Do Progressives Have a Seat at the Democrats’ Table?

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Tom Perez may be progressive like Keith Ellison and may have grass-roots appeal. But as the establishment wing of the Democratic Party’s pick to neutralize Ellison as a figurehead of the “Sanders wing” of the party and someone with more a nuanced view of Israel’s role in the Middle East, his victory in the race for DNC chair is symbolic of the notion that the Democrats don’t want to jeopardize their big-dollar donors by bringing in more progressives and younger voters. In doing so, however, they risk damage to their sense of party unity and the ability to recruit independents to their cause. (Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Don’t get me wrong—Tom Perez, the newly-elected chair of the Democratic National Committee, seems like a nice enough guy, not to mention that as Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the office of President of the United States was an historic one because it meant that a woman was a presidential nominee for a major political party for the first time, so too is Perez’s victory in that he holds the distinction of being the first Latino DNC chair in the party’s storied history. Also as with Clinton’s capture of the nomination, once more, the emphasis from ranking members of the Democratic Party and from its most fervent supporters is on a unified party as the best way to defeat Donald Trump and other Republicans in Congress and down the ticket. Unfortunately, much in the way tensions between factions in the Democratic Party have lingered related to the presidential race and behind-the-scenes machinations of the Democratic National Committee, so too does a power play within the party related to the DNC vote threaten to undermine this call to arms and further sow the seeds of division among registered Democrats and would-be Democratic voters. Along these lines, and in short, when it comes to the notion of whether or not the Democratic Party has learned anything from its pattern of losses in the Senate and House and gubernatorial seats, aside from the obvious in their electoral loss to Trump this past November, the apparent answer is no, and it begs the question: will it anytime soon?

Let’s first step back and look at the particulars of the vote itself. Though there were other qualified candidates for the position of DNC chair on the ballot, so to speak, this was essentially a two-horse race between Tom Perez, the Obama administration’s pick to fill the vacancy left by Donna Brazile, who would not be continuing in her capacity as interim chair after Debbie Wasserman Schultz essentially left the post in disgrace, and Keith Ellison, backed by Bernie Sanders, prominent Democrats, various labor organizations, and more progressive members of the party. Perez missed the necessary majority of 214.5 votes (427 were cast) in the first round of voting by a scant one vote, requiring a second round of voting. In that second round, he was able to officially outlast Ellison to 235 to 200. Suffice it to say the vote was a close one, but what did not appear to be close was the enthusiasm behind the candidates, at least from those in attendance there in Atlanta where the vote took place. Jonathan Easley, writing for The Hill as part of a live blog about the proceedings, had this to say about Keith Ellison’s level of support:

It is clear who has the energy here. Ellison’s supporters are loud and in charge and erupting at every chance. “Don’t mourn organize!,” declared Ellison backer and labor leader Randi Weingarten to an outburst of shouts and applause. Minnesota Democratic leader Ken Martin followed, noting that Ellison’s district has gone from the lowest turnout in the state to the highest. “This party is going to rise from the ashes under Keith Ellison,” he said, turning out another standing ovation.

Like Perez, Ellison stressed unity. “Unity is essential, we have to walk out here unified, not just between the candidates but the groups that support all the candidates,” Ellison said. But if Ellison doesn’t win his enthusiastic supporters are going to be extremely let down.

As with Bernie Sanders’ concession of the nomination to Hillary Clinton, needless to say they were let down, as I was. I’m not sure that they were all that surprised, though. I sure wasn’t. This is the Democratic Party we’re talking about here, an organization primarily devoted to fundraising, and only secondarily to change, which it sees fit to dole out incrementally. Back in December, I wrote a piece devoted to the very topic of Keith Ellison’s bid for DNC chair, detailing why voting committee members may not have supported the representative from the state of Minnesota, and surmising that, despite the enthusiasm behind his campaign and endorsements from key political figures, Democrats may well pick someone other than Ellison because, well, they’ve made a habit of making poor decisions lately and getting behind the wrong candidates. About a month-and-a-half removed from the election, the complete list of people running for the top post in the Democratic National Committee had yet to be fully formed, and wounds from the presidential campaign and election were still fairly fresh. At that time, resistance to Keith Ellison’s designs to be DNC chair seemed strongest from those resenting his identity as a Bernie backer, with those vowing to vote for anyone but him dining on the faulty notion that Sanders cost Clinton the election. (Primarily, Hillary lost herself the election, though it was a complex mix of factors that lay behind the Dems’ electoral demise in November.) If the old standby about party unity above all else was a genuinely-held sentiment, come February when the vote was scheduled to take place, these frustrations had a chance to be brought down to a simmer and more people could conceivably have warmed to the idea of Keith Ellison as Donna Brazile’s/Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s successor.

A little over two months later, though, with the race for DNC chair having run its course and more candidates having entered the fray, the apparent reasons for Committee members to bypass Ellison in favor of someone else are yet more insidious and no less galling to progressives and younger Democratic voters. Keith Ellison announced his candidacy for Democratic National Committee chair on November 14, 2016, and pledged to forfeit his seat in the House of Representatives if elected on December 7. On December 15,  Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced his candidacy, endorsed by the likes of Joe Biden and other Obama administration figures. Why do I mention these details concerning the chronology of the race for DNC chair? As Glenn Greenwald, writing for The Intercept, argues, “the timeline here is critical.” Greenwald, who has written more than one piece on the resistance Ellison faced as a candidate to head the DNC, asks not why Perez ran, but knowingly questions why the White House recruited Perez to oppose Ellison. His analysis, as he himself readily acknowledges, owes a certain debt to an article authored by Clio Chang for New Republic, which tries to make sense of choosing Tom Perez in the first place. After all, if Keith Ellison and Tom Perez are ideologically similar, why bother actively trying to torpedo the chances of the former to buoy those of the latter?

