donald Trump Hillary Clinton match up. Trump can claim some populist bona fides, he turned against the Iraq war long before Clinton did and he is much less equivocal in his opposition to “free trade”. Still, his long and ugly history of racist, sexist, and otherwise irresponsible rhetoric and an absence of any government experience render him wholly unqualified. Ted Cruz would probably be an even worse president than Trump. John Kasich may seem somewhat refreshing, due to his mature temperament, but his views are only slightly less extreme than those of the average Republican.
The third reason to vote for Clinton is there’s some reason to believe she’d be a more liberal president than her record suggests. The Atlantic argues she was to Bill Clinton’s left on economic matters in the 1990s. Others claim her relentless hawkishness results from her recognition that as a woman she can’t be seen as “soft” on national defense. If she becomes president, perhaps she’ll feel liberated from self-imposed constraints necessitated by relentless fund-raising from and gladhanding with neocons and neoliberals. While I wouldn’t bet on it, it’s just possible a “progressive who gets things done” butterfly rather than a “kinda moderate“centrist moth will emerge next year in the oval office.
Danny Cardwell “the Thought Wrestler” chides (unfairly in my view) Sanders supporters for not “doing the hard work necessary to shape their [local] communities [in the mistaken belief that] electing Bernie will free them from their social responsibilities.” The critique misses the mark because 1) it knocks millions of people who devoted countless hours to the Sanders campaign for not doing even more, 2) it suggests Bernie’s backers bear the burden of bringing about social change, 3) it ignores how tantalizingly close progressives came against all odds to defeating the plutocrats’ choice.
Still, Danny raises a crucial point and suggests a way forward. We on the left do need to be attuned to every local tax initiative, school board race, and zoning commission decision. We must organize to promote positive change and stymie regressive actions whenever and wherever possible. By working together successfully on a local level, we can bridge the seemingly unbridgeable racial, ethnic, and gender gaps the one percent exploits viciously in every election to keep poor, working, and middle-income people at each others’ throats. Once we unite we will defeat the still ascendant investment bankers, military contractors, and fossil fuel companies.