The Real Progressive Case for Hillary Clinton

Kevin Drum has posted what he believes is an “overwhelming” progressive case for Hillary Clinton. (Or at least that’s what the headline says — in the actual text of the post it is downgraded to a “liberal” case.) The post consists of a lengthy numbered list of things that I assume Drum thinks progressives should like — though #23, “She voted for TARP,” makes me wonder which progressives Drum is hanging out with, as do the references to debunked 90s scandals toward the end. In sum, the thing is a total hodgepodge, not at all a coherent case.

I think we can all agree that the ideal outcome would be for Bernie Sanders to ride a wave election and implement smart progressive policy because he believes in it and always has. You would have to be a fool to assume that Clinton will be as aggressive and consistent as Sanders would have been, even if she winds up controlling Congress. She is not a principled progressive, and though she has opportunistically adopted some progressive stances under pressure, there is no particular reason to believe she wouldn’t opportunistically reverse herself again if that seemed to be advantageous.

Under Clinton, then, progressives won’t be able to sit back and cheer as the president gives them everything they want. They will have to push her to do some good things that she has said she will do but might not really want to, and they will probably also have to protest when she wants to do bad things. Her very opportunism indicates that she is susceptible to such pressures, as Democrats tend to be. Even the most evil of Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, showed some responsiveness to BLM protestors.

By contrast, under Trump, activists will constantly have to be protesting against not just bad things, but stupid things that obviously shouldn’t happen. What’s more, those protests will not get any results, because Republicans habitually double down in response to protest. Bush could look at literally the biggest coordinated global protest in world history and say, “See, that’s the kind of freedom we want to bring to Iraq!” When we factor in Trump’s unique personality — not to mention the right-wing extremists his victory will embolden — things look even worse.

A vote for Clinton isn’t so much a vote for a person as it is a vote for a certain landscape. Do you want the atmosphere to be like the Obama years, which were discouraging and yet punctuated by moments of genuine progress? Or do you want to go back to a wasteland of utter despair and futility like the Bush years? Clinton is not a natural ally, but she will at least hold open the space where the left can grow. Trump might stamp it out for a generation.

17 Responses to “The Real Progressive Case for Hillary Clinton”

  1. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    What about a landscape that, under Trump, would be less likely to precipitate nuclear war than a landscape under Clinton where NATO / western alliance escalates its aggressive provocation and encirclement of Russia and China? In other words, whatever domestic horrors ensue, we are more likely to preserve having something to fight for at all.

  2. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    Trump seems to be willing to allow the US to recede to great power status, thereby deescalating the confrontation with geopolitical rivals. Possibly a return to increased protectionism and isolationist instincts.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Unless you believe Hillary is going to make a nuclear first strike, this concern is utterly ridiculous. Putin and Xi are not going to commit national suicide by nuking us.

  4. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    As you have mentioned previously, the confrontation in Syria risks igniting World War III. I don’t believe any world leader has the intention to conduct a nuclear first strike, but if we trip into open conflict or a high stakes, Cuban Missle Crisis-like staring contest then the who knows what may happen given the rapidity of events and the intensifying calculus of the situation.

  5. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    Someone correct me if the situation has changed since the Cold War, but it doesn’t take the national leader to press the button, it can also be pushed by the unanimous decision of officers on a nuclear-armed submarine, for example.

  6. Antiall Says:

    You’re seriously invoking Feet to the Fire Politics? Seriously? And linking it with that empty signifier, “progressive”, to create a non-specific affective case for voting for Hillary Clinton (someone I would call a mass murderer)?

    Your Clinton landscape is drawn from the perspective of a privileged position as an American citizen living in the west. (As we know from the great humanitarian liberal currently occupying the anachronistic office of elected monarch, an American citizen not in the west is subject to due-process-free execution.) You elide from your landscape the support of the neocons, support she does not reject but celebrates. You elide Iraq and the siege warfare of sanctions. You elide Libya, even after a UK parliamentary investigation and her email confirmed it was a deliberate imperial campaign disguised as “humanitarian intervention.”

    You elide too much. The totality of a Clinton landscape is an unacceptably ugly picture.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    American citizens are the ones who vote in American elections. I don’t know what other perspective I’m supposed to take.

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    And as for my “elisions” — exactly why does everyone think I need to mention every single thing on every single occasion, or else I’m hiding it? My audience knows very well all the facts you shared, if only because I have written about them in the past. Most self-identified “progressives” do as well. They’re also probably well aware of the horrors of Obama’s foreign policy. I mean, I am not making a positive case for Hillary in herself. This is a version of the lesser evil argument. How could that be more clear? I very literally say that progressives will be protesting her. Do I need to enumerate every single thing they will be protesting, or else I’m a sell-out? That’s idiotic. That’s treating all discourse like a tweet, where nothing can be assumed and every piece of writing is taken in total isolation.

