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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/7/16

No, Hillary Clinton is not less evil than Trump

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From Jonathan Cook Blog

Hillary Clinton
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Tomorrow Americans get the chance to vote for a system -- resource-hungry, war-peddling corporate capitalism -- in two iterations: one has funny hair and a permatan, the other wears lipstick and trouser-suits.

Yes, there are some policy differences too, or rather emphases -- and Hillary Clinton's supporters are desperately exploiting them to try to persuade those who have grown deeply disillusioned with the system that a vote for Clinton matters. After all, Clinton is not going to make it into the Oval Office unless she can secure the votes of those who backed the far-more progressive Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.

Clinton's camp has wielded various sticks to beat these voters into submission. Not least they have claimed that a refusal to vote for Clinton is an indication of one's misogyny. But it has not been an easy task. Actor Susan Sarandon, for example, has stated that she is not going to "vote with my vagina." As she notes, if the issue is simply about proving one is not anti-women, there is a much worthier candidate for president who also happens to be female:
Jill Stein, of the Green Party.

Sarandon, who supported Sanders in the primaries, spoke for a vast swath of voters excluded by the two-party system when she told BBC Newsnight:

"I am worried about the wars, I am worried about Syria, I am worried about all of these things that actually exist. TTP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and I'm worried about fracking. I'm worrying about the environment. No matter who gets in they don't address these things because money has taken over our system."

Given that both Donald Trump and Clinton represent big money -- and big money only -- Clinton's supporters have been forced to find another stick. And that has been the "lesser evil" argument. Clinton may be bad, but Trump would be far worse. Voting for a non-evil candidate like Jill Stein -- who has no hope of winning -- would split the progressive camp and ensure Trump, the more evil candidate, triumphs. Therefore, there is a moral obligation on progressive voters to back Clinton, however bad her track record as a senator and as secretary of state.

There is nothing new about this argument. It has been around for decades, and has been corralling progressives into voting for Democratic presidents who have consistently advanced US neoconservative policy goals abroad and neoliberal ones at home.

America's pseudo-democracy

So is it true that Clinton is the lesser-evil candidate? To answer that question, we need to examine those "policy differences" with Trump.

On the negative side, Trump's platform poses a genuine threat to civil liberties. His bigoted, "blame the immigrants" style of politics will harm many families in the US in very tangible ways. Even if the inertia of the political system reins in his worst excesses, as is almost certain, his inflammatory rhetoric is sure to damage the facade of democratic discourse in the US -- a development not to be dismissed lightly. Americans may be living in a pseudo-democracy, one run more like a plutocracy, but destroying the politics of respect, and civil discourse, could quickly result in the normalization of political violence and intimidation.

On the plus side, Trump is an isolationist, with little appetite for foreign entanglements. Again, the Washington policy elites may force him to engage abroad in ways he would prefer not to, but his instincts to limit the projection of US military power on the international stage are likely to be an overall good for the world's population outside the US. Any diminishment of US imperialism is going to have real practical benefits for billions of people around the globe. His refusal to demonize Vladimir Putin, for example, may be significant enough to halt the gradual slide towards a nuclear confrontation with Russia, either in Ukraine or in the Middle East.

Clinton is the mirror image of Trump. Domestically, she largely abides by the rules of civil politics -- not least because respectful discourse benefits her as the candidate with plenty of political experience. The US is likely to be a more stable, more predictable place under a Clinton presidency, even as the plutocratic elite entrenches its power and the wealth gap grows relentlessly.

Abroad, however, the picture looks worse under Clinton. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of all the many recent wars of aggression launched by the US, some declared and some covert. Personally, as secretary of state, she helped engineer the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi. That policy led to an outcome -- one that was entirely foreseeable -- of Libya's reinvention as a failed state, with jihadists of every stripe sucked into the resulting vacuum. Large parts of Gadaffi's arsenal followed the jihadists as they exported their struggles across the Middle East, creating more bloodshed and heightening the refugee crisis. Now Clinton wants to intensify US involvement in Syria, including by imposing a no-fly zone -- or rather, a US and allies-only fly zone -- that would thrust the US into a direct confrontation with another nuclear-armed power, Russia.

In the cost-benefit calculus of who to vote for in a two-party contest, the answer seems to be: vote for Clinton if you are interested only in what happens in the narrow sphere of US domestic politics (assuming Clinton does not push the US into a nuclear war); while if you are a global citizen worried about the future of the planet, Trump may be the marginally better of two terribly evil choices. (Neither, of course, cares a jot about the most pressing problem facing mankind: runaway climate change.)

So even on the extremely blinkered logic of Clinton's supporters, Clinton might not be the winner in a lesser-evil presidential contest.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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