When “mainstream” (corporate) media talks about the terrible role that hate is playing in American political life the discussion is usually about partisan contempt between Democrats and Republicans or heated conflicts between “radical extremes” like the alt-right and the so-called alt-left (Antifa). You don’t hear much about the longstanding and dripping contempt the Democratic Party’s neoliberal corporate and professional class “elite” has for progressive and social-democratic forces within that party – this even though most of those “progressive Democrats” generally line up dutifully behind the party’s ruling class masters at the end of the day.
This hate, too, deserves attention.
Smearing “Doofus Bernie”
Take the case of Bernie Sanders, currently the most popular politician in the United States. Bernie, it should be recalled, sheep-dogged for Mrs. Clinton (whose approval rating stands below even that of Donald Trump today) during the last quadrennial election cycle. He promised support for the party’s locked-in top-down nominee (Hillary) from day one. He gave that support to Hillary against the wishes of many of his backers in the summer and fall of 2016. He did this even after the spiteful Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee collaborated with other highly placed Democrats and their corporate media allies to rig the primary race against him.
He was treated in very shabby fashion the by those forces during the primaries. Bill Clinton in New Hampshire called Sanders and his team “hermetically sealed” purists, hypocrites, and thieves and mocked Sanders as “the champion of all things small and the enemy of all things big.”
Hillary sent her daughter Chelsea out to absurdly charge that Sanders’ single-payer health care plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health insurance.”
Former top John Kerry and Obama communications strategist David Wade used his perch at Politico to call Sanders “the zombie candidate” – a “doomed” challenger at risk of “becom[ing] Trump’s best ghost-writer for the general election” and a “Nader” who would destroy the Democratic Party’s nominee with “friendly fire attacks.”
In April of 2016, for example, Hillary told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that a dreadful hit-job interview and smear campaign conducted by the New York Daily News against Sanders “raise[d] a lot of questions”about Sanders’ qualification for the presidency.
Hillary’s prizefighter Paul Krugman preposterously likened Sanders’ common-sense and majority-backed health insurance proposal (Medicare for All) to “a standard Republican tax-cut plan and smeared Sanders as a practitioner of “deep voodoo economics” and “unicorn politics.” (Krugman enjoyed calling Sanders’ supporters “dead-enders.”)
The liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s curiously claimed that young women were voting for Sanders because “when you’re [a] young [woman], you’re thinking ‘where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”
The silly, power-worshipping Rolling Stone publisher Jan S. Wenner (the man who took childish fake-progressive ObamaLust to frightening new heights in 2008) insultingly and inaccurately described Sanders as just “a candidate of anger.” (“But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan…”)
An endless stream of establishment “liberal” media talking heads and pundits (with Krugman as leader of the pack) treated Sanders’ moderately leftish neo-New Deal agenda as a radically outlandish pipedream beyond the pale of serious discussion. They constantly repeated claims that Sanders’ lacked Hillary’s supposed ability to defeat Trump despite one match up poll after another showing Bernie doing substantially better than Mrs. Clinton against The Donald.
This was all consistent with a February 2016 document Wiki-leaked in October of last year. It showed top Clinton campaign operative Mandy Grunwald suggesting that Hillary essentially red-bait and otherwise smear Sanders. Grunwald suggested calling Sanders a false promiser of “socialist…free stuff” that “middle class” Americans would only pay for with higher taxes – and to denounce Sanders for supposedly advocating giant slashes to the military budget (Sanders made no such demand., sadly). The main idea – standard centrist neoliberal Clinton-Tony Blair-Barack Obama-Bob Rubin-Lawrence Summer “pragmatism” – was to portray Sanders as an impractical leftist dreamer and then to present Hillary by favorable contrast as the “progressive” realist who knew how to “get things done” (Obama’s recurrent boast) in the real world.
A different Clinton campaign e-mail released in October showed Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta referring to Sanders as “doofus Bernie” because the Vermont Senator had the basic decency to note that the Paris Climate Agreement fell short of what was required to stem global warming.
Clinton operatives and media allies repeated over and over the false charge that Sanders’ supporters at the Nevada state Democratic Party convention became a raging mob of “chair-throwing” thugs on par with the worst hooligans at Donald Trump’s rallies.
The Clintonistas invented the ugly, identity-politicized smear-term “Bernie Bros” to falsely paint out Sanders supporter as a bunch of bitter old sexist white men (there were plenty of women and people of color among Sanders’ disproportionately young base).
Beyond the insults, put-downs, and smears, there was of course the rigging of the primary nomination process. There are abundant reasons to believe that Hillary benefitted from electoral and administrative shenanigans across the (seemingly endless) primary season. The fixing process was evident in Las Vegas, when the Nevada Democratic Party chair “shut down debate behind a screen of uniformed police” after the party excluded 58 Sanders delegates with sudden “rules changes” clearly made to block Sanders’ rightful claim to have won Nevada.
In July of 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign from her position after thousands of Wiki-leaked emails showed the DNC exhibiting a clear bias for Hillary over Sanders and other Democratic Party presidential candidates.
