Chapter 4: Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability in 2016
Rock, paper, scissors. You know the game. (If you don’t, uh, time to look it up?)
Hillary Clinton was the paper. In the 2016 Democratic primary, for many reasons (that were explored in a previous report), Hillary Clinton covered up Bernie Sanders, winning the 2016 Democratic nomination.
Bernie Sanders was the rock. Despite his solidity, Sanders’ vulnerability in the 2016 Democratic primaries is that he would be concealed, ultimately losing the nomination to Hillary Clinton. Even if Sanders would have won a truly fair and democratic election, this was always his vulnerability against Clinton in 2016 — he was fighting the entire media and Democratic “establishment,” simply for visibility among the public — and this is how it turned out in the end.
Donald Trump was the scissors. As some had suspected, and would predict, Trump had a particular advantage over Clinton that would be unavoidable. Although Donald Trump would certainly appeal to a particular demographic that was more openly sexist or racist — or at least did not prioritize these issues as much — he also appealed to those masses who, after decades of downward political and economic spiral, wanted systemic rather than incremental change.
Trump’s promise of “hope and change” was even more false than Barack Obama’s. But to his audience, he played the part just as well as Obama, or maybe even better.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would never be able to shake her “establishment” reputation, even if she wanted to. It turns out that even in the moments she appeared to try — Clinton would mimic Sanders’ “populism,” at least until the 2016 primaries were over — she was not very good at it.
Hillary Clinton was simply not going to escape her political-insider, status-quo reputation. And Donald Trump, whether “populist” in reality or not, gave the public enough of an impression that he was. Trump spouted enough of what the electorate wanted in the way of challenging the political and economic status quo — enough to ultimately win an electoral victory over Hillary Clinton.
We’ve heard enough about Hillary’s “basket of deplorables,” and we’ve heard enough by now that racist and sexist folks would tend to prefer someone like Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Much less analysis has been done, though, at least in the mainstream media, on why Hillary Clinton was simply a terrible candidate to go against Donald Trump. And the analysis that has been done in Independent media is scattered and fragmented. This report will incorporate most of what has already been said in various places — but in one place, and in an attempt to tie all the pieces together.
In this chapter, we will look at some of the significant reasons beyond sexism, racism, and “Russia” conspiracy theories of why Hillary Clinton was the paper to Donald Trump’s scissors.
As stated in the introduction to this report, despite Hillary Clinton’s being a woman, and despite that a portion of the U.S. electorate still embraces racism, or at least does not seem to mind it — someone like Donald Trump never should have won a presidential election. And he never could have won a presidential election — if the United States were not in such a sorry state already.
Nor could he have won, even in 2016’s conditions, if there was an opposing candidate who could legitimately offer a positive, credible vision for the nation — and simultaneously, expose Donald Trump for who he really was. Trump would have to be exposed not just personally, but politically. Trump would not just have to be painted as vulgar, or “inexperienced,” as Hillary Clinton tried to do — but phony in his political populism.
There wasn’t much better contrast to offer than Sanders, a real populist. But Hillary Clinton was certainly no populist, and had little credibility when attempting to take down Trump’s “populism.”
The argument of why Trump beat Clinton eventually boils down to “establishment vs anti-establishment.” Hillary Clinton ultimately lost because she represented the political establishment, which in 2016, was not popular to represent. Trump fit the bill enough to be perceived as someone who would solve the problems described in the last chapter.
In a separate report, I will detail why Trump really was (and still is) a part of “the establishment” — just like Hillary Clinton was, and just like she remains. What made Trump’s win possible, though, is that he convinced enough people otherwise. In this chapter, let us look at why Hillary Clinton, in 2016, most represented “the establishment” — and was never going to convince the public otherwise.
- First and foremost, Hillary Clinton was a career politician. This was public knowledge, and there would be no getting around it. This would have been a disadvantage for virtually any career politician against Donald Trump, and it was certainly a disadvantage for Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Arguments that Sanders is a “career politician” would have failed, though, since Sanders had decades of action proving that he was a very different type of “politician” — an “outsider” in the system. Sanders had always been an “anti-politician” politician, and this will be examined in the next chapter.)
- Hillary Clinton was not just a polished, career politician, but a very wealthy one (another big difference from Sanders). Much of this wealth came from a slew of speeches to Wall Street and corporate-friendly audiences, frequently priced at $225,000 a speech. That is more than most people make in several years of hard labor, and in an economy with high levels of income and wealth inequality, “is not a good look” for a public official. And though the Clintons would deny that these speeches are evidence of “corruption,” to anyone with a basic “bullshit detector,” this would be a suspicious claim at best. Most people recognize it’s shady when a “public servant” gets rich in public service, especially if the ones paying those politicians are people who have been implicated in crashing the economy, like Goldman Sachs — and others to whom Clinton spoke for exclusively large sums of money.
- When Hillary Clinton was pressured by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries to “release the transcripts” of her Wall Street speeches (which many Clinton allies would consider to be one of Sanders’ “brutal attacks” on Hillary), she simply blew it off and said she “will look into it.” Clinton ignored the issue for a while, later saying that she would not release them. Hillary then doubled-down that she would not release them, claiming that it was a “double-standard” to which she was being held — and if the other candidates were pressed to release their transcripts, and then they did, then and only then would she release hers. (In response, Bernie Sanders “released his transcripts” — jokingly, since there were no transcripts of him praising Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hillary Clinton still did not follow through on her conditional promise.) The public didn’t buy Clinton’s excuses here; they wanted to see what Hillary Clinton, a potential future president, was saying to the economic elite behind closed doors. Hillary Clinton’s actions here once again added to the perception of Clinton as the typical shady politician, which the public had grown to distrust. Hillary Clinton never did release the transcripts on her own, but later, some of the transcripts would be forced into the public eye by WikiLeaks. It would become clear why she did not release them: the talks were, as we would expect, more corporate-friendly than regular-person-friendly.
- Hillary Clinton can be found in many video and audio recordings telling complete and utter lies, and some of them are simply baffling. In 2016, most of the public had access to the internet and could view these strange lies and curiously fabricated stories. One such example is Hillary Clinton stating that she “landed [in Bosnia] under sniper fire” — but when video evidence surfaced, the opposite was the case. Hillary Clinton can be seen in the video peacefully greeting U.S. soldiers, all taking their time, with no present threat of any enemy. (This was an obvious “political” lie to gain sympathy. Clinton’s later explanation is simply that she “mispoke.”) Another example was Hillary Clinton’s sudden heralding as a champion of gay rights, including in a 2015 campaign ad, when the evidence clearly showed the opposite (like Clinton supporting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, her saying publicly in 2000 that New York State should not recognize gay marriage, and her passionate speech in 2004 that the “sanctity” of marriage is “fundamentally a bond between a man and a woman”). Clinton only adopted this position a few years previous, and as stated in politifact, “as public opinion shifted, so did Hillary Clinton.” This shifting may or may not have been accompanied by a true change in Hillary Clinton’s personal values, but either way, it was once again more evidence to the public of her political expediency and pandering. At best, Hillary Clinton was a follower on the issue of LGBTQ+ rights, not a leader in the movement, like her campaign attempted to project.
- Exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s expedient shifting on gay rights, Hillary often seemed to trust poll data and focus groups — and highly-calculated campaign strategy — rather than, perhaps, organic decisions based on core values, and speaking directly and seriously with constituents. Hilary Clinton often seemed to be annoyed, actually, just to engage with the average voter. (Later we will look at some specific examples.) This repeatedly observable trait added to her public perception of being the sort of ivory-tower, “doing it for myself” kind of politician that the public was ready to reject. The public was ready for politics to be about the public, not the politician.
- Hillary Clinton had a clear history of “hawkishness” (which is examined more down the page). Whenever it came down to decisions of war and peace, Hillary Clinton seemed to prefer the use of military force as much as virtually any other politician. The 2016 primary occurred in a time when the American people were becoming sick and tired of this pointless and endless U.S. military adventurism. And as Clinton began to campaign for president, during this time her visibility would, of course, increase — and along with it, the critical and true accounts of her hawkish “foreign policy,” much of which occurred after her previous run for president — in the past decade while she was Secretary of State.
