This November the US public will elect their 45th president to succeed incumbent president Barack Obama. The choice is decidedly grim – the nominee for the Democrats is former First-Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who is regarded by many as the quintessential establishment candidate with close ties to Wall Street and weapons contractors. The Republican candidate is the infamous business tycoon Donald Trump who has secured the Republican nomination by masquerading as an anti-establishment candidate while pandering to the very worst prejudices of the American people.
The outgoing president Barack Obama won an historic election in 2008 becoming the first African American to serve as president of the United States.
Obama who is an adept campaigner, deceived people into believing that he would be a president who would address the legal and ethical violations of the Bush administration and who would be a force for change in the US political system. Following his inauguration it became immediately apparent that this wouldn’t be the case and that Obama’s policies would resemble Bush’s more than Democrats would care to admit.
With regard to the economy, Obama hasn’t been disastrous as the Republicans predicted, but his success is wildly overstated by his supporters. Obama had the misfortune of inheriting an economy which was in its worst state since the 1930s, an economic crisis which was precipitated by increasing financialization of the economy and the deregulation of the banks which had bipartisan support in the US. Obama’s decision to pursue a stimulus was certainly better than the huge cuts in public spending which the Republicans recommended but it didn’t go far enough and the introduction of modest legislation like Dodd-Frank was a positive step, but Obama’s policies are designed to mitigate the extent of a crisis, not to prevent the crisis itself. The same financial structures which led to the crisis in 2008 are still intact, and make another economic crisis all but inevitable. It also is important to note that accountability for criminal behaviour is an important step to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If those engaged in criminal activity are shown leniency where is the disincentive for others to refrain from illicit risk-taking especially when the rewards are so lucrative? Under Obama’s presidency, Wall Street has been shielded from legal consequences for their acts of illegality and considering Wall Street donated significant sums of money to Obama’s campaign in 2008 it’s not difficult to see why. Obama touts the declining unemployment rate as one of his finest achievements as president yet it’s not the resounding success he portrays it to be. Gauging the strength of an economy solely on the rate of employment while disregarding other key factors is facile and doesn’t give a true understanding of the health of the economy. Things that should also be judged are quality of employment, labour participation rate, wages and job security. When judged collectively it’s clear that the US economy is in a more fragile state than Obama’s optimism would indicate. Since the US economy crashed the bulk of the job growth has come in low-wage employment whereas the middle-income bracket has been shrinking due to losses in jobs in construction and manufacturing. In fact the decline of the Middle-Class in America is not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening since the neoliberal policies were ushered in by the Regean administration, and while wages have been skyrocketing for CEOs and top executives, the wages of middle-class people have been stagnating. In addition Obama has supported harmful trade agreements like TTIP which would undermine democracy and provide corporations with even more power than they already have. Obama does deserve credit for helping avert a financial depression, but his deceptive statements about the state of the US economy are insidious especially when there is a desperate need to address the extent of wealth inequality in the US.
Owen Jones on the US economic recovery:
“The gains of economic recovery have certainly been beneficial to those of great wealth – including the culprits behind the crash – but have meant little to the average American. Of course, that has everything to do with the structure of the US economy since Ronald Reagan swept to power. Consider this: according to the Economic Policy Institute – a thinktank close to the embattled US labour movement – between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% seized 53.9% of the entire increase in US income. It is often suggested that male median income has been stagnant in the US since the 1970s, hidden only by a flood of women into the workforce: how that’s worked out depends on all sorts of qualifications, such as which price index you choose. Yet even by the most optimistic calculations, if university-educated American men have enjoyed a boost in salaries, those with only high school qualifications endured sliding incomes between 1979 and 2013. But if Reaganism engineered this model, Obamaism failed to replace it. According to Emmanuel Saez, a US economics professor, between Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and 2013, pre-tax income among the top 1% has jumped from $871,100 to $968,000; for everybody else, it practically stood still.”
The US health system is rife with problems and when compared to health-systems in other industrialised countries it’s clear significant change is needed. Most of the issues stem from the fact that the US system lacks universal health care coverage, costs are also astronomically high and contributing factor to why low income Americans are less likely to visit a physician when sick or visit a dentist than their counterparts in other countries. Over 50% of physicians in the US also acknowledge their patients have difficulty paying for care. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt to mitigate some of these problems and reduce the rate of uninsured in the US but it lacked a public health care option. It has made improvements, but it’s going to take something much more ambitious to adequately deal with the problems of the health-system in the US.
