Contrast Bernie's speeches--and his policy platform online--point by point with Hillary's, and you'll see each and every concrete proposal, rooted in economic sanity, meet with an illusory and fake one, such as "making college affordable." Yes, Hillary, how? Why can't you just say that public education will be free, as it pretty much used to be before inflation and privatization and deregulation distorted the social bargain in the 1990s?
Hillary is making Bill Clinton look really bad. There was an afterglow about some aspects of the Clinton presidency--at least he made globalization at the rhetorical level acceptable, rather than the inwardness of the cold war years, and even if said globalization was deeply flawed at the structural level, by the time Seattle 1999 rolled around there was at least the promise that its flaws could be addressed in the emergence of a global cosmopolitan order based on rights and duties--but Hillary has ruined what remained of the image, pulling out the same bag of nonsensical micro-initiatives that doomed the opportunities provided by the peace that followed the end of the cold war. She can't change because it is all she and the people she represents, the neoliberal ruling class, have to offer. We can expect nothing beyond that from her, except more intensified paeans to American exceptionalism.
While I regret the element of economic nationalism that has crept into progressive thinking and feel sorry about the loss of faith in trade and globalization and openness in favor of a hunkered-down protectionism, this is something that infects the entire left, and is a legacy of the flawed inception of globalization in the Clinton years. The only way around that--to find our way back, really--is to make ours a more humane society, with exactly the kind of redistribution downward that Bernie is talking about, so that a freer, more open, more trusting world can once again emerge on the horizon. In that sense, I have total empathy with Bernie and his rhetoric. And then there's the perverted economic nationalism of Trump, rooted in white supremacy and a xenophobic victimization that has no basis in reality given our unparalleled national wealth and resources.
I always felt Joe Biden's entry into the race was imminent once Hillary persisted in her vacuous campaign--running on a platform of absolutely nothing substantive. The establishment narrative has it that Biden is the Democratic party's insurance policy in case Hillary implodes due to scandal. But I rather think that Hillary desperately wants Biden in the race--just as the Clintons injected Wesley Clark as the attack dog in the 2004 campaign to scramble the equation and put Howard Dean on the defensive and eventually doom him--because she has no capacity to go one-on-one in debates against Bernie. It will have to be uncle Joe, then, doing one last service for the state before he fades into the dark--one septuagenarian against another, the voice of establishment reason gently mocking the silver-haired socialist from Vermont, killing him softly, taking the Clintons where they're unable to go on their own.
Joe Biden, scheduled to take down Bernie, with his "caramel hands" and "crazy lunch digits"
Trump, for me, is mere entertainment--still. Hillary is where the real danger lies. In pre-fascist Italy, at least, the gains in terms of expanding democracy and prosperity were real; it was a revolution of rising expectations, as Tocqueville would have it, that led to the fascist upsurge in the teens and twenties of the twentieth century not only in Italy but elsewhere as well. But the Clintons hollowed out the American economy and as a consequence the social bargain, introducing the absolute dominance of corporations that immiserated Americans; even as she spouts mindless rhetoric, Hillary wants to extend precisely that project forward.
Anis Shivani is the author of several books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, the most recent of which is the novel Karachi Raj (HarperCollins/Fourth Estate), released this summer. His novel in progress, Abruzzi, 1936, explores Mussolini at the peak of his power.
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