- Hillary Clinton also had a history of supporting and pushing for policies that would lead to mass incarceration. She publicly advocated for the infamous 1994 “crime bill,” in part by cryptically invoking poor black youth who were “super-predators” and “must be brought to heel.” As written by Thomas Frank in The Guardian, “The reason the 1994 crime bill upsets people is not because they stupidly believe Bill Clinton invented these things; it is because they know he encouraged them” — just as Hillary Clinton did.” As Michelle Alexander and others have noted, Hillary Clinton played a significant role in policy-making during the Bill Clinton administration, so even just voting for the crime bill was a lesser mistake than pushing for it in the way Hillary Clinton did. (Even if one of Bernie Sanders’ biggest mistakes was voting for this bill, and he did, he is on record casting the vote for different reasons, including provisions attached to the bill like the “Violence against women act,” while offering a critical condemnation of the bill’s other aspects. Even if Sanders’ vote was ultimately wrong, that’s still a big contrast with Clinton’s unqualified pushing for the bill.)
- Hillary Clinton also played a role in the major loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs (she did not sign NAFTA, of course, but was in support of it, again weilding influence as first lady); and Hilllary was involved in the undercutting of labor power (see: NAFTA, and how “Hillary Clinton remained silent as Wal-Mart attacked unions.”) In other words, Hillary Clinton had a similar “neoliberal” history as her predecessors that the American public was ready to reject. This would negatively affect Hillary’s support in many swing states which had a higher amount of voters who had lost jobs in manufacturing — most famously in the “rust belt.” This would also erode her support in states and counties that were most heavily affected by cuts in the social safety net, which was partially orchestrated and enacted by the “New Democrats,” including Hillary Clinton.
- Hillary Clinton sat on the board of Wal-Mart, a strongly anti-worker, anti-union mega-corporation that refuses to pay a living wage, and instead requires its workers to be subsidized by public tax dollars for a living wage. Hillary Clinton never seemed to be apologetic about this part of her career. But when this part of her career became a more widely-known fact, of course it hurt her popularity among working-class voters. (Come to think of it, Hillary never seemed to support unions very much, in policy or in the streets. In transcripts of Hillary’s speeches, years later and leading up to the 2016 primary, she frequently praised Wal-Mart and preferred to place blame on “homebuyers” rather than anti-union corporations, or predatory banking institutions.)
- Hillary Clinton initially advocated for “incremental” policies — she was drawn leftward by Bernie Sanders in the primary campaign, but after the Democratic primary, went quickly back to the “center” where she began (before Sanders challenged her). In 2016, this “center politics” was a highly dubious political position — as warned by many throughout the life of the campaign — but Clinton and the Democratic Party were wedded to this strategy. Democratic Party leader Chuck Schumer said, for example, “for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” The Democratic leadership were stuck to this foolishness, partly out of ideology, but at least as much out of allegiance to their big donors — who would not allow any more than incremental change. The truth about Clinton’s actual political ideology (as admitted by herself, behind closed-doors during the 2016 campaign, and in a public interview after the 2016 campaign) is that she was a candidate who saw herself “between center-left to center-right.” In other words, as so many had suspected, Hillary Clinton was no “progressive.” She would continue the system more than fight to change it.
- Hillary Clinton alienated progressives and grassroots activists who pressured Clinton for more fundamental, systemic change. The DNC convention, as reported by Sanders delegates, “achieved unity through forced conformity and manufactured consent.” The grassroots environmental activists knew that Hillary Clinton “sold fracking to the world” as Secretary of State, and supported pipeline construction and expansion (further down the page, we will look at this more in-depth). This was a major turnoff not just to activists, but to anyone who was interested in climate change — an issue that was becoming more visible in 2016. As we will examine, fracking is simply a dangerous practice, much more pain than gain, with virtually no benefits — except, temporarily, for those who profit directly from it. (Some of those folks who stood to profit from fracking donated money to the Clinton foundation and her presidential campaign.)
- Clinton also angered young voters, and female Sanders supporters, by insinuating on many occasions that they are simply ignorant or “protesting.” These young folk are simply confused, she would imply, and naively supporting Sanders for the wrong reasons. It was all enabled by Bernie Sanders’ “feeding them a list of misrepresentations” (a direct quote from Hillary Clinton). A good way to secure the votes you need for a general election, as Clinton should have known (and practiced), would not include insulting their intelligence with these kind of pretentious statements.
- At the same time that much of the public saw Clinton as dishonest and “corrupt,” she would refuse to even entertain the possibility. Clinton most frequently would refuse to apologize for a mistake, or admit that maybe there was a little bit of dishonesty and corruption at play. Clinton would rather insist that she was simply uncorrupted, as she did against Sanders during a nationally-televised Democratic debate — and Clinton would often imply that the system of big money does not affect the political process at all. (Except, perhaps, when it was the Republicans, not her.) But a lot of people, if not most people, saw right through this. Hillary Clinton would not even be honest to the public about the “dishonesty” of mainstream politics. Even if Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty seemed to her, at times, to be a “necessary” political strategy — a necessary evil — she could not and would not admit this to the public. Much of the public, once again, knew or at least felt that this is another one of her ways of being dishonest. It only came out later in a leak of Clinton’s “Wall Street transcripts” that Clinton believed it important to have both a “public position” and “private position.” That is exactly what much of the public suspected — though she would never admit it to the public. That’s the entire point of having “two” different positions: so that you won’t have to be honest and transparent. I’m simply articulating here what a lot of people were already feeling, and already knew about Hillary Clinton.
- The Clinton Foundation has many shady aspects to its organization and operation, and heightened the perception of Hillary’s “corruption” among the electorate. Though there are many, shall we say, “conspiracy theories” surrounding the foundation — there are also some damning, documented facts. One: Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department (IB Times, and corroborated on Mother Jones). This would be used by Trump, of course, as he claimed during a rally that “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.” Two, the Clinton Foundation made a promise to help rebuild Haiti after an earthquake — raising funds and allocating resources in the process — but this effort was documented as ending in absolute failure, making conditions even worse among much of the Haitian population. It was a lesson in philanthropy gone wrong. The question is how and why it went so wrong? The principle of Occam’s Razor might suggest that the goal was not to do a great job at “rebuilding” in the first place, because how would it end in such disaster when there were so much resources, expertise, and good will at their disposal? Legit problem number Three with the Clinton Foundation — which helps to answer the previous problem — is a factual account of how and where the foundation money is allocated. As reported by NY Post, “The Clinton Foundation’s finances are so messy that the nation’s most influential charity watchdog put it on its “watch list” of problematic nonprofits last month. The Clinton family’s mega-charity took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid. The group spent the bulk of its windfall on administration, travel, and salaries and bonuses, with the fattest payouts going to family friends.“ This lead to a reputation of the Clinton Foundation as a “slush fund.” And in a way, it is an allegation that cannot be denied — and it would be used, once again, as a weapon by Donald Trump in 2016. The Clinton Foundation, no matter how you look at it, “allows the Clinton family to accumulate wealth and power, all under the guise of humanitarianism.”
- Hillary Clinton was unavoidably associated with Bill Clinton, whom she worked with closely as First Lady — including on policy and advocacy — and Hillary was also associated with Barack Obama, unavoidably, since she worked closely with him as Secretary of State. Anyone who disliked the actions and results of the Clinton and/or Obama administration, or the people themselves, would automatically have a bad association with Hillary Clinton — due to her closeness with both of these figures, and her significant role in both of their political administrations.
- The electorate was getting sick of political dynasty and legacy. Two “Bush” presidencies? Now two “Clinton” presidencies? That smells like oligarchy, or even monarchy. Who wants that in 2016?
- Hillary Clinton — even as stated by some of her closest friends, allies, and staffers — is not very charismatic, inspiring, or skilled at the “politicking” part of being a politician. As written by one of her closest allies, Neera Tanden, as a public figure “sometimes Hillary Clinton has the worst judgement.” Inspiration and charisma were important in 2016, especially if you were not going big on the issues (like Hillary was not). People really wanted to be inspired in 2016. Americans wanted something to vote for, not just against. And they wanted something political — and someone political — to believe in.