A lot of criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy centre around his apparent failure to resolve the Syrian Civil War. Some neocons have described Obama as an enabler of genocide for his failure to overthrow the Syrian government and they lament the lack of US intervention. It goes without saying that this is complete drivel and no one who is serious about addressing the Syrian crisis should heed the opinions of those who are partially responsible for one of the most destructive and violent wars since World War 2. The idea that the US haven’t intervened in Syria has no grain of truth either, since 2011 they have poured weapons into the country, many of which have ended up in the hands of extremists, have imposed sanctions which are said to have caused untold damage to the civilian population of Syria and have implicitly allowed Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund and arm extremists while also illegally invading Syria to bomb ISIS. To this day the more extreme hawks are still demanding an imposition of a no-fly zone which is a pretext for war and virtually guarantees a military confrontation with Russia; there’s too much at stake for Russia in Syria and the expectation that once militarily confronted by the US, they’ll simply stand down fails to take into account Russia’s long-standing loyalty to the Syrian government. Negotiations haven’t been particularly fruitful so far, but then no one expected a miraculous resolution to this bitter war which is now in its fifth year. But it still beats the alternative which is a full-scale military intervention by the US and its allies which could put the world on a path to a nuclear war. Obama’s primary foreign policy failures are not in Syria, but in Yemen, Gaza and Egypt. In Yemen, Obama has facilitated the Saudi’s war of aggression in Yemen by supplying them with weapons, providing intelligence, refuelling their planes and also giving diplomatic cover for their crimes. Just weeks ago the Saudis bombed a funeral which killed more than a hundred people using US-supplied weaponry and recent reports from renowned writer Robert Fisk also indicate the Saudis are deliberately targeting Yemen’s agricultural industry which will lead to starvation among an already beleaguered country. In Palestine, Obama has rewarded the violence and criminality of the Israeli government by supplying them with the largest military aid package ever given to another country, and protected Israel at the UN from accountability by vetoing several resolutions designed to bring some form of justice; Neantahyu and his vicious government will never make concessions when they know that not only will the US ignore their human rights violations, but will actually reward them; the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank are case in point. The US has always had a pretty deplorable history in Egypt, supporting the despotic and violent Mubarak government up until he decided to stand down due to severe pressure from the Egyptian people in 2011. Once the Muslim Brotherhood were democratically elected the US didn’t really change its position, and were clearly interested in maintaining the close relationship with Egypt. In 2013 many Egyptians became disillusioned with the Brotherhood due to economic issues, constitutional issues and lack of security. But the disillusionment was exploited by the Egyptian military to launch a coup and install army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt. What’s followed since then is appalling, the military has returned to the Mubarak-levels of repression and has crushed dissent, the most notable atrocity occurring in August 2013 where at least 800 civilians were massacred. Obama made verbal condemnations but the support and aid to Sisi’s government continues to this day.
When Obama campaigned for president he pledged to be a protector of whistleblowers, he said they were “the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled” we now know of course that this was insincere and an electioneering tactic and that the Obama administration has actually waged war on whistleblowers. Under Obama the NSA has become almost an exact manifestation of an Orwellian dystopia which indiscriminately collects data on Americans including telephone records and online communication; many of these programs are regarded as illegal by legal experts. The courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden selected journalists from The Washington Post and The Guardian to examine the documents he took and ascertain which of those were in the public’s interest. Obama and many who criticise Snowden said he could have gone through the ‘proper channels’ instead of leaking to the press, the people who make this claim know that it hasn’t a whiff of truth, but rely on the public being ignorant of the facts. Most people know who Edward Snowden is, they may not know who Thomas Drake is, who similar to Snowden was aghast at what the NSA were doing without the consent of the US public. He tried the approach advocated by Snowden’s critics and he was destroyed and his concerns disregarded. If Obama genuinely understood the importance of whistleblowing he would do what the NYTimes has said he should do: Offer Snowden a presidential pardon. In addition he should offer Chelsea Manning a pardon, and this is probably more urgent considering the degree of abuse inflicted against her has intensified in the last year. Chelsea Manning exposed severe crimes during an illegal war the US waged on another country, her leaks shed light on the US’ human rights abuses and there’s no evidence they harmed any US military personnel but even if they did, the responsibility is on the warmongers who launched the war in the first place.
Obama has also been described by award-winning NYTimes journalist James Risen as the “greatest threat to press freedom in a generation”. Now whether you think Risen’s characterisation is hyperbolic or not, the fact remains that Obama’s attitude to the press and whistleblowing has been troubling to say the least. He’s employed the repressive and anachronistic Espionage Act several times and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all of his predecessors combined. Over time, his authoritarian attitude towards the press and whistleblowing will rank as one of the worst aspects of his presidency.