The distinction between the two candidates, as Greenwald and Chang detail, is a two-headed monster in it of itself. The first, er, head is found in the death grip the Democratic Party establishment has evidenced it wants to maintain on leadership of and, thus, direction of the party at large. Clio Chang explains:

It appears that the underlying reason some Democrats prefer Perez over Ellison has nothing to do with ideology, but rather his loyalty to the Obama wing. As the head of the DNC, Perez would allow that wing to retain more control, even if Obama-ites are loath to admit it. Sanders has been accused of re-litigating the primary in his criticisms of Perez, but the fact that Perez was pushed to run, while Ellison was quickly and easily unifying the left and center, seems like the move most predicated on primary scars.

In reasoning out the conflict that manifested in the form of the split between supporters of Ellison and Perez, Chang diminishes the “progressive vs. establishment” narrative that has been spun by various outside sources trying to fashion a frame of reference for their audiences, in favor of depicting the struggle as a power struggle. Barack Obama and others high up on the Democratic Party food chain were uneasy about giving Keith Ellison and his less-moderate supporters too much control. This is almost unquestionably related to the antagonistic attitude Ellison and his main man Bernie Sanders have taken against big-ticket donations and highly-paid consultants. The Democrats may view themselves as morally superior to their counterparts in the Republican Party, but on the subject of money, they are all but addicted to mega-bucks fundraisers and wealthy patrons much as the GOP is. Chang connects this resistance among the Democratic elite to grassroots organizing and fundraising to a similar battle fought over the simultaneous existence of the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America, Obama’s grassroots fundraising creation from his initial campaign. Ultimately, the DNC absorbed this separate organization, and as Chang highlights, critics of the move blame it in part for the string of losses the Dems have suffered since Obama was first sworn in. The Democratic Party seems expressly averse to a reliance on bottom-up change and small donations, and a separate resolution by those voting Committee members at the festivities in Atlanta against a ban on corporate donations to the DNC exhibits this attitude perfectly.

Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, while he acknowledges the White House’s role in thwarting Keith Ellison’s hopes to be DNC chair, also sees a more reprehensible dimension to his opposition, and from additional parties as well. Ellison, as you may well know, is the first Muslim to serve as a member of Congress. In the past, all the way back to his days as a college student, he expressed support for the likes of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, before reversing his position on them and condemning their anti-Semitic positions. This personal history of Ellison’s, while it could be and was used as fodder against him politically, was not enough to disqualify him in the minds of DNC voting members. His attitudes on Israel, however, break with the mainstream bipartisan lip service that the United States government pays to our chief ally in the Middle East. At first glance, the combination looks bad. A Muslim—waxing philosophical about our relationship with Istael—oy vey! In all seriousness, though, and in reality, Ellison’s past commentary on U.S.-Israel relations is relatively benign, all things considered. By a sizable margin, Israel receives the most aid of any foreign nation from the U.S., mostly in the form of training and weaponry for use by the Israeli Defense Forces. Keith Ellison, like any number of other critics, is justified in wondering why we shower Israel with money when they aggressively pursue the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and disputed territory in East Jerusalem against the consensus within the international community. To this end, why do we kowtow to Israel at the expense of our relationship with much of the Arab and Muslim world?

As you might have guessed with respect to these questions and in general, where there’s money, there’s an answer. Keith Ellison, because he appears more amenable to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and because he is not more staunchly pro-Israel, is at odds with wealthy Jewish patrons who possess strong ties to the upper ranks of the Democratic Party. In particular, billionaire Haim Saban, the foremost donor to the Democratic Party and both Hillary and Bill Clinton’s campaigns, demonstrably labeled Ellison an anti-Semite and an anti-Israel individual, and the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization Greenwald slyly quips is ironically named in this instance, saw fit to chime in with their reservations about Ellison and his views on Israel. Their combined influence and lobbying translates to considerable power in Democratic Party circles, and since we know the Democrats can’t get enough of big, fat campaign contributions, they are inapt to risk such important sources of revenue. The result was character assassination at its finest of Keith Ellison leading up to the chair vote. Coming from members of a group that identifies itself as the “chosen people,” it would seem the Jews pulling the strings are quite choosy themselves.

Whether seeing the progressive challenger with rabid support on the left as something of a nuisance or an outright threat, as with attempts to deep-six Bernie Sanders’ chances to capture the presidential nomination for the Democrats by discrediting him or showing favoritism to Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, the smear campaign against Keith Ellison by people and organizations close to the Democratic Party alongside the power play made by the Obama White House in the first place to prop up Tom Perez betrays an unwillingness to authentically embrace party members and supporters more to the left on the political spectrum, often coinciding with younger entrants into the field. What’s more, in all likelihood, both moves were patently unnecessary on the part of those scheming to influence the final result. Going back to the primary race and clear evidence of bias in favor of Clinton on the part of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, and others involved with the Democratic National Committee, as revealed by Wikileaks’ DNC leaks, for all their machinations, Hillary was almost certainly going to capture the nomination. Sanders did provide a spirited challenge for the bid, but Clinton had the support of superdelegates before the race even began, not to mention entrenched, loyal support elsewhere. In the case of Ellison and Perez, meanwhile, the thing that is perplexing to many is the notion the DNC chair is, as Glenn Greenwald describes it, “a largely functionary position, with little real power over party policy or messaging.” As Clio Chang helps buttress this notion, the role of chair is designed to help win elections by increasing turnout and facilitating small-dollar donations, and Ellison is well-experienced in this regard. But apparently, his progressive base of support is neither allowed by the Democrats to have its cake, nor is it allowed to eat it. And, if we’re sticking with the whole birthday party analogy, they are being asked to clean up afterwards, not be petty, and unite. For the good of the party.

All this chicanery, it can be argued, is detrimental to the Democratic Party’s ability to strengthen its base, particularly among younger voters and independents. The DNC’s bias in favor of Hillary Clinton only fueled sentiments that the primaries were “rigged” against Bernie Sanders, serving to erode confidence in a Democratic vote that was already shaky to begin with given Clinton’s scandal-dotted past. Now, with Tom Perez capturing the post of DNC chair over Keith Ellison despite the latter’s enthusiastic following, this fuels the whispers among Sanders supporters that something truly iniquitous has occurred, and in turn, that the Dems don’t really want them at the adults’ table, so to speak. It certainly didn’t help perception matters when, as noted in the Jonathan Easley live blog, the electronic recording devices initially planned on being used to record the chair vote were scrapped in favor of a paper balloting system mid-stream under the pretense that the devices were vulnerable to manipulation and thus unreliable. Then why even have them there at the event in the first place? This just makes it appear as if there is something to hide, a notion not lost on the Ellison supporters in attendance.