- Clinton, as well as her staff and close advisers, were composed largely of “elites” who were out-of-touch with the majority of American struggle, and this caused them to make some poor campaign decisions — like how to spend money, and where to (and where not to) campaign. Ignoring Sanders staffers, for example, Clinton did not campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan leading up to the general election. Instead, she deferred to her “beltway” advisers, and even a machine algorithm named “ADA”. She barely lost those important swing states.
- Clinton and the Democrats seemed attached to the incredibly weak message of “I’m not Donald Trump,” rather than campaigning relentlessly on positive issues and a new vision for America. Positive platitudes were not going to cut it, and neither was Hillary Clinton’s website that showed more detail on policy. Clinton’s campaign website is often used as an argument for Clinton being bold and specific on the issues. But without a public perception of honesty and integrity, and while being known as a “calculating,” “campaign-oriented” politician — with much evidence to support that reputation — Clinton’s website to most people would be little more than a stream of words and empty promises. In the eyes of the electorate, a mere website is not binding, or even believable. There must be a credible politician behind the written-out vision and more specific policy platform. Americans didn’t believe the words of most politicians anymore, so why would anyone be swayed by Hillary Clinton’s website of positions — especially when she would fail to invoke and represent most of that “detail” in her public appearances? As we will re-visit, Clinton’s political ads were relatively free of policy or a positive message — rather, almost exclusively: “Donald Trump is bad, and I’m not him.”
- Hillary Clinton avoided having a press conference for nearly 300 days, which is highly unusual for someone campaigning for president. This only added to the perception of Hillary Clinton as an elite, corrupt, and unconcerned candidate. It added to the view that she felt entitled to the presidency — and perhaps, that she was guilty. (Donald Trump would later use this against Hillary Clinton, and despite being a serial liar himself, Trump once again did not have to lie in this instance of implicating Hillary Clinton.)
- What could Hillary Clinton possibly be “guilty” of? Not just apathy, or injustice — but potentially, something criminal. As most reading this report already know, Hillary Clinton was under FBI investigation during the 2016 election cycle. Hillary Clinton and her supporters, however — including the Democratic Party at large — all dismissed this as unimportant. A “nothingburger.” And of course, they downplayed Clinton’s significant breach of national security protocol as simply an issue of “emails.” This dishonest portrayal of the FBI investigation simply raised more eyebrows of suspicion among the public, even among those who did not completely understand the details of the investigation. But whatever you know or believe about the FBI investigation of “her emails,” the cold fact is that Hillary Clinton, if she were to become the Democratic nominee for president, would be running for president while under FBI investigation. It was a risky proposition in either direction: whether she would ultimately be recommended by the FBI for prosecution, or not, Trump could and would use this FBI investigation against her, no matter how the investigation ultimately played out. With this single weaponized “FBI Investigation,” perhaps more than anything else, Trump had major fuel to dump on the “Clinton is corrupt” fire. What, after all, is more concerning, more “corrupt,” than a presidential candidate who is already “under criminal investigation by the FBI” — before even becoming president? And the investigation was a bit more serious than Hillary Clinton and her team made it out to be. Whatever the final outcome, it was an inquiry into potential negligence and criminality regarding highly-sensitive national security information, and a breach in well-known national security protocol. That is again “not a good look” for an incoming president, who would get the highest security clearance.
These were some of the major weaknesses of Hillary Clinton in the context of a 2016 election, which help to explain how Donald Trump and the Republican Party were well-placed to defeat Hillary Clinton. Unlike with Bernie Sanders — which we’ll explore in the next chapter — Trump and the Republicans had a lot of legitimate and damning material to use against Hillary Clinton. And despite that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are corrupt liars as well, for the most part they did not have to lie about Hillary Clinton to bring her down. Many or most of the attacks against Clinton was legitimate — and truly concerning — to an angry, anti-establishment electorate.
I just gave many legitimate reasons, with supporting evidence in the linked citations, why Hillary Clinton was a major vulnerability in 2016, especially against Donald Trump. But to understand (1) why Hillary Clinton was the “establishment” candidate, (2) why that was a bad thing, and (3) how it ended in her demise, there is a more to the puzzle.
Rather than reinforcing each of the points above, there are three sections ahead that tie them together. First will be a specific look at Hillary Clinton’s politics. Second will look at Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Third will be a look at Hillary Clinton the person.
By the end of this page — if it is not already clear — it will be very difficult to argue that Hillary Clinton was the right candidate to go against Donald Trump in 2016. Or even that she was a good candidate for president at all.
I. Clinton’s politics
Clinton was preferred, endorsed, and supported by the vast majority of the political, economic, and media establishment. Those who benefited from the status quo, and wanted to benefit even more, certainly believed and seemed to agree that Clinton was a good bet for their interests. Even the extremely right-wing Charles Koch — of Koch Brothers fame — said that Hillary might make a better president than the Republican candidates.
A large portion of the electorate knew this, and as shown in the previous chapters, this is not what most Americans wanted in 2016.
In fact, it was why Bernie Sanders decided to run in the first place. Sanders has said on multiple occasions, in a variety of ways, that he entered the race because there was no candidate who would challenge “the establishment” in the way that was necessary.
Let us begin with the issue of climate change, and a critique by Naomi Klein — a woman on the “left” — who is a high-profile activist and intellectual, best-selling author, and leader in the climate movement.
The article begins:
Why would Clinton fail to publicly address climate change, one of the most pressing issues of our time? (During the general election, climate change was not discussed in the debates. Even if you were to blame this on the moderators, or news channels — and they hold a fair share of the blame for this — Clinton made no effort to bring up the issue, or insert it anywhere into the discussion.)
Perhaps here’s one reason why: Money. Ultimately, the reason Clinton did not go big on climate change solutions, or bring it up very much, is not because Clinton disbelieves in “climate change” — it’s not that she has no awareness of the issue — and it’s not because she doesn’t know of any big solutions. It is because of who she answers to.
If that sounds conspiratorial, or like it’s something that only happens in fiction movies, it shouldn’t. In the context of a political system that runs on corporate and billionaire money, Hillary Clinton was limited, at best, in how much she could address the climate-change issue. Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest beneficiaries of corporate money, including from the fossil fuel industry. Naomi Klein continues, in her article:
One viral video of Hillary Clinton during the campaign showed her forcefully dismissing a Greenpeace activist for questioning her ties to the fossil fuel industry. Clinton responded that these were “lies,” spread by the Sanders campaign, of course, to imply Clinton was “corrupt.”
What else should we call not advocating for bold climate change solutions, after being paid a lot of money by anti-climate groups? Let us consider the possibility that it’s some degree of “corruption.”
Corruption is not just a matter of legality — it is more a matter of integrity than legality, which is part of why the debate on corruption is so often misguided. Corruption can be legal — and in our political system, it largely is. Call it legalized bribery if you wish; or call it favor-for-favor. That certainly describes, to some extent, Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry.
We heard in one televised debate, for example, a question asking Clinton and Sanders about their positions on fracking. Clinton’s answer was long and elusive, listing a set of pre-conditions and essentially amounting to: “only sometimes.” Sanders then said: “my answer is a lot shorter. No. I do not support fracking.”
Do you think the money Clinton received from the fossil fuel industry had anything to do with these responses? Or what each candidate would ultimately do if they became president?
It has been established for many years that fracking is very dangerous. There is no “safe” and “clean” fracking, even on certain occasions, like Clinton attempted to imply. The inevitable result of fracking is environmental pollution and speeding up of climate change. There is also research showing that fracking causes earthquakes.
Fracking is not only dangerous, it is unnecessary. Hillary Clinton is said to be a very “smart” and capable woman, and in certain domains, I believe it. I can see it. With just a little effort, Hillary Clinton would know that fracking is dangerous across the board, and no longer necessary to power society. But clearly, on this issue she was compromised — at least in large part by industry money. She didn’t have a lot of room to make the right choice, or even say the right words — no matter her true beliefs.
