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Why Democrats Who HATE Clinton Should Vote For Her Anyway

September 1, 2016

Americans can review their choice of President every four years. They can never review the Justices a president will appoint to the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS), the body whose political complexion will shape the future of American democracy for decades to come.

A lifetime appointment, Supreme Court Justices make and break the laws, for better or worse. They are largely unaccountable: the only way an appointee can be removed is by impeachment – which has never happened in since the court was founded in 1789.

The court’s power is hard to overstate. It not only charts the course of US democracy, but frequently holds the pen that writes the country’s history: slavery, free speech, civil rights, abortion, the death penalty – and of course the right to bear arms – are just some of the key decisions that have shaped American society.

In the near future – and depending on who wins the race to the White House – the court will likely be called to rule on socialised medicine, immigration, racial discrimination, privacy and surveillance, affirmative action, voting rights and district boundaries, climate change, energy and environment, to revisit ‘Citizens United’ and campaign finance, the death penalty, second amendment rights, and Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone abortion ruling that enshrines a woman’s right to choose.  These are pressing issues of grave import, and the decisions made will define America for many decades.

 

The election of the next US President will determine the nature of political and constitutional arguments SCOTUS will hear. Trump’s administration would move quickly to dismantle Obama’s healthcare, limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (or even dismantle it), defend current campaign finance regulations and nullify the right to choose legislation.  Trump should also expect his administration to be called before the bench if he implements racial-based immigration policies, or circumvents the constitutional rights of US citizens on the basis of their religion.

Clinton meanwhile has made her immediate intentions clear were she to win: she admires and wants to build on Obama’s healthcare reforms, backs strong action on climate change, and in her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention told the delegates: “We need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!”

In legislative terms there’s a lot at stake, but there’s another factor which, in terms of consequence, far outweighs the immediacy of issues currently on the table. The very complexion of the court itself could be decided by the next incumbent; once that complexion is cast, it will outlast the next president, and perhaps a few more to come. This is because the court is in the process of renewing itself, either by the passing away of existing Justices, or by retirement due to age. President Obama has already appointed two new Justices; his attempt to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia was blocked after the Republicans issued a statement insisting that they would not consider any nominee selected by Obama – a measure that has drawn considerable criticism, but also serves to demonstrate how influential both parties believe the appointments are. Opinion is divided on how many more Justices the next incumbent will appoint; one is certain – Scalia’s replacement. Two appointments are quite possible; three is not beyond the realms of possibility, but the four appointment rhetoric bandied about by both candidates to scare the voters is something of a long shot.

 

 

As extreme as Trump’s rhetoric is, it is hard to take issue with his excesses when rank and file democrats employ much the same language. It should be shocking to read comments from Dems about Clinton that are full of hatred, wild accusation and gross hyperbole, but having endured ‘Brexit’ – the UK referendum on membership of the European Union – one is quite used to it. It is the language of desperation, of incomprehension: where understanding fails, it is replaced by emotion, and the language abandons long-term reason in favour of short-term visceral satisfaction and foolish demagoguery.

That’s how the Brexit campaign was waged; nobody understood what was at stake, in part because membership necessarily embraced so many different facets of national and trans-national activity, and in part because what information was available was invariably tainted, or made to seem that way. In the end, both parties largely gave up trying to convince the electorate with sound argument and analysis. Instead, they just tried to scare people with outlandish tales of immigrants swamping our apparently fragile society or economic doom and collapse of the welfare state if we left.

As emotion replaced sense, Brexit became a proxy referendum for every disaffection held by voters. The disenfranchised discovered a way to make themselves heard, using the vote to register their anger and disillusion, but without appearing to abandon their chosen party.

This is where things get dangerous – and the point of this discussion comes into focus – for it was quite clear the morning after the referendum that many who voted to leave the E.U. never thought they would actually win. They just expected to shake up the complacent government that was ignoring them, sending a strident message from the ballot box they hoped would be heard. Far from being marginalised, they won: we must all live now with the exit from Europe that this protest has brought about, whatever that entails.

In this light, I’m both astonished and appalled at how many Dem voters are insisting they will either abstain in November, or even vote for Trump, as an expression of their extreme antipathy towards Clinton. At least a protest over Europe wasn’t going to hand the launch codes for 8000 nukes to a man driven by narcissism, a man with absolutely no political or foreign policy experience, a dog-whistling demagogue prepared to say (and perhaps do) anything that will curry favour with his key demographic – the disaffected white working class – and a penchant for taking petulant offence at the smallest slight.

