1. Should Progressives
Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote
2. Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the
3. The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots
4. If Hillary Clinton Wins the Presidency, This Is the Most
Left-Wing Thing She Will Do
This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item
1 is about a discussion between between Ben
Jealous, an ex-president of the NAACP, and Jill
Stein, and is an interesting debate (and I side with Jealous,
and will explain); item 2 is a quite interesting
discussion between Chris Hedges and Robert Reich (and I side with Reich and will explain); item
3 is about an article by Hedges, with which I largely disagree; and
item 4 is about an article by Juan Cole, who points
out, quite correctly I think, that voting for Hillary
Clinton does have one progressive advantage that not
voting for her lacks: She will nominate, if president, progressive
rather than conservative judges to the Supreme Court.
Progressives Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote Green?
first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
After a tension-filled opening
day of the Democratic National Convention that saw Senator Bernie
Sanders endorse his former rival Hillary Clinton, we host a debate
between Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein and Ben
Jealous, former NAACP president and CEO and a Bernie Sanders surrogate.
That was a good idea (as is the next item,
also by Democracy Now!). To start with, here is Ben Jealous:
JEALOUS: Well, you know,
we came through a primary, and now we have 105 days to keep a madman
out of the White House. And we went—you know, we know what happened in
2000. And the reality is that we cannot afford to end up with having an
Iraq War because we narrowly lose the White House to somebody who
should not be in there, as we did with Bush. So, the reality is, you go
through a primary, you come into a convention, and you come out one
campaign, in this case to hold onto the White House and keep a
neofascist from becoming president.
I quite agree: Yes, Trump is "a madman" (and
I am a psychologist) and yes, although he is mad and quite
unpredictable, also because he doesn't read and seems ignorant of many
things, the program he does have (and see here for the GOP's 2016
program: quite frightening) marks him as "a neofascist".
And yes, I also agree that these are the most important things to judge
Trump by: He is mad, unpredictable, ignorant, and dishonest, and the
program he stands for is a kind of neofascism.
There is also this (and the speaker is still Ben Jealous):
And he has all the personality
characteristics of some of the worst dictators and tyrants we’ve seen
around the world. But the reality is here that he will also destroy
voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights. He will put in a
Supreme Court that will take us back very quickly.
Yes, quite so. Here is dr. Jill Stein
of the Green Party:
STEIN: I agree. Donald
Trump is a very dangerous person. He says extremely despicable,
reprehensible things. But at the same time, Hillary Clinton has a track
record for doing absolutely horrific things, for expanding wars, in the
likes of Libya, for example.
Yes, but mostly no is my reply: Clearly,
Stein is correct in saying "Donald Trump is a very dangerous person",
but no: she simply did not answer the points Ben Jealous made,
viz. that Trump is not merely "a very dangerous person" but is
also both "a madman" and "a neofascist".
The problem is not Donald Trump alone. The
problem is the policies of neoliberalism, of austerity, of the Wall
Street deregulation and the NAFTA, which
Hillary Clinton herself represents, has promoted. Putting another
Clinton in the White House, unfortunately, is not the answer.
Nothing Stein says answers Jealous's points, and indeed here is Amy
Goodman with a quite valid point:
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jill Stein, you remind me of
someone. You remind me of Ben Jealous before yesterday. He wasn’t
saying that’s the problem with the Democrats; he was saying that’s the
problem with Hillary Clinton. And that’s why you supported Bernie
BEN JEALOUS: Right.
Then again, Stein does make a valid point:
Remember, you do not defeat neofascism
through neoliberalism. Neoliberalism will create more neofascism.
I agree, and in fact I go further: Most
neoliberalism I have seen is - if you take out the propaganda
terms and the empty promises, and look at the things they really
want - simply pro-rich anti-tax anti-poor pro-racist neofascism.
And indeed so does Jealous, who in fact
repeats a point Noam Chomsky also made:
If you guys are going to actually
go in there and—you know, people have a choice between, yes, a
neoliberal, a neofascist and the Green Party; let’s be honest, voting
for the Green Party in a swing state helps the neofascist.
Quite so - but dr. Jill Stein simply
does not answer Jealous's points (who is also a pro-Sanders man)
that Trump is not an ordinary candidate at all, but
Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges
on Tackling the Neoliberal Order
is a personally mad neofascist, both of which are
either completely new in American politics, on this level, at
least, or at least are very rare. 
