Sunday, April 20, 2008

Combat Clintonism!

Nearly a year ago, I began these commentaries on the race for the Democratic nomination with a call to combat Clintonism. What has become clear, over the past year, is that that struggle will have to continue beyond the current electoral cycle. There is a chance that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy will finally be defeated this Tuesday in Pennsylvania. But there has been that chance before, and she is still in the race. The happy day that we see the back of her is likely still far off. But even if the voters of Pennsylvania rise to the occasion, Clintonism will not be defeated. Barack Obama is a Clintonite too.

However the struggle against Clintonism will be abetted by an Obama victory – first, because, at the level of rhetoric and atmospherics, if not policy, his victory would provide more openings for social movements dedicated genuinely to struggling against the awful influence of that wretched family. FDR was no New Dealer at the start; and JFK was, by the standards of the time, a right-wing Democrat. Both of them, however, unwittingly encouraged developments that transcended the horizons of their political perspectives. FDR briefly embraced those developments and even came to champion them; JFK did not live long enough to do anything of the kind, even were he disposed to do so (as he probably was not). Nevertheless, in both instances, things happened that were about as welcome as the capitalism of the time could sustain; and movements were encouraged that put those limits in question. It is far from sure that anything of the kind would happen under Obama, but it’s not impossible. Under Hillary Clinton, it is impossible. Both candidates are owned by corporate America. But Obama might just be free enough in his own mind and capable enough to wrest himself (somewhat) free. Clinton that she be, Hillary is and always has been of one heart and mind with her paymasters.

There is also a more immediate and surer reason to dispatch the Clintons. They and the people they empowered did more to dismember the New Deal than any President before them; they did what Ronald Reagan and his cohort only dreamed of doing. They deregulated with abandon, and fatally weakened our already feeble welfare state institutions. They and the people around them prepared the way for what has come to pass since 9/11 -- by projecting American military power at every opportunity, and violating international law as they saw fit. They and the people around them killed over a million Iraqis through sanctions. They and the people around them promoted the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, encouraging ethnic cleansing on an unprecedented scale. They and the people around them wedded American foreign policy to the interests of the Israeli Right even more surely than their predecessors. The list goes on.

There is no reason to think that Obama will not call upon many of the same people. But, if only because he is not a Clinton, just a Clintonite, he is bound to call on fewer of them, and to introduce different, possibly better, people into the mix. This isn’t much to hope for. But it’s better than the alternative.

In a slightly more just world, the criminals of the Cheney/Bush Administration would now be doing hard time in prison colonies (though not the ones they had built, those having been dismantled, and the ground on which they stood turned back over to the Cuban, Iraqi and Afghani people). In such a world, the Democratic Party would now be settling accounts with its Clintonite past. Needless to say, the leadership of the Democratic Party will never allow anything like that to happen. But the voters of Pennsylvania -- or, if not them, of Indiana and North Carolina and the states and territories that follow -- can at least deal the Clintons, if not Clintonism, a woefully inadequate dose of retributive justice. They can send Hillary down to ignominious defeat.

John McCain illustrates with every foul word he utters that even Clintonized Democrats are still by far the lesser evil. Therefore, the sooner voters dispatch the Clintons, the better. Otherwise, in their hopeless quest for what they take to be their due, the Clintons just might undo Obama’s chances to be President -- and therefore the world’s chance to be free of Cheney/Bush politics and, along with it, our chance to struggle against Clintonism in the most favorable circumstances currently available.

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