Tom Perez may be well suited to serve in his current capacity as DNC chair, and almost certainly will end his tenure on a higher note than either Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Donna Brazile did. Keith Ellison, because he is loyal to the Democratic Party, will soldier on as deputy chair, lending his support serving in a role that is seemingly of even less consequence than the chair itself. Once more, the Democratic Party brass has evidenced it is resistant to change, unwilling to move away from a moderate position, and that it simply doesn’t understand the American electorate—or doesn’t want to. Conceived of in different terms, it is playing not to lose, hoping its distinctiveness from Donald Trump and the regressive politics of the Republican Party are enough to win it back seats all the way up the levels of government. As sports fans can attest to, however, playing not to lose rarely is a sound strategy, especially when you’re already losing. The Democrats haven’t learned anything from their recent electoral defeats, and as the old saw goes that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, their prospects for 2018 and 2020 already look bleak.

Shouting Across the Divide: Issues for the Democrats with Building Bridges to Voters

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The Democratic Party, if it is to regain political standing and to be an authentic party of the people, must go further left. If exit polls from the 2016 election are any indication, though, they’ll need the help of those on the right as well. What’s the issue with that? Some of those more conservative voters may not be willing to listen, too consumed by adherence to ideological positions and visions of “taking back” their country. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

As I feel it must be reiterated, mostly because the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to be able to allow it to fully sink in, the Democrats have had their electoral asses handed to them of late. Despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by close to 3 million votes, they lost the 2016 presidential election at large to Donald Trump. In the Senate, they enjoyed a net gain this November of only two seats, and thus still trail Republicans 52 to 46 (two U.S. Senators identify as independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine). In the House of Representatives, they gained six whole seats, which sounds good until you realize there are 435 congressional districts and the GOP also has a lead here, 247 to 188. It gets worse. In terms of governorships, Democrats preside over only 16 states, with Bill Walker of Alaska being considered an independent. Roughly speaking, the Republican Party has a two-to-one advantage in this regard. And Lord knows what the situation is like at the county and local levels, but chances are the larger overall trend doesn’t bode well for the Democratic Party as the scope of provinciality narrows.

In light of this all-around political beatdown, how do the Democrats begin to try to regain a foothold at the various levels of government? Do they try to argue that their party is one of inclusiveness and moral rectitude, and hope that distinguishing themselves from the GOP in these regards will allow them to carry the day, especially as President Trump and his administration implodes (no guarantee, but they already show signs of cracking)? Tempting as it sounds, this doesn’t seem to be enough, and certainly wasn’t sufficient for them to garner the W in the general election. A critical part of the solution, as many see it, is for the Democratic Party to become bolder and to allow itself to be touched by an authentic progressive spirit. The popularity of the likes of the aforementioned Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth “She Persisted” Warren from Massachusetts, in particular, among young liberals and independents would seem to indicate the party needs to attract talent that not only reflects the identity of the electorate in terms of ethnic, gender and religious diversity, but a willingness to combat the entrenchment of moneyed interests in state and national politics and to level the playing field for voters and candidates across demographic groups. Other progressive stances which are seen as vital to this effort and thus necessary for the Dems to embrace include a stronger commitment to combatting climate change, a unified front on protecting and respecting the values of minority groups, including those of Native American Indian tribes, and a more pronounced shift toward principles of democratic socialism, namely that of a Medicare-for-all/single-payer health care system.

In short, a partial answer to the question of, “Where do the Democrats go from here?” seems to be, “Left.” That is, further left then Hillary Clinton and other establishment politics might have otherwise been willing to go, especially prior to the presidential election. This begs a follow-up question to the answer, assuming it is, in fact, a correct partial answer: “Is moving purely left of center enough?” If exit polls from November are any indication, perhaps not. Where Hillary Clinton fared well, according to CNN polls, perhaps is no surprise. A 54% majority of female votes were “with her,” as were people under the age of 45 by similar percentages. Clinton also fared significantly better than Donald Trump with non-whites, people with annual incomes under $50,000, unmarried respondents, and those who reported their identity as Jewish, Muslim, or belonging to some other religion. By contrast, Hillary did not fare as well among voters 45 and over, among whites, among less educated voters, among married people, especially men, among veterans, and among Christians—Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, other branches of Christianity, you name it. While Clinton’s gender may be a bit of a confounding factor here, especially with respect to the sex of the poll respondents, on other dimensions, the other disadvantages she faced likely speak to challenges Democrats face as a whole and will continue to have to address in coming elections.

Concerning the concept of going further left, for the Democratic Party, seeing as progressivism is related to liberalism, and in the present-day context, is somewhat of a more extreme version of it, or perhaps liberalism carried to its logical next point, as exemplified by the jump from ObamaCare to a single-payer health care and insurance system, adopting positions that appeal to independents would seem like a relatively easy task. Through collaboration with Bernie Sanders’s surrogates and supporters, Hillary Clinton and her team crafted a party platform in advance of the election that both sides could champion as the most progressive in the modern history of the party, although lacking in several respects, notably failing to support a $15 minimum wage, not coming out strongly in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals, proving silent on the issue of deportation, rejecting the Medicare-for-all paradigm, not going far enough on legalization of marijuana, and doing little to address the bloated U.S. military budget. Then again, this shift away from center may be easier said than done, especially in light of the influence of money and lobbying from industries and business leaders in establishment politics. For instance, someone like Cory Booker, Democratic Party darling from my home state and someone I generally support, is principled enough, but when it comes to, say, a bill or amendment which would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada at a cheaper rate, his vote against the measure makes sense when you consider he has accepted the most money from the pharmaceutical industry of any Senate Democrat in the past six years. It is oft said that money talks, and in the sphere of politics, this is time and again achingly apparent.