Justin Raimondo on the injustice of charging Chelsea Manning but excusing Hillary Clinton:
“The “crimes” of Chelsea Manning weren’t crimes against people but against the US government, i.e. they were acts of conscience that should be rewarded rather than punished. Nothing she did hurt a single person, except those persons in power whose hypocrisy and venality was exposed: not a single US casualty in our interminable “war on terrorism” can be traced back to the leaking of the materials that have been posted on Wikileaks via Manning. Indeed, the material that was released to the world exposed the very real crimes of our rulers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. This is Chelsea’s real “crime,” one for which she is paying dearly. On the other hand, let’s take a look at another lady who stands accused of mishandling US secrets, including material classified “Top Secret”: Hillary Rodham Clinton. While serving as Secretary of State, she violated US government protocol by conducting both her professional and personal email correspondence on her own private server. This alone is illegal, but her crimes don’t stop there. When this unusual arrangement was discovered, she refused to hand over the server: instead, she separated out those emails she deemed “personal,” handed some over to the US State Department, and then erased the entire contents of the server – thus covering up whatever violations of national security standards may have occurred during her tenure.”
Two of Obama’s foreign policy successes (and it’s important to highlight considering how extreme the Republicans are on these issues) is the Iran nuclear deal and the rapprochement with Cuba. Neither of these policies would have been possible under a Republican presidency. Most of the world agreed with Obama on the sensibleness of the Iran nuclear deal but his administration faced extreme hostility from Republicans in Congress and the extremist government in Tel-Aviv, both who are eager for war with Iran, in fact Israel would have launched a war on Iran long ago if it weren’t for the effective military deterrent the Iranians have. The nuclear deal has been successful and reduces the chance of a conflict with Iran and that warrants credit. Secondly, the US has a shameful record with regard to its treatment of its small neighbour, Cuba and Obama whitewashes the US record of terrorism and destabilisation by referring to it as ‘attempts at democratising the island’ but nevertheless regardless of Obama’s intentions, the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries is a step in the right direction in terms of relations between the two countries. The Republicans who consider an end to US criminality towards Cuba as tantamount to surrender are hellbent on preventing the lifting of the economic embargo, an embargo which the vast majority of Americans oppose.
Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and it’s long been clear that she’s been the Democrats preferred successor to Obama. Similar to Obama, she will likely make history by becoming the first woman to lead the country since its independence 240 years ago. But she is a much weaker politician than Obama, and lacks his charisma and charm which has helped Obama avoid the scrutiny his presidency warrants. In fairness to Clinton, Obama is the exception not the rule, most politicians do not have the ability to inspire in the way he does but this does pose a problem for the Democrats. Rationalising a lot of what Obama has done has been made much easier by the fact that the presidency of his predecessor was marred by the scale of illegality it committed both domestically and abroad. The liberal press has also been much more lenient on Obama because of his likeable personality and amongst liberals, aversion to Obama is seen as a great sin. Clinton won’t have these luxuries, animosity towards Clinton among the general public is considerably more prevalent than Obama and liberals do not revere her in the same fashion they do with Obama. It’s also no secret that the catastrophe of the other candidate has made it taboo to be very vocal in your disdain for Clinton. Once Clinton is elected president there should be no hesitancy or reluctance among those on the left to hold her to the standard a leader of the most powerful country on the planet should be held to. Her deplorable record of supporting odious policies and people should not be whitewashed simply because the alternative candidate was such a monstrosity.
Clinton has long been regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the Democratic Party, and for good reason. When you consider how close a relationship she has with a vicious war-criminal like Henry Kissinger and the fact she describes people like Mubarak as friends of her family it’s easy to understand why. Her voting record on US military interventions abroad paints a bleak picture, but perhaps her most shameful moment in regard with foreign policy is how she played an instrumental role in the US’ participation of the Libya intervention in 2011 which decimated the Libyan government and left a vacuum for jihadists to fill. Once Gadaffi was butchered on the street, a despicable way to be killed regardless of his crimes, Clinton boasted by quipping “we came, we saw, he died”. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, like so many interventions before it became clear the US had no intention of rebuilding the country and investing in infrastructure, the only goal was to destroy.
