Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Depressing Hillary

The reality is that I don't know a Democrat who is actually enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. Many Democrats think she's earned her shot and is very qualified. Everyone sees the value of having a woman president.  And yet my twenty-something feminist friends and students have said, "yes I want a woman president.  Just not that woman."  Reports this morning are that in spite of the Trump terror factor, African American early voting is down.

Clinton has not broken with her dynasty's 1990s New Democrat vision of business as the great progressive force, and made no case in the debates that the public mission would be back in charge.  She already ran for president in 2008, when she was defeated by the then more populist candidate Barack Obama.   She didn't have a good record in her last big job as Secretary of State--her acceptance of the removal of the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras helped disintegrate that society, which in turn led to some of the immigration that Donald J. Trump has successfully stigmatized.  And she isn't clearly willing the integrity race with the demagogic salesman, scapegoater, tax avoider, and OPM artist Trump.   On policy, she will be Obama Minus: about the same centrist ineffectuality on banking reform and economic redevelopment, and worse on the Middle East on other areas of foreign policy.  On personal integrity, she isn't in Obama's league--she's more like Trump Plus.

The root problem is her neoliberal self.  This has been nicely defined by the political theorist Wendy Brown as devoting one's working life to increasing the value of oneself as human capital.  The Clintons are profoundly unoriginal thinkers who have stayed inside of the influential orthodoxies of the particular time, for example, favoring stereotype-driven"super predator" mass incarceration in the 1990s rather than confronting the deindustrialization that drove the crime spikes; then opposing mass incarceration thanks to Black Lives Matter et al. in 2016.  This reflects the fact that they always take positions that will maximize their own position and influence. People who have watched them over the years understand this, and it is at the root of the feeling that they are unreliable allies.  The single worst example early on was Bill Clinton's abandoning of Lani Guinier, his nominees for the civil rights head of the Department of Justice, when a Wall Street Journal labeled her a quota queen.  But everyone can imagine the Clinton's abandoning a position at any time, which gives them a queasy feeling.

Another aspect of the neoliberal self is not being able to tell the difference between public goods and self-advancement.  This seems like something anyone could and should be able to do, but this has become less true in practice.  One of the FBI investigations of the Clintons involved "pay to play" use of their foundation in which foreign leaders that Hillary Clinton treated as the Secretary of State could get enhanced access through donations to the Clinton foundation.  Reporters have found a statistical correlation between donations and meetings with Hillary Clinton. The causal connection would never be direct, but what matters is the general ability to imagine that Bill would certainly do this and that Hillary would go along.  They spent the 2000s using their political prominence to get rich.  Though they pay full taxes on their multi-million dollars of annual income, they are the kind of people that can't imagine their wealth impairing their public vision.  That's neoliberalism.

This week CNN announced the firing of former DNC head Donna Brazile because they found that she was feeding questions to the Clinton campaign ahead of interviews.   This is cheating.  The same goes for former head of the party Debbie Wasserman, who was forced to resign in the wake of WikiLeakes information of her skewing party resources away from Bernie Sanders. Hillary's response to that was not to apologize for taking advantage of unfair advantage, but to give Wasserman a job.

I have a bad feeling about what is to come.