Wasserman-Schultz’s successor was interim DNC Chair Donna Brazille, who was later shown by WikiLeaks to have used her position as a CNN commentator to have relayed questions ahead of primary campaign debates to the Clinton campaign.
Then there was the open mockery of democracy behind the fact that much of Hillary’s convention delegate lead over Sanders – enough to give her the nomination without a contest on the convention floor – derived from the 525 explicitly unelected and so-called superdelegates pledged to her before Sanders even declared his candidacy.
Sanders Stumps for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger
Despite all this and more, Sanders did his best, as originally promised, to try to drag Hillary Clinton’s horrifically bad and noxious neoliberal campaign across the finish line in November. As the Democratic National Convention approached, Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton and dropped his totally reasonable criticism of her as captive to Wall Street billionaires and the moneyed elite. Re -directing his “populist fire” against Trump, the Senator travelled to Wisconsin, Michigan, and other battleground states (some of which he’d won during the primary campaign) on Hillary’s behalf. (Queen Hillary never deigned to set foot again in Wisconsin after she got nominated.
I saw Sanders speak in Iowa City the Friday before the general election. With former liberal Iowa Senator Tom Harken at his side, Bernie bellowed, pleaded, and begged for folks to vote for the “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed Jr’s all-too accurate words, not Bernie’s). His brief primary tussle with the reigning corporate Democrats was forgotten as he warned an at-best mildly enthusiastic crowd about the all-too real evils of Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton was always a tough sell. The strain of trying to bring her across was evident on the Senator’s face. The contrast was remarkable between the relatively small and polite gathering he attracted barnstorming for dismal Hillary and the giant and raucous crowds he’d attracted here when running on his own.
Still, Sanders hit the trail, beseeching voters on her behalf, with full knowledge that she was running a terrible operation. The Friday before the election he told some of his friends in Iowa City confidentially that he wasn’t sure he could bring her across: her campaign was just so awful, so clueless, dull, and conservative. She didn’t really have a serious policy agenda, Sanders noted.
Yet still he came out, ever the good Democratic Party company man(beneath the “Independent” veneer), swallowing his pride and fearing the Republican candidate enough to say over and again that “we must defeat Donald Trump, you must vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Ingratitude: “The Worst Kind of Asshole”
How does Hillary pay Bernie back for his dedicated and energetic efforts on her behalf? In her soon-to-be-released political memoir What Happened? she accuses Sanders of causing “lasting damage” that opened the door to Herr Donald. She claims that Sanders “had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character” because the two Democrats “agreed on so much.”
“Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros,” Hillary writes. “took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist.” The “Bernie-Bro” smear repeated.
“When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn’t come up with anything,” Clinton wrote. “Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”
So primary challengers aren’t supposed to challenge at all. They are supposed to be thoroughly cowed patsies for the front-runners. No, they are supposed to act out the same role The Washington Generalsplayed vis-a-vis The Harlem Globetrotters: perpetually failed props. As one correspondent wrote me last Tuesday, reflecting on Mrs. Clinton’s cold ingratitude: “How dare [Bernie] have acted like a primary was meant to be anything other than a foregone conclusion? Really, Hillary Clinton is giving the strongest support for the concept of ‘sheepdog candidate’ that I’ve ever seen, and she’s offering it willingly.”
In What Happened, Clinton says that Sanders “isn’t a Democrat,” claiming that “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” Never mind Sanders’ repeated promise from the day he enlisted in the presidential race as a loyal Democrat that, in his words in January of 2015: “No matter what I do, I will not be a spoiler. I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as president of the United States.”
After discussing how she disagrees with Sanders’ view of the Democratic Party, Clinton writes that “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”
Wow. This is the thanks that the Hillary Clinton has for Sanders’ energetic and self-effacing efforts to save her sorry, vapid, sold-out, and uninspiring political career. After everything Bernie did for her, after all the exhausting campaign stops he made for her, she still has the sneering sociopathic audacity to lay her abject failure partly at Sanders’ feet. As a different correspondent wrote me last Tuesday:
“Reprehensible. The worst kind of asshole kicks their own sheep dog when he/she left the pen door open. Madame Deplorable simply cannot face the fact that she alone is responsible for achieving the seemingly impossible i.e., allowing the crass, bloviating, two-legged toxic waste dump Trump from defeating himself. Her closest aides have confessed that she could not even name the reason that she desired to become president, other than, ‘It’s my turn. Gimme. Gimme.’”
One thing Trump got right: Hillary is “nasty.”
Conservative, corporate-imperial Hillary continues to look for others to blame for her longstanding pre-existing condition of severe unpopularity. It’s Russia’s fault. It’s Comey’s fault. It’s Bernie’s fault: the sheepdog just wasn’t sheepish enough. He wasn’t supposed to do what politicians do during primary and other election campaigns, which is find and exploit their opponent’s main weaknesses.
