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Don't Expect Clinton, GOP Candidates to Work for Social Justice

Gary Olson

My car's bumper sticker reads "I'm ready for Oligarchy: the choice is clear. There is none." It's a truism that under our system, no one can be nominated or can win the presidency who isn't a shill for the billionaire class. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will campaign as a populist in the primaries as Wall Street winks and says, "We totally understand the charade you need to perform to attain the White House. We'll even act annoyed if that helps." In the general election, she will move to the center and, after her likely coronation, govern from the right. Always cozy with the military-industrial complex, Clinton voted to authorize President George W. Bush's criminal war in Iraq, which ended the lives of 4,000 U.S. service members, cost more than a trillion dollars, brought untold death and destruction to the Iraqi people and spawned the Islamic State.

As Harvard professor Stephen Walt recently noted, "Blaming bad intelligence is a smokescreen the war's architects and cheerleaders now employ to evade blame for the debacle." And all evidence suggests Clinton cast that vote from conviction and subsequently pushed for U.S. escalation in Afghanistan, intervention in Syria and the destruction of Libya as a viable state, all of which generated more Islamic State franchises. A warmonger and widow maker of the first rank, she is disqualified by this alone to be commander in chief.

Clinton remains silent on President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership trade initiative — NAFTA on steroids — a trade deal that will send millions of American jobs offshore and further exacerbate income and wealth inequality. For speeches, Clinton has accepted $2.5 million from companies that support the proposed trade agreement. As secretary of state she enthusiastically backed Israel's savage attack on Gaza and promoted fracking in East Europe, China and India. During this period, large corporate payments ($25 million since 2014) flowed into the Clinton Foundation, including contributions from ExxonMobil, Chevron and the Saudi Arabian government while a Canadian backer of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline added to foundation coffers. In 2013, Goldman Sachs paid her $400,000 for two speeches.


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But don't we need our first female president? Martin Luther King Jr. cautioned us to judge people by the content of their character, not their color. Didn't we learn that lesson by twice electing a black president only to chart his faithful service to the oligarchs while mouthing faux populist rhetoric? Shouldn't we judge Clinton by her character and record, not by her gender? Previous female secretaries of state, including Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice demonstrate that women who've internalized "American exceptionalism" behave just as reprehensibly as any male. I sense that too many people retain a moral blind spot regarding Clinton simply owing to their desire to see a woman in the White House.

So, should folks outside the 1 percent bother to vote? If Sen. Bernie Sanders is on the Democratic primary ballot, you might cast a protest vote for him. In the general election, and given our electoral system, if you live in a red state like Idaho or blue Massachusetts, your vote won't matter.

If the race in Pennsylvania or New Jersey is extremely close, I can imagine voting for Clinton for only one reason: The Krusty the Clown clone emerging as the GOP nominee will be worse, a scary individual who's pathologically devoid of empathy. The plutocrats give us a really terrible candidate and another who is even worse. With that, we're urged to choose.

But instead of wasting time and energy on presidential campaigns, we should heed the late historian Howard Zinn's counsel that "What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but 'who is sitting in' — and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change."

King learned that even though high-level politicians don't care about ordinary citizens, "the political structure listens to the economic power structure." And the latter only reacts out of the fear created by mass mobilizations, disruption, militant campaigns, boycotts and direct action. There is no other way to obtain social justice, and it's getting very late in the game.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Gary Olson

Gary Olson

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is "Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain" (NY: Springer, 2013.) Contact:

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