This is a recommended article.
The second item is also by Amy Goodman and Juan
González on Democracy Now!:
This is in fact a quite
interesting debate between two persons, Reich and Hedges, whom I both
like, indeed without quite agreeing with either. But both are
intelligent, both know a lot, and both are quite often mostly right
(though not always, in my opinion, and see the
Nederlog indexes with their names).
It was a good idea to get them together and let them discuss
The article starts as follows:
The day after Senator Bernie
Sanders spoke at the Democratic National Convention and urged his
supporters to work to ensure his former rival wins the presidential
race, we host a debate between Clinton supporter Robert Reich, who
served as labor secretary under President Clinton, and Chris Hedges, a
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who backs Sanders.
I should start this by saying that this
introduction seems to be a bit mistaken: Reich originally backed
Sanders, and now that Sanders is out backs Clinton, while Hedges does
and did not back Sanders but backs Jill Stein. I don't think
this was done on purpose, but I do like to get the record straight.
First Robert Reich:
REICH: Well, it’s very
hard to tell what the delegates are going to do. And it’s very hard to
tell—even harder to tell what the electorate is going to do. You know,
this is a very agonizing time for many Bernie Sanders supporters. I,
with a great deal of reluctance initially, because I’ve known Hillary
Clinton for 50 years—50 years—endorsed Bernie Sanders and worked my
heart out for him, as many, many people did. And so, at this particular
juncture, you know, there’s a great deal of sadness and a great deal of
feeling of regret.
I don't think Hillary Clinton will be a great
president, and I also do not think she will be a good president, but I
do agree she will make a much less bad president than the horrors
promised by a Trump presidency.
And right now, at this particular point in
time, I just don’t see any alternative but to support Hillary. I know
Hillary, I know her faults, I know her strengths. I think she will make
a great president. I supported Bernie Sanders because I thought he
would make a better president for the system we need. But nonetheless,
Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. I support her. And I
support her not only because she will be a good president, if not a
great president, but also, frankly, because I am tremendously worried
about the alternative. And the alternative, really, as a practical
matter, is somebody who is a megalomaniac and a bigot, somebody who
will set back the progressive movement decades, if not more.
And I agree with Reich that Trump "is a
megalomaniac and a bigot" and indeed I also
agree (as Reich wrote earlier this year) that Trump is a (neo)fascist,
while Clinton - who I think is worse than Reich believes - is not
a neofascist (but is a rightist Democrat who is funded and supported by
And here is Hedges:
HEDGES: Well, reducing
the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The
fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted
totalitarianism. It’s a system where corporate power has seized all of
the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of
Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We’ve lost our privacy. We’ve
seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has
outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We’ve seen the executive
branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as
giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including
children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. We have bailed
out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a
bipartisan effort, because they’ve both been captured by corporate
power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a
corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s over.
I think Chris Hedges is mostly correct here -
except for his very first statement. Here are my views
(in brief), and I start with everything but the first statement:
I think Chris Hedges is quite correct in saying (in
effect, and I may be interpreting a little) that the Left has lost
battle with the Right that was started by Reagan in 1980, and that was
continued ever since, also under both kinds of presidents: "corporate power has seized all of the levers of control", to phrase in in Hedges's terms.
Also, this is quite important and it was a battle that lasted 35
years, which ended in "what John Ralston
Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s
And I do appreciate that Chris Hedges makes the point, for I
think it is quite true, quite bitter, and hardly acknowledged by most
of the Left.
Next, I think Chris Hedges is quite incorrect when he said that
"reducing the election to personalities is kind
of infantile at this point".
First, he does nothing to answer Jealous's points (in the
previous section, but known to Hedges) that Trump is not just
any candidate, but is quite special in being both a madman
and a neofascist.
And second, his wording strongly suggests that he knows (but doesn't
say) that in fact he is being rhetorical rather than realistic. (And he
is, whether he knows it or not.)
Before turning to Reich's replies, here is some more by Hedges. First,
there is this (and see the Nederlog of
July 25 for more on Poland by Chris Hedges):
Poland has gone, I think we can
argue, into a neofascism. First, it dislocated the working class,
deindustrialized the country. Then, in the name of austerity, it
destroyed public institutions, education, public broadcasting. And then
it poisoned the political system.