In 2016, the American people were ready to reject dirty energy and pollution of their communities. This meant standing up to the fossil fuel industry, and restricting or outright banning what contributes to climate change. Then, it would require putting into place an entirely new, clean and sustainable energy infrastructure. If you think the person who takes millions from the fossil fuel industry is going to fight hard for all this change, you have been fooled.
Naomi Klein, who wrote the 2014 best-seller “This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The Climate,” would ultimately say that she doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton to meaningfully address climate change, or significant environmental issues in general, were she elected president. It was a reasonable prediction.
The headline immediately above was in lead up to the general election, after years of Clinton advocating for the TPP (45 times) and then finally going “against” it during the election cycle. This is Hillary’s politics. Hillary Clinton went “against” the TPP when Sanders forced her to. Then, later, when she was facing Trump — and Sanders out of the race — she appointed a Pro-TPP politician to head her transition team.
Say one thing, do another.
The same was true for the Keystone oil pipeline. Clinton was “neutral” on the pipeline for years, while it was a controversial issue. Then, however, she was “against it” — finally, when it appeared convenient during the election cycle.
Then, later — after she believed the election was in the bag — she selected a Pro-Keystone politician to head up her transition team.
We could spend more time on climate change, but let’s move on to war and peace.
One major difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton that would be important among much of the electorate is that Sanders actively opposed and voted against the Iraq War in 2002, while Hillary Clinton voted for it. And Clinton did not just vote for the war, she publicly advocated for it. Hillary Clinton claimed in a press conference that the vote was a “hard” decision, but in the very same sentence, said that she was “casting her vote with conviction.”
As many now know, the Iraq war was started under a false pretense: that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and intended to use them offensively against the United States (he didn’t, and wasn’t). Iraq ended up obliterated, with estimates of up to a million dead.
This was just one major example of Clinton’s poor judgement and questionable “conviction,” especially in contrast to Sanders. Clinton and those who defend her claim that it was a simple mistake, but it was not just a “mistake” — it led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not a million or more. Not catching a baseball when it’s popped up into the air is a “mistake.” Being complicit in killing hundreds of thousands, under a false pretense, is not a “mistake,” it is an atrocity.
It was not a simple error in intelligence, either. Much of the public knew during the time that the Iraq War was not right. Time reports that the protests leading up to the Iraq War were “the biggest in world history.” In other words, the war just didn’t make sense — and lots of people saw through the phony justification for war. How and why, then, did Hillary Clinton not know? Especially if she’s so smart, and had inside access to high intelligence?
Hillary Clinton claimed she was “misled” by Bush to support the war.
Later, though, it was reported that Hillary Clinton, among most Congressmembers, didn’t even read the U.S. intelligence report on the supposed “weapons of mass destruction.”
How can you be so “convicted” about the “hard vote” for the Iraq war when you didn’t read the intelligence report, and when so much of the public knew better? And, as Bernie Sanders said on the floor of U.S. Congress at the same time — even if Saddam did have chemical or biological WMDs, invading Iraq was the wrong solution. Mainstream newspapers and intelligence agencies were reporting that an attack by Saddam on the U.S. was unlikely, but if it did happen, it would come as a counter-attack to U.S. invasion.
Bernie Sanders: “Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies now say despite what we have heard from the White House that “Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States.” Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.”
Voting for the Iraq war was a very, very bad “mistake.” If that distinction between Sanders and Clinton is considered an “attack,” then so be it. The contrast was the truth, and it spoke a lot about the candidates, their priorities, and their judgment.
But the Iraq war was far from the only example of Hillary Clinton’s “hawkish” tendency. It may not even be the most egregious one. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton pushed Barack Obama to invade Libya in a “regime-change” war, that once again, resulted in disaster. Barack Obama later said that “the biggest mistake of his presidency” was failing to consider the consequences of this regime-change war in Libya. Obama did initially support the interventionist war, but Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State pushed him more strongly into it. As late as 2015, in a primary debate, Hillary Clinton defended the Libyan intervention. And in 2016, she has “no regrets” about Libya.
Now in 2017, as one journalist writes for USA Today, “Africans are being sold at Libyan slave markets. Thanks, Hillary Clinton.”
Libya, like so many other American military interventions, was a reckless display of military power that Clinton would come to tout as “experience” and qualification for public office — the highest office in the land. But that’s not how most of the electorate would come to see it. Nor would so much of the public be happy about Hillary Clinton’s “good friend and mentor” in Henry Kissinger.
Do you not know who Henry Kissinger is? Are you not familiar with his “accomplishments”? Well, here follows a summary of this “foreign policy expert,” Henry Kissinger, who Hillary Clinton was so giddy to receive compliments from — and who she would ally herself with in a nationally-televised 2016 primary debate.
Finally — perhaps inspired by Kissinger — Hillary Clinton ran in 2015 and 2016 under the prospect that she would establish a “no-fly zone” in Syria, which meant that Russians and Americans would be shooting down each other’s jets in this airspace. Top U.S. General and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, stated to Congress that this policy would “require us to go to war with Russia and Syria.”
Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton persisted on this policy. Despite strong opposition to the Syrian no-fly-zone among expert analysts, who said that this could quickly lead to war with a rival nuclear superpower, Clinton maintained it as a core part of her foreign policy promise. As late as 2017, Clinton advocated for the no-fly zone, and agreed with Donald Trump’s decision to suddenly and illegally bomb a Syrian airfield, even saying “he did not go far enough.”
Once again, it seemed that Hillary Clinton was the only one who could make Donald Trump tell the truth. Trump would certainly use Clinton’s “hawkishness” against her in the general election campaign — and it rang true, because unlike most of the things Trump says, it actually was true.
Americans are tired of US military adventurism, and doubtlessly wish to avoid a new world war in the age of nuclear proliferation, but Hillary Clinton didn’t seem to mind the prospect. If it were not apathy and desensitization, though, the other possibility is just as frightening. Was Clinton just so ignorant or incompetent that she did not even consider the possibility that a no-fly zone could devolve into war with Russia? It had to be one or the other. Either she didn’t really care about the potentially devastating consequences of a Syrian no-fly zone — or she plainly didn’t understand that there would almost certainly be terrible, terrible consequences. Those consequences were easily predicted, not only by high intelligence and military officials, but even regular citizens (like many Bernie Sanders supporters) and amateur foreign-policy enthusiasts.
And there are always other ways to start World War Three, or at least, Cold War Two. If it is merely alleged that WikiLeaks, orchestrated by “Putin,” dumped some emails that may have hurt your political campaign, let’s think of a way to make them pay the ultimate price — at everyone else’s expense.
With military force, of course. And now in early 2018, it appears a possibility that Hillary’s “expert” foreign policy suggestion may come true under the Trump administration:
Clinton would continue to present her horrendous foreign policy judgment and willingness to use U.S. military force as “expertise” and “experience.” Sanders supporters, and many others, however, viewed this as poor judgement, and reckless, backwards policy. It was just another example that Clinton did not understand the real risks and consequences of military conflict — or what it’s like to have skin in the game.
For further reading on Hillary Clinton’s appetite for war and military coups, here are a few more links for reading:
- A Voter’s Guide to Hillary Clinton’s Policies in Latin America
- Hillary Clinton’s Six Foreign-Policy Catastrophes
The bottom line is that, like Susan Sarandon has rightfully noted, Hillary Clinton would be a truly dangerous president. This was not just a fabricated or sexist “smear” — it was not just a Trumpian lie, or “Russian agit-prop.” And in 2016, the electorate was sick and damn tired of supporting costly, dangerous, irrational war around the world, while the U.S. itself crumbles.
And remember, while Trump and the Republicans were not necessarily less guilty in this domain, Hillary Clinton had a long political resume showing her hawkishness. Donald Trump did not — and even had some record of statements against war and intervention as a private citizen. Donald Trump could, and would, use this major vulnerability against Clinton. He could at least use plausible deniability about war, and imitate Sanders’ important decision of being against the war when it mattered, even though it was unclear whether he was truly for or against the Iraq War in particular.
