Last week, actress and political activist Susan Sarandon became the latest celebrity punching bag of the liberal media. Obtaining punching bag status is not difficult. All Sarandon had to do was go on the corporate world’s silly excuse for a progressive media outlet and confess that, should Hillary Clinton win the nomination, she may not be able to vote Democratic in November. In her own words: “I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens.”
On the whole, a pretty uncontroversial statement to make. But at this point, expressing reluctance to vote for Hillary Clinton is—to the mainstream left—akin to expressing support for Bill Cosby. How dare a person be anything other than delighted with the prospect of another Clinton presidency? One would have to be “vapid and callous,” as Michelle Goldberg of Slate put it, to even consider voting against Hillary. Such a sentiment can only be explained by inordinate amounts of “petulance and privilege,” says Charles Blow of The New York Times (who bizarrely apologized to his readers for using Donald Trump’s name in his column). Ms. Goldberg concurs, dismissing Sarandon as a “rich white celebrity with nothing on the line.” So, by merely admitting that she might find it hard to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, Sarandon has exposed herself as a vapid, callous, petulant, privileged jerk. Sounds reasonable.
The Daily Beast has run three Sarandon-related stories: “Susan Sarandon and the Berniacs Who Wanna Watch the World Burn,” “Susan Sarandon: Trump Might be Better for America Than Hillary Clinton” and “Bernie: From the Guys Who Brought You W.”
The thrust of each article is the same: Susan Sarandon and those who think like her are idiots, because by not voting for Hillary they are lending tacit support to Donald Trump’s whacky politics. Each article brings up the argument that the people who voted for Ralph Nadar instead of Al Gore in 2000 are to some degree responsible for the Iraq war and everything else the Bush 43 administration did. Bullshit. This is the sort of logic that makes subverting the political duopoly in this country impossible. It’s lesser evilism at its rankest and most sophistic. By validating the concept that we have only two options, both of which are marketed to us by our corporate masters, the media commands us (in their subtly patronizing way) to settle for a catch-22. They say it because it’s true, and it’s true because they say it. No way out.
Sometimes they’ll pretend to empathize: “I understand your pain” and so forth. A few Clintonoid pundits swear that they like Bernie Sanders and what he stands for; they deeply regret the fact that he’s not going to win the nomination (never mind that he still might). But they’re realists—they can look on the bright side. For instance, they can “take heart in the fact that Sanders’ progressive ideals are changing the shape of the Democratic Party.” That’s a line from one of the Daily Beast articles. In other words, don’t be privileged and callous like Susan Sarandon. You can’t always get what you want.
How stupid do they think people are, exactly? I suppose we’re expected to believe that Hillary Clinton is giving up her long-established territory in the center-right of the political spectrum and actually moving left. She’s not merely “faking left” to avoid looking like the Wall Street and Pentagon shill that she’s always been. She won’t mutate back into her reactionary self as soon as she secures the nomination. She’s a changed woman.
Pardon my petulance, but I’m not buying it for a second. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a reformist bone in her body. If she takes a progressive stance, it’s because it was politically expedient to do so (see her recent embrace of a $15/hour minimum wage, contradicting everything she’s said in the past). Her much-vaunted feminism is a load of shit. (Can one be both a feminist and a warmonger? Think about it.)
In his New York Times article, Charles Blow criticizes Trump from an LGBT perspective, forgetting that Hillary Clinton was officially opposed to gay marriage until 2013, when the Democratic base forced her hand. As the late Christopher Hitchens pointed out, in 2008 Hillary Clinton was the candidate you were voting against if you were in favor of change. (That “change” turned out to be a ruse, but that’s beside the point.) She’s the same as she was in 2008, just repackaged with a veneer that better masks the putrid stench of Clinton-style hypocrisy. Oddly enough, her camp still thinks it prudent to demonize the victims of Israeli colonialism and promise to invite the revolting Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Hillary’s increasingly vicious Zionism can perhaps be read as overcompensation for all the progressive posturing she’s been forced to affect this season. Unfortunately, few seem to notice the contradiction, and Sanders refuses to point it out—one of his many shortcomings as a candidate.
Of course, the central argument in favor of Hillary Clinton has to do with her so-called “pragmatism.” That’s the bottom line of the pro-Hillary message, as least as far as the pundits are concerned. She knows how to get things done. Or so we’re constantly told, as though we’re being fed a lie. And aren’t we? After all, what has Hillary Clinton ever “gotten done?” I can’t think of anything, but if anyone can spell it out for us, it’s the editorial board of The New York Times, who endorsed Hillary (again) in January.