Reaching across the aisle, meanwhile, presents its own challenges. Going back to the 2016 presidential race, even if Hillary Clinton were to try to extend a proverbial olive branch to those on the right, if she didn’t in the same breath negate her sincerity with her infamous “basket of deplorables” comment, she likely would have had many die-hard Republicans firing up chainsaws at the sight of that olive branch. Even after the election, the non-politicians among us, too, are wont to struggle with “bridging the cultural divide,” as much as detractors on both sides of the aisle accuse their counterparts opposite them of divisiveness. Susan Shaw, a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at Oregon State University, recently penned a very considerate piece expressing her frustrations in trying to understand and communicate with white Christian Trump supporters, as we know, a pivotal source of strength for Donald Trump in the election. Shaw, a self-identifying progressive, expresses her alienation from the religious right as someone who grew up within this environment:

My white, conservative Christian upbringing had told me that was the American Dream—to work hard and succeed. I did, and I feel you’re holding it against me now that I no longer share your views. I think you must imagine the liberal elite as East Coast, Ivy League-educated, trust fund babies completely out of touch with how most people live. Sure, some faculty members grew up with money. Some went to Ivy League schools. But a lot of us professors were you—working class kids who did whatever it took to get a college education. Along the way, a lot of us developed progressive ideas, not out of our privilege, but out of our own experiences of discrimination, struggle and oppression.

Shaw’s description of the source of her progressivism within the context of “discrimination, struggle and oppression” admittedly makes more sense coming from her than someone like me, a white male in a suburban middle-class household. In this regard, I suppose the extent of hardships we face is always relative—someone, somewhere has it worse. Regardless of who has the more “legitimate” claim to progressive ideals, if there is such a thing, Prof. Shaw appears to indicate that such a political orientation is buoyed by experience with the kinds of disparities, injustices and problems progressivism seeks to address. In other words, while their social critics—professional and amateur alike—demean liberals as delusional, soft and unable to cope with the “real world,” Susan Shaw speaks to the notion that individuals on the left and far left are rather resilient, strong, capable people, and what’s more, they may be better in tune with reality than those who preach the very virtue of cold realism.

In defending so-called “out of touch” liberal elites like herself, Shaw also takes her target audience—at least in name—to task for their apparent tone-deafness. As she remarks in cutting fashion, “We really do know a lot about what we’re talking about, and we have something to offer in a real conversation across our differences (including the East Coast Ivy Leaguers who aren’t as out of touch as you may think). But I don’t think you want to hear us or me.” Thinking along these lines, much of the rest of Shaw’s open letter to white Christian Trump supporters reads like a list of grievances. The reasons why she feels this distance from them, despite her upbringing, include the following:

1. You call people “sore losers” and tell them to “get over” Trump winning, but this is because you don’t have as much to lose as other Americans.

As Susan Shaw explains, for all the talk of who’s “winning” and “losing,” the policies enacted by the new administration aren’t a game to many Americans. President Trump has made his intention clear to support “religious freedom,” and in doing so, has put protections for the LGBT community in the crosshairs. With the White House pushing for the Muslim ban despite its unconstitutionality, and ICE agents rounding up undocumented immigrants regardless of whether or not they violate criminal laws, gloating over an electoral victory belies the sense of fear people are feeling in response to Trump’s agenda. It’s at best insensitive, and at worst, unnecessarily hateful and cruel.

2. You’re blaming the wrong people for your own grievances.

Shaw identifies an attitude of discontentment among Trump supporters that they don’t get what they deserve or that someone who doesn’t deserve what they have has taken what is theirs. The cited cause often is illegal immigration. You know the refrains. “They’re taking our jobs.” “They’re stealing our benefits.” No, they’re not. The real problem is an economic system that pits workers against one another and, as Shaw terms it, “limits their work and financial security.” For all the bluster about “illegals” committing violent crimes, it is white-collar crime and conditions which lend themselves to widening income and wealth inequality which truly depress the upward mobility of the “other 99%.”

3. You keep promoting “fake news.”

And no, not the CNN kind. Susan Shaw is talking about, as much of an oxymoron it may sound, real “fake news.” Here’s Ms. Shaw again in her own words:

You say you want progressives to listen to you. Then prioritize truth. This election was filled with “fake news,” shared widely on Facebook, and this administration already has begun to create a language of “alternative facts” to misinform and mislead. If you want to talk, offer evidence, real evidence based on verifiable data and reliable sources, not wishful imaginings or fabricated Breitbart stories. An internet meme is not an informed and legitimate point of argument that facilitates dialogue. We’ve reached a point where you’d rather believe an overt lie if it supports a belief you already hold than pursue the truth if it might challenge your currently held belief.

Shaw goes on in the same thought to point out the apparent hypocrisy in upholding the Bible as a book of truths and, at the same time, believing in or, at the very least, sanctioning a lie such as the White’s House version of the comparative sizes of Donald Trump’s Inauguration crowd and those of Barack Obama for both of his presidential victories, when simple visual evidence tells the true story. The principal conflict herein, then, would seem to exist between personal beliefs and gut feelings, and logic and verifiable evidence, an ideological struggle that has manifested in the interplay of faith and science for centuries. And maybe Susan Shaw and people like myself are again betraying a liberal, elitist bias, but seriously—people need to learn how to choose and cite their f**king sources. It’s one thing if you didn’t get in the habit of doing so if you never went to college, but be that as it may, it’s still important to ascertain the reliability of vital information.

4. You celebrate a man whose commitment to Christian values is, ahem, highly questionable.

Donald Trump is clearly no saint and no Jesus. Not even close. Even the most devoted Trump supporters are liable to agree on this point, which makes it that much more mystifying how Christian Trump supporters try to reconcile his actions and beliefs with that of the teachings of the Bible. Dude has either condoned within his base and staff, or participated himself in, acts/speech of anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, racism, and sexism. Old “Two Corinthians” Trump even made fun of a disabled reporter. That’s f**ked up.

Aside from this, Shaw also takes issue with the idea that the religious right insists on “religious freedom,” except if you happen to be anything other than a heterosexual Christian, which would make our nation only more religiously constrained as a result. Not to mention it was never our Founding Fathers to make this a purely Christian nation. America is meant to be a melting pot and a land which respects tolerance for all faiths. As Henry Drummond quips in Inherit the Wind, “The Bible is a book. It’s a good book, but it is not the only book.” Amen, brother.