I fear that is correct. The next bit is - I
think - quite incorrect:
We’ve got to break out of this
idea that we can create systematic change within a particular election
cycle. We’ve got to be willing to step out into the political
wilderness, perhaps, for a decade. But on the issues of climate change,
on the issue of the destruction of civil liberties, including our right
to privacy—and I speak as a former investigative journalist, which
doesn’t exist anymore because of wholesale government surveillance—we
have no ability, except for hackers.
More precisely, while I agree mostly with the
second part (the last statement) I think the first two statements are
indulgences in wild phantasies:
First, in fact that is about the only thing voters can
these days: Decide who is going to be nominated. The other means of
influence on politics, such as setting the issues, deciding who is
going to be candidates, making the political plans of parties and
considerably more, simply have been taken away from the voters
and have been handed over to the combination of elected party delegates
and their lobbyists.
Second, Hedges seems to miss completely how extremely long four years
is in politics, let alone eight years or "a
Most politicians and most people interested in politics live on a
day-by-day schema in which most things that take considerably longer
are not often considered - and I am not saying this is
desirable, I am saying this is mostly fact
(apart from a few themes, that often correspond to fundamental
differences between parties or between politicians): Who knows what was
in the paper even a mere three months ago? Few do.
Third, "to step out into the political
wilderness, perhaps, for a decade"
is simply to give up politics, say for a decade, which seems quite
irresponsible to me, for you should also do politics (if you do this at
all) in cases where all you can do is to choose from several evils.
But here is Robert Reich. First, there is this:
REICH: Well, Amy, it’s
not just taking a walk in the political wilderness. If Donald Trump
becomes president, if that’s what you’re referring to, I think it
is—there are irrevocable negative changes that will happen in the
United States, including appointments to the Supreme Court, that will
not be just political wilderness, that will actually change and worsen
the structure of this country. I couldn’t agree with Chris Hedges more
about his critique, overall, of neoliberalism and a lot of the
structural problems that we face in our political economy today.
Of course if the Left chooses to go
into "the political wilderness", the Right has all the freedoms to "actually
change and worsen the structure of this country".
I am not saying the Left can prevent this (seeing how many laws have
been deregulated the last 36 years), but it certainly cannot and will
not prevent any of the changes the Right desires to make from "the political wilderness". That is just irresponsible.
And here is Reich on equating Trump and Clinton:
I think that voting for Donald
Trump or equating Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump is insane. Donald
Trump is certainly a product of a kind of system and a systematic
undermining that has occurred in the United States for years with
regard to inequality of income and wealth and political power. But we
don’t fight that by simply saying, "All right, let’s just have Donald
Trump and hope that the system improves itself and hope that things are
so bad that actually people rise up in armed resistance." That’s
insane. That’s crazy.
I quite agree. You can't welcome or tolerate
a neofascist madman because you dislike his non-neofascist non-mad
opponent. And if that is not "insane" and not "crazy" it certainly is irresponsible.
Here is more Reich:
REICH: Well, all I can
say is that at this particular point in time—I mean, again, many of the
things that Chris Hedges is saying, I completely agree with. The real
question here is: What do we do right now? And what do we do to
mobilize and organize a lot of people out there who right now are not
mobilized and organized? And how do we keep the energy building? I
disagree with Chris with regard to Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie
Sanders has been a great and is a great leader right now of the
Yes, I agree with Reich. And I also agree
with the following argument:
But I do fear Donald Trump. I
fear the polls that I saw yesterday. Now, polls, again, this early in a
campaign still—we’re still months away from the election, but they are
indicative. They show Donald Trump doing exceedingly well, beating
Hillary Clinton. And right now, given our two-party system, given our
winner-take-all system with regard to the Electoral College, it’s just
too much of a risk to go and to say, "Well, I’m going to vote—I’m not
going to vote for the lesser of two evils, I’m going to vote exactly
what I want to do." Well, anybody can do that, obviously. This is a
free country. You vote what you—you vote your conscience. You have to
do that. I’m just saying that your conscience needs to be aware that if
you do not support Hillary Clinton, you are increasing the odds of a
true, clear and present danger to the United States, a menace to the
United States. And you’re increasing the possibility that there will
not be a progressive movement, there will not be anything we believe in
in the future, because the United States will really be changed for the
Again quite so. But here is Chris Hedges
HEDGES: Well, I think we
have to acknowledge two facts. We do not live in a functioning
democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do. You can’t talk
about—when you eviscerate privacy, you can’t use the word "liberty."