 

 

I don’t understand the basis for the absolute hatred and disdain for Hilary Clinton in so many Democratic voters. As far as I can tell, it’s a product of the same disillusion and sense of betrayal that we had over Brexit here in the UK, the same incoherent rage, frustration and mute incomprehension. Each side seeks to cast blame, to shift focus away from the intransigent nature of modern adversarial politics, and direct the electorate instead to label each other with playground names. The voters are treated like children, and too many of them respond accordingly, out of anger and frustration. They cannot really believe in a new orange Santa Claus, or the loving corporate grandma from hell, yet these are the only choices they can make.

There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that comes to mind: “When the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers”. It’s the cautionary tale: be careful what you vote for. I may not understand the horror that Clinton invokes, but I do understand the significance of making a protest vote or abstention out of disgust. Democracy is not a way to register protest; it is a way to choose how society is run and shaped. A protest vote is, in essence, an abrogation of responsibility. A protest vote is not a vote to improve or change things, it is a childish expression of a crude and immediate anger. Instead of employing thoughtful introspection on the wider issues and the way we shape our future, protesters refuse to consider the bigger picture in favour of simply throwing a tantrum.

If angry Democrats give the election to Trump, their protest will come at a terrible price. Everything that liberals value will come under sustained attack if Trump propels the Supreme Court further to the right. It is not appropriate to claim to be a patriot, all the while acting so selfishly that the country is effectively abandoned to extremists like Trump, and under the control of politicians who are willing to undo so much of the progress American society has made in the last century in order to appease those who will keep them in power, and those that supply the money that gets them there.

Demonstration is one thing. Ideological suicide is altogether something else. Vote for Clinton and endure the next four years – it probably won’t be as bad as you think; it couldn’t possibly be worse.

Alternatively, don’t vote for Clinton, and endure a lifetime watching your country abandon so many historic gains, and the chance of an equitable liberal future for all its citizens.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. nigel toeg permalink
    September 1, 2016 6:09 pm

    A truly excellent post. Very very well written.

    Nigel

    ________________________________

  2. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 1, 2016 8:56 pm

    Thanks Nigel – nice of you to say so.

  3. John permalink
    September 14, 2016 7:21 pm

    See, here is what you don’t understand. Whether you believe Hillary Clinton knew what she was doing when she set up her private server, such as I do, or you believe she just made a mistake out of ignorance, she still broke the law. The United States is a democratic republic that submits to the rule of law to maintain order and stability, therefore nobody is above the law. Furthermore, ignorance of the law does not exempt one from the law. But when a nation goes from enforcing the law to protect the people from the corrup and the careless, to protecting the corrupt and the careless from the people because of “circumstances made for select individuals,” then our democratic republic is in a deep pile of poo.

    By giving Hillary Clinton little more then a verbal lashing for doing something that put 10 people away in prison (that actually did less then Hillary did), our congress and security enforcers have legitimized a ruling class that is above the Rule of Law. Many American’s have long suspected this to be the case for the super-wealthy, corporate insiders connected to the banking & finance industry, information and intelligence corporations, and defense manufacturers, and much of our political-class in both our state and federal levels of government. The plebs are expected to follow the law to the letter, and the ruling class can’t seem to stop writing and passing laws that impose even more restriction on us, while at the same time – they are exempt from most of it. Most of the time however, when they are on the hot-seat, their team of lawyers are able to build a strong case, and they walk free. Hillary Clinton however is without excuse; It’s as if someone was on trial for dumping toxic waste into a drinking water reservoir that killed and sickened thousands of people, but being set free because she told the judge “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that.” Furthermore, she was the Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013, not 1989 until 1993. Most levels and departments within the federal government have been using email as standard communication since the early 1990’s. And proper procedures and protocols for handeling classified e-mail were first established all the way back in the late 1980’s. Hillary Clinton has spent over 30 years in politics in various capacities, she was well aware of these policies and procedures. Even if the State Delartment as an independent office wasn’t using email to handle classified materials, most federal departments were. I find it hard to believe that Hillary wouldn’t have known that the State Department would have to adhere to those same established security policies and procedures.

