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I'm With Her, and That Other Woman, Too—John Seeley

I'm With Her, and That Other Woman, Too—John Seeley

Hillary Clinton vs Jill Stein - A Two-Faced Candidacy Requires a Two-Sided Response

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.—F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up" (1936)

As our supposedly democratic process heads closer and closer to its own crack-up, intelligent people need to keep in mind two dangers—both of Hillary losing, but also of an apparent Clinton mandate.

Like many political observers, I am sooo huugely tired of hearing the “lesser of two evils” argument in yet another presidential year. It’s a perennial pleading, most popular in years when the leading candidates are most unpalatable, like 1968 and today. As a decision-making strategy for some calamities of everyday life, it’s a reasonable and appropriate approach to choices—when almost broke, should you lose your health insurance or get an eviction notice, for example, or chemotherapy versus radiation.

How Progressives Can Stay Principled AND Pragmatic

Progressives agonize in presidential years over the tough choice between their principles and their sense of the practically attainable—whether or not to support a mediocre candidate who shares some of their values and stances but undermines other vital goals. As Election Day approaches, one camp (self-styled “realists”) is increasingly focused on avoiding the worse of evils, begins to forget why they ever had misgivings about their #2 choice (Google “sweet lemon” and rationalization) and starts to charge the dissenting group with dogmatism, self-indulgence, childish impatience, “purism” and naivete.

Those who find the “lesser of two evils” argument inappropriate in general or unconvincing in the concrete case du jour will often, in turn, accuse the “realist” camp of opportunism, cowardice, abandonment of principles, historical ignorance and yes, naivete.

But almost all this hubbub is unpleasant, unproductive, and in the case of 2016, largely unnecessary. If you invest a little extra energy, you can have it both ways, producing a pragmatic outcome AND preserving your progressive principles

As the polls tighten in pre-election week, progressives need to take action to stave off the catastrophe of a Trump presidency by helping Hillary in swing states. But at the same time, millions of progressives in irredeemably red and safely blue states should vote for the other “her,” Jill Stein. By putting Democrats on notice that those opposed to war and Wall Street are too numerous to ignore, we certainly reduce, and may avert Clinton’s hawkish and corporate corrupted policies—which would otherwise have an apparent “mandate.”

Is this “talking out of both sides of our mouths”? Sophomores steeped in existentialism would say that. But this is only, as they say among political professionals, “targeted messaging.” There is no dishonesty involved. Convincing swing state voters that an HRC vote is needed to avoid the Drumpf disaster in no way conflicts with a message to swing state voters that their anti-Hillary vote from the left lowers the risk of her pursuing bad policies once elected.

You may have mood swings pushing these causes, but a short break and perhaps a brisk walk between pursuing one mission and the other reduces the risk of schizophrenia to virtually zero.

So agonize no more! Below is the solution allowing you to register your highest ideals while at the same time insuring you (and the rest of us) against any guilty conscience for the most downside of outcomes, a Drumpf presidency. I can’t take the whole credit for resolving the problem. Much thanks goes first and foremost to the Founding Fathers who, in one of their wackier escapades, devised the Electoral College from which our presidents must matriculate, and second, to the leakers and recorders of the Access Hollywood tapes, who made this election a bit more predictable and thus gave millions more Americans the latitude to vote against both the disgustingness of Donald and the horrors of Hillary. You CAN have your cake and eat it too, just stick to the recipe below, which is adjusted for your own locale (note: water boils at lower temperatures at high altitudes).

RECIPE A

For use in swing states, broadly defined—any state designated by 538.com or other election expert sites as having any likelihood above 1 percent of being a tipping point state: FL and OH (as always), NH, NV, NM, CO & IA (as usual) plus Trump’s light blue Rust Belt targets of PA, MI, WI & MN and the weakly red Clinton targets—North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona.

  • Locate clothespin, inspecting surface carefully for potential slivers (sand if needed). Apply to bridge of nose and slide down gently about 1 inch until nasal breathing obstructed.
  • If voting by mail, mark ballot for Clinton, seal envelope, take to mailbox. Remove clothespin and wash hands thoroughly.
  • Make some calls to red states (but NOT NC, GA or AZ) for Jill Stein or to friends in NY, CA or other super-blue states explaining that you did what you had to do for Trump insurance but that they are free to do the right thing and vote Stein.

