Hillary Clinton recently visited car wash workers in Queens, New York, who are represented by the RWDSU (Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union). Courtesy rwdsu.info
Note: Culture Currents normally does not get quite this specifically political. But this is a very important election year, especially if we are to realize change in our government, our economic system and our way of life, for the better. So, in this post, CC is testing the culture currents of change.
Understand first of all, I am thrilled at the powerful movement that Bernie Sanders has spearheaded, and I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, as a spokesman for the majority of Americans’ financial interest, and a critic of Wall Street and the corporate world’s domination of American economy.
Having said that, it appears certain that Hillary Clinton will win the nomination, though Sanders should continue as long as he has a mathematical chance to win the popular and delegate vote.
But if Sanders is aiming for a brokered convention, it will fracture and divide a potential consensus of supporters and voters who should be aligning to vote for the Democratic nominee to beat Trump.
President Donald Trump. Wrap your head around that. Yes, Bernie ranks ahead of Hillary vs. Trump in most polls. But he’s still not likely the nominee. If somehow he wins the nomination, then I feel confident he will beat Trump. Of course, that is a massively unlikely “if” at this point. And Hillary will win in November too, especially if disenfranchised workers and young people feel that she’s on their side, and understand that she must also work with at least a modicum of negotiation and compromise, which most successful politics entails (Republicans will never flop over and play dead to leftist demands.)
This leads me to a fairly historically informed argument by the noted liberal writer Thomas Frank in an interview with Financial Times. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/watch-hillary-clinton-revolt-brewing-101500894.html
Frank recounts how the Democratic Party has shifted its constituency response from its previous working-class base to that of middle-class liberals since the 1960s, and more recently, towards entrepreneurial power and the so-called “creative class.” This seems historically accurate in that young liberals sparked the leftward revolution of the ’60s and have driven much of Democratic Party direction of the since.
And certainly Bill Clinton’s administration shifted gears toward the middle, and triangulated away from the poor and the working class, especially with his reform of welfare and tough-on-crime bills which resulted in our horrible black incarceration rates, a development he now admittedly regrets.
President Obama hasn’t done enough for the working poor and the dispossessed as one would’ve hoped, but he’s been fighting uphill against an obstructionist Congress his whole two terms. Chances are the Dems will take back the Senate and gain in the House, which will make things better for a Democratic president. And Hillary Clinton is a tough, smart and reasonable negotiator.
The problem I see now, however, with critics of Hillary Clinton is that they, including Frank, to often tend to conflate her with her husband in their arguments against her.
Thus, a significant amount of union people perceive her as anti-union, even though this is not the case. And many non-union workers assume she is against them and tend to support Trump, who feeds off their understandable feeling that nobody backs their interests. These contingents comprise much of the frustrated people creating the “revolt” the article refers too, a split between ardent Sanders and Trump supporters.
This is one reason why we need to work to bring the union movement back to something close to its former strength and respectability. I believe this intellectually but also because I have a lot to be thankful for from union membership. And I also know first-hand how vulnerable a worker, including journalists like myself, can be without union representation.
Like Clinton, some unions have hardly been paragons of virtue. Being comprised of humans, some have been subject to excess internal power-brokering, greed and self-interest. But they suffer, like Clinton does, from a very besmirched reputation from decades of right-wing and pro-corporate disinformation.
To the point of this election, let’s look at Hillary Clinton’s Senate voting record on jobs, the category in this comprehensive policy survey most relevant to working people. http://www.ontheissues.org/Hillary_Clinton.htm#Jobs
For the most part, it shows how strong her support has been for issues that concern workers, both blue and white collar. Note also her high approval rating by the AFL-CIO and, in this election, the endorsement of her by a majority of labor unions.
Those who think that Hillary will preside like Bill Clinton did may presume that she’s stuck back in that era. She learned lessons from it, no doubt. But the truth is, she’s been extremely attuned to the present, which is why she has embraced her progressive ideals, even though she remained largely supportive of her husband as First Lady. Yet, unlike Bill Clinton, she would not compromise on the pioneering Clinton health bill, the prototype for the Affordable Care Act. The Clinton bill failed because she remained principled, she cared too much about the uninsured — mostly the working poor, minorities and the disenfranchised.
I think it is a perhaps-unconscious but sexist reflex to presume that Hillary is going to be Bill Clinton redux. She has always been her own woman, and obviously her relationship to women, and their issues, is probably 180° different than her husband’s, or at least 120°. So it makes a lot of sense that she will work hard to correct many of the excesses of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, which has harmed poor black men and single women and their families for the most part. It figures she will do more to change the situation than any current candidate. Most African-Americans with a sense of history appear to know this, judging by their strong support of her.
So if that’s not fighting for working people, I don’t know what is. We used to associate the image of workers predominantly with men, who used to most typically be the primary Income provider of families. We know how much that has changed, but most pointedly by seeing how bad things remain for poor and working-poor women in forced (or misguided) single motherhood.
Remember, Hillary famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She clearly wants to create an administration that fosters just such a village, metaphorically and literally.
And for those who still profoundly distrust her, due to some past associations and decisions, I remain among you, especially in foreign affairs, where she’s very experienced, but, I fear, still too hawkish. Prove us wrong on that, Madame Secretary. This era cries out for American prudence and restraint overseas, as Obama has largely exhibited.
Nevertheless, I’ve gained trust in Hillary Clinton partly because she is a calculating politician, and she hears and understands the angry winds of change, for which Bernie Sanders has spoken most powerfully and persistently. Regarding Hillary’s relative dishonesty, consider the recent comment of Nicolas Kristof, arguable America’s most respected journalist, though an avowed liberal:
When Gallup asks Americans to say the first word that comes to mind when they hear “Hillary Clinton,” the most common response can be summed up as “dishonest/liar/don’t trust her/poor character.” Another common category is “criminal/crooked/thief/belongs in jail.”
“All this is, I think, a mistaken narrative.
“One of the perils of journalism is the human brain’s penchant for sorting information into narratives. Even false narratives can take on a life of their own because there is always information arriving that can confirm a narrative.” Here’s Kristof’s column: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/opinion/sunday/is-hillary-clinton-dishonest.html
Given that tendency of journalism and the human mind, it’s unwise to ignore the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico.com‘s recent fact-checking assessment of the truthfulness of statements by all the current presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton comes out as the most truthful, with Bernie Sanders a close second. http://www.dailynewsbin.com/news/fact-checkers-confirm-hillary-clinton-is-more-honest-than-any-of-her-2016-opponents/24196/
As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews commented Sunday, it’s up to Hillary to win the hearts of Americans. Against Trump, I’ll bet she succeeds.
And given the polarization between the two major parties, Hillary Clinton seems much better positioned and experienced to do something about positive change for the 99% as president. Assuming she’s the candidate, the Dems will need Sanders supporting her, along with great voices like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to continue to fight for everyone who works for a living, or tries to, or hopes to.
And by that, I don’t mean people who play morally-decrepit games with numbers on Wall Street.
Bernie Sanders photo courtesy salon.com