Recently someone sent me one of those articles that circulates on each side of the divide Sanders/Clinton meant to show that one candidate is full on evil, or has no chance of winning the general election. These, of course, are two different arguments although they can begin to blend together. Will Hillary lose the general election because she is so evil and stupid that she took money for speeches from Goldman Sachs?* Will she be a terrible President because she, like Obama, was in the position of trying to clean up the uncleanable mess that the Bush regime left us in the Middle East? The person who sent me the article is really on the fence about the two candidates, seeking insight into both who they are, in an existential sense, and how other respected people view them. The article in question was Sachs' attack on Hillary for failing to do the obviously right thing in Syria. Apparently there was no one else involved in our decisions about Syria, no Obama, no France, no Turkey or everyone else who was involved was already lined up along an obvious cline from evil to good and we should have known better than to work with X country because they were more malevolent than Y country.
Syria is not my beat and I'm not interested in refighting this fight or even discussing the ins and outs. I want to talk about what is behind the forwarding of these emails and this kind of information. The person who forwarded this email to my friend is virulently opposed to HRC. Reading this kind of article is meant to tell us that HRC is irremediably evil, that she made the wrong decision in Syria because she is malevolently disposed to be pro Israel, pro Saudi, and anti Iran. Therefore, she can't run the US. Because: evil.
I must be the most evil person in the world--and I quite possibly am--because I don't think that anyone who gets elected to be President of this country isn't, on some level, going to be evil to someone. The whole fucking country is evil. We are an empire and every decision we make--whether opening our borders or closing them, shipping jobs overseas or keeping them here, zoning laws no zoning laws, amnesty or no amnesty, will end up harming some non negligible number of people. Every decision has its downside. I'm not making a reactionary argument against progress a la A. O. Hirschman-that is that every progressive action brings about the potential for a perverse, futile, or dangerous backlash. I'm simply observing that even an apparently benign decision or choice, when it affects 300 million people, has enormous costs and knock on effects that can, because of sheer quantity, have some deleterious results. The overproduction of Greek Yogurt, for fuck's sake, has resulted in metric tons of whey being thrown into a sewer system that can't handle it. There are basically no innocent actions in an overpopulated world.
Every election cycle, for some number of people (however tiny) there is some savior figure who offers us the chance, supposedly, to set the world aright, to fix what is broken, to move forward in a way that fundamentally changes things for the better. On the Republican side, right now, that's Trump. On our side right now that is popularly supposed to be Sanders. I think Trump has a better shot at it than Sanders because Trump's America is pretty much the one we've got: a dangerous, imperialistic, globe spanning, Gargantua of a state with limited empathy for it own citizens, and almost none for people who are non citizens. A state riven with racism, sexism, ageism, contempt for the weak and for the ill. A state run by oligarchs for the benefit of the wealthiest while the lower class struggle for scraps and crumbs from the table and fight each other using race, religion, sexual orientation, and personal history. Trump has an excellent shot at giving his voters something of what he promises them--bread, circuses, and lots of people thrown to the lions. I less certain about Sanders' chances.
I suppose I sound like Sanders speaks for me, don't I? Absolutely. I agree with Sander's assumptions about the US. But I don't agree that the presidency is the place where decisions that can change that get made. I don't think that Sanders is the guy to make any kind of successful change in the composition of the State. At best he can stand athwart it and shout "stop" but its not designed for the President to be able to do much more than let his own moral impulses speak on things under his executive control. And, perhaps, if he's very skillful and very persuasive and plays well with others he can influence enough down ticket races to have a chance to make some bigger, more long term, changes.
We've actually had one of the most moral people in our history as a people as President for the last seven years. In year eight how is that working out for him and for us? He's done enormously important things--things for which I regard him as a second FDR. He's been enormously patient with his attackers, and he has fought them strategically to get whatever he can get done, done. He has brought thousands of good people into government through his appointments (when they weren't blocked), and he has inspired millions to vote and to engage with government at every level. Is Sanders going to do that? Is he going to do it more effectively than Obama? I doubt it. Because neither Sanders nor his supporters grasps that in between all that inspiring and executive actioning falls the shadow of just keeping this enormous, craptacular, imperium, running.
OK, sez my emailing friend of a friend, by why take dirty, worn out old Hillary who has had a finger in the evil empire pie all these years? Will she do any better? Well, yes, I think she will. Syria won't stop blowing up because Sanders gets into power and I don't think he has any better ideas of what to do next than she does. In fact I think he has less. I don't share my friend's Manichean thinking on foreign policy--there are many wrong things to do that seem right, or seem necessary, at the moment. And decisions have to be made in the moment. Will she do better for our citizens (and non citizens) here at home? I am pretty sure she will. She has already advanced concrete plans on both health care and crises like Flint that are achievable, measurable, doable. Call me a small bore person but I'll take small steps to a better world over large pratfalls.
When I look at the choice between HRC and Sanders I'm actually agnostic. I'd be happy with either. But I'm not unhappy with HRC because she's been to this rodeo before and she isn't promising to wave a magic wand and make America something it has never been: just, fair, and running on renewable energy. I see the person who takes the presidency as someone who is agreeing to run Hell for a term that shall not exceed 8 years. Perhaps I should leave it at that.
*Campos, Booman and John Cole all seem to believe this was some kind of screaming fatal flaw because "she should have known" that working with the power elite in this country for the period between being Secretary of State and running again for President would be used against her. I think this is the dumbest argument I've ever seen advanced against a major political actor--one who has famously used the money raised at these things to back the Clinton Foundation and to support down ticket races.