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Nederlog

Jul 27, 2016

Crisis: Jealous vs Stein, Hedges vs Reich, Useful Idiots, Progressive SCOTUS
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Introduction

1.
Should Progressives Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote
     Green?

2. Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the
     Neoliberal Order

3. The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots
4. If Hillary Clinton Wins the Presidency, This Is the Most
     Left-Wing Thing She Will Do

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

This 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.

1.
Should Progressives Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote Green?

The 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:
BEN 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:
DR. JILL 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.
(...)
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.
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".

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 Sanders.

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
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. [1]

This is a recommended article.

2. Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order

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 their differences.

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:
ROBERT 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.
(...)
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.
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 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 the banks).

And here is Hedges:
CHRIS 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 a major 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 over".

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 do 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 decade": 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:
ROBERT 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:
ROBERT 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 progressive cause.
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 worse.
Again quite so. But here is Chris Hedges again:
CHRIS 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 this.
I agree with this (for the most part) - but it doesn't meet any point Reich made. Here is Reich again:
ROBERT 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 has.

Here is Hedges' answer:
CHRIS 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 myth.
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 make).

Here is the last exchange I will quote:

ROBERT 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 I did.

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).

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 yesterday:

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 revolution.

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.
I say. To start with, the phrase "useful idiots". According to Wikipedia
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 the cause.
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 is:
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 things are).

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 working class.

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 president.

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

The fourth item 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.

---------------
Note
[1] I do recall Barry Goldwater (<-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.
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