Vive le Différence
Barring some unforeseen development — a deeply justifiable act of propaganda by the deed, for example, or the revelation that he thinks Marine Todd is a big sissy Mary — Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Less than a week after dragging Carly Fiorina back out for another round of public humiliation, anti-human soup consumer Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, and John Kasich, who improbably embodied the hopes of people who think articulate villains are preferable to crass ones, soon followed suit. This was a surprise to no one who’s actually been paying attention to the direction of the G.O.P, not just in the most recent election cycle, but since at least the mid-1990s, and anyone who thinks we’ve passed some kind of apocalyptic mile marker obviously wasn’t watching television eight years ago when the party of Lincoln decided it would be politically advantageous to run a yammering dullard named Sarah Palin for the vice-presidency.
It is to be assumed that the Republican National Convention in Cleveland will not see a bunch of disaffected party loyalists game the nomination to cheat the sausage-necked rentier/human candy corn kernel his due. To think otherwise is to deny the reality of what political competition in America today is really about, and to believe that the G.O.P. has a sense of shame they will suddenly relocate sometime in July. Republican shitstains of every shade and texture are already in the process of ‘deciding’ that Trump really isn’t as bad as all that, from the weak watery loose shit Reince Priebus to the dark pebbly grunting shits at the National Review. The major change in the political waters resulting from Trump’s victory, in fact, won’t be in the Republican Party at all. It will be among the Democrats.
Already, the fussy ‘moderates’, the mainstreamers and triangulators and data-sniffers and ‘realists’, are beginning to put on their Very Serious faces and explain that now is no time for liberals and (especially) leftists to criticize their own presumptive candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. They’ve been calling for Bernie Sanders to quit his campaign practically since he started it, but this time they Really Mean It, because, falling back on their usual smug satisfaction over the fact that we live in a de facto two-party monopoly, Trump is the real threat, and those of us who find something slightly disquieting about Ms. Clinton had best wake up and realize that every time we file an objection to her behavior, attitude, or policy, we are just adding to the nightmare possibility of the unthinkable: President Donald Trump.
This is, it hardly bears saying, nonsense. Trump is the least electable presidential candidate in modern history. The enjoyment of watching the G.O.P. shake itself to pieces at the fact that they’ve created the conditions under which the only Republican more widely detested than Ted Cruz is the man they’re going to have to throw their political weight behind come November is a real treat, but if Hillary Clinton manages to lose to Trump, she will have no one to blame but herself. Barack Obama, who, for Christ’s sake, is a black man in America, managed to beat the G.O.P. twice during a shitty economic downturn, and he did it against far more robust candidates than a casino-owning real estate legacy who blustered his way to the nomination. If Hillary Clinton manages to lose to a man with historically low levels of political support in his own party — a man whose sole saving grace as a candidate is that he is somehow able to refrain from making a jack-off gesture every time he has a conversation — they had best not try to blame it on Bernie Sanders.
The reasoning further goes that, with the candidates set in concrete, or at least quicksand, the time for attacking Clinton on her policy is over, and the time for attacking Trump on his has begun. This, too, is patent medicine. Trump doesn’t have any policy, and he launches his own anti-Trump attack adds every time he opens his mouth. Sanders’ positives against Trump were higher then Clinton’s (a fact disputed by wilting hothouse flowers who seem to think Sanders would curl up and blink out of existence like so much Pac-Man the first time Trump called him a commie), but even HRC dominates him numbers-wise in an election when there is virtually no chance that a statistically meaningful number of people are undecided. The election is over, and Hillary Clinton has already won. She can gain absolutely nothing from placating ‘centrists’. Now is not the wrong time to push her farther to the left; now is the perfect time to do it.
Of course, this assumes that she is capable of being so pushed, itself an assumption that to the left is where her real sympathies lie. Whenever people on the left so much as dare to make the suggestion that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not the vast and unbridgeable chasm it once was, liberals simply gesture frantically towards the nearest right-wing know-nothing, as if that constitutes a response rather than a tic. But there are ways of determining where Clinton’s political goals actually lie. They are neither a mystery yet to be cracked nor a revelation yet to be unsealed; they are visible in what she says, what she does, and what she plans to do. And those goals are predictably but depressingly similar to one particular political icon: Ronald Reagan.
In recent weeks, Clinton and Obama, the man she once resented for delaying her assumption to her ultimate form, have been on the warpath, hyping their economic achievements. Obama so believes in the neoliberal program that he took to the New York Times — literally the house organ of the moneyed elite — to explain that if he failed in any way, it was in not making it clear enough to the American people how “pretty darn great” things are. Among other things, he held in some degree of scorn embittered no-hopers (racists, probably) who still believe in old-school, non-disruptive things like “fixed benefit programs”. You know, like Social Security. Clinton has continued this line of rhetoric, positioning herself as an eerie echo of the Great Communicator, the man who told us everything was fine and there was nothing to worry about, the man who goggled that if he believed some of his critics, he would think there was a problem with unemployment in America, which obviously couldn’t be true, because there’s all those want ads in the paper.
Clinton’s impatience for leftist critiques of her economics, for the fools who deny that “America never stopped being great”, are crazily similar to Reagan’s, when, in 1982, he wondered why it was news that “some fellow out in South Succotash” lost his job, or why budget cuts might possibly damage the lives of ordinary Americans. Echoing today’s liberals, Reagan Republicans — and Democrats, too — warned that all this emphasis on the frivolous negatives of millions of people was psychologically impairing the citizenry’s perception of the boffo new economic recovery he was cooking up. Clinton was even overheard in a recent tête-à-tête saying that it would be a crackerjack idea to bring in her former husband Bill — the man whose enthusiastic support of NAFTA and GATT did so much to help destroy the prospects of the working class — as the man to make decisions in matters of trade. Even if she couldn’t do this or wouldn’t do this, the fact that she said it at all does little to quell worries that she views labor issues through much the same lens as did the man who broke PATCO. Add to this her Reaganesque attitude towards foreign policy — incoherent, belligerent, and deeply beholden to the realpolitik of H. Kissinger, but directed at terrorists instead of commies — and it’s not hard to see why her supporters are so deeply committed to the idea that her ideas shouldn’t be subject to questioning.
Having so thoroughly failed to engage the electorate on almost every meaningful issue, Clinton and her supporters have turned to a familiar technique, not invented but certainly furthered during the Reagan years by Lee Atwater and friends: cut off any questioning of your candidate’s views by invoking an unthinkable specter. It doesn’t really matter how unlikely that threat is; the fear is enough. Nowadays, the name of that fear is Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton is banking on the notion that our being afraid of him will be enough to stop asking questions about the painful inadequacy of a number of her plans for the country. It’s up to everyone who supports her to not let that happen; as voters, we have the responsibility not just to choose the right candidate, but to make sure that candidate makes the right decisions. If there is as great a difference between mainstream Republicans and neoliberal Democrats as we are constantly told, let the tellers prove it now.