With the presidential election in the United States two months away, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied in the polls. This is because progressives are not excited about Clinton and the right is enthusiastic about Trump. Clinton is the second most unpopular presidential candidate on record, second only to Trump. This election reflects the absolute disgust that the electorate has with the worsening economy and the distrust of the “inside Washington” politician. For this reason, the outsiders – Trump and Bernie Sanders – each captured the imagination of their bases.
Trump trounced the mainstream Republican primary candidates because he claimed he couldn’t be bought by Washington since he was too wealthy. The Republican leadership did not want Trump as their candidate, but couldn’t unite to defeat him. Trump used the populist sentiment of anger towards the status quo and whipped up racist scapegoating and, at times, physical violence towards immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, and women. His supporters are the same older, whiter, and wealthier voters that flocked to the Tea Party.
Additionally, his support comes from areas that have been blighted by the loss of industry and mining, that have seen no reinvestment, and are in the midst of one of the largest heroin epidemics the US has seen. These voters think Washington has forgotten them, and, in generally white areas, often buy into racist interactions.
Bernie Sanders captured the hopes and dreams of many calling for a “political revolution.” He took aim at the big corporations and Wall St. He filled stadiums with mainly young, multi-racial voters who have been radicalised by the politics of the Occupy Movement, Fight for 15, and Black Lives Matter. From the beginning, the Democratic machine was hell-bent against him and used everything in their power -to undermine his campaign. Unfortunately though Bernie excited a generation of voters, he also pledged that if Clinton were to get the nomination, he would endorse her.
This left millions of excited voters demoralised. Hillary Clinton, represents everything that Sanders set out to campaign against. So when Sanders pledged to support her at the end of the day, he pledged to support the exact policies he was against.
Clinton is the embodiment of the establishment. She defends Wall St. and large corporations. She supports expanding the US military; as Secretary of State she escalated military operations in Libya and Syria and orchestrated a coup in Honduras. She referred to African Americans as super-predators and helped her husband push through some of the most damaging legislation for Black America – including ending Welfare and supporting the Violent Crime and Enforcement Act which funded prisons and created mandatory minimum sentencing, which ballooned incarceration rates, particularly amongst Black men.
Clinton is the candidate of those CEOs and bankers wedded to corporate America; the Democratic Party apparatus which wants to forge ahead with a pro-austerity neoliberal economic plan; the pro-military wing that trusts her with the American Empire over the irrationality of Trump; and a number of feminists who support Clinton because of her gender rather than her record of women’s rights which is poor.
Fortunately there is a real left alternative. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate –who bears no similarity to Eamon Ryan and the Irish Greens – has made an impressive appeal for Sanders supporters to back her presidential campaign.
She represents a genuine left-wing alternative to the two parties of the US ruling class. She consistently campaigns for the rights of workers, women, African Americans, immigrants, Native Americans, LGBTQ folks and for eco-socialism, redistribution of wealth and an end to US militarism.
Stein’s problem is the pull of the ‘lesser evil’ argument that ‘We must vote Clinton to keep out Trump’ The problem for the left is this argument is, and always has been used, to whip socialists and radicals into line behind the Democratic Party thus perpetually preventing the emergence of a substantial left alternative.
It is tragic that Sanders chose to endorse Clinton rather continuing to campaign as an independent socialist but given this happened the left should fight for the future through grassroots campaigning and supporting Jill Stein on November 8.