We already looked at some of Hillary’s sensibilities when it came to supporting corporate America’s agenda. In a best case scenario, she would not fight against them — because she was largely in debt to them — very similar with the Obama administration. Clinton and Obama both ran campaigns that were made possible by their big money donors, and thus, would be accountable to those donors to a considerable degree.
But like Naomi Klein said, though the corporate money was a problem, it was not the only problem. Hillary Clinton simply did not understand the pain and struggle of working America. And working America knew it.
This meant that even if Hillary could be a saint and a hero, and somehow, consistently go against the agenda and expectations of her corporate donors — she could not truly fight for working America, because she simply did not understand their struggle.
Hillary Clinton was not of, by, and for the people. And just like the majority of today’s Congress, with an approval rating of around 15%, Hillary Clinton was not truly invested in the problems of regular folk.
There is a myth that says otherwise. There is a mythology of Hillary Clinton as the bold fighter — some sort of great hero and empath — who would bend over backwards to serve her constituents. Unfortunately, it is much more myth than fact. If the previous evidence was not enough to take on this mythology, let us look at some more evidence against it — which again, is often found in Hillary Clinton’s actions, not just her words.
On immigrants and immigration
As usual, click the linked source to read more. There you could read all about Clintons’ policies which hurt immigrants and the immigration process, including but not limited to: increased border patrol, increased detention and deportation, support for a border “fence” (as opposed to Trump’s “wall”), and ultimately, thousands of deaths and many more families ripped apart.
And both the Clintons were proud of their accomplishments — or at best, apathetic or dismissive about any harms when brought up in interviews. Bill and Hillary also set the stage in the 90’s for Bush and Obama to do even worse after them. Barack Obama became known by those affected as “deporter in chief” — deporting around three million immigrants while Hillary Clinton served as his Secretary of State.
What credibility, then, did Hillary Clinton have in the broad immigrant community? To those who were learning of her history on immigration — or already knew it — they knew that Hillary Clinton would not be truly supportive of them or their cause. It made more sense in this case to support Sanders. And in the general election, perhaps there was no one to support. For it was clear that even if Clinton were only damage control against Trump — and her history did not even prove she would be the “lesser of evils” on immigration — neither Clinton, nor Trump, would be supportive of immigrants and immigration. The evidence showed that both would likely crack down on immigration. A year of Trump’s presidency (at the time of this report) has seen some terrible things — but Trump does not appear to be on track to beat the Obama administration’s deportation record.
Of course, that does not mean Trump and his administration are “good” on the matter of immigrations and immigration. They are not, and they may very well turn out to be worse than the Obama administration did. The point is that once Bernie Sanders was eliminated, both options in the 2016 general election were terrible, and Clinton-defenders never account for the Democratic Party’s (including Obama and Hillary’s) atrocious record on immigration rights and deportation.
What about black voters? What had Hillary Clinton done for black Americans? Socially, the Clintons had made ties with a lot of black community leaders who had sway among many black voters. Bill Clinton was known by some as “the first black president.” Hillary and her campaign had also publicly commented on their “black firewall” in the south, referring to their mass of support from black Americans.
When viewed critically and historically, though, the Clintons have been a political force which not only kept systemic racism in place, but accelerated it. The Clintons played a major role in increasing mass incarceration (that disproportionally affected blacks and Latinos), as well as cutting social programs that helped black Americans the most.
In rhetoric, the Clintons used coded words like “welfare queens” and “superpredators,” terms that were overwhelmingly referencing black women and black youth, in the process to pass austerity “reforms” and explode the prison population, again, disproportionally among non-whites.
Some of the best critique of Hillary Clinton on “black America” would come from Cornel West and Michelle Alexander, two prominent black intellectuals.
Click the source to read more. The main point is that Clinton’s “heroism” in politics, in yet another domain, was a myth — this time, the myth was of the Clintons as friend and advocate for black America.
As more was learned by the public about this more critical account of the Clintons’ history — and as Donald Trump attacked Hillary based on these true parts of their past — Hillary Clinton’s support would drop among non-white demographics.
Many would only support or vote for her reluctantly, since the opponent was Donald Trump. As Hillary’s facade began to fall, revealing her as little more than a typical, neoliberal politician — say one thing, do another — enthusiasm and turnout were certainly affected for the worse. Maybe, some people were beginning to think — as her favorability dropped, and poll numbers went down — Hillary Clinton’s political “accomplishments” were over-inflated, and her political “experience,” a bit overrated.
II. Hillary Clinton’s campaign
In May 2016, as the Democratic primary neared its end, FiveThirtyEight reported that “Americans’ Distaste For Both Trump And Clinton Is Record-Breaking.”
If voters don’t like either nominee for president, clearly something must be wrong with those candidates and/or their campaigns. To anyone sensible, this would be a warning sign. Clinton may have been a bad candidate for the times, and her campaign was making some poor decisions, but she could have always changed course after this sort of evidence would appear.
Unfortunately, she neither tried very hard to change course, nor perhaps was she even capable of doing so. This may have been Hillary’s biggest mistake of all: refusing to change course, as her ship sank deeper and deeper, becoming more and more vulnerable to the Trump iceberg.
Let’s look back at some of Hillary Clinton and her campaign’s major mistakes in 2016, that would ultimately allow for a Trump victory in November.
Who is Hillary Clinton?
The voters wanted to know who Hillary Clinton was and what she really stood for. In 2016, they would never find out for sure. And an argument could be made that even Clinton herself does not know where she really stands. It seemed to be a recurring problem, perhaps a political trait that Hillary Clinton built up over the course of many years. Indeed, a compilation book “Who is Hillary Clinton: two decades of answers from the left,” published by The Nation in 2015, showcased various journalists in their attempt to answer this very question: Who is Hillary? What does she stand for? What has she really said and done? What does she actually believe? And why is it such a mystery after all these years?
“True convictions” aside, which we’ll get to later, one solid observation about Hillary Clinton’s politics is that her positions on the issues depends a lot on her audience. In 2015 and 2016, Hillary Clinton would at times attempt to outflank Sanders on the left: for example, when she said in a debate that her plan was “even more tough on Wall Street” than Bernie Sanders’ plan. Clinton would also claim, at times, a very close similarity with Sanders, with only small differences between them. They were not different in goals, she would say, but rather, in how to get there. (And of course, she was the right one to get there in the right way.)
An example of this is when she and her campaign would cite that Clinton and Sanders “voted together 93% of the time” during their shared time in the Senate (two years) — a highly misleading argument that implies Clinton and Sanders are only “7%” different. Then Clinton would adopt the identity that she was a “progressive,” but one who “gets things done” — again, insinuating that she is about as left as Sanders, but not quite as idealistic — and also more “effective” and able to compromise.
Other times, Clinton would cast Sanders as a wild idealist, far too radical for her taste — or for America’s taste. There are abundant examples of this, but one marked example was when Hillary Clinton shouted at a rally that “single-payer will never, ever come to pass.” Clinton’s plan, rather, was to “expand the Affordable Care Act.” The ACA was a modification of an originally right-wing healthcare plan, and a system that kept the fundamental problem of the U.S. healthcare system intact. The fundamental problem of the U.S. healthcare system is that even under the ACA, and any attempts to modify it, it would remain a market-based, for-profit health system, dictated by private insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
In most European countries, the ACA would be considered a far right-wing healthcare system. To these other modern democratic nations, Bernie Sanders’ “single-payer” proposal would seem moderate and common sense in comparison — certainly not a “radical” idea.
The ACA or “Obamacare” had become unpopular on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Republicans often hated it because it had something to do with Obama and the Democrats, but they also hated it for more legitimate reasons that were shared by the left-wing: it was not good enough. The plan left too many people uninsured and underinsured, and was simply a bad foundation on which to build and “fix” a healthcare system.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, would stump over and over again — simply and correctly — that the United States is “among the only developed nations in the world that does not offer health care as a right.”
Why was Hillary Clinton against single-payer? And why were the majority of Democrats against it as well? (Or at least, they didn’t seem to advocate for it…?). Hopefully, this is getting old by now: Follow the money.