  9. Teufelaffe Says:

    Let me see if I get this straight, Trump, who declared that he would “start a World War” to combat terrorism and asked multiple times during a security briefing why we couldn’t use nukes since we have them, is *LESS* likely to get us involved in a nuclear conflict than Clinton? Really? That’s the argument you’re going to go with?

  10. Nathan Says:

    The idea that the left can’t take advantage of a Trump presidency is not universally true. For instance, in the late 19th early 20th century the ascending merchant capitalists of China (progressive enough to be considered liberal by todays standards) found themselves in an alliance with socialists and other radicals against an extremely conservative and incompetent government bureaucracy content with their own comforts but unwilling to address pressing issues. The left then played their cards right despite brutal violent opposition, admirably in my view, and eventually took power.

    I am not arguing for accelerationism AT ALL, there is no way of justifying a vote for trump, I am just saying if Clinton proves to be as politically inept as she often shows herself to be, the left cannot just sulk it out for four years and wait for another DNC polished “progressive”. I make a point to read pretty much all your posts related to politics but the cynicism, while often warranted, is getting thick. If endless protests is what is required, well history has shown the left to be particularly adept in that area while capitalists ride the bandwagon and hope things don’t go TOO far left. We SHOULD take the lead in dissent should tragedy strike and Trump is elected. Considering that traditional media outlets are so ineffective and unconvincing in their ability to expose whats rotten in all that he stands for, that would represent an opportunity to present an alternative, possibly one that the liberal establishment might allow to grow as long as it would detract from Trump. The point would be to create enough momentum to blindside them. Now, of course the opposite is also true that the left should lead dissent during a Clinton presidency in an effort to drown out the breitbart critique and alt rights of the world in the same service of creating that alternative to the status quo.

    People call Trump the embodiment of Machiavelli’s Prince, I personally believe he is just too damn stupid to live up to Machiavelli’s high standard. The left on the other hand should acquire that kind of political ruthlessness, and seize any opportunity afforded to it whoever happens to be elected.

    It’s dark days, and while I myself have literally had nightmares about living in a country with Trump as its ruler, the prospect of watching the Clinton political machine do its thing for years and years is only slightly better. At least the nukes wouldn’t get dropped arbitrarily, hopefully… history surprises with all the contingent elements. Thats the only thing that really can be counted on.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I don’t think I’m being cynical. The system is offering us two options in this election, and I’m making the case for why one is slightly less bad. Actually showing up to vote does not take a huge time commitment. I actually think that boycotting the election would in a way be taking the system too seriously, as though we somehow expect it to give us good options. In a big and powerful system, small differences make a big difference.

  12. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    Teufelaffe: Trump is doggedly consistent about intending to deal with Russia through dialogue though there is no obvious political advantage to him saying this. By contrast, the remarks you cite are pure red meat to the base, of which he throws a lot. The current approach of brazenly prodding Russia’s red lines is dangerous and the prospect that Clinton would continue or escalate this approach is terrifying. I am genuinely at a loss as to why the increasingly chaotic attempts of a declining superpower to sabotage and destabilize its ascendant rivals should not terrify me. That Trump, by contrast, seems intent on adjusting America to a multipolar world order is something that progressives should consider. Needless to say I would vote for Jill Stein.

  13. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    I honestly don’t think Trump ‘gets’ what the establishment and deep state want to preserve globally. He’s a rich asshole who genuinely doesn’t understand why rich assholes can’t just confine their conflicts to shenanigans in the business world and enjoy lording over their respective fiefs.

  14. Stephen Hinchey Says:

    I should clarify that I certainly don’t think he’s beyond military belligerence, just that he is not interested in risking blowing up his shiny possessions or having a major conflict seriously disrupt his glittering world.

  15. Nathan Says:

    Wasn’t arguing for a boycott. Vote Clinton! (It still sounds like nails on chalkboard). I agree with the assessment on afforded legitimacy. I was more or less arguing that the left should expect that there will be a need to provide dissent from outside the typical institutions regardless of the situation handed to it by a “democratic” election.

    I recently had to re register to vote and out of protest from the democratic primaries, I checked Green Party and almost immediately felt pathetic. Perhaps that’s what a lot of people feel when they take the system too seriously.

  16. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I went so far as to vote Green for the Water Reclamation Board last election. The frisson of transgression was… let’s just say it was disappointing.


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