Village Magazine, Issue 49,
Village’s agenda remains as always: equality of outcome, sustainability and accountability. Defeated Democrat US Presidential contender, Bernie Sanders, thinks in these terms but his Democrat vanquisher Hillary Clinton is ideologically vague, compromised, jaded and ultimately conservative; and her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, is post-ideological/narcissistic with no interest in ideas, still less in the ideas that comprise Village’s agenda.
Clinton’s personality borders on the alienating and it is difficult to feel warmth for a woman with €45m in personal wealth, much of it earned in payments for private political speeches.
She is a rotten orator, shouts at public meetings and seems to have taken lessons in smiling.
Hillary was never far from financial controversy when Bill was in the White House: there was Whitewater, Vince-Fostergate, Travelgate, Filegate. She remains compromised in her dealings with the financial sector as she has taken vast donations from it, including $225k for just one speech to Goldman Sachs: “That’s what they offered”.
When she ran the State Department two of her top aides, Robert Hormats and Thomas Nides were drawn from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, respectively. Both received benefits tied to their Wall Street employment contracts for entering public service. Clinton did not force her aides to give up these accelerated payments, unlike President Obama, who, for example, expected his Trade Representative Michael Froman to surrender the $4m in bonuses he received from Citigroup for joining the government.
Bill Clinton was famously open to the revolving door for bankers. His Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, left the White House six weeks after a bill was passed to overturn the Glass-Steagall Act which had separated commercial and investment banks, since the 1930s Depression. Before he became Treasury Secretary Rubin worked for Goldman Sachs; afterwards for Citigroup.
Their mix of politics, profit and philanthropy is a problem for the Clintons. The Economist magazine says: “Their foundation and financial affairs are now a liability: a swirl of truth, innuendo and crazed conspiracy theories. What shortcomings there are, it is true, pale into insignificance compared with Donald Trump’s empire of lies and misconduct. But Mrs Clinton has been repeatedly forced to defend her own financial affairs, weakening her campaign”.
Clinton faces questions across a range of other issues, though nothing that precludes her from high office. Controversies that do not reflect well on her include Benghazi, her use of a private email server while Secretary of State and her disingenuousness over her health problems.
On the other hand her opponent is the most dangerous candidate for the Presidency in at least a generation. He does not distinguish truth from lies, argument from abuse or policy from whimsy. He is fraudulent and ‘truthy’ in a way that no other US presidential candidate, less still President, has ever been. Even Reagan and Bush regarded themselves as accountable for untruths; he does not. A self-confessed greedy plutocrat he lies about his wealth and his financial acumen, dodges taxes, abuses women, some allegedly physically.
His persona is obnoxious, entirely self-unaware, crass and bombastic.
Trump has encouraged violence at his rallies, like Fascists do, and incited hatred against Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese.
Moreover, Trump has no clear policies, only policy-substitute hatreds. From what we can glean, from a stomp or yell here or a grimace there, it appears Trump’s primary policy, after self-furtherance, is aiding both the richest and the ordinary white Joes he knows from his building sites. While Clinton wants to raise taxes on high-income households Trump seems to aim to cut taxes for all income brackets – with no budgetary concern.
Clinton is pro-choice, Trump is pro-life; Clinton supports citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Trump wants to deport illegal immigrants, make Mexico build a beautiful wall on its border and start a trade war with China for its currency manipulation and for hoaxing everyone on climate.
Clinton wants to expand gun control legislation, Trump’s constituency is the National Rifle Association;. Clinton is for LGBT rights; Trump says he sees himself as a “traditional guy” on the issue and would “strongly consider” appointing judges to overturn the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage decision.
Clinton is the second-least popular candidate from the major parties this century; Trump is the first.
That these two unattractive candidates compete for the most powerful office in the world says more about the system than it does about the candidates. But most of all it bespeaks problems for fragile democracy and for the political culture of what has passed for a great nation.
Ultimately Hillary will take us back to the political era of her husband Bill. Trump’s policies on climate, foreigners and even equality; and his tiny fingers on the nuclear button, risk taking us back to the stone age. In the unlikely event you have a vote, use it for Hillary.
By Michael Smith