“An Asset to Her Campaign”
The Clintons had had such different hopes for the Bernie run. It wasn’t for nothing that, as the New York Times reported in the spring of 2015, “Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race.” The Clintons figured at that time that the only real threat to de-rail Hillary (as Obama did in 2007 and 2008) on the road to her inevitable. God-ordained Democratic presidential nomination this time was Elizabeth Warren. But with Warren appearing to have meant it when she said she wasn’t up for a presidential run (not ready for fighting Hillary’s daunting money machine, perhaps) and with little else to contest Hillary’s ascendancy on “the left” (Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb…seriously?), Hillary now faced a rather different political and public relations problem. She was in danger of enjoying an all-too obviously Wall Street-funded dynastic coronation as the Democratic nominee. She saw it as useful to face a challenge from a progressive candidate like Sanders, who could never (she calculated) receive the funding or media approval required to make a serious bid. That way, her pre-selected nomination could look less transparently plutocratic and more like a passably “democratic” outcome of “a real debate.” Ashley Smith puts things very well in a trenchant analysis on SocialistWorker.org:
“Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat. She knows that the election business follows the golden rule: Whoever has more gold, wins. Clinton is expected to amass a war chest of more than $1 billion, mostly from Wall Street and Corporate America, to pay for advertising, an army of paid staff and Astroturf support. This will overwhelm Sanders’ fundraising goal of $50 million and his underdeveloped volunteer infrastructure…In fact, Clinton regards Sanders as an asset to her campaign. He will bring enthusiasm and attention to Democratic primaries that promised to be lackluster at best. He will also help her frame the election in populist terms that have widespread support. That benefits the Democrats and undermines the Republicans, who have little to say about inequality, except that they like it…No wonder Clinton celebrated Sander’s entry into the race” (emphasis added).
But then Bernie, probably even to his own surprise, got more support than he was supposed to! (Why that surprised anyone has always been a bit of a mystery to me, given the neoliberal-capitalist hollowing-out of America and the related desperation of masses of U.S. citizens for the slightest glimmer of substantively social-democratic decency on the part of anyone in the political class.) Bad sheepdog! Bad Bernie! For getting that popular support and at least briefly running with it in a major party campaign that came “surprisingly” close to unseating Hillary, Bernie simply cannot be forgiven. How pathetic.
A Goldwater Democrat
“I’m proud,” Hillary says, “to be a Democrat.” But what kind of Democrat? The kind who has spent the great bulk of adult life helping push the Democratic Party ever further towards the corporate and imperial right – well to the right of the post-World War II Republican Party, in fact. In 1964, when Hillary was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”
It was a revealing reflection. The right-wing Democrat Hillary acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in the anti-progressive conservatism of her family of origin. Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.” Her problem with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay was that they were betraying true conservatism – “the conservatism [Hillary] was raised with.” This was worse even than the language of the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) – the right-wing Eisenhower Republican (at leftmost) tendency that worked to push the Democratic Party further to the Big Business-friendly right and away from its working-class and progressive base. Bill and Hillary helped trail-blaze that plutocratic “New Democrat” turn in Arkansas during the late 1970s and 1980.
The rest, as they say, is history – an ugly corporate-neoliberal, imperial, and racist history that I and others have written about at great length. (I cannot reprise here the voluminous details of Mrs. Clinton’s longstanding alignment with the corporate, financial, and imperial agendas of the rich and powerful. Two short and highly readable volumes are Doug Henwood, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency [OR Books, 2015]; Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton [CounterPunch Books, 2015]. On the stealth and virulent racism of the Clintons in power, I highly recommend Elaine Brown’s brilliant volume The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America .)
And yet strident “liberals” I know here in Iowa City are seriously and enthusiastically talking about Madame Deplorable running yet one more time in 2020.
Stop Hillary before she hates again!
Meanwhile, the rapacious fury of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suggest that Sanders (of whom I was no great fan thanks above all to his failure to break from the American imperial project) was on to something when he had the basic environmental decency to say in one of the primary debates that climate change – and not Russia or Iran or North Korea – is the single greatest threat to Americans’ “national security.”
Which reminds me: Has Rachel Maddow lost her mind? Irma’s on a lethal rampage in the Caribbean, Jose in her wake. Houston is just starting to dig out of Harvey and the massive chemical pollution that ensued. Nuclear war beckons on the Korean peninsula. And when I had MSNBC on at the gym last night, Rachel was going on and on about. – what else? – Russia and Trump, Russia and Trump (specifically how they supposedly collaborated to hijack Facebook last year). The night before that I saw Rachel say that for all the “non-ideological madness” of Trump there have been two and just two consistent themes in the Trump presidency: 1. Love of Putin/Russia and 2. Hatred of immigrants. Now, #1 is absurd given the conflict with Russia that Trump has participated in (look at the recent diplomatic staff war just for one example). But even more significantly, Russophobic Maddow deletes probably the most consistent and deadly theme in Orange Beast’s presidency: eco-cidal climate change-denial and environmental arch-de-regulation of energy…certainly themes of utmost relevance in relation to recent and current extreme weather events. Insane. Anthro-/capitalo-genic climate change is the biggest issue of our or any time (Please see my latest essay on Truthdig: “The Silence of the Good People”). The Earth is our witness to that. And she prattles on about Russia, Russia, Russia, as if whatever it might have done to U.S. politics comes remotely close to the power of just the nation’s leading oil corporations in “undermining our great democracy.”