Not even the corporate media is able to ignore the sense of pseudo-apocalyptic foreboding that the end-game of neoliberal capitalism has brought down on the American empire this election season. From Clinton propaganda outlets like the New York Times, Google, and MSNBC to Republican strongholds like Fox and the Wall Street Journal, to the incrementally less corrupt sources like the Atlantic and even the Guardian, the mainstream narrative now paints the upcoming Presidential elections as a race between two diametrically opposed candidates and visions of America. The differences between failed real-estate mogul/penis-insecurity lifestyle brand Donald Trump and long-time corporate asset/war-crime enthusiast Hillary Clinton are so huge, they tell us, that electing or failing to block one of the candidates could create a catastrophic regime which for the first time in history has the potential to really mess something up.
But most Americans will not be quite so easily sold, as the age-old practice of marketing candidates like cereal brands has, with greater consistency every election, failed to provide any relief from the incoming crises of our civilization. Some of them are part of a working class so ignored by politicians that they turn out to vote in internationally remarkable lows, or they’ve studied the trends of history and economics enough to understand how little power a particular President has against them, or they are just particularly frustrated this election cycle at an the unusually overt corruption in the nomination process of the Democratic Party and the unusually overt racism of the Republicans. This is preparing to be least popular election in the history of polls, and yet once again, Americans who lean liberal are preparing to “hold their nose and vote for Hillary,” and conservatives are biting the bullet and backing Trump.
As adults we can not pretend anymore that we elect our rulers any more than we elected King George III. As loath as we are to admit it, we understand that real decisions are made, as they have been since a group of bankers and slavers wrote the Constitution, by the supercapitalist elite. Whichever narcissist collects enough votes in November will read a few speeches that end by referencing God, and get to write their name on a some pieces of paper written by lobbyists whose benefactors financed the election (or as John Oliver more eloquently puts it, the ClownTown Fuck The World Shitshow). Wealth inequality will increase, the military will find people to kill with their absurdly expanding budget, the ice caps will shrink, and half the country will be frustrated at the wrong things while the other half pats themselves on the back. We could stop thinking about the election right now.
But imagine, just for kicks, that the concept of democracy holds, if not meaning, at least some potential. Imagine that you will vote in November, hoping beyond hope that your vote might protect your country from some Greater Evil, that you will have at least let your voice be heard and earned your right to stoutly protest your opponent, that you have exhausted the readily available forms of state-sanctioned action. I don’t blame you, I plan to vote as well. But this is an open letter to anybody who believes they must vote for Clinton to block Trump, or for Trump to block Clinton. If you look at the declared positions and the historic actions of the two major-party candidates on every issue, you will find that for every toxic threat announced by Donald Trump there are years of Clinton policy doing the exact same thing more quietly. There is no greater evil; we can confidently say that both candidates will devastate the world and its people.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Trump: Trump began his campaign promising to eliminate loopholes for the “very rich,” and his campaign found its foothold in working-class white voters (somewhat ironically since, as the wealthiest candidate of all time, his net worth equals that of over 100,000 median American families, or 225,000 years working at the poverty line). But, unsurprisingly, as a CEO he has constantly battled organized labor, he opposes raising the minimum wage, he calls welfare “morally offensive” and believes in expanding the catastrophic Clinton-era welfare cuts, he has gone years without paying any tax, and the tax plan he has actually proposed would slash taxes for the wealthy and cost trillions in revenue for social services (though he promises that he will also somehow save social security and Medicare). Trump exemplifies the Ronald Reagan/Ayn Rand mentality the Republican party has adopted towards the disenfranchised with a 1999 interview where he stated “They’re morons.” As the 3,500 lawsuits against him over charges including unpaid wages and fraudulent business enterprises can attest, his exploitative practices are a career-long pattern.