According to the Times, Hillary did in fact achieve “important successes” as secretary of state. These reportedly include imposing harsher sanctions on the Iranian people, as well as criticizing “the Beijing government’s record on human rights.” She also “delivered a speech that criticized Arab leaders.” Bravo! Very important successes, indeed! If that’s the best the Times could come up with, you know it’s bad.
Curiously, no mention is made of the disastrous consequences of Hillary’s most significant foreign policy maneuver, namely the decision to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi through the use of military force. The “Hillary Doctrine,” as it was briefly styled, entails the commandeering of a foreign country’s air space (euphemized as a “no-fly zone”) so that the U.S. and its allies can assume the role of de facto air force for whichever side of the conflict they happen to support.
In the case of Libya, the U.S. wanted Gaddafi gone, so his security forces were overwhelmed by NATO airstrikes. This was all done, of course, under a humanitarian guise: the West was concerned for the welfare of the Libyan people, who Gaddafi was supposedly slaughtering indiscriminately, Miloševi?-style. Nonsense, of course, for if the West actually held such empathetic concern, it would never have left the fate of Libya and its people to the violent inclinations of the several dozen Islamic militant groups currently vying for power. This—the utter devastation of Libyan statehood—is the keynote of Hillary’s stint as Obama’s secretary of state; not the lip service she paid to human rights in China.
In spite of this, and of the fact that Hillary envisions a similar future for Bashar al-Assad specifically and Syria generally, and of the fact that Hillary voted in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, The New York Times has “no doubt that Mrs. Clinton would use American military power effectively and with infinitely more care and wisdom than any of the leading Republican contenders.” A brazen contention to make, given that the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination, a remarkably vile business mogul, has actually expressed relatively dovish (and progressive) views on foreign policy. As I’ve written before, there’s a reason why the neocons are lining up behind Hillary.
Rolling Stone has recently endorsed Hillary Clinton as well. In “Hillary Clinton for President,” editor/publisher Jann Wenner adheres to the general Clintonoid formula, first playing the patronizing empathy card (“it’s hard not to love Bernie Sanders”), then dismissing Sanders as an angry, quixotic fool (“anger is not a plan”) and trumpeting Hillary’s pragmatism (“impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done”). He also throws in the Nadar/Gore point, presents Hillary Clinton as a first-generation civil rights crusader and compares Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. In conclusion, “this is not the time in history for a ‘protest vote.’”
I think more than a few people will be surprised to learn that casting a primary ballot for Bernie Sanders is a “protest vote.” Are we now intent on stripping that term of its meaning too? Surely, the protest vote occurs in November, when one decides to pull the lever on Jill Stein of the Green Party. The implication here is that people who vote for Sanders do so merely to piss Hillary Clinton off. While that would be understandable (and perhaps admirable), I think it’s safe to assume that most people voting for Sanders actually want him to win, and believe that he can. Not so, says Rolling Stone. Choosing Sanders is a “protest vote” because:
Clinton is far more likely to win the general election than Sanders. The voters who have rallied to Sanders during the primaries are not enough to generate a Democratic majority in November. Clinton will certainly bring them along, and add them to the broad coalition that Democrats have put together in the past to take the presidency, as did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Oh, the casuistry! Clinton is far more likely to win the general election? That’s odd, because according to the available data, Sanders beats every Republican candidate by a wider margin than does Clinton, who actually loses to John Kasich. Are we to trust Rolling Stone’s independent judgment over national polling data? We’re assured, sans evidence, that Sanders supporters are not enough “to generate a Democratic majority in November.” But this only makes sense if we assume that a good chunk of Clintonoids would refuse to vote Democratic should Sanders get the nomination—in which case they would be guilty of the same “protest vote” folly that Rolling Stone hates so much. Do you see the circularity here? It’s another catch-22, designed to fortify the notion of Hillary Clinton’s inevitability.
It is perhaps useful to note that not everybody who plans to vote third party in November is a disgruntled Sanders backer. There are plenty of people to the left of Sanders (e.g. genuine socialists) who will refuse to vote for the neoliberal and neoconservative status quo that Hillary Clinton represents, for self-evident reasons. These people don’t factor into the mainstream political discourse at all—they don’t exist. As far as outlets like Rolling Stone and Slate are concerned, anyone staunchly opposed to Hillary Clinton is either a mindless Republican partisan or a “petulant” Sandernista who just doesn’t understand how the American political system works. On the contrary, the bulk of the anti-Hillary brigade know very well how the system works, which is why they’ve been sidelined by the powers that be. This is understandable: informed dissent is dangerous.
Whether or not you believe, as many do, that a Donald Trump presidency might be so bad that it’s good (in that it would galvanize the public into serious action), the media’s rabid hostility to the very idea should be more than enough to make you reflect on it. Just don’t do your reflecting publicly, lest you betray your vapidity and petulance.