David Mizner of Jacobin on Hillary’s disastrous legacy in Libya:
“The humanitarian case for war depended not just on the prospect of mass atrocities by Qaddafi but also on the existence of a superior alternative. Administration officials and others depicted the opposition as gloriously and uniformly progressive. When the United States recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as Libya’s governing authority in July 2011 — and gave it access to $30 billion — Clinton described it as “steadfast in its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The TNC, far from a representative sample of the opposition, was a collection of expats, former Qaddafi loyalists, and other elites who rose to power with the apparent help of France. One of Blumenthal’s memos to Clinton asserts that France funded the nascent council in exchange for the promise of financial favors. French intelligence “expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” Whatever its nature, the TNC was merely the figurehead atop a loose coalition that included vicious racists and other reactionaries. Indeed, it was immediately evident that the threat of mass atrocities came not from the government but from the opposition.”
Another flaw of Clinton’s is how intimate she is with Wall Street executives and the latest Wikileaks revelations have only reinforced how close she is to them. Three of Clinton’s top 5 individual donors have been Wall Street banks – Goldman Sachs, Citibank and JP Morgan. Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticised Clinton throughout the campaign for receiving so much money from Wall Street, and stating this undermined her ability to reform it. Clinton claims Wall Street’s enormous donations haven’t influenced her voting record, but CEO’s of Wall Street banks seem very confident that a Clinton presidency will shield them from losses in enormous profits. Clinton like Obama claims to be a friend of the American worker, but there is a clear conflict between trying to reduce the scourge of inequality in America and being beholden to Wall Street; they don’t donate that kind of money for nothing.
It may very well be true that Clinton’s foundation has done some good things around the world, but that should be no reason for it to be immunised from scrutiny, especially when there are troubling relationships with some of the most autocratic governments on the planet. The Saudi government has donated between 10 million and 25 million to the Clinton foundation, and other gulf countries have donated too. During Clinton’s time as Secretary Of State, the state department supplied these regimes with billions worth of weaponry. Clinton insists that there was no quid-pro-quo but even some of her supporters have been able to recognise the clear conflict of interest that arises because of donations made to the foundation.
Just fathom for a second how absurd it is that someone who has awarded Israel with its most expensive military package ever is apparently not loyal enough to Israel. Well Clinton has expressed her wish to resolve this ‘rift’ that developed between Obama and Nentanyahu and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States by taking it to “the next level”, which simply means more enabling of war crimes, and more impunity. She has also denounced BDS and linked it to anti-semitism, which is appalling when you consider BDS is probably only one of the mechanisms in which Israel can be held accountable for its actions.
Before the Democratic National Convention in July, Wikileaks revealed information that proved the Democratic National Committee conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign using black propaganda. The information led to the resignations of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other high level officials. There is little doubt this was in the public’s interest; Democrats and Bernie supporters had the right to know how their candidate was mistreated by the committee before the official nomination of Clinton.
The more recent leaks from Wikileaks have revealed more interesting information. They’ve been dismissed by Clinton partisans on the basis that they’re not shocking, but it doesn’t have to be to be newsworthy. Leaked emails show Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta claiming that Saudi Arabia and Qatar funded ISIS, that she has disdain for environmentalists and that she is an eager promoter of fracking despite it’s harmful effect on the climate.
Wikileaks has a sterling record of releasing pristine, authentic data to the extent that it’s been used in 100’s of court cases to convict people of crimes and to free those falsely accused from prison and their data has many references in academia. Its role in shining light on how those in power operate and often abuse their power has been a tremendous service to the world. Wikileaks is not infallible and have been legitimately criticised by whistleblowers and journalists who are mostly supportive of their cause for their lack of curation and at times their leaks have done harm to innocent people. But claims that they’re a front for the Kremlin is just a propagandistic tactic used in an attempt to delegitimise the important work they do.
Clinton and Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time. Popularity or lack of doesn’t exactly correlate with success as we see that Obama currently has a very impressive popularity rate, but at a time when the country is plagued by division, America needed a candidate who could repair some of this division. Sanders was that candidate.
Strong, healthy democracies do not nominate someone who incites violence and who is as racist, misogynistic and abusive as Donald Trump to be one of the two contenders for leading the country. Trump’s ascension is not just an indictment of the extremist Republican Party but much of the country and indicates that racism and sexism are still pervasive in America. With the election only weeks away, it looks like Trump has squandered his chance at victory with one too many scandals, but any relief should be tempered with the reality that there is a significant appetite among Americas for someone who is overt in their prejudice and that the movement that drove Trump to the head of the Republican Party is going nowhere. The fear is that someone much more charismatic and competent than Trump comes along who genuinely is a fervent right-wing nationalist but unlike Trump is much more adept at navigating the US political system. If such a figure arises in the next decade or two, this could spell major trouble for both the US and the world.