Clinton: Faced with an era of new class consciousness ushered in by her challenger Bernie Sanders, Clinton has tried to offer an olive branch to progressive voters by making vague promises to fight inequality. She has also promised to put her husband, former President Bill, in charge of “economic revitalization,” trying to draw Americans’ attention to the brief budget surplus that happened to coincide with his administration. Bill’s economic policy was defined by three policies that were good for the wealthy and bad for the overwhelming majority: a slash-and-burn approach to welfare that left hundreds of thousands of families (especially black, single-parent households) without the relief they needed, a mass deregulation of big banks that led to predatory lending and the temporary collapse of the financial industry in 2008, and a global push for “free trade” through agreements like NAFTA that devastated both American and foreign workforces. It is no coincidence that wealth and income inequality increased more during Bill Clinton’s presidency than any other administration in American history. And as Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary followed his lead, supporting deregulation and bailouts, flip-flopping on minimum wage, pushing more neoliberal trade through the TPP and FTA, and personally accepting hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from megabanks. It is also worth noting that while she is nowhere near as wealthy as Trump, she would be one of the five wealthiest presidents ever, and the $100 million jump in her household’s net worth since their last Presidency shows they are not afraid to profit from politics.
MASS INCARCERATION AND DRUG PROHIBITION
Trump: In an effort to relate to an increasingly racist base, Trump refuses to acknowledge that the criminalization of normal behavior and the ensuing militant policing and surveillance of minorities and political dissidents, combined with the privatization of prisons, has created the most incarcerated state of all time (nearly 7 million people under correctional control) in what history will remember as one of the greatest atrocities in the history of civilization. He has instead cultivated a tough-on-crime persona, fed the myth that white Americans are under constant threat of black and Latino crime, and defended police officers who executed unarmed black men in the street without trial. In 1989, he famously called for the Central Park 5 (a group of black men wrongly accused of rape) to be put to death. He has, however, toyed with the idea of marijuana decriminalization.
Clinton: After facing protests from the Black Lives Matter movement, Clinton has become a vocal critic of the prison industry, although her platform for reform is no more explicit than a vague promise to make it better. Her claim that she has fought for justice her “entire adult life” fails to hold up to even cursory examination. As the friendly public face of the previous Clinton administration, Hillary was particularly complicit in selling the Bill’s infamous crime bill. Even if she hadn’t publicly used racist terms like “superpredator” when referring to young black men, she would have a lot to repent for. The bill and other Clinton legislation ensured the sale of military weapons to local law enforcement, the creation of private for-profit prisons to house excess prisoners, and the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenders. During Clinton’s presidency federal incarceration increased more than any other time in American history. And lest you think Hillary had a change of heart, as a Senator she voted for the Patriot Act that expanded police surveillance capabilities to Orwellian proportions, and during this campaign she accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from private prison lobbyists. She has laughed off suggestions of even marijuana decriminalization. Her lip-service to the Black Lives Matter movement is not the first time she has made a mockery of this issue; Michelle Alexander describes how her husband’s administration framed statistics on increased imprisonment as “the largest decrease in African-American unemployment in all time.”
Trump: In what seems surprising for a lifelong urban businessman who once supported a full ban on assault rifles, Donald Trump has won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. He now enjoys the hypermasculine chest bumping that occurs after mass shootings as the arms industry peddles the bizarre narrative that more guns will prevent more violence.
Clinton: I’ve written already about the hypocrisy exhibited by President Obama as he calls (uneffectively) for gun safety to appease the American left while selling more weapons to human rights violators than any other president in American history. I will simply add that the largest of these deals, a $60 billion sale to Saudi Arabia that was in fact the largest arms deal of all time, was brokered by Hillary Clinton, his then Secretary of State. Clinton has long-running ties to the brutal Saudi monarchy, which donated tens of millions to her fraudulent charitable/money laundering foundation. These are ties that she is trying to hide as it becomes increasingly clear that the fundamentalist regime not only launched a genocide in Yemen, but had some degree of complicity in the Holy Grail of shock politics, the 9/11 attacks. While Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders for his brief ambivalence on gun control, she spent four years as a dealer in the largest guns-to-criminals chain ever assembled. Her calls for gun control are meaningless unless she agrees to disarm the worst mass murderers in the world today: the US military industrial complex and its fascist peons.