5. You claim to be “pro-life,” but you’re really just “anti-choice.”

The most plausible reason I can see that Christians, especially evangelicals, would be willing to support Trump over Hillary Clinton despite the former failing to confirm with Christian values on the whole, is that they support the man for his position on one or more particular issues with a religious tint. Perhaps it is his rejection of Muslims. Perhaps it is because he chose Mike Pence for his running mate. Or maybe, just maybe, it is his pro-life stance, a more recent “evolution” of his political and social ideologies. Susan Shaw, undoubtedly concerned with matters of abortion and birth control as a professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies, takes specific umbrage to this holier-than-thou mentality from conservative religious types. She puts forth her arguments pretty tidily as such:

To cling to overturning Roe v. Wade as the only way to end abortions is a fantasy based on ideology rather than medical science and social science, and it flies in the face of the evidence for what is successful. So the real question is are you more interested in actual effectiveness in lowering abortion rates or ideological purity? We can lower abortion rates together but not by denying women choices over their own bodies. We can be effective together by listening to the data and working together to ensure all women have access to contraception, education, and social and economic resources. Are you willing to have that conversation?

Denying women access to abortions and reproductive health services, as Shaw argues, is not going to stop them from having abortions, or trying to take matters into their own hands. Not only does this obviously still put the baby at risk, though, but it endangers the pregnant woman as well. Conservative Christians seem to want their cake and eat it too, i.e., they want to prevent abortions but they also want to prevent women from having access to birth control and contraceptives. Right—we get it—there’s abstinence. But this is unrealistic for many, not to mention it assumes real romantic feelings can’t exist for teenagers and young adults who lack the income to pay for contraception out of pocket. Either way, it’s governance based on religious conservatism and a strict morality thrust upon Americans within a sphere that should be reserved for secular applications. Besides, for those “pro-lifers” who would seek the unalienable rights of the fetus upheld only to turn around and demand the state-sponsored killing of someone convicted of a heinous crime, it kind of throws a wrench in the whole idea of the sanctity of human existence, ya know?


In closing, Susan Shaw communicates two critical points. The first is that on the subject of simply “agreeing to disagree,” much like Trump supporters reproaching his critics for being sore losers, it is not as if the areas affected by the President’s policy decisions are some sort of game or part of some abstract theoretical exercise. Real lives are affected by what President Trump says and does, and thus agreeing to disagree is unacceptable for those with a conscience or stake in what is decided. The second isn’t so much a point as much as a series of questions to the religious right, once more expressed in a spirit of desperation:

We need to talk, and I don’t know how to talk to you anymore. I need to know, is it more important to you to win than to do good? Or can we build coalitions? Listen to science? Rely on real evidence? Be effective? Put the needs and rights of all others above ideologies? Can we live the love of God we claim? You want me to hear and understand you. I get that. I also want you to hear and understand the rest of the world that is not you or your kind. Because they too are God’s people and therefore are in the circle of those whom we must love. You taught me that when I was a child. If we can agree on that now, we have a place to start.

The Bible teaches, “Love thy neighbor.” The Declaration of Independence asserts, “All men are created equal.” And yet, the mood and tone struck by the Trump administration tell us to fear our neighbor, and to reject those who are not like us as inferior. If these words which are supposed to mean so much to conservatives and/or Christians are not observed, how are we supposed to have a honest conversation between individuals on both sides of the political aisle? How are we on the “godless” left supposed to understand those holy rollers who don’t quite practice what they preach? Shaw rightly believes that if those on both sides can’t agree that all the world’s people are God’s people and must be loved as such, we as a nation can’t even begin to bridge the divide. In doing so, she provides no answers, and only searches for them—because realistically she can’t provide them. Those of us searching for answers in our own right are met with the same difficulties.

Of course, this doesn’t imply that the Democratic Party shouldn’t try to expand both left and right of center if it is to grow stronger and to make a dent in its minority political status across the American landscape. Nonetheless, little progress will be made on this front unless authentic receptivity is felt on both sides to listen to what the other is saying. It has also been said that “everyone is forgiven by God, but not everyone is saved.” From a political standpoint, the fear exists that this may be true of some members of the general electorate as well.

The Resistance Starts Now

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Resistance is not futile. At this hour, it is essential. (Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; Photo Credits: Getty Images, AP).

If you’ve read or perused this blog, chances are I’ve already telegraphed, to a large extent, my nerdy tendencies, but in case you needed any more evidence in this regard, here’s a reference that will buttress any suppositions you may have had. In the Star Trek universe, there exists a race of cybernetic beings rather uncreatively named the Borg. They seek not to advance politically or amass wealth, but to consume technology, as well as to, in the words of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as the Borg alter-ego Locutus, assimilate other peoples into their collective so as to “raise” their “quality of life.” They hurtle through space in craft that resemble giant metal cubes. They are not aware of themselves as separate individuals, only as units within the collective. Perhaps most strikingly, the Borg do not like taking no for an answer. When not informing you of your imminent assimilation and subsequent loss of personhood, they are kindly explaining to you that “resistance is futile.”

While I, at the time, found the writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation to be some of the best on television, I still feel a lot of it holds up today. I say this perhaps in spite of the allegorical nature of the Borg, which is so readily apparent the full-sized U.S.S. Enterprise would be harder to miss. The Borg, in their monomaniacal pursuit of technological advancement and “cultural” assimilation, are a warning about the perils of collectivism and the pervasiveness of technology, carried to the extreme. The latter count, for one, is duly noted; take a look at any group of people waiting on line, for example, and note how many of them immediately take to their smartphones. On the former count, too, blindly following leadership in its various forms or adhering to cultural or societal norms risks agreement simply to avoid conflict or independent thought, not to mention the ascension of individuals to power who rely on authoritarianism and the conditions which lend themselves to their success. You probably know where I’m going with this. The Borg have a Borg queen. In the United States’ current political climate, we have Donald Trump, incoming President and would-be emperor.