RECIPE B

Use in red states—all those Romney won except North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona—and in super-blue states: CA and all other Left Coast states, NY, NJ, MD, DE, IL and New England states except for NH and ME.

  • Vote for Jill Stein, early.
  • Sort your email list into safe-state and swing-state categories and email your friends in the former a recommendation that they join you. Maintain Facebook silence.
  • Through Progressive Democrats of America, Democrats for America or MoveOn, put in a couple hours calling for Hillary to swing states. Hey, if you are in the Chicago or Boston areas, make a short run across the border to Wisconsin or New Hampshire and put your anti-Trump boots on the ground. If you encounter any Stein activists, tell them you voted for her but their efforts would be better served if they went over the line to your state.

Lose Lesser-Evilism

Most of the concrete “lesser of two” cases you’ll be barraged with are of course forms of propaganda emanating from surrogates for one of the two top contenders. Such sources do not believe in the lesser of two evils strategy in principle—liberals don’t tell conservatives to back Trump over Johnson, for example. Then there is also much sincere agonizing by conscientious citizens trying to balance their principles and their sense of practical risks. But even with the best of intentions, in the context of an important election it is a flawed way of thinking, checkers logic in a 3-D chess game. It does not look ahead to future moves, equating the next four years with the future of humanity.

By definition, a choice of evils is a lose-lose proposition. As Donald Trump would doubtless admit—if his campaign weren’t playing the lesser-of-two card to the religious right on the Supreme Court, abortion and gay marriage—it’s a game for “losers.” It entails firstly loss of leverage; extracting policy changes often comes by offering support conditional on some quid pro quo. If you give it away for nothing, it’s an announcement of the negligible cost of your support, something politicians can put into their calculations when adopting future policy stands.

The justification for a LoTE approach is rooted in “consequentialist ethics,” but this is only applicable in a situation where the action has discernable consequences—that is, to make a difference in the outcome. That lets many of us, tens of millions who live outside the swing states, pretty much off the hook.

Record vs. Rhetoric

Question # 1 for progressives is are we “with her”? That should only be answered after the reciprocal other-side-of-the-coin question—Is she with us? And the answer is clear: yes and no.

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On numerous cultural issues (where her corporate bank-rollers are indifferent or supportive) yes; on the most vital and important issues (where her donors are not with us) her rhetoric may be ambiguous but her record says no.

We should not dismiss or minimize a number of important issues where HRC is likely to back up her progressive rhetoric with real action—protecting women’s reproductive rights and economic equality, racial injustice in policing and law enforcement, gay rights, immigrant rights, gun control. These are all matters where lives are at stake, and Hillary’s stands are major points in her favor.

However, there are four areas where, quantitatively speaking, many more lives hang in the balance; these issues need to be at the core of our evaluation:

  • Climate change (the life of the planet, and all its inhabitants);
  • War (unending “war on terror,” nuclear conflict risk);
  • The trade-jobs problem (where millions have been or will be pushed into joblessness and poverty); and
  • Health care.

In all four of these critical areas Hillary is by no means “with us” -- and being somewhat better than Trump on two or three of them does not make her adequate.

WAR Rhetoric. From her website: “Hillary has gone toe-to-toe with Putin before, and she’ll do it again. She’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with our European allies and push back on and deter Russian aggression in Europe and beyond, and increase the costs to Putin for his actions.” And press China to play by the rules—including in cyberspace, on currency, human rights, trade, territorial disputes, and climate change—and hold it accountable

WAR Record. Iraq war vote, war-criminal Kissinger praise, Libya –“we came we saw, he died” (as did how many thousands more still ongoing), Syria no-fly zone, Israeli lobby allegiance, Iran deal skepticism, Putin demonization, Ukraine putsch support, endorsement by numerous neo-cons and architects of the Iraq war from Brent Scowcroft to Robert Kagan to...

