with “mainstream” Democrats.
[Update 10/21/16: A lot has happened since I posted this piece. A hell of a lot. And all of it has only confirmed my basic position. I will be voting for neither of the major party candidates. --E.M.]
I’ve voted Democrat in every election I could since becoming an adult--now thirty-plus years worth of Democratic votes. Still, I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. As an American Catholic on the democratic left, it's clear to me Hillary will not work for the things I believe in, and will in fact work for many things I don’t.
To anyone paying attention, certain unavoidable truths have hit home in recent years. As follows: Mainstream Democrats never actually fight on issues where they risk conflict with Wall Street or the corporate boardrooms. Obama, on whom so many hopes were pinned, including my own, was a depressing enough example of this. The Democratic Party represents a politics I can no longer support.
Since the Bill Clinton administration, Americans have lived in a one-party state. At present, the only substantive differences between our Democrats and Republicans, the only issues where they dare stand strongly for or against a policy, are when the outcome doesn't matter to the corporate elites now pushing our country, and our planet, into the ground.
Thus Democrats can be for Planned Parenthood, Republicans against it, because at the end of the day the 1% doesn't care if you're a mother of two or have had three abortions. The 1% doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect their bottom line. Likewise with gay marriage. Wall Street can continue its smoke-and-mirror games with our economy regardless of how marriage is redefined.
If you’ve been watching, like me, you’ll have noticed that these sex and reproduction issues are the only ones where mainstream Democrats actually take a strong stand, or indeed any stand.
Frankie Boyle in the Guardian put it perfectly. Assuming the Democrats will nominate Hillary:
The reality of what [Americans are] voting on in this election is something nobody dare express. They’re voting on the exact speed of the drift toward a future of armies run by corporations corralling permanently traveling communities of cooks, cleaners and sex workers, as they underbid each other outside the entrances to gated communities to ensure they’re the ones let inside to service the fortunate.By playing out sex and reproduction issues, Democrats somehow manage to bill themselves as "progressive", as “securing our future”. The American public, now childishly enamored of anything related to sexual rights, takes the bait. The public falls for what I’ve previously called the Progressive Corporate Agenda.
Meanwhile Republicans play the other side of this same small spectrum of issues, and get away with portraying themselves as "conservative" or "standing for tradition".
Looked at through the lens of left and right political theory, our Democrats aren't "left" or "progressive" in any meaningful sense and our Republicans aren't "conservative" or "traditional". They both abet the continued corporate takeover of our democracy and they're both big government parties, each handing out the bulk of their welfare checks to Wall Street and the corporations. It’s a bait-and-shift scam, and those who continue to call it "democracy" can only do so because they refuse to step back and look at the bigger picture.
And so we've finally come to live, as I’ve said, under One Ruling Party, with the difference that our ruling party, unlike China’s, dresses up in two different colored jerseys so as to play out the same rigged game every few years. It’s bread and circuses, now without the bread.
Hillary Clinton is a circus candidate. Of course “everyone should like her”, as she said in the last debate. Everyone likes circuses, no?
I for one will no longer give the Democratic Party a pass on this fake leftism. I'm Catholic, politically on the left, an old school left, and hardly enthusiastic about the party’s current obsessive priorities. In years past, regardless of my differences on certain issues, I've stood with the Democrats because real democracy and social justice matter to me. As a Catholic, I’ve been able to put Democrats' mistaken support for abortion aside because I counted on the party to bring substantive progress in other areas: protection of jobs, sane conduct of war and peace, solid public education, a fairer playing field. Our current president’s performance (the ever-expanding surveillance state, the TPP, now this) has brought a turning point in my thinking. No more mainstream Democrats for me. No. For me, it's Bernie or bust.
Come what may, I won't be voting for Hillary. I am on the left, she is a right-wing, pro-corporate candidate who can be counted on to stand up for abortion, an ever-growing LGBT dogmatism, the corporate elite, and precious little else. There’s nothing in it for me, as I support neither abortion so-called “rights”, nor the growing arrogance of gay activists’ witch hunts against any who dissent from their ever more stringent orthodoxies. (BTW: Though I’d always stood on the side of gay and lesbian rights, going back to the 1980s, I believe America’s new “marriage equality” agenda needs to provide space and dignity for those in dissent. Rather than reasonable constitutional legal protections, however, people of faith now face ostracism, crippling legal suits, the destruction of careers. This is wrong; it is un-American. Marriage is not a reality that has been “decided” by the Supreme Court, which has no mandate to decide any such thing. No, marriage at present is contested. As a committed pluralist, I believe both sides in this contest deserve space to live in conformity with their beliefs. That is not however what is happening, by any stretch of the imagination. Whether law suits, ruined careers, attacks directed at religious charities and schools--it is all due to a new gaythoritarianism that grows more arrogant with each passing season. My earlier support for the LGBT movement has waned to near zero. Once bullied, they have become the biggest bullies on the block. To assert that LGBT activists have no right to dictate the whole culture’s marriage beliefs, education policy re: gender, etc.--this is not “homophobia”, it is merely life in a pluralistic culture.)
Yes, Sanders is with Clinton on these gender and reproduction issues. But it seems clear to me that Sanders, in distinction to Clinton, might very well deliver in terms of the fight against corporate control of our republic. And for this, and for the key importance it has in relation to safeguarding our planet, I will give him my support.
I am on the left, in the way that Pope Francis, the leader of my Church, is on the left. I see the West’s real challenges in the growing economic inequality we face, the reckless militarism, the ongoing corporate-sponsored degradation of our environment. Hillary has nothing to offer on any of these fronts, regardless of what she might claim on the campaign trail. In any instance where some initiative conflicts with what corporate boards want, it is clear which policy she will support. Look only at her cheerleading for the TPP and one sees what she is. She and her corporate masters do not deserve the support of any committed person on the left. If Sanders does not win the nomination, I will either write in his name on the ballot or vote for a third party candidate. I’ve pledged to do so, and will keep my pledge.
Unless Democratic candidates fight for our collapsing middle and working class, unless they fight for actual democracy, they deserve to lose. The 2016 election is an opportunity to send a pointed and nastily barbed message to the Democratic establishment. We Americans are not requesting that our elected officials finally start working for us; we are demanding it. Politicians who think they get a pass just because they shine rainbow lights on the White House do not deserve the support of the left.
And yes, even if the GOP nominates Trump, even if they nominate Kim Jong-un, I will stick to my pledge. That, after all, is the meaning of pledge. Hillary Clinton will not get this American's vote.