Hillary Clinton and the media would push lies about Sanders’ universal healthcare plan — that it would simply “cost trillions” — without mentioning that in the final analysis, citizens would pay less for a single-payer system than they are paying under the current system. Clinton argued in a televised debate that Sanders’ plan would simply “raise taxes” and ultimately be a burden to working families, and that “the numbers don’t add up.”
Clinton was either completely ignorant that single-payer would in reality decrease annual costs on healthcare — or she was lying for political reasons. Anyone with simple research abilities would come to see that Clinton was almost certainly lying, or at least just wrong, about a very important issue — universal healthcare — which Sanders was trying to bring to the United States.
And surely, though she would deny it, Clinton’s lies and obfuscations about a universal healthcare system in the USA would have at least something to do with her major donors in the health industry — who were against a single-payer system for reasons of protecting their own profits.
Later, Hillary Clinton blatantly lied (or conveniently forgot) that Sanders was not fighting for healthcare back when she was working for it in 1993. Sanders’ social media team responded perfectly to this smear: in 1993, Sanders was literally right behind her. Hillary Clinton even wrote a letter to Sanders, signed in 1993, thanking Sanders for his [and I quote directly] “commitment to real health care access to all Americans.”
And truthfully, Sanders has fought for universal healthcare for longer than Hillary Clinton has.
As you can see in the previous debate transcript, Clinton also made a similar economic argument about education, that college is “not just free,” and you gotta read “the fine print.” Hillary Clinton knows, however, that tuition-free college is comparatively cheap for the United States government to implement. And surely Hillary Clinton knew as well that Sanders was not arguing that tuition-free college would be literally “free,” as if it were magic and would pop out of thin air. Hillary Clinton was simply avoiding a commitment on tuition-free college — again, perhaps partly due to her own political ideology, but in 2016 it was probably more because tuition-free college was simply not on her campaign donor’s agenda.
Tuition-free college is easily paid for by the U.S. government. It would take up a very small portion of the annual budget, and has been subsidized by the U.S. in the past. It is also done by countries around the world, and surely Hillary Clinton was smart enough to know this, too.
It is especially a good idea when the alternative is an extreme bubble in student loan debt. But it is a good idea that Clinton could not commit to, and instead, felt the need to smear.
Now imagine being a college student, or someone recently graduated — and learning the truth during the Sanders campaign about tuition-free college (what I wrote in the previous few paragraphs) — and then, being insulted by Hillary Clinton, who said that those youth who disagree are just “not doing their research.” That, she said, is why they’re flocking to Sanders.
It was only later, after Sanders’ pressure, that Clinton would adopt a position for “debt-free” college, and tuition-free college for some (it would be means-tested). This is better than a Trumpian proposal, of course, but was seen by progressives and independents as a reluctant adoptance — a more incremental, “minimal” version of Sanders’ policy. Why, again, must it be so incremental? And why choose, from the start, not to fight for an important universal program?
Another terrible point from Clinton in the televised debates was her statement that we can’t do tuition-free college “because we shouldn’t pay for Donald Trump’s kids to go to college.” This argument would be a joke, but apparently, it wasn’t. Clinton was actually using it as a rationale against Sanders’ tuition-free college proposal, and to defend her stance that we should not do it.
The major problem with this argument is its underlying logic: that no universal social program should exist, because it could also be utilized by “Donald Trump’s kids.” That is like saying we should not pay for roads, libraries, public parks, or the fire department because rich people could also use them.
(Besides, rich kids typically go to private schools.)
This was just another way for Clinton to showcase her brand of political dishonesty to millions of people. Why would college students, college-bound students, and recent college grads enthusiastically support Clinton after these incredibly lame and dishonest excuses, and diversions, for not funding higher education?
Transparent, expedient lies
Clinton also smugly lied about Sanders’ ability to “break up the big banks,” one of his staple issues. After a “gotcha” interview by NY Daily News, a smear circulated in the mainstream media that Sanders didn’t know how to break up the banks. Clinton probably knew this was a falsehood; but again, in her conventional political style, used it as a political weapon regardless of the truth.
The lie that Sanders didn’t know how to do this relatively basic task was debunked shortly thereafter, in various independent media outlets, including the NY Daily News itself by one of its own reporters, Shaun King.
For virtually all of Sanders’ proposals, Hillary Clinton, her campaign, and the media frequently used a smear that Sanders “can’t pay for it” or “doesn’t know how to pay for it.” Yet he did “know how to pay for it,” and would constantly remind us that we are “the richest country in the world,” so certainly we can. Unfortunately, Clinton had nothing to counter against this reality that we actually could pay for it — it was not an economic problem but a political problem — and the public were sick of the lies that we “cannot afford” what so many other countries can.
Hillary Clinton also ran a campaign that liked to separate “social” issues and “economic” issues — as if they are not fundamentally connected — like when she asked an audience at one of her rallies, “Will breaking up the banks end racism!? Would that end sexism!?” (“No!!,” her crowd would yell back.)
Nobody ever said it would, not even Bernie Sanders. As an astute Sanders supporter once stated: curing polio didn’t solve racism, either, but it was still a good idea.
Breaking up the big banks certainly would help the American people, regardless of identity or demographic. In fact, economic reforms would help the oppressed the most, including women and non-whites.
And it certainly seemed like Hillary Clinton didn’t want it to happen. Maybe, again, because of her allegiance to those same big banks.
What was Hillary’s message in 2016? Even the Washington Post, an obviously pro-Clinton outlet owned by ultra-billionaire Jeff Bezos, would pose the question.
Her “message” started to seem like “everything Sanders says, but not as much.” Among Clinton’s reputation for dishonesty and flip-flopping, this continuously more obvious aspect about her campaign suggested that she didn’t have a core to her campaign — other than “elect me.” It also validated the idea that whatever her campaign rhetoric, in office she would take the approach of incrementalism and austerity — rather than really getting at the fundamental economic solutions.
These were not just a few individual’s impressions. CNN analyzed Clinton’s and Sanders’ speeches after the New Hampshire primary and found that Sanders and Clinton used pronouns very differently, which suggested a very different focus of their campaigns. The article was titled: Clinton’s ‘me’ versus Sanders’ ‘us’.
“Clinton used the pronouns “I” or “me” in that speech 44 times. She used the words “we” or “us” less than half that amount — 21 times.”
“For Sanders, it was the exact opposite. Sanders used the words “I” or “me” 26 times. “We” or “us” was used more than twice as much — 54 times.”
Even Saturday Night Live caught on to this aspect of Clinton’s campaign, and in a rare and honest move for “big media,” painted Bernie in a favorable light over Hillary: SNL‘s Hillary Clinton Literally Turns Into Bernie Sanders For Your Vote.
Funny. But sadly, it hit too close to home. While mercenary pundits like Peter Daou would claim this sort of skit as a “sexist attack,” an honest review of the primary cycle would reveal that the skit was only a small exaggeration of how Hillary dealt with Bernie entering the race, and becoming competitive against her. She clearly planned to skate by, without having to commit to much.
And that’s why Bernie entered the race.
But it also means that after the primary was done, Hillary didn’t need to be Bernie-lite anymore. An analysis of her general election TV ads showed that they were “almost entirely policy-free.”
A corporate candidate
A look into some of Hillary Clinton’s “closed-door” speeches (leaked in the general election, which was always a possibility and vulnerability) — as well as a look into her 2016 campaign ties, shows why she was such a noncommittal candidate.
First, she had corporate allegiances that would be difficult if not impossible to breach. David Sirota of IB Times reported that “Hillary Clinton, In Paid Speeches To Wall Street, Promoted Commission That Pushed Social Security Cuts.” Sirota also revealed that “Hillary Clinton Economic Team Planned Secret Meeting With Wall Street Mogul Pushing To Shift Retiree Savings To Financial Firms.”
It becomes easier to believe the suggestions by Bill Clinton that Hillary’s actions during her presidency would be different than her campaign rhetoric: she would actually prefer to lower corporate tax rates and shift back in favor of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This was hardly a conspiracy theory, it was spotted by multiple independent journalists.
It shouldn’t be that surprising, again, if we believe the credible theory (surely by now) that major political donors control politicians to a significant extent.
