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I’m Not With her
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Martin Luther King, Jr. — Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I am not voting for Hillary Clinton. My decision isn’t because of some imagined misogyny on my part or because I dislike her personally. It isn’t based on the scandal around her emails or because of some concern over her character, though those are concerning. No, my reasons for not voting for Hillary are pretty much straightforward: I vehemently disagree with her ideology.
My core values centered as they are on economic and racial justice, shape my own politics. History shows those values do not shape hers. Even with her current concessions to the Sanders campaign (which are changing as I write) nothing Clinton says or intends to do if elected will fundamentally transform the circumstances of the most vulnerable in this country. Like the rest of U.S. politicians, she is a corporate neoliberal cheerleader intent on maintaining the status quo. I have had my fill of them since before Clinton the First.
What in Clinton’s history demonstrates she is a viable alternative to the status quo? How would her position on free trade, for example, or her vision of foreign policy, or on immigration change our course as a nation? Hillary supporters constantly bring up the specter of what our world would like with Trump as president but have been mostly quiet with the fact that Hillary, in her advocacy of one of the worst, most racist crime bills ever signed by a president, basically called black children super predators who needed to be “brought to heel.” Taking that as context, her call for “common sense policing” in the face of the daily state-sanctioned murders of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people is scary. How will her presidency transform the conditions of black, brown, and First Nation people?
Given the state of the country and of black and brown communities, these questions must be asked. But many Clinton supporters are downright contemptuous or label them as part of a left out of touch with reality or even irresponsible. For supporters of the Clinton campaign, those who dare to ask these questions, people like me, demonstrate that we don’t understand the incremental nature of U.S. politics or that we have crossed over into some idealistic and forbidden realm of politics. “No we can’t!” should be this campaign’s slogan.
Ironically, when Republicans reject Trump on ideological grounds, it is widely applauded. When establishment conservatives argue that Trump isn’t a true conservative, and that they will not vote for him, it is seen as reasonable. But to argue something similar about Clinton is immediately dismissed. We are labeled as “privileged,” a racist implication that is the height of hypocrisy considering we’re talking about a privileged white woman who carries with her a cruel history when it comes to black and Latina women and children.
This political stifling is revealing in that in strips away the thin veneer of what passes for a democratic national dialog. In a historical period in which the center has moved to the right, there isn’t even room for talk (let alone action) for genuinely leftist progressive politics. The U.S. political spectrum is confined with the space between a warped center and the far right. This is the legacy ensured by the Democratic Leadership Council that was championed by the Clintons. Clinton is our only viable option is we are told. Get behind her or risk the future of the nation, they say, sounding like so many political Chicken Littles.
This narrowing of the political discourse joins forces with an easy form of identity politics. Many extol the fact that Hillary Clinton would be our first woman president. But, beyond the symbolism, what would that mean for women at home and abroad? As with the election of Obama, many felt good about the idea of a black president. Now, as Obama prepares to leave office after eight years, African American communities lay in ruins, and we continue to find ourselves engaged in this haunting ritual of grieving in public for another black life snuffed by the police.
It is not enough that Hillary Clinton might be our first president with a vagina. Symbolically that would be significant, but the more important question rests with how her economic policies would affect the lives of working, poor women and children here in the United States and around the globe. How would she shift the frame of U.S. aid policy and its impact on developing countries? How might her hawkishness affect the lives of vulnerable women and children? If none of that matters, then, as the sister, Daughter of Oya, states:
If your feminism holds more space for a racist genocidal imperialist than it does for an entire planet full of women suffering under the barbarity of the system she [Hillary] has dedicated her life to upholding, then your feminism is trash, it’s not going to get you free, and you need to get it together.
In fact, anti-racism and anti-sexism have become easy positions for neoliberal political elites. Today, perhaps understanding that calling black and Latinx children sociopaths would be political suicide, Hillary speaks with ease of “implicit bias” with regard to police brutality. One would gather that she is expressing solidarity with people of color, and some assume that her policies reflect her rhetoric. On closer examination, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, her top advisors are lobbyists for the private prison industry. It’s just the latest instance of pandering that changes little and allows a few people to feel good about themselves.
I am not saying that anti-racism or anti-sexism (or identity politics in general) don’t matter. But they can’t provide cover for business as usual — a version of neoliberalism dressed in a multicultural Chanel pants suit.
Finally, the best a Clinton supporter can offer as a reason to vote for her is not anything that Clinton brings to the table. Rather, it’s him. The most persuasive reason to vote for Hillary Clinton is Donald Trump. Trump is worse. I know that. The prospects of a Trump presidency — what would be a deadly combination of arrogance and ignorance — ought to frighten anyone. But as the candidate who I will be casting my vote for, Jill Stein, has correctly pointed out, what we fear from Donald Trump, we have already seen from Hillary Clinton.
But what I have a very hard time understanding, especially form people who call themselves progressives living in New York, is why they would cast a vote for a candidate who is to the right of Ronald Reagan on many issues. It’s the Electoral College, stupid. Hillary is certain to win New York, that’s a done deal, why are you voting for a pro-fracking, pro-free trade, pro-mass incarceration candidate unless that is where your values actually reside?
Here is a piece of adult-like wisdom, my friends: we can’t continue to live with the current level of income inequality. Hard working people are working longer hours for less pay. And politicians like Hillary Clinton and their benefactors continue to argue for trade policies that have decimated the working class. We can’t continue to lock up black and brown people or watch them killed in cold blood by people sworn to protect us or fail to publicly educate all of our children. We can’t continue (Hillary’s record shows she will) to bomb people around the world into oblivion.
We can’t even begin to entertain a robust idea of the public good when filthy rich people believe that the only role of government is to facilitate the transfer of public dollars into private hands, and the function of politicians is to make us believe that it is in our best interest that we allow such a thing to happen.
In the final analysis, Donald Trump is simply an indication of the rotted heart at the heart of this country. But so is Hillary Clinton. That fact alone cannot be the only rationale to support Hillary Clinton. Something more substantive is required of us — of her.
I am not with her. I will not vote for her. I will vote down ballot, focusing my attention on congressional, state, and local elections. And I will post my vote for Jill Stein. I refuse to support a political machinery that repeatedly turns its back on my people and the most vulnerable in this country, because people have been led to believe they have nowhere else to go. That false belief betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of this period of poltical awakening.
Fear is not enough. I have fought all my life so that I would not live a life not based on fear and what is ugly and cruel. I have fought to live a life based on love and what is good in all of us. We find ourselves in a moment in history, in which the very life of the planet hangs in the balance. Running around in fight or flight mode, our collective amygdala on fire, is not the way to go.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…