CLIMATE CHANGE Rhetoric.From her website: Many great commitments to expanded solar and renewables, environmental justice et al. Compared to Trump’s utter indifference, any proposals, even those called laughably and tragically inadequate look good. But, say experts, these are solutions that are non-solutions: Says RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote, “Clinton's climate plan is remarkable for what it doesn't say, yet: no effort to keep fossil fuels in the ground, no price on carbon; no word on Keystone XL, Arctic oil, or other carbon bombs; no word on fracking…”

  • CLIMATE CHANGE Record. Long, long silence on the Keystone Pipeline. Blocked anti-fracking resolution in the platform at the Democratic Convention. Massive campaign funding from the oil companies—oh, sorry just “the people who work for them,” no problem! Personnel decision # 2, fracking lobbyist and advocate Ken Salazar as “Transition Team” chief. Mushy no-content statement last week on the Dakota pipeline

TRADE Rhetoric. On her website issues page, there are 40 topics but Trade is not among them. Under “Jobs and wages” Hillary promises a $10 billion “Make it in America” plan, and then to “Pursue smarter, fairer, tougher trade policies that put U.S. job creation first and get tough on nations like China that seek to prosper at the expense of our workers. This includes opposing trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that do not meet a high bar.”

This is a sizable change of tune from her previous rhetoric on job losses, when she defended American outsourcing of jobs as something we just have to live with. “Outsourcing will continue,” Mrs. Clinton said in New Delhi. “There is no way to legislate against reality... We are not in favor of putting up fences.” The pre-campaign Hillary was an ardent advocate of free trade and a free hand for presidents to shape policy without messy democratic input; In 1998 at the World Economic Forum she thanked businesses for lobbying for NAFTA. She also criticized them for not making a stronger push to give her husband fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals and limit review by congress.

  • TRADE Record. Clinton supported most favored nation trade status despite concerns about China’s human rights record. TPP she described asa “gold standard,” lockstep blockage of TPP opposition at Democratic Convention by Clinton operatives, Bill’s statement q Personnel decision #1: pro-TPP running mate Tim Kaine, personnel decision #2: pro-TPP lobbyist and ex-Senator Ken Salazar, who also backed trade deals with oil sheikdom Oman and Peru, as head of the “transition team.”

HEALTH POLICY Rhetoric. From her website: “She has never given up on the fight for universal coverage.” And Hillary will “stand up to Republican-led attacks on this landmark [Obamacare] law—and build on its success.” Her platform recognizes the need to “bring down out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles,” and reduce the cost of prescription drugs. But the detailed plan to get there is less about reducing the price of a drug than having the government pick up more of the consumer’s cost. And oblique approaches like speeding up approval of generics. The web page Prescription drug spending accelerated from 2.5 percent in 2013 to 12.6 percent in 2014.

  • HEALTH POLICY Record. Her “fight” for universal coverage excludes the simple straightforward way of getting there-- Medicare for all. On that she said, in a February debate with Bernie, “the numbers don't add up, and many people will be worse off than they are now.” Building on Obamacare?? How can you “build” on a collapsing first story? Yes, it’s great that folks with pre-existing conditions can’t be barred from insurance, and young adults can get coverage on their parents’ policies. But the foundation for all this wasn’t laid right—Instead of having these immense costs covered by drug price reductions or cutting out the middle-man of private insurance company profits, the Obama strategy robbed Peter to pay Paul, sending the bill to the middle class and the hitherto uninsured. And now premiums and co-pays are sky-rocketing and families are losing their coverage??? What a shock! Her insistence that single-payer is an unwinnable battle means that we will never have a workable solution.

In the first of these fields, the gulf between rhetoric and record is narrower, largely because Clinton has remained largely quiet rather than running the risk of alienating Democrats and independent progressives with bellicose statements. In the other three areas we can see the two faces of Clintonism—promises, sometimes vague, sometimes detailed, some doable, others impossible to get through Congress, but all of them designed to enlist progressive backing, alongside a record that indicates how dubious her commitments to them are.

Compare Jill Stein’s platform, and it’s easy to see who we are with more often.

We need not pay the slightest attention to the Republican “platform.” Months of mouth-running from The Donald make it clear—between his adolescent arrogance and egotism, his impulsive improvisations and his litanies of lies—that no serious respect would be paid to any policy document in a Trump White House.

Even while we work in swing states to avoid that nightmare coming to pass, Californians, and progressives in the 30-plus states where it can’t get Trump any extra electoral votes, we can let the world know that we are ready for rebellion when the wrong face of Hillary shows itself in the Oval Office.

Jill (and Hill, where necessary) 2016.

John Seeley