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I haven’t been blogging much in the last couple of years, but I’ve been meaning to get some thoughts out on the Presidential election for a while that can’t quite be captured on twitter, so this is just intended to put together some rough ideas that have been in my head recently, not only about the election but also touching on currents in left politics.
A post appeared on Jill Stein’s facebook page recently from her social media director (Jillian), in which she implies that Trump is the better choice for President between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because Clinton represents ‘the establishment’ while Trump’s racist hatred is not the ‘root cause’ of inequality in our society, but rather a product of it. This statement further riffed on an idea that I have seen circulating among some on the left: the claim is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will inevitably lead to aggressive confrontation abroad or even World War III; meanwhile Donald Trump’s might lead to blood on the streets in the U.S., but would supposedly lead to peace abroad.
While I do agree that Clinton’s foreign policy will probably be a bit worse than Obama’s (and Jillian is right to criticize Clinton’s policies towards Israel and the Palestinians in her statement), I don’t understand what the larger claim regarding the election is based on. Why do some on the left seem to believe Trump is a ‘man of peace’? What personal traits of his is this based on?
As I mentioned above, in one variation of this idea, the ‘even-handed’ criticism of the two candidates is presented that Clinton will supposedly lead to WWIII, while Trump will lead to civil war in the U.S., because of his reliance on white supremacist politics and his attempts to impose violent racist policies. But why would we expect someone that leads to so much divisiveness and aggression within our own borders would lead to anything other than aggression abroad? Is this really a natural assumption to make about Trump?
From my perspective, I think that a better assumption is that Trump will simply follow whatever path feeds his vanity and his instincts to bully. Further, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a short-sighted instinct to lash out at others over minor perceived slights, which often results in almost immediate negative consequences for himself personally and his campaign. And particularly with regards to Russia, it seems very possible that Trump’s foreign policy would be informed by his own personal business interests.
In addition, if he were to become President, Trump would be the titular head of the Republican party, which means he will be pressured to choose policies that conform to GOP instincts. I don’t understand why a narcissistic, short-sighted bully, especially under those conditions, would be trusted on foreign policy by some on the left.
With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that if Al Gore had been sworn in as President in 2000 (and not had the election be close enough to be stolen), then the Iraq War and many of its terrible consequences would almost certainly not have happened. Sometimes it may feel frustrating that the difference between the two parties seems so small, but with regards to more than a few policies, that difference matters very much.
This is also very much true with regards to climate change, on which the Democrats are willing to be pressured to act, while Republicans will always attempt to tear up any progress the left makes on the issue whatsoever. It is almost impossible to understate the immediate importance of this, and it’s very frustrating that the Green Party are the ones essentially saying the issue can be resolved later, after we enable a third party takeover of the Presidency and Congress.
On the contrary, I think a much more realistic view of the issue is that electing Donald Trump may result in putting the human species on a path towards extinction.
As a more general comment on the progressive movement at large, it seems that there are some nominally on the left who are increasingly comfortable with political ideas and expressions that originate from conservative movements and particularly the alt-right. Reactionary groups like Deep Green Resistance have been on that path for a while, but now it seems like Wikileaks and many of its supporters are increasingly comfortable with alt-right politics. Some who were formerly Bernie Sanders supporters (whom I myself supported in the primaries) have now turned to supporting Trump as an expression of ‘anti-establishment’ politics. And of course, Jill Stein herself has expressed support for the Brexit campaign that was driven by far right nativist currents in the UK.
Personally, I will choose a Democratic party that can at least be pressured to make some gradual progress on issues like climate change over knee-jerk politics that increasingly seems to ignore implementing substantive progressive policy in favor of directionless kicks against ‘the establishment.’