It was a moment of insight as well when the Panama Papers were released — a trove of documents highlighting offshore tax havens, and corporate corruption in general. Sanders responded with condemnation and criticism, as expected. Clinton’s critique, on the other hand, was short-lived and rang hollow. For predictable reasons: The Clintons themselves were financially connected to many of those who were implicated in the papers.
Not only were the Clintons connected, Hillary Clinton was also partly responsible for the corruption outlined in the papers. And once again, Sanders proved his foresight and judgment to be superior to Clinton’s:
All this and more is why Clinton would be seen as a “corporate” politician, and no friend of the working class. Political corruption had become the new normal, over the course of decades, and Clinton was certainly no exception. While Bernie Sanders was an outlier in this corrupt system — supporting striking workers on the streets against Verizon, for example — Clinton was raking in cash from their executives. (Corroboration: Open Secrets.)
It’s why, as Shaun King wrote in the 2016 primary, progressives were beginning to reject the Democratic Party — and should even consider leaving it.
But this was during the primary, not the general election — and it was another warning that could have been heeded by Clinton and her campaign. Eventually, for the general election, Hillary Clinton would continue to insult the voters she needed to bring together. She wouldn’t even throw a bone to progressives, strongly exemplified by her pick of Tim Kaine as running mate.
The Clinton campaign hired Debbie Wasserman Schultz right after she was fired from the DNC, for implications (and much evidence) of anti-Sanders corruption. Clinton loaded the DNC platform-committee in a way that assured some of Sanders’ significant but common-sense proposals would not be adopted. Then, the Clinton campaign rejected the help and advice of Sanders staffers and volunteers during the general election against Donald Trump.
The DNC tilted the primary for Hillary, then the Clinton campaign continued course — actually, swerved rightward in the general election.
All this while under FBI investigation. An independent journalist who had developed a reputation for honesty and integrity, Shaun King — and who eventually capitulated to endorse Clinton in the general election — noted correctly that “In spite of it all, for months on end, Clinton denied violating any policies or laws — when the investigation revealed that she actually violated them repeatedly.”
We will not get into the emails in this report, except to remind of the final verdict of the investigation. FBI director James Comey ultimately claimed that Clinton would not be recommended for prosecution because “criminal intent” could not be proven. Instead, Comey stated that Clinton was merely “extremely careless” and “grossly negligent” with classified national security information. Since Hillary Clinton claimed not to know certain emails were actually classified, this is probably why “intent” could not be “proven.”
I’ll just leave it at that for now, but the point is that, once again, the public isn’t as stupid as Hillary Clinton seemed to believe, and had become sick of what the conclusion of this investigation seemed to re-affirm: that some people in politics and on Wall Street are simply above the law. This is not a baseless assertion of corruption. Donald Trump would certainly use it against Hillary Clinton.
Let us close with one more big reason why Hillary Clinton lost. It was not just her neoliberal history, not just her wishy-washy politics, not just her unclear platform. It was also her lack of charisma and authenticity.
III. Hillary Clinton, herself
Ideologically, at least in political action, Barack Obama was cut from a similar cloth as Hillary Clinton: the neoliberal cloth. But what Obama had that Hillary Clinton didn’t was a special smoothness, a certain charm, a general “likeability.” Much like George W. Bush before him, Obama was seen, at least by his own political party, as “personable,” down to earth, and simply a person you might like to be around.
Maybe, just maybe, he’s one of us. And not only that, he seemed like a leader. He’s one of us, but also, one who can lead us.
Hillary Clinton did not seem to have these traits — well, except to her super fans. And that’s not enough. In a time when so many people were sick of the “elite,” stand-offish political persona, Hillary Clinton could not even maintain the illusion of being “of, by, and for the people.”
Anyone being honest understands that a human of any gender, sex, race, color, or any other “identity” trait, can have bad character. That person can also be a poor leader and a bad liar. Or, regardless of identity traits, that person can be the opposite in character and leadership — or anything in between.
As part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream: we should not be judged by the color of our skin [or sex or gender or etc.], but rather, the “content of our character.”
(Especially if you’re running for arguably the most powerful political position in the world.)
In other words, saying Hillary Clinton is “unlikable” is not just born out of sexism. Despite what a few Clinton-friendly pundits and super-loyal Clinton supporters often suggest, those who hated Clinton for her bad character, bad judgment, and bad leadership — most of these people also hate certain men for the same reasons: their bad character, bad judgment, and bad leadership.
Hillary Clinton was running for president of the United States: at a minimum, to be one of the most powerful people in the world. The U.S. president has a great amount of authority over all of us citizens, and the state of world affairs. Their character should be open for criticism — man, woman, black, white, or anything else. And if their character, their judgment, their leadership are not good, it is quite simply going to affect whether people want to vote for you.
If, in a “populist” election, you did not seem to be “of, by, and for the people,” you were at a marked disadvantage. Of course, Trump would use this against Clinton. And again, critique of Clinton is not an endorsement of Trump. His populism and “peoples’ personality” was also fake; however, he convinced enough people otherwise — enough that he was able to beat Hillary Clinton. Trump exuded a certain magnetism that Hillary Clinton lacked.
Some people disagree with this view of Hillary Clinton — especially, of course, her strong supporters. But it was certainly a significant view among the public, and chalking it up to a matter of “Russian propaganda,” for example, is a terrible excuse.
We have the internet now, and we can see and hear Hillary Clinton in her own words. There is a history of Hillary Clinton, and lots of other people, too, that we can examine more easily than before. And if our mistake in the past was not critiquing presidential candidates harshly enough, then it is certainly past time to change that.
Why shouldn’t that include who you are as a person, and whether you have charisma? Among the more political critiques, there are an abundance of reports from people close to Hillary that she does not have some of those important, positive character traits.
Critiques across the political spectrum would sometimes focus on this negative aspect of Hillary’s character. Below are three books from the political “left” (that I have read), and one that is more on the “right” end of the spectrum (that I have not read), but all include writers who spend time looking at Hillary’s often elitist and grating “character.”
An amusing story during the 2016 primary (but also a sad and upsetting one) was when Hillary Clinton went to ride the NY subway to appeal to NY voters:
The problem is that as Hillary Clinton went to enter the subway, she took a long time to get through the turnstyle. She just didn’t know how the subway in “her” state worked! Not a big deal, really, because it’s been a while — but certainly not the message she wanted to send, which was one of “authenticity.”
Later, Clinton tried talking to a young woman on the train, who “was not impressed.” Then, she simply got off the train — an uneventful event. Instead of appearing natural, it was just the most obvious “photo-op.” Typical politician stunt.
You could also watch Jimmy Dore’s comedic review of the “energy level” at Hillary Clinton’s rallies (compared to Sanders’ rallies). Clinton, it seems, did not tend to inspire much enthusiasm.
Am I being nitpicky? That’s what some pro-Clinton pundits, especially the ones who are paid to defend her, would say. But these are simply anecdotes, among so many others, that serve to explain why there was a legitimate case against Hillary Clinton, and why the primary campaign message of “Not Trump” was not going to be good enough for the American public.
And all this helps to explain why Sanders was a better candidate for the general election — both in terms of statistical evidence (chapter 1 and 2), and what we could see and hear everyday, with our own eyes and ears.
No one to vote for
In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t seem to like each other much. An Obama campaign ad claimed that Hillary will “say anything and change nothing.” (He was right, even if it would also turn out to be true about himself.) Donald Trump later used this against Clinton — as another way of displaying her hypocrisy when she promised change (and also, when she defended Obama).
Other Democratic candidates on the debate stage in 2008, including Obama, would all attack Hillary Clinton and agree on how easy a target she would be for the Republicans. It certainly turned out to be true in 2016.
Bernie Sanders ran to challenge “the establishment” — he ran not because he thought Hillary Clinton was the devil incarnate, not because he wanted fame and popularity, and not because he was a Russian insider or “wanted Trump to win” (or other such nonsense). Bernie Sanders ran a far cleaner campaign against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama did in 2008, or than Hillary Clinton did against Bernie Sanders in 2016.