WOMEN’S AND LGBT RIGHTS
Trump: Trump’s vision of the 1950s as America’s golden age perhaps explains his disgusting and omnipresent misogyny. Or maybe it’s the fact that he owned a show which would have had no premise without the complete objectification and sexualization of women. The media discusses the psychology of Trump’s vomit-inducing demeanor enough; I find more alarming the moment when the formerly pro-choice candidate overcompensated by suggesting punishing women who have abortions. Of course his medieval dialog on gender extends to sexuality, and while he guarantees that you can “Ask the gays who’s [their] friend,” his support in the LGBT community was around 4% at last poll, in no small part due to his obstinate opposition to marriage equality, or the fact that he still calls them the gays.
Clinton: Despite what two-party authoritarianism implies, Hillary Clinton is not the first female candidate for president, and she is in fact running against another woman, Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, in this very election. She is, however, consistently pro-choice, which is certainly the strongest if not the only argument for her election (although Senator Sanders and Dr. Stein can also claim consistency on this issue, and even libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has always stood by the legality of abortion). But Clinton has proven a fairweather friend to feminists. As I have previously discussed, she championed welfare reform that incentivized women to remain married to domestic abusers while slashing benefits for hundreds of thousands of single mothers. She has supported and armed the world’s most religiously conservative regime, the Saudi Arabian monarchy that has rape victims publicly whipped. And even in her own image, she plays up tropes about grandmothers based in patriarchal norms to gain support, or applauds while her fellow war-profiteer Madeline Albright claims women who don’t support her will go to hell. On LGBT rights there is less ambiguity. She vocally opposed marriage equality and questioned adoption rights for gay couples, citing the Bible, until it was politically convenient. And just this year she praised Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s AIDS legacy (aka the deliberate murder by neglect of at least 12,000 mostly-queer people), made doubly painful by the fact that her husband’s administration blocked a federal needle exchange program and sheltered the pharmaceutical industry as it kept prices on AIDS medication prohibitively high.
Trump: As a Republican, Donald Trump is obliged to oppose Obamacare, although before he accepted the party’s money, he spoke about a single-payer Medicare-for-all style healthcare system not unlike the one suggested by Bernie Sanders or implemented in 58 other countries around the world. Of course Trump is simply responding to popular sentiment; almost 60% of Americans, a majority in both parties, want to replace the Affordable Care Act with federally funded insurance for all. Trump would likely back far away from these proposals if he was ever president, under pressure from the massive insurance industry.
Clinton: And so would Clinton. Although as First Lady and in her 2008 campaign Hillary also called for a common-sense single-payer system, she underwent a complete reversal in order to paint Senator Sanders and his plan as naive, and claimed that a single-payer system could “never, ever come to pass.” Ignoring the National Academy of Medicine’s estimate that, by reducing unnecessary hospital expenses and improving quality of preventative care, a single-payer reform could save $210 billion this year, Clinton framed single-payer healthcare as an assault on Obama’s legacy. Perhaps receiving $13 million from the same insurance and pharmaceutical companies that wrote the Affordable Care Act, sacrificing clarity and efficacy for profitability, helped her change her tune. It might be shocking to find that, at least in stated policy, Hillary Clinton is to the right of Donald Trump on healthcare.