It’s important to note that the Republican party gave up on parliamentary politics years ago, in fact following Obama’s election many in the party made it their mission to sabotage Obama’s presidency and engage in obstructionism, because the Republican Party has very little to offer the country apart from tax breaks to the wealthy and more military intervention abroad, they’ve instead prioritised attacking Obama and Clinton opposed to rebuilding their party. Nevertheless the Republicans do have a solid base of voters who can always be relied on to vote so while the party has struggled to win many presidential elections in the last few decades, they have been able to retain control of US congress. But many Republican voters have also become disillusioned with the direction of the party, they feel abandoned by what they call political elites in Washington and want to “shake things up” and this partly explains the appeal of Trump to them.
While Trump can’t legitimately be described as anti-establishment as he wants to further entrench economic inequality in the country, and make America’s military even more powerful than it is today, he’s certainly considered an outsider compared to the usual Republican candidates like Bush, Romney, Rubio and McCain. Trump completely destroyed every Republican candidate in the Republican nomination, illustrating just how significantly the party has changed in the last few years. Jeb Bush the brother of George W Bush was expected to at least compete in the race, but Republican voters sent a clear message that they have no appetite for another Bush presidency.
Trump’s unwillingness to engage in political correctness and say exactly how he’s feeling is also something his supporters find refreshing, they see the progress America has made in regard to women’s rights, gay right and civil rights and feel like they’re losing their country. Seeing Trump given such an enormous platform to spew his venomous prejudice fills them with a sense of nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” a catchy, effective political slogan is simply code for undoing the social progress the country has made over the last few decades.
Oliver Laughland on the horrific injustice inflicted on the Central Park 5 who were convicted of a crime someone else committed and Trump’s hideous role in it:
“Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted. Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened. He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.” Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled. “We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.” All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”
There’s no doubt Trump has capitalised on distrust of media. Like many leftists his supporters condemn the mainstream media for its biased news coverage. Distrust of US media is not misplaced and the evidence that it is subservient to power is overwhelming. The problem that arises is that those disillusioned by the mainstream media seek out sources which at times are even worse. Examples include RT, Breitbart and Infowars, which has a big influence on Trump supporters. This is why it’s imperative that those on the left spread awareness about sources of alternative media which are reliable, don’t kowtow to the US government and have a record of providing responsible coverage of the news. Democracy Now, Alternet and Truthout to name a few.
One of the vexing things about this election is the attempt to depict Trump as uniquely evil when judged against previous GOP presidents. It involves whitewashing the long list of crimes committed by Republican administrations. Reagan for instance is revered by these so-called moderate and respectable conservatives but he was one of the most warmongering, racist presidents the US has had in recent time. What separates Trump from previous Republican presidents and nominees isn’t so much that he advocates criminality and violence but that unlike them he doesn’t embellish it in fancy doublespeak. It makes it much easier for reasonable people to recognise the threat Trump poses, but I doubt I’m alone in thinking the overt manner in which Trump displays his extreme political views is less of a threat. So many Republican politicians like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Dick Cheney have escaped the level of vitriol aimed at Trump because unlike him they’ve been more competent at sanitising their horrific involvement in or advocation of violence.
Some people claim when it comes to nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear war that Hillary Clinton is much more dangerous than Donald Trump because of some of her hawkish views on Syria. I believe this to be a misguided position. While Hillary Clinton’s actions while in government have been a threat to world peace there is no indication she is unaware of the threats of nuclear war. In Syria she has advocated for a no-fly zone, which would be a reckless policy to impose, but in private she has recognised the dangers. I also doubt Clinton would be the type to directly disobey the warnings or advice from the military. Trump on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand nuclear weapons at all, and as commander in chief would have the power to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike against another country. Trump also is depicted as somewhat of a dove by his supporters who has no interest in meddling in the affairs of other countries, but this is highly misleading
Physicist Lawrence Krauss on the perils of Trump leading a country which has possession of nuclear weapons:
“Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a source of anxiety for many reasons, but one stands out: the ability of the President to launch nuclear weapons. When it comes to starting a nuclear war, the President has more freedom than he or she does in, say, ordering the use of torture. In fact, the President has unilateral power to direct the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Cabinet members may disagree and even resign in protest, but, ultimately, they must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump issuing an ultimate, thermonuclear “You’re fired!” to China, Iran, or another nation—and perhaps to the whole human race. This summer, Scarborough cited an unnamed source who said that Trump, in discussing nuclear weapons with his foreign-policy advisers, had asked, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Trump’s campaign has denied that he asked this question. But elsewhere Trump has said he would consider using nuclear weapons against isis and suggested that it would be good for the world if Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquired them. These comments demonstrate a fundamental confusion about the role nuclear weapons have played among the superpowers.”
