Yves here. I’ve been put on a e-mail list of supposed long-standing progressive writers and academics, who have all been very openly hostile to Trump and accepting the obvious superiority of Clinton…until the appointment of her transition team made it undeniable how hard she was moving to the right. As one participant wrote:
Did I really say I would vote for her? I guess I did…this is awful:
They, that is, Bill and Hillary and John Podesta really must think “TINA” has us straightjacked for good and they’ve got this sown up early to be so brazen about betraying, if that’s not an oxymoron in a Presidential campaign year, what comes out of the candidate’s mouth, the revised ideological stance. I have a strong hunch that we are still in for more suprises that may make all this “already sown-up-ness” look vastly premature.
So the left (as in the bona fide left that seeks to improve the position of the working classes) is again caught by the dynamic that the Clintons have so successfully exploited: the “they have nowhere to go” myth. Until the left is willing to inflict a cost by withholding its support, no matter how awful the alternative looks, the mainstream parties will be able to ride roughshod over it and the policy positions it represents.
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. Originally published at at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here
This really matters. That Clinton is a better progressive choice than Trump is not much contested. But was Clinton the better progressive choice against Sanders? Almost no Sanders-supporting Democratic voter would say yes to that. Not on trade, not on climate, not on breaking up too-big Wall Street banks, not on criminally prosecuting (finally) “too big to jail” members of the elite — not on any number of issues that touch core progressives values.
Yes, Clinton was and will be good on some progressive issues, but the list is expected not to be Sanders-long. Progressive vs. “progressive” was, in fact, the hill on which Sanders battled Clinton. Sanders was made to lose. Clinton supporters won.
So what happens if (or when) a newly installed President Clinton “pulls an Obama” — if she starts supporting job-killing trade deals, say, and sells them as “well managed” and “a way to keep China and Russia in check”? Or institutes a large, climate-killing, fracked-methane buildout and calls it a “bridge fuel to a safe and energy-independent future”? What will Clinton supporters, those who happily helped bring down Sanders, do then? The question matters.
(About trade deals: Sanders supporters say — no, they know — that all pro-corporate trade deals are job killers, no matter the words these deals are painted them with. About methane expansion: If it’s a “bridge fuel,” will investors be told that the methane facilities they’re investing in will be torn down in ten years to make way for the fuel that methane is a bridge to? If so, why not just invest in that? Or is the “bridge fuel” talk just talk?)
Becky Bond on the Challenge to Clinton Supporters
Becky Bond has a unique place in the progressive ecosystem. As former president of the activist CREDO SuperPAC, she was at the center of a great many progressive actions, including the fights to stop TPP and the Keystone pipeline. As a senior advisor to the Sanders campaign, she saw the Democratic primary battle firsthand.
Now Bond looks at what the primary has wrought, and issues this challenge to activists who helped defeat Sanders: You broke it, you bought it. Will you now take charge in the fight to hold Clinton accountable? Or will you hang back (enjoying the fruits) and let others take the lead? (“Enjoying the fruits” is my addition. As one attendee noted, the Democratic Convention this year seemed very much like “a jobs fair.”)
Bond says this, writing in The Hill (my emphasis):
Progressive Clinton supporters: You broke it, you bought it
It’s time for progressives who helped Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the primary to take the lead on holding her accountable.
With Donald Trump tanking in the polls, there’s room for progressives to simultaneously crush his bid for the presidency while holding Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire on the TPP.
She’s now appointed two pro-TPP politicians to key positions on her campaign — Tim Kaine as her Vice President and Ken Salazar to lead her presidential transition team. It’s time for progressives who helped Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the primary to take the lead on holding her accountable.
Progressives who supported Clinton in the primary should use their leverage to ensure Clinton makes good on her vow to stop TPP and keep other promises she made on the campaign trail to win progressive votes. Bernie supporters will have your back, but it’s up to you to lead on this one.
It’s a serious matter, and it can’t wait until after the inauguration. From the perspective of progressives who supported Bernie in the primary, this election is a shotgun wedding. We’re going to vote for Clinton because we have to, but the honeymoon ends with the appointment of Salazar.
Bond has more on Salazar and why both he and Tim Kaine are a “tell,” a signal of things to come from Hillary Clinton: “The choice of Salazar is a pretty good sign that as expected we’ll be seeing the ‘revolving door’ in full force in a Clinton administration. As head of the transition he’ll have enormous influence on who fills thousands of jobs at the White House and federal agencies.”
Will Clinton-supporting activists take up the challenge?
To Clinton Supporters: “You have a special responsibility”
For Bond, the time to act is now and the primary responsibility for supporting progressive goals belongs to those who help kill the Sanders campaign:
So to progressives who supported Clinton in the primary — labor advocates, environmentalists, immigration reformers, anti-war activists — you have a special responsibility to lead efforts to hold your candidate accountable.
Yes, to “lead” efforts. But will they? That’s the challenge. The response to that challenge will also be a test and a “tell,” a sign of who Clinton activists actually are. Many will pass the test easily (I can name quite a few right now), but many will likely not.
The Split Among Democratic Activists
The “Becky Bond Rule” says progressives in the Clinton camp must be first in line to fix what Clinton does wrong, to aggressively and proactively lead the pushback. That seems only right. Yet there’s a problem with this rule.
The problem: Applying this rule aggressively will expose those on the Clinton side who are really just centrists after all — or worse, just job-seekers — with only a few progressive positions. The dynamic within the “progressive” community was always complex (and pretty patched over), and will only become more so, more complex for sure, and maybe more patched over.
During the primary, a great many “progressives” got unmasked as mainly centrists (after all, Clinton allies held one of their big pre-Benghazi Committee strategy session in Third Way HQ). The reaction to Clinton activists by Sanders activists then, and the reaction going forward, was and will be the stuff of drama, or at least of daytime TV.
And this doesn’t begin to touch the issues around war.
I predict a lot of “hanging back” from the Clinton-supporting camp — after all, no one butters their bread on both sides, the Clinton side and the anti-Clinton side, and the butter on the Clinton side is alluring. Thus it’s easy to predict a lot of angst from Sanders activists about how much calling out to do. The Becky Bond Rule — “You broke it, you bought it” — is a challenge to take responsibility. Note that it implies wrong-doing (“you broke it”). A real gauntlet throw-down on matters of urgent and critical importance.
The progressive-“progressive” split is as real as it always was, and it’s not going away. The next few years of activist interaction, especially among electoral and Party activists, will be revealing, especially when the real action, as I’ll explain later, moves out of the electoral arena. If I’m right about that, the loss of the orderly electoral arena as a place to make large changes could also be laid to Clinton’s ascendancy as well, and thus, to her supporters.
“You broke it, you bought it” is the right thing to say. But will Clinton’s activist base own what they did when they need to? We’re about to find out.