Trump: Trump established himself as a national contender by promising to build a literal and impossible wall to protect us from the Mexicans who would bring “crime…drugs…they’re rapists.” In modern history no candidate has spoken more overtly and chillingly to the extremes of racism that have been built by decades of establishment propaganda in order to dehumanize black and brown people so that we can exploit their labor without guilt. Donald Trump has brought a hideous underbelly of neoliberalism that we all knew existed out into the light and brandished it in our faces. Along with building a wall, Trump claims he would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, though he is not clear on how he would do so. He has also famously proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country to protect Americans from terrorism, going so far as to claim the shooting in an Orlando nightclub last weekend would not have happened if the shooter’s parents had been banned from entering the country. Trump’s anti-immigration radicalism alienates him from even his fellow Republicans and threatens American corporations’ ability to virtually enslave Latino migrants, so it is unlikely to materialize completely in actual policy, but there can be no doubt that a Trump administration would hold brutal pogroms of migrant laborers in a manner that could with no small stretch of imagination be considered fascist.
Clinton: Trump speaks to the Americans trained to hate immigrants, Clinton speaks to the Americans trained to ignore their suffering. Chasing the Latino vote, she has become a master (I say with as much sarcasm as could possibly be typed) of “Hispandering.” But Hillary participated in two of the most brutal regimes of deportation of all time. Her husband, Bill Clinton, deported either through removal or arrest at the border over 12 million people, most of them Mexican, during his presidency, more than any other US president. And Barack Obama, who she served as Secretary of State, has so far removed 2 million people living inside the US, more actual residents than any other US president. Nearly 60,000 of these were child refugees running from the brutal government installed by the Obama administration in Honduras in a 2009 coup Clinton boasted about in her memoir. Many more were rural Mexicans forced to work in America after NAFTA (which she supported) devastated their agricultural livelihoods. Clinton’s immigration policy is every bit as despicable as Trump’s. She backs policies that devastate Latin American countries and force their people to move to wherever work is. She grants the massive corporations control of the agricultural sector through subsidies, knowing full well that they force undocumented immigrants to do dangerous work for illegally low pay. And if the immigrants complain, or prove themselves otherwise burdensome, she has no qualms about deporting them, where hundreds of them die trying to cross back over. Then she tells Latino voters that they must choose between her insidious exploitation and Trump’s brutish fascism. (But what about Muslims? At least Hillary doesn’t feed Islamophobia, you might be saying. To that I will simply reply with this photo she published when she was running against a brown-skinned candidate in 2008).
WAR AND PEACE
Trump: Trump has long been a staunch opponent of the illegal invasion of Iraq (although his response when asked if he supported the theoretical war in 2002 was “Yeah, I guess so”), and he has even said the United States must stop “nation building.” This is about as convincing as George W. Bush’s identical position in the 2000 election. Trump’s anti-Islamic vitriol, his enthusiasm for killing terrorists’ families, his claim that we must rebuild our military which already swallows more money than the next seven largest militaries in the world combined, and his playfulness with the idea of invading Mexico show that when the next war comes around, like any US president, he will be on board. As with healthcare, however, it is interesting to note how he breaks with the Republican and Democratic lines to sound populist; after more than a two decades of absurd war in the Middle East that has claimed millions of lives with no conceivable end goal and devastated the government’s at home and abroad, even corporate media alarmism has trouble getting the American people excited about another invasion.
Clinton: Militarism is perhaps Clinton’s greatest Achilles heel as a nominal progressive. As much as she can be accused of insincerity, she has demonstrated her disregard for international law and human life with unquestionable consistency. As far back as the 1980s, when Bill was the Governor of Arkansas, the Clintons allowed the CIA to use the state’s airfields to smuggle guns and drug money to right-wing terrorists in Nicaragua. As First Lady, she stood by her husband through the imposition of a military junta in Haiti, military support for a major genocide in Indonesia, the occupation of Somalia, the decade-long bombardment of Iraq (which he used to distract from his sex scandal), the for-profit imperial bombardment of Yugoslavia, the financing of terrorism in Cuba, and military aid to warlords responsible for massive genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. As a Senator, she voted for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, both on false pretenses, voted consistently to divert funds towards the military, and voted to give aid to many repressive regimes, most consistently Saudi Arabia and Israel. And as Secretary of State, even the Times concedes she lobbied on behalf of the military industrial complex in an administration otherwise formed by pseudo-anti-war advocates. She pressured Obama to expand the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, backed the overthrow of a democratic government in Honduras, presided over the illegal drone bombardment of Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Pakistan, supported warlords’ abuse of child soldiers in South Sudan, led the invasion of Libya and laughed about an African leader being lynched on television, used military pressure to force governments (including in earthquake-stricken Haiti) to endorse sweatshops, and armed the Syrian rebels who became ISIS. And her rhetoric throughout the campaign has been more hawkish by far than either Obama or Trump. Even in her immediate response to the recent Orlando shooting, she called for steps to attack ISIS, as if bombing more people in Iraq and Syria could possibly prevent lone Americans from slaughtering each other or have conceivable any result other than the further alienation and radicalization of Muslims.