The Democrats have also attacked Trump for his alleged connections to the Russians. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a businessman like Trump does have connections but the conspiracy theory that Putin is the one pulling the strings and commanding Trump to do as he pleases is amusingly absurd. Putin most likely supports Trump which is hardly controversial, Trump is less hostile towards Russia than Clinton and has showed more willingness to cooperate with them. In 2012 Putin endorsed Obama over Romney for the same reason, Romney was much more critical of Russia than Obama and the Democrats ridiculed him for living in the past. In addition one could be excused for forgetting that Bill Clinton himself was attacked over connections to Russia in the 1992 elections by Bush. Are Democrats pleased they have come to mimic the Republicans they once derided for engaging in these McCarthyist-like tactics?
A real issue throughout the election has been the scarcity of coverage or discussion about the crisis of climate change. During the debates it wasn’t even mentioned. At a time when the scientific evidence is painting a really bleak picture, it is crucial the most powerful country on the earth is at the very least devoting adequate time to its discussion. But for the media it just doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. There are many positions of Trump that should disqualify him from even running for president but you’d be hard pressed to find more than denial of climate change and his pledge to exit the climate agreement the US signed in Paris last year. In addition to Trump’s scientific illiteracy he believes the most absurd and problematic conspiracy theories like the long debunked one that vaccinations cause autism.
Trump being the narcissist he is can’t fathom the idea that he might actually lose something, so he had to find some reason to justify a probable defeat. He’s chosen to claim that the election is rigged and that there’s significant voter fraud. US elections aren’t the paragon of democracy they’re portrayed as, and there’s no disputing that certain candidates are given favourable coverage by the media and have unfair advantages over others but voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the US. One of the real ways elections are unfair is voter suppression, but this actually favours the Republican party over the Democratic party and to no surprise the Republicans have no interest in helping confront this problem.
In 1996 an advisor to nationalist candidate Pat Buchanan predicted the Trump phenomenon were seeing unfold, and it explains that there’s an economic dimension to Trump’s rise as well. Trump and his supporters unlike the elites in the party aren’t as dogmatic in their support of Really Existing Capitalism and have criticised ‘free-trade’ agreements like NAFTA and TTIP which should come to no surprise of those aware of the damage NAFTA inflicted on American workers. But Trump is not a genuine nationalist, but simply a narcissistic opportunist, in reality his economic proposals would do considerable damage to the American worker, and considering his record of tax avoidance it’s amusing how he can describe himself as a friend of the American worker with a straight face. While it’s true many Trump supporters harbour prejudiced beliefs, there are also genuine economic grievances that have to be addressed. If these concerns are disregarded and Trump supporters are abandoned by the political system, their radicalisation will only get worse.
What’s not amusing is his treatment of women, and the degree which his supporters have tried to trivialise his misogynstic abuse. The latest allegations and the leaking of the video showing Trump basically expressing intent to sexually assault a woman have reinforced what a sexist man Trump is, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Trump’s degrading attitude towards women goes back years, and accusations of sexual assault towards him are not new. In the 90’s he stated that the media’s opinion of him was irrelevant “because as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass it doesn’t matter”, at the beginning of this election when Megyn Kelly, anchor of Fox news criticised him for previous episodes of sexism he referred to her as a “bimbo” who “wasn’t capable of objectivity when there blood coming out of her whatever”, he’s also routinely insulted the appearances of women who have been critical of him including the women who accuse him of sexual assault. It’s also been noticeable just how misogynistic his supporters have been to Hillary Clinton often referring to her in sexist terms.
A troubling theme of this election has been Democrats’ unhealthy hysteria regarding Russia. You don’t have to be an apologist for Putin’s regime to be concerned about the direction the US is going in regard to its relationship with the Russian government.
Putin is an authoritarian and a militarist but the idea that he’s the next Hitler or has ambitions to reclaim the territory that gained independence from the Soviet Union is arrant nonsense.