As noted, the Borg collective confronts each species—and effective assimilation target—it meets with the idea “resistance is futile,” and once more making the comparison to today’s American politics, many people not entirely thrilled about a Trump presidency have taken to familiar standbys like “it is what it is” (death to that phrase, if you ask me) and “what can you do?” buying fully into the concept of top-down leadership. As others might argue, however, resistance is not only not futile, but mandatory at a time like this. Such explains the movements of Robert Reich and others which makes resisting Donald Trump their raison d’être. Reich, who founded Inequality Media, a non-profit organization designed to help educate the American public about how income and wealth inequality in this country has manifested and grown over time and what can be done to reverse this trend going forward, recently authored a video piece outlining an agenda for members of the resistance to combat the types of regressive reforms Trump is expected to enact during the first 100 days of his presidency. The following is my summation of the 12 points to this agenda—I hope you weren’t planning on going anywhere for a while—with some additional commentary regarding potential difficulties in successfully meeting the goals therein:

1. Contact your senators and representatives.

I know, I know—we’re always told this, but seriously, though—get in the habit of reaching out to your elected officials. As far as I am concerned, I feel fortunate as a New Jerseyan to have two U.S. Senators in Cory Booker and Bob Menendez who I believe share a number of the same positions on the issues as I do, and feel similarly about Representative Bill Pascrell in exemplifying some of the best values the Democrats have to offer. Others might not be as lucky to be so well represented, but this doesn’t mean we should take the good ones for granted, nor does it mean we should necessarily forsake those legislators who don’t seem as keen to oppose Donald Trump’s and the Republicans’ conservative agenda. Tell them to oppose it, though, and to oppose Trump’s awful appointees. These candidates for top positions in his Cabinet should be vetted and confirmed, not rubber-stamped.

2. March and demonstrate.

You’ve probably already heard about the Women’s March on Washington which is slated to occur the day after the Inauguration (January 21). Reich calls for additional marches in the following months, though, to reinforce the solidarity felt among those afraid for their families, their health, their rights and their safety, as well as that of people who were demonized and bullied throughout the election cycle. Blacks, immigrants, Latinos, the LGBTQIA community, Muslims, Native American Indians, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault, women—the list goes on. Some may decry these as the actions of a bunch of sore losers, or too little too late, or that they play identity politics to make groups feel better about themselves without effecting real change, or that they will do nothing to bridge the divide experienced between those who brand themselves as everyday Americans and the supposed liberal elites. There might be a kernel of truth in any number of these charges, but this doesn’t mean you can’t go to one of these marches and demonstrations as a casual observer and see what you can learn. It may not be for the exact right reasons, but from where I’m sitting or standing, anything organized in opposition to Donald Trump as President is for a good cause.

3. Uphold sanctuary cities and states.

The applicability of this item may vary depending on your proximity to an international border, but the sentiment behind it may well hold true no matter where you hang your proverbial hat. In my home state, the mayors of Newark, Jersey City, Union City and other municipalities have affirmed their city’s commitment to not detaining undocumented immigrants per ICE’s request unless accompanied by a judge’s order. Republicans have made the horror stories particularly salient in recent years, but allowing people to be held for the mere purpose of possible deportation, especially those who have been in this country for some time and have contributed to their communities and economies, seems like a waste of municipal, county and state law enforcement when immigration is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, if not an example of overreach on the part of the U.S. government officials. Reich urges non-cooperation on the part of we the people, and without probable cause, this would appear to be a just cause.

4. Boycott Trump real estate, hotels and brands.

Done. Of course, this is easy for me, as I don’t make it a habit to support Donald Trump financially if I can. Also helping matters: as a discerning shopper, I try to avoid products and services that are effectively likened to hot garbage, which is apparently the level of quality of Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C. What Robert Reich proposes, meanwhile, is a bit more difficult: boycott those retailers that carry Trump products, even if you don’t plan to purchase those individual items. Especially when Ivanka Trump’s fashion line is considered, the list of stores and retailers to potentially stop frequenting contains some significant names, and it includes the likes of Amazon, Bloomingdale’s, Kmart, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, Sears, TJ Maxx and Walmart. These are some big-deal companies, no doubt, so it would take some effort to avoid some or all of them (a yet more expansive list can be found at grabyourwallet.org). Still, it can be done, and what’s more, the official site for #GrabYourWallet offers a script/template you can follow when contacting these companies’ customer service departments and representatives. Sorry, Ivanka. I’ll pass on your various handbags.

5. Write letters & op-eds to the editor of your local newspaper.

Reich encourages you to pen these types of pieces to help communicate the dangers and fallacies of a Donald Trump presidency, including that agenda of his for the first 100 days, and to maintain a steady flow of these arguments. That’s right—keep ’em coming! Like Krabby Patties off of Spongebob’s grill! Yes, I’m an adult!

6. Contribute daily to social media with truthful, up-to-date facts and actions relevant to the movement to resisting Trump.

You know—keep reminding people of how shitty Donald Trump’s behavior and intended policies are.

7. Contribute to opposition groups.

Robert Reich offers a few suggestions, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Common Cause, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, and, of course, Inequality Media, but you’re free to donate to the organization of your choice which you believe stands for the kinds of values Trump, his cronies, and other conservative Republicans won’t defend. You know, like, maybe Planned Parenthood, which the GOP aims to de-fund at the federal level, because they apparently think they should be able to tell women what to do with their own bodies. These kinds of organizations.

8. Make #ResistTrump visible.

Arm bands, bumper stickers, lapel pins—if it’s got #ResistTrump on it so people can see, you’re good to go. I’m not exactly the most craftsy person myself, so I sympathize with you on this point, but as of yet, online merchandise for “the Resistance” seems fairly sparse, and not for nothing, ugly. So, for now, you might just have to bite the bullet and start a DIY project or make friends with someone who’s good at creating things like the aforementioned items. Maybe bake them some cupcakes to sweeten the deal (or, yes, buy those, too).