Trump: Like most Republicans, Trump denies the existence of man-made climate change, calling it a Chinese-invented hoax in one of his strangest tweets. That doesn’t stop him, of course, from building environmental protections to his own Florida properties, where flooding and hurricanes are already more common than ever in recorded history. He supported the Keystone Pipeline which would plunge America further still into its oil addiction (which will have interesting results when oil supplies collapse in less than forty years), he called EPA regulations “a disgrace,” and his own companies’ environmental records are atrocious. Blue-blooded Trump has also pandered with a curious intensity to coal miners, promising to save their industry despite the fact that it produces the most toxic and least efficient source of energy in the world. He spouts false statistics when criticizing renewable energy, and would certainly do nothing to slow the death of the global ecosystem caused by capitalism’s endlessly increasing pollution.
Clinton: The thing about the environment in the 21st century is the status quo still equals apocalypse. However much worse things could get, even with the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere scientists only predict a few more decades before the global temperature will have increased so much that weather patterns are unpredictable, endangering over 2 billion people due to flooding and erosion and acidifying the ocean at an exponentially increasing rate. So while Clinton at least acknowledges the existence of climate change, unless she can provide a radical reversal of environmental policy immediately she is not a useful pro-environmental candidate. And her record on the environment, it should come as no surprise by now, is awful. Accepting millions of dollars from the fossil fuel lobby, Clinton negotiated the plan Keystone Pipeline that she now distances herself from. Despite the fact that 70% of Americans approve of limiting carbon emissions, she called such legislation too politically challenging. She voted consistently to expand offshore drilling, and supported President Obama in his enormous expanse of drilling rights in protected land. And she lobbied for fracking abroad while Secretary of State, knowing the immediate danger fracking poses to communities and ecosystems. Most fundamentally, she does not oppose the trend of globalized capitalist consumerism that means more must be produced, whether here or in China, for Americans’ enjoyment. Carbon emissions will almost definitely increase during a Clinton presidency as they did under Obama, and they will certainly not reduce by the titanic portions needed to keep the world a relatively non-apocalyptic 1.5 degrees celsius warmer.
So what is there to do? We won’t be able to elect a solution to our problems, not until somebody figures out a way to mobilize a mass movement without succumbing to sabotage or the violence of a police state. But we can still use our votes to protest the imperialism that promises to destroy life on Earth as we know it, as we must use every resource available to us. So understanding that your vote has no bearing on the outcome of the presidential election, and that the presidential election has no bearing on the outcome of policy, why not try? I don’t care very much who you vote for. I plan to support Jill Stein, of the Green Party, the only candidate whose views since the beginning of this race have been ethically consistent. Many people will probably write in Bernie Sanders, a fair acknowledgement for the most successful anti-corporate campaign in modern history. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while certainly imperfect, is a pro-choice, anti-prohibition, anti-imperialist, and as the only third party candidate on the ballot in all fifty states, he is the only other candidate with even a slight chance of participating in a presidential debate. We could write in Che Guevara or Noam Chomsky or Angela Davis, I don’t care, any of those votes would not count for Clinton or Trump.
It feels worth it to do something, and that something will not be voting for one of the loudest advocates of destruction or one of its most successful practitioners.