What explains the US’ recent hostility to Putin and Russia? The idea that it’s Putin’s repressive policies or merciless bombing doesn’t stack up because this was occurring even when the US and Russia were on good terms.
The reason is quite simple, for probably the first time following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has directly challenged US power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has been expanding eastwards despite a verbal promise to the Russians that this wouldn’t occur. In Ukraine the US supported an unconstitutional coup, and a government which is no less violent or corrupt than the one it replaced but it is opposed to the Russian government. Russia fearing a loss of access to their military bases in Crimea illegally annexed the peninsula, and supported the rebels in Ukraine who were opposed the coup government supplying them with a BUK missile which downed a civilian airliner. Russia’s role in Ukraine is criminal and disgraceful but US policy of expansion in Eastern Europe has been dangerous and decreases the chance of peace between the two countries.
In Syria the US claims to be offended by Russia’s bombing campaign yet recent history shows the US are in no position to moralise about war crimes. The priority for the US in Syria was never the people of the country but undermining a government which was a threat to US, Israeli and Saudi power. Weakening Assad’s government by extension weakens Iran which remains enemy number 1 in Israel and Saudi. Thankfully Israel and the US have not been able to launch a campaign of terror against Iran because they have an effective military deterrent but in Syria the US and Saudi could arm rebels and Jihadists in an attempt to oust the regime. And for a while it appeared as this approach was working, Assad’s military was demoralised and had lost significant territory by the summer of last year. But then Russia intervened and everything changed, by unleashing horrendous terror the Russian military reclaimed key territories in Syria like Palmyra and Latakia. They’re currently inflicting severe misery on the civilian population of eastern Aleppo in an attempt to help the Syrian regime retake it from rebels. The US now has no effective strategy to overthrow Assad, barring a major military intervention which would require thousands of US boots on the ground and the American public do not find another major war appealing. While the threat of nuclear war lingers, it’s still not a likelihood at the present moment, but we may be returning to the Cold War, where Russia and the US avoid direct military confrontation but back proxies to weaken eachother. It goes without saying that this should be resisted. While we were fortunate to avoid a nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, the amount of violence and extremism that occurred on both sides made life unbearable if you were in a country targeted by Moscow or Washington. In Eastern Europe the repression inflicted on the people was inhumane while in Latin America the US terrorised many countries under the guise of fighting communism. There is no great solution to this problem, each power is not driven by social justice or humanitarianism but simply amassing more power, compromise on each side is the only effective way of reducing tensions.
The US government also formally accused the Russian government of interference in the US elections, essentially implying that they’re hacking the US government to change the outcome of the election. It’s impossible to discount this claim completely of course because of the state of relations between the two countries at the moment but the US has yet to provide any evidence of this interference and considering its previous lies with regard to WMDs in Iraq and dishonesty about mass surveillance they should be taken with a large grain of salt. There’s also a deep irony to the US complaining about interference in their elections considering the degree to which they’ve interfered in the political system of other countries. Amusingly former NSA director Michael Hayden claimed that the alleged hacking would be no different than what the US government does to other countries and that he would not like to have to deny it in a court of law.
Glenn Greenwald on the pernicious trend regarding Russia throughout this election:
“Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation: After converting Trump and WikiLeaks into arms of the Kremlin, Democrats turned their smear campaign to media outlets and journalists who simply reported on the contents of the leaked DNC emails: beginning with The Intercept, the first to report on it. That The Intercept and its journalists and editors proved themselves to be witting or unwitting Kremlin weapons and guilty of being Russia apologists and sympathizers was pronounced by MSNBC’s most enthusiastic neo-McCarthyite host, a Clinton-revering Boston Globe columnist, the Communications Director of California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi (including the outright lie below), and one of the growing legion of Hillary’s neocon supporters.”