That is the relationship between a master and a slave. The fact is,
this is capitalism run amok. This whole discussion should be about
capitalism. Capitalism does what it’s designed to do, when it’s
unfettered or unregulated—as it is—and that is to increase profit and
reduce the cost of labor. And it has done that by deindustrializing the
country, and the Clinton administration, you know, massively enabled
I agree with this (for the most part) - but
it doesn't meet any point Reich made. Here is Reich again:
REICH: Well, let me
just—let me just put in my two cents. I think political strategy is not
to elect Donald Trump, to elect Hillary Clinton, and, for four years,
to develop an alternative, another Bernie Sanders-type candidate with
an independent party, outside the Democratic Party, that will take on
Hillary Clinton, assuming that she is elected and that she runs for
re-election, and that also develops the infrastructure of a third party
that is a true, new progressive party.
And I think that is both a reasonable choice
and a reasonable plan. Whether either will work out is the question,
but that is nearly always the case with choices one makes and plans one
Here is Hedges' answer:
HEDGES: I don’t think it
makes any difference. The TPP is going to go
through, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Endless war is
going to be continued, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We’re not going
to get our privacy back, whether it’s under Clinton or Trump. The idea
that, at this point, the figure in the executive branch exercises that
much power, given the power of the war industry and Wall Street, is a
I think Hedges is right in the middle part,
but mistaken in the beginning and the end:
It is going to make a difference whether one chooses a
neofascist madman or a rightist Democratic servant of the banks,
who is neither a neofascist nor mad (and see the last
item of today for how much difference this is likely to
Here is the last exchange I will quote:
I think Robert Reich won this debate, but I
may be a bit partial (for I agreed already with him about these issues,
and already disagreed with Chris Hedges).
REICH: I just want to
say, equating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is absolute nonsense. I
just—anybody who equates the two of them is not paying attention. And
it’s dangerous kind of talk.
CHRIS HEDGES: That’s not what I—that’s not what
In any case, this was a quite important debate between two quite
respectable progressives, and it is certainly worth reading completely:
Recommended, if only because there is quite a bit more in the interview
that I skipped.
3. The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots
The third item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows, and was published
I say. To start with, the phrase "useful
idiots". According to Wikipedia
The parade of useful idiots,
the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate
power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation,
symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving
Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject
betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political
No doubt the Democrats will continue to
let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the
Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against
him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and
media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No
doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.
Sanders squandered his most important
historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy,
anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and
into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his
delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting
repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young
women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at
12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not
only sold out his base, he mocked it.
In political jargon, useful
idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they
are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of
In fact, I thought it was introduced by
Lenin, but - Wikipedia says - I am
mistaken. In any case, this is what Chris Hedges says Bernie Sanders
A useful idiot, who perhaps may be partially excused
for being "not fully aware of" of the role he plays (in Hedges' construction of how
And I simply disagree with Hedges about most things he says in the
above quotation. I will mostly not explain myself, but I will say
something about two points Hedges makes.
The first is that Sanders could have walked "out
the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build
a third-party movement". This is true
and it is also true that - very probably - I would have supported him
had he done so.
But he did not, and I also support that choice, notably because I think
it was taken because Sanders strongly fears Trump may win the
elections, especially if Sanders does not support
Clinton (who did win the candidacy) and indeed also because
that fear only very recently became a reality, namely when
Trump won the presidential candidacy.
The second point that Hedges makes viz. that Sanders choice was "an insulting repudiation" and that
Sanders "not only sold out his base, he mocked it" (i) simply - implicitly - denies everything I said in the
previous paragraph, and (ii) also - implicitly
- denies that Trump is mad and Clinton is not.
Here is more by Hedges:
Whatever resistance happens will happen
without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without
him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without
him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become
an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined
with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a
tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the
Sanders, like all of the self-identified
liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use
fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal
assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the
other useful idiots among the 1 percent to have their careers and
construct pathetic monuments to themselves.