9. Get involved with and promote progressive politics at the local and state levels.

Reich has a few major suggestions regarding topics to address, such as environmental reform, progressive tax reform, higher minimum wages, stopping gerrymandering, and helping to put an end to mass incarceration, but again, pick a cause and run wild with it. Certainly, the ability of workers to form and promote unions is something worthy of defense, despite Republicans’ and corporations’ attempts to weaken the bargaining power of these trade associations. Wherever rights are being abrogated, resources are being misused, or justice is proving not-so-blind, there’s an issue to get behind and a reason to get involved.

10. Abolish the Electoral College.

That’s right—you abolish it, all by yourself! OK, so one person by his or her lonesome isn’t going to dismantle the Electoral College, but lending your support and voice to the movement to supplant our wacky present electoral system in favor of the popular vote can only help. I’ve written at length about my feelings about the Electoral College, and if the electors won’t stand in the way of a tyrant in the making like Donald Trump, we may as well just do away with the damn thing. The likes of South Dakota and Wyoming be damned!

11. Reach out to independents and Trump supporters.

I know—this may seem like the last thing you want to do right now on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, but hear me out. And hear them out, assuming you can stand it. Especially for those voters who went for Barack Obama in 2012 only to turn around and cast their ballot for Donald Trump in 2016, ask them what about Trump’s agenda they find so appealing. If Democrats are to make any headway in taking back the House and the Senate, as well as governorships and seats in local legislatures, they’re going to have to win back the support of independents, working-class Americans and others who have lost faith in the Democratic Party. The Dems may not have burned these bridges, but they need to act fast to repair them in time for the midterms in 2018 and the presidential election in 2020.

12. [YOUR IDEA GOES HERE]

No, seriously. Here’s where you can choose your own political adventure. Reich doesn’t offer much in this regard by design, but does suggest you meet with family and friends to discuss what you can do to put your own spin on the Resistance. I don’t know—maybe wear a silly hat when you do it? Hey, give me a break—I’m still working on my own #12!


Before the election, some prospective voters were wondering whether or not we should just vote for Donald Trump , blow up the political system as we know it, and rebuild our democracy in a more progressive way. I was not among this lot, and while I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, I didn’t choose Trump either, my reasoning being that I didn’t trust him with the fate of our country any more than I would trust a pack of hungry coyotes to watch over a small kitten. As you well know and are coming to grips with, the American people chose the orange-skinned one to lead our nation for the next four years. I believe they chose poorly. Regardless of whether or not Donald Trump’s election would theoretically be better for the country because it would hasten some sort of revolution, the reality is that Trump is set to lead our nation until 2020 or his impeachment—whichever comes first. Thus, out of necessity, a resistance must be formed, grown and maintained. Resistance, in this case, is not futile. It is essential. Resistance against hate. Resistance against tyranny and scaremongering. Resistance against bullying and ganging up on people online and offline. Resistance against the dissolution of fact and the erosion of ethics. Resistance against a political party and a system which puts the corporation and wealth above empathy and other hallmarks of humanity. Resistance against a world that allows a man to lie, cheat, deceive and steal his way to personal success. Resistance against that which we know is clearly wrong.

The Resistance starts now. Are you in?

The Roadmap to Progress, Progressive Style

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Yes, Bernie wants to beat Trump. But he also wants to move the Democratic Party in a truly progressive direction, one that welcomes working people, young people and encourages like-minded individuals to get involved in making the country better for all.

 

By now, even Bernie Sanders understands he, in all likelihood, will not be the Democratic Party nominee in 2016. Bernie has been accused by more than one of his critics of being “disconnected from reality,” and repeatedly, Clinton supporters and other dissenters seeking his exit from the presidential race have pointed to the delegate counts, all but stammering, but as supposedly crazy as the senator from Vermont and his policies are purported to be, he does get it. As the calendar counts down to the Democratic National Convention, with Hillary Clinton all but certain to be the party’s representative, more and more pundits are taking to commending Bernie Sanders for running a well-intentioned campaign and raising important issues. After all, his point was never to win, but to start a political revolution, right?

Sigh. Spare me your “moral victory” nonsense. Of course Bernie wants to win! He wouldn’t have competed all the way through the primary season if he didn’t, and he’s still technically in the race! Dude won 22 states between primaries and caucuses, so let’s show him a bit more respect beyond regarding him as some sort of “cute” nobody who dared to roar against the Clinton political juggernaut. Even after decisive victories by Hillary in key primary states, at rallies across the country, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life came to hear Bernie Sanders speak at a number of his political rallies. An awful lot of enthusiasm for a guy who isn’t in it for the W, hmm?

Still, the writing is on the wall with respect to the nomination, which is why Sanders recently streamed a live message to his supporters regarding the priorities for his campaign and for his political movement. First off, there’s Donald Trump. He’s an asshole. You probably knew that, though. It would be a monumental disgrace for the American people to elect Trump, quite simply, so his complete and utter political destruction is the most immediate priority.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Bernie talks about where the political revolution ultimately needs to be heading. It’s about involvement by energetic, high-quality candidates as part of a 50-state approach for the Democratic Party, one that challenges for offices no matter if they reside in “red” or “blue” states and at all levels of governmentincluding state, county and local. In this respect, certainly, the inclusion of young people interested in politics either as a candidate or a prospective voter and advocate is critical to this design, but anyone with a mind toward progressive policy is desired for this purpose. Sanders actually closes with this call to action, and rightly so, but my concern is with the particulars of the platform of progressivism that he and those of his ilk insist on pushing.