    So what happens if Hillary loses to Donald Trump? Well first, it isn’t the end of the world. The Republican Party has long been in disarray for a number of reasons. The biggest reasons being George Bush running in 2000 on a small government, non-intervention platform, then becoming everything opposite from that; the mishandled invasion of Iraq; the implosion of Wall Street – saved by taxpayer bailouts that only made them even richer off the backs of the plebes; Republican candidates that don’t actually do what they campaigned on; the gross indulgence in special interest money to pass legislation that actually hurts the working class in our country; and a “conservative” talk-radio mega-industry that has literally lost their minds – even giving real weight to conspiracy theories. Donald Trump came along at the perfect time to exploit the GOP’s weakness. Him winning the Republican primary is the lesson the GOP badly needed. And I suspect he will be a populist more then a conservative because he has been commenting on politics since the 1980’s. He’s not as conservative as he is making himself out to be; but he needs the conservative to come out and vote for him to win. But the Democrats on the other hand, we’re not nearly is fractured as a party like the GOP. Their mistake, beside morphing into a more liberal version of the GOP (corporatism, globalism, special-interest serving, warmongering nation-builders that are cool with gay marriage), was not telling Hillary Clinton (a deeply flawed, disliked, and distrusted candidate – and for good reason) to not run. The DNC had a few decent choices, namely Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley; they also has social-progressive Bernie Sanders – who was a bit too socialist for many American’s, but was at least an honest and honorable man. But instead, the DNC rigged their primary elections to put up the most establishment insider person within the political ruling class; Hillary Clinton is as establishment as the Bush family, maybe even more. While Trump winning the GOP primary was the lesson the GOP badly needed, Trump winning the Presidental election may be the lesson the DNC badly needs too.

  4. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 14, 2016 7:42 pm

    Thanks for your comment John, although it’s unfortunate to start off by being patronising; I understand everything you’ve said, but don’t agree with you.

    And in light of your own remark, can I point out that my article is about the long-term effect of a Supreme Court dominated by right-leaning justices, an issue you haven’t mentioned once in your post.

    So let me spell it out for you (assuming you’re American): come November, you have three choices – vote Clinton, Trump, or abstain. If enough Dems don’t vote, you’ll hand the election to Trump (and probably increase majorities for the GOP in both house and senate ). If that happens, Trump may indeed be ineffectual in many areas, but the one absolute right he will have is to nominate at least the next two Associate Justices. If he gets to do that, SCOTUS will be in the hands of the political right for decades to come, and they will undo much of the good work accomplished in the last 50 years.

    It doesn’t matter what Clinton has done right now; she’s what the DNC served up, and you have to live with that, one way or another. It’s a tough situation and I’m not unsympathetic, but if you get this wrong and hand the Supreme Court to the GOP, all American liberals will have to live with the dire consequences for 20 years or more: for women’s right to choose, for gerrymandering, for campaign funding and black voting rights, and for climate change – among many other issues that a right-wing court will be ruling on in the next cycle.

  5. John permalink
    September 14, 2016 9:18 pm

    Graham, I read your reply, and while I agree the future rulings on Supreme Court cases, and the replacement of retiring justices, is of great concern, I believe it is more imparative that we maintain the Rule of Law. If Hillary Clinton is elected, we will have legitimized a perminant ruling class, thereby forging the chains of our own enslavement. It really won’t matter how nice or liberal the world will be if you are little more then a peasant.

  6. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 14, 2016 10:25 pm

    Hi John,

    I’m a pragmatist. I also enjoy studying history – I mention this because when you talk about legitimising a permanent ruling class, I can only observer that at no time in the history of Britain, Europe or the US were we ever free of one. Power accumulates to those who seek it, and those who acquire it unwittingly. Very few decline to use it once they have it. Consider Machiavelli’s The Prince, or Mary Beard’s excellent SPQR; both speak to the same ruling classes, the same power over others, and it turns out this system is at least 2000 years old. It’s hard to escape, it seems, and for all of us who don’t have such command, we’re always going to be peasants. Get used to it, but never think it demeans you.

    Oddly, I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the Christian notion that ‘the meek shall inherit the Earth’. What idiot would ever believe that crock, given how much evidence we have to the contrary? Power corrupts, but we are great apes, and we form hierarchies with powerful alpha males at the top, because we’re built to do that by evolution. Our brilliance is to add social care to the dominance – the welfare of all regardless of status – which lifts us towards something less animal and more noble.

    Coming back to pragmatism, and while I agree in principle with your views about the rule of law, my argument none the less is this; the welfare of the majority of American citizens is best served by a balanced Supreme Court. An imbalance will last 20 or 30 years. A Clinton presidency will last 4, at which point other options may be available. One or other choice will be made, either actively or passively.

    My question is this: In the long term – that literal 20 years – are the interests of the American people served better by sticking to a point of principle, or by ensuring that the Supreme Court is rebalanced to reflect better the views of all citizens, not just those who wish to turn the clock back in search of a golden age none of us ever experienced?

  7. Paul Storey permalink
    September 27, 2016 8:59 pm

    Well written and well argued, if Americans were to elect Trump then they will get what they deserve, it seems impossible but then so did Brexit.

  8. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 28, 2016 7:34 am

    Hi Paul – nice to see you here.

    Things could certainly get very bad for Americans: while Trump is promising to build a wall, perhaps its real utility isn’t to keep Mexicans out, but Americans in.

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