No. This is just ideological wishful
thinking. Apart from that, I quite disagree with the role
Hedges assigns to Sanders, who has been a genuine progressive
since the early 1970ies.
And here is more by Hedges - and keep in mind all of this are
predictions that no one will ever be able to verify, because only one
of the two candidates will win the election:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will
be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president.
The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture
industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary
Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall
Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to
another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is
president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the
streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is
president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor
men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them
the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be
maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president.
Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump
or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish
public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social
programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money
will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is
president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will
remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes
It so happens - judging by the programs of
both parties, and by the candidates of both parties - that I tend to
agree with the above (while insisting that half of it will not be
verifiable or falsifiable, simply because the one or the other will be
president), but then again none of these asserted equivalences proves
anything to the effect that Trump and Clinton are equivalents.
And indeed I think they are far from
equivalents, because the one is a mad neofascist, and the other is
neither mad nor a neofascist, although she is a rightist
Democrat who is strongly pro bankers.
Then there is this:
To reduce the political debate, as
Sanders and others are doing, to political personalities is political
infantilism. We have undergone a corporate coup. Donald Trump and
Hillary Clinton will not reverse this coup. They, like Barack Obama,
know where the centers of power lie. They serve these centers of power.
The fact that I agree with Hedges that the
USA has "undergone a corporate coup" (of the slow sort, that took 35 years of
successive deregulations of the laws that protected all) does not
mean that all politicians are equally bad, even if all or most
policians are both bad and liars.
Finally, the last bit I'll quote is this:
To allow the ideological forces of
neoliberalism to crush our ideals and our values is to fall into a
deadly cynicism and despair. To allow the consumer culture and the cult
of the self, which lies at the heart of capitalism, to seduce us is to
kill our souls. Happiness does not come with the accumulation of
wealth. Happiness does not come from possessions or power. These are
narcotics. They numb and kill all that is noble and good within us.
I more or less agree but (i) these
attitudes are not of the many but of the few (I
am afraid) and (ii) I also think Hedges has not really answered
Sanders, and has indulged in leftist rhetorics and ideology.
4. If Hillary Clinton Wins the Presidency, This Is the Most
Left-Wing Thing She Will Do
today is by Juan Cole on Truthdig:
This is from near the beginning:
It is likely that if she wins the
presidency, the most progressive thing Sec. Clinton will do will be to
appoint a successor to Antonin Scalia who is substantially to his left
(since the Neanderthals are extinct, it would be hard to find someone
to his right). That appointment would shift the court from a 5-4
conservative majority to a 5-4 liberal majority. Most likely if
the Republicans have not moved on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick
Garland, by Nov. 4, Obama will withdraw the nomination so as to let
Clinton have her own pick. If Trump takes the drubbing we expect,
she could well have a Democratic senate and so could afford to appoint
someone to Garland’s left.
Since Justice Clarence Thomas is making
noises about retiring, we could end up with a 6-3 liberal court.
We haven’t seen anything like that
since Tricky Dick Nixon appointed four justices and shifted the
court to conservatism in the early 1970s. Before then, SCOTUS had
challenged racial discrimination, struck down attempts by states to ban
contraceptives, ruled in favor of women’s equality with men, and so on
an so forth.
Yes, indeed - and see item 1, item 2 and
item 3. And while I agree with Cole that this will probably be "the most progressive thing Sec. Clinton will do" this is in itself a major reason to vote for
Clinton, if you are a progressive, and not for Trump, for he will
certainly appoint a very conservatice SCOTUS if he can, nor indeed for
Jill Stein, because she simply will not be elected (and might keep
Clinton from winning).
And I am definitely not saying Clinton
will be a good president; I am saying she will be considerably less bad
than Trump would be.
Here is the last bit from Cole that I'll quote:
Things won’t change overnight, but we
could be in for a return to a situation more like the 1950s and 1960s,
when the Court was in the vanguard of some progressive change in the
country, rather than a brake on progress.
For those Bernie Sanders supporters who
can’t imagine a center-right Clinton presidency doing anything
progressive, contemplating the potential changes on the Supreme Court
could help salve the injury of loss.
Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.
 I do
(<-Wikipedia), who competed against Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and lost,
but no: He certainly was a staunch conservative, but he was not a
neofascist and he was not mad either.