And yet, it is true that he did attack her. Not in a personal way — and not in ways that would completely undermine her. But what Bernie Sanders did to Hillary Clinton was tell some inconvenient truths about her. And the truth is what the public needed to hear. Indeed, it was what much of the public already believed.
Hillary Clinton has significant “ties to Wall Street,” said Bernie Sanders. And it was true. Certainly, these ties would affect her politics and policies — just as it would anyone’s.
Hillary Clinton has a “credibility gap,” said the Sanders campaign. And it was true. What she says and what she does has historically been very different. Indeed, in her eventually-released Wall Street transcripts, she told the private donors that it was her strategy to have a “public position and a private position.” This explains so much of what the public already felt, and was ready to vote against. This is the kind of politics, and politician, that the American public was so sick and tired of.
Hillary Clinton, “on more than one occasion, apparently spoke of how bankers should take a leading role in shaping financial regulations“, and admitted that she was “kind of far removed from the middle class“. That was the truth, in her own words. Sanders was occasionally “mean enough” to point it out. And it’s not enough of what the public wanted in 2016.
In another one of the Sanders’ campaign “attacks,” they would tell the truth that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State worked against a minimum wage increase in Haiti — for the benefit of a few American corporations. And Clinton’s refusal to support “Fight for 15,” a grassroots organization who was working for a federal increase in the minimum wage, to a “living wage,” was dim in contrast to Sanders’ consistent and unapologetic support for the organization, and the cause.
The public was beginning to learn that the minimum wage would be even higher than $15/hour if wages kept up with productivity, so Hillary Clinton’s “pragmatic” $12/hour was a lie and an excuse. The difference between $12/hour and $15/hour over the course of one year is also much more significant than Clinton and her allies liked to suggest: approximately $6,000 a year for a single worker, which could be “make-or-break.” Clinton wouldn’t understand this, as part of the multi-millionaire elite, but Sanders certainly seemed to.
And finally, about 90% of those who would benefit from this wage increase (over 40 million U.S. citizens) would be adults who are trying to work full time, with a majority of those adults being women and people of color. So a $15/hour wage would help more people, especially women and people of color, than Clinton’s weaker proposal.
Bernie Sanders was simply a better candidate on the issues, and so he would have been stronger against Trump. The only half-legitimate argument Hillary Clinton could ever muster against Sanders is that his proposals were too “radical” to be enacted in a comparatively right-wing United States government.
That is why Bernie Sanders called for a “political revolution” — not just that we should vote for one candidate, and then it’s over. Sanders knew what we needed, and even more than Hillary Clinton, how to achieve it. Not through simple voting, but mass action.
The end result of Sanders losing the Democratic primary is that the general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, two highly unfavorable candidates among the American public, became more of a battle of who not to vote for — rather than who “to” vote for. So the only legitimate, honest argument for Clinton became the “lesser of two evils” argument. The general election would proceed with both Clinton and Trump pointing out the others’ evils, much more than a real discussion of political problems and solutions.
The U.S. Legacy of LEV
Many progressive and leftist intellectuals, journalists, and organizations made good arguments for voting — or even working for — Hillary Clinton in the general election. Shaun King, despite endorsing Sanders in the primary — and even suggesting during the primary that it might be best for progressives to outright leave the Democratic Party — came around to argue that it was our duty to “stop Donald Trump.” He argued that even if Hillary Clinton was not even close to being as good as Bernie Sanders, he would vote Clinton to stop Trump, and he strongly urged others to do so as well. As usual, his arguments were compelling. But only because he was honest. Hillary Clinton would not be a good president, much less a great one. She would simply be less devestating than Donald Trump.
John Halle and Noam Chomsky released “An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting).” Like Shaun King, or even more convincingly, they argued again that it is our duty at this point in time to elect Clinton in order to stop Trump. Voting should not be a matter of personal expression, they argued. Since elections have real consequences, the ballot box should be used to minimize damage — even if you don’t personally like the candidate or initiatives you are ultimately voting for. Halle and Chomsky recommended for progressives and leftists to vote for Hillary Clinton in swing states. But again, it was not an argument that Clinton was “good.” It was that she was the lesser “evil” — as stated right in the title.
The Democratic Socialists of America, who had endorsed and worked for Bernie Sanders, did not technically endorse Hillary Clinton before the general election. But they did state publicly that they would organize to “dump the racist Trump,” and coordinated a significant effort to do so. They weren’t for Clinton. They were just more strongly against Trump.
Another strong Sanders supporter — known environmentalist, and likely pick for a Sanders’ presidential cabinet, Bill McKibben, published as optimistic a piece he could muster: The Climate Movement Has to Elect Hillary Clinton—and Then Give Her Hell. “Clinton’s no friend of the earth,” McKibben wrote, “but she can be pressured.” “Trump, on the other hand, would be an ecological and moral disaster.”
An article by Jeet Heer in New Republic suggested a similar skeptical optimism, that Hillary Clinton could potentially be pressured into bettering herself and her positions, and ultimately, would be not be as bad as Trump. On certain issues, too, Clinton could potentially be good, not just less-bad. “Hillary Clinton Is the Silly Putty of American Politics,” says the title. “Her opportunism could be the left’s opportunity.”
It depends how we go about it, Heet wrote. With Clinton in office, we’d still need Sanders’ “political revolution” — just to have a fighting chance at making the change we need. That is the best shot we have left.
But Hillary Clinton’s hubris and obstinance during her campaign — and her swerve rightward after the general election — seemed to suggest that Heer Jeet’s prospect, especially, was a long-shot.
The common denominator of all honest and legitimate arguments for Hillary Clinton as president, in other words, were under the broader thesis that Clinton is not a “good candidate.” But, once again, we have a “less bad” candidate to vote for. And so we must.
There were good arguments for Hillary Clinton as the lesser-evil, even if you do not ultimately agree with them. But there are no compelling, informed arguments that Hillary Clinton would have been anything more than that. The lesser evil.
It is not what the electorate wanted in 2016. If only we had someone who could focus more on the pressing issues — inspiring a greater turnout — then, we could have beaten a super-rich, politically-incompetent celebrity — who won on mere charisma and promise of big change.
“For little girls inspired by Hillary Clinton” is an article written by an Indigenous woman, describing exactly why Hillary Clinton would not be a “great” or “good” president, and certainly is no hero. The author concludes that while Trump may be an abomination, Clinton is a false hope, and has done much damage in her political career. She would continue to do great damage as president.
Certainly, Hillary Clinton would not be a progressive, game-changing, system-shifting president. Whenever that was suggested in rhetoric — just like politicians have developed a habit of doing — that was typically a lie for votes. The incredibly likely odds were opposed to any “progressive” rhetoric: Under a Hillary Clinton administration, neoliberalism and imperialism would have continued. They simply would have trudged onward more slowly, and less openly, than during the Trump years.
In 2016, people wanted someone to vote for, not against. Across the pond, we would see this a bit later with Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., and a near-success story in the leftist campaign of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. In remarkable similarity, not much later than the 2016 U.S. general election, “centrist candidate Macron succeeded because voters hated the fascist alternative, while socialist candidate Corbyn did well because voters liked his policies.”
There is not much “new” information in this report, if any. The evidence accumulated before the primaries, during the primaries, and then leading up to the general election. It was visible to those who really cared, and were truly looking. Certainly, Clinton and her campaign were aware of their many vulnerabilities. But despite this, the Democratic Party, its strategy and leadership (The Democratic National Committee), and the mass media did what they could to make sure that Hillary Clinton was nominated.
Then, Clinton and her campaign, and so many of her supporters persisted in looking the other way — in making terrible decisions. And from the beginning, it just seems that Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate to face Donald Trump. She was always the paper to his scissors.
Perhaps those who stumped hard for Hillary Clinton in the primary elections, despite her significant known vulnerabilities, should not throw stones in glass houses. Especially those who were so deeply disturbed by Donald Trump, and truly worried about him as a presidential prospect — why not choose the candidate in the Democratic primary who was the surer bet?
It was just another reason to like Bernie Sanders. He was the rock to Trump’s scissors.