Monday, January 2, 2017

One more 2016 rant

Buster Keaton in The Scarecrow (1920). Via somebody's Pinterest.
The Guardian website keeps front-paged article links in the "More on this Story" spot for months, and I just ran into this infuriating election post-mortem by Thomas Frank ("Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there", Guardian, November 9, 2016) and got angry all over again:
She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.
And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.
In other words, Donald Trump won the presidency because Hillary Clinton is evil. Why being evil didn't hurt Trump is not explained.

The reference to Joe Biden (god love him!) is the tell that this furious post-election rant in the guise of a fancy political analysis is really just the Big White Man Will Save Us story sure as if it had been told by Joseph Manchin or Jim Webb.

Because for one thing if you're worried about Clinton's "closeness to the banks" but unconcerned with Senator Biden, Senator from fucking Delaware for 36 years, for fuck's sake, including 20 years with MBNA as his single largest contributor (and Hunter Biden's employer in his first job out of law school), and key supporter of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, the bill Hillary Clinton has been so furiously criticized for supporting briefly in an early version in 2001—Biden voted for it four times.

If you're upset about her "fondness for war", keep in mind that the evidence for this unfortunate bloodymindedness consists mainly of the 2002 Senate on the Authorization to Use Military Force which Biden voted for as well, which she made clear at the time was not a vote for war, as I've repeatedly noted (she warned George W. Bush on the Senate floor in strong terms not to abuse the authorization by taking the US to war in Iraq without a UN resolution) and the gossip about her attitude as secretary of state toward "humanitarian intervention", where she apparently was generally in favor while Biden was against (Biden did strongly back military action in Haiti, the former Yugoslavia, and Iraq during the Bill Clinton administration, and Darfur in 2003, among others—he's never been a pacifist of any sort, and the real reason he resists one particular operation or another is actually a coldly sophisticated understanding of the geopolitical situation, which would likely have made him a better secretary of state than Clinton was, but not a better president).

If you think her "vulnerability on the trade issue" is "unique", you really need to read what Biden (god love him) was telling Clinton just last August, when he urged her to drop her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement::
Thanks to U.S. leadership, the deal includes provisions that will raise international standards for the protection of workers' rights, the environment, and intellectual property. Absent these rules, the region will likely witness a race to the bottom in the form of weak, low-standard regional trade agreements that exclude the United States. This deal is as much about geopolitics as economics: when it comes to trade, maritime security in the South China Sea, or nuclear nonpro­liferation in Northeast Asia, the United States has to take the lead in writing and enforcing the rules of the road, or else we will leave a vacuum that our competitors will surely rush to fill.
And the email and Foundation issues were Republican phantasmata that should never have carried any political weight; Frank's treating them as a priori significant just shows he's been watching too much CNN ("some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation... sketchy proposition"). No mention made of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, with its awful criminal sentencing provisions and new capital crimes, for which Hillary Clinton has taken so much grief because her husband signed it as president (implied that she can't possibly have any views of her own apart from his); Biden (god love him) wrote the bill, and unlike Bill, has never been willing to regret it.

And Bernie Sanders certainly would have lost to Trump, if he'd been running against Trump (it's my belief if he'd won the nomination the Republicans would have managed to nominate somebody else, even perhaps J.E.B.!, by a principle of contrastive evolution in political ecology). Frank is idiotically focused on the national polls that kept suggesting Sanders had an edge, rather than the state contests and the Electoral College, as if Hillary Clinton hadn't decisively won the national election by as large a margin as Sanders could have hoped for (of course Frank didn't know on November 9 how very decisively it would turn out to be). The only state Clinton lost that Sanders might conceivably have won would be Michigan, and it wouldn't have been enough. You can't win the general presidential election as a Democrat if you can't win the Democratic primary!

Frank seems to have thought he was striking some kind of brave blow here on behalf of betrayed leftness against the obnoxious "liberals" and for the Revolution as personified by that mythopoeic Kansas voter who only votes for Sam Brownback because he's unconsciously waiting for Eugene V. Debs to return like sleeping Arthur from Avalon, with unsheathed Excalibur in his hand.

But when Frank puts the relatively conservative, lovably folksy Carter-era Democrat Joe Biden with the Harringtonian socialist, lovably crusty pre-hippie Bernie Sanders into a single basket as the preferable alternatives to the relatively progressive but not-quite socialist Hillary Clinton, who isn't lovable at all, or so the TV news tells us, because she lacks "authenticity"—working with the cartoon versions of these characters and not even bothering to find out what the actual politicians stand for—he might as well be saying he just doesn't like girls.

(I'm not saying, obviously—at least I hope it's obvious—that the Democratic establishment bears no blame for the November disaster. Far from it! But people like Frank who were reinforcing lies about Clinton throughout the campaign aren't entitled to lay all the blame on others.)

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