The highlight of this election has undoubtedly been Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who has a history for standing up for social justice, and fighting for the average worker in America. If Trump’s ascension showed the worst of America and portended trouble ahead, Sanders’ rise showed the best of the country and indicated that there is great potential for the country to move beyond its period of violence and extremism. Sanders inspired thousands upon thousands of younger Americans and managed to get them active in politics which is a real achievement. When you look at the state of the US political system, and the shenanigans with Trump it’s easy to see why young people may simply want to disregard politics as much as possible, but people like Sanders convey the importance of making your voice heard and getting politically active. Sanders managed to attract impressive attendances to his rallies, and his messages surrounding economic justice really resonated with a significant number of people; Sanders is also a major supporter of unions and understands that strengthening them is a necessary step to deal with the inequality in the country. The odds were always stacked against Sanders, but he gave the Clinton’s a run for their money when they were expecting a coronation. Throughout the election he defied convention and criticised certain things that were previously considered to be beyond the pale. For instance, he showed no hesitancy in admonishing Clinton for her relationship with Henry Kissinger and correctly described him as a war criminal who has been responsible for a large amount of violence during his time as Secretary Of State. He also condemned US foreign policy, most notably for its polices in Latin America and its support of terror in Nicaragua. The hope is that Sanders’ campaign emboldens many people on the left to become more active, and to confront the US government on some of its deplorable policies. As inspiring as Sanders was, there was never a realistic expectation that he alone could make radical changes to US policy, even if he won the presidency he would have lacked congressional representatives and governors. The real change to US policy will not come from within the system but pressure exerted from the people. For all the flaws of the US government, it still has important democratic elements which mean if properly organised the people can affect real change. Sanders’ campaign has increased the prospect of that change, and for that we should be thankful for the energy he expended throughout this election.
The smearing by the Democrats of the honourable Ralph Nader who has done so much good work in America was really deplorable. This arose when the Democrats were trying to shame people who were considering giving their vote to Jill Stein. Nader, if you’re not familiar was a third party candidate during the 2000 election in which George W Bush controversially and narrowly beat Al Gore, a result which some still consider illegitimate. The Democrats claim that Nader is the reason Bush is the president, but what they neglect to mention is the amount of Democratic supporters who voted against the party in favour of The Republicans. If the Democrats managed to retain their own voters, they would have won the election. While we disagree with voting for Stein in this election, especially if you’re in a battleground state, if Clinton loses it would be absurd and unfair to pin the blame primarily on Stein’s supporters. If Clinton loses this election with the might of the media and large donations behind her campaign it would be a political humiliation of epic proportions for the Democratic Party and they will try and scapegoat Stein and third party voters. If Clinton is unable to beat someone as clownish as Donald Trump, the people who will bear most of the blame outside of Trump’s supporters are those who backed Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a much better candidate than Clinton.
Anthony L Fisher on the myth that Nader handed Bush the election:
“What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it…) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified “liberals” voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader. The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that “Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and ‘None of the above,’ meaning his presence there may have been a total wash.” In 2006, Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis authored a UCLA study on the effect of third party voting on the 2000 election. Among their findings: “Only approximately 60% of Nader voters would have supported Al Gore in a Nader-less election. This percentage is much closer to 50% than it is to 100%. One might have conjectured, that is, that Nader voters were solid Democrats who in 2000 supported a candidate politically left of the actual Democratic candidate. This conjecture, we have shown, is wrong: Nader voters, what participating in non-presidential contests that were part of the 2000 general election, often voted for Republican candidates. Correspondingly, [Reform Party candidate Pat] Buchanan voters voted for down-ballot Democratic candidates. Thus, the notion that a left-leaning (right-leaning) third party presidential candidate by necessity steals votes from Democratic (Republican) candidates does not hold.” So why hasn’t there been 16 years of hand-wringing over the thirteen percent of voting Florida Democrats going turncoat for the Republican nominee? What about the traditionally Democratic-voting bases of white women and seniors who both went for Bush, or lower-income voters, who mostly tilted for Gore but nearly forty percent of whom voted for Bush? Why is Ralph Nader the boogeyman of the left and not Al Gore himself who (despite being a VP in a popular administration which had the dumb-luck of presiding over a booming economy) was unable to win his home state of Tennessee, a state with enough electoral votes to send him to the White House even without Florida? Simple. Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major parties are entitled to your votes, and if you have any agency at all it’s to prevent the more terrible of the two from taking the reins of power. That’s how Gore, despite running an uninspiring campaign where he benched uber-campaigner Bill Clinton and chose the hawkish and moralistic Joe Lieberman as his running mate (thus turning off a great many off the liberals whose votes many feel were Gore’s birthright as the Democratic nominee), gets let off the hook, as do the hundreds of thousands of Republican-voting Democrats (in Florida alone), while “Ralph Nader” becomes shorthand for the folly of idealism.”
This election has caused severe embarrassment to the US and led to international derision and regardless of the outcome of the election, the US’ status as an oligarchy with severe democratic deficits and an imperialistic foreign policy will remain firmly intact. Clinton’s policies will be conducive to further inequality at home and violence abroad, but from a careful analysis of both their history and political views it is our view that a Trump presidency poses more risk to both the United States and the world. Therefore it is imperative that Trump tastes defeat this November.