The meat, if you will, of the progressive sandwich that Bernie Sanders outlined in his speech was an enumeration of key points in an agenda that he intends on bringing to the Democratic National Convention, backed by 1,900 or so delegates. This is the same agenda he claims he is “looking forward” to working on with Hillary Clinton to strengthen the credentials of the Democratic Party as a party built on the strength of working and young people. Though let’s be frank—who really looks forward to working with Hillary? OK, I’m projecting a bit, but I can’t imagine trying to work with her alongside her ego is that easy. Anyhoo, here’s the laundry list of demands:

  • Take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry, and other special interests. Bernie didn’t mention Big Agriculture, or “Big Ag,” by name, but this special interest group, led by the likes of multinationals like Monsanto, is also a big player in the pay-to-play world of American politics. Sen. Sanders notes in the video how he and Secretary Clinton see eye-to-eye on most issues, though they do disagree on a few important issues, and this, seemingly, is one of them.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and commit to rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.
  • Fight for equal pay for women and men.
  • Protect the right of women to control their own bodies.
  • Fight for marriage equality for the LGBT community in all 50 states.
  • Ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, end the gun show loophole, and expand instant background checks.
  • Defeat the TPP and work against other bad trade deals.
  • Resist cuts for Social Security and expand benefits for our seniors and disabled veterans.
  • Pass a modern-day Glass-Steagall Act and break up “too big to fail” institutions.
  • Combat climate change, move toward sustainable energy practices, and impose a tax on carbon.
  • Ban fracking.
  • Make public colleges and universities tuition-free, and substantially reduce student debt.
  • Guarantee healthcare as a right, not a privilege.
  • Move toward criminal justice reform at the federal, state and local levels in an effort to tackle the problem of mass incarceration.
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.
  • Examine and cut down on instances of waste and cost overruns in all branches of government, especially within the Department of Defense.
  • Stop putting our young men and women in harm’s way as a function of perpetual warfare in the Middle East and other world regions.

Bernie Sanders just recently has said in interviews that he would vote for Hillary Clinton, though he has come short of fully endorsing her, wanting to see instead how she plans to incorporate elements of progressive policy with her own agenda if she were to become president. As for what Clinton has said she plans to accomplish upon first entering office, according to this post by Heather Long for CNN, she has these reforms in mind:

  • Create jobs with a big government investment in infrastructure.
  • Make college debt-free for all.
  • Encourage companies to share profits with their employees. 
  • Make the rich (and Wall Street) pay more in taxes. 
  • Put “families first” in the economy by raising the minimum wage, enacting paid family leave and expanding preschool for all.

According to the piece, a $275 billion infrastructure investment plan will be at the heart of HRC’s agenda, though some economists suggest the true amount needed to address our failing infrastructure is more likely in trillions of dollars. In terms of taxes, Hillary has vowed not to raise taxes on those with incomes under $250,000, instead saying she would raise taxes on the wealthy in line with the so-called “Buffett Rule” as a means of funding her intended initiatives. On paper, it all looks good.

At the same time, however, some would say, even within this bloc of “progressive” ideas, what Hillary Clinton calls for doesn’t go far enough in standing up for the poorest Americans and the middle class. She believes college should be “debt-free,” but this is not the same as free tuition. She believes the minimum wage should be raised only as high as $12, not $15. Moreover, in terms of Bernie’s agenda that he laid out in painstaking detail in his message, there is no mention of substantive policy to fight climate change, or to limit military spending, or to expand Social Security and Medicare. These are legitimate concerns of voters across parties, notably younger voters, and especially among Sanders supporters.

In the minds of some voters, Hillary Clinton is a corporate shill who will say anything to get elected, so it is unlikely she can say much at this point to win their support. Some likely will feel betrayed by Bernie Sanders for saying he would vote for her strategically to defeat Donald Trump. For those who are, shall we say, more pragmatic about things, though, and for the independent voters and other individuals who are on the fence about what they will do and whom they will choose come November, the 17 separate bullet points referenced by Sanders in his call to action are more than just talking points—they are a roadmap to real progress. Hillary keeps repeating the line that she is a “progressive who gets things done,” but unless she runs on a more authentically progressive platform, these will yet come across as more hollow words. There’s a path to progress for Clinton to follow, but time will tell if she’s truly ready to walk the walk.

Sorry, Hillary: I Might Vote for You, but You’re Not “the One”

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Careful, Agent Clinton—Bernie Sanders and his supporters see past your neoliberal programming. (Photo retrieved from media.giphy.com.)

Brace yourselfI’m about to reference a movie that came out over 15 years ago with respect to the current election cycle.

I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with a particular scene from The Matrix. You know, the first onebefore the then-Wachowski Brothers ran the story into the ground with the next two installments. The sage Morpheus offers the hacker Neo/mild-mannered computer programmer Thomas Anderson a choice between two pills: a blue pill, which will restore him to the life he knows (or thinks he knows), and a red pill, which Morpheus describes as allowing him to “stay in Wonderland” and him showing Neo/Anderson “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

This U.S. presidential election cycle, the American people essentially have a choice between two “pills”the red one (Donald Trump) or the blue one (Hillary Clinton)though with much different possible side effects. In the former, many prospective voters are desperate to avoid the “Wonderland” that Trump insists his presidency would create, believing the country would instead be that much worse for it, and look at those who have swallowed the red-pill-laden Kool-Aid of “making America great again” with an air of horrified incredulity.

As for the latter, meanwhile, a good percentage of Americans are confronting the reality they might have to swallow a bitter pill in voting for Hillary. Many of those who have already willingly taken the required dosage to be “with her”believing what they want to believe, as Morpheus puts itlook at those who have yet to gulp down the blue pill with a certain degree of condescension or derision, especially those dadgum “Bernie or Bust” types. Why doesn’t Bernie just find a nice rocking chair somewhere (even though he’s less than a decade older than Hillary) and pat himself on the back in running a fine race? Why don’t his supporters fall in line and support history in the making? WHY ARE THEY SAYING #HILLNO INSTEAD OF #HILLYES?!?

While Red Pill Donald has received the lion’s share of media coverage in spite of a lack of substantive policy and an abundance of vitriol, Hillary Clinton has garnered quite a bit of press in her own rightand even more now that she’s the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. Much of it, for better or for worse, has had to do with the notion she is preeminently unlikable. (Donald Trump is yet more unlikable, but as with one-time rival Ted Cruz, this reality is pretty much taken as a fact of life.) This has led to all sorts of pieces on why HRC is unlikable, why she is very likable, why the question of her likability is based on an unfair double standard related to gender, how male voters tend to have a problem with strong women, how Sanders supporters are often sexist, misogynistic thugs who have no regard for how the real world works and are only looking for a handout (sorry, got carried away on that last one). In whatever form, much of the discussion about Clinton’s support has been in the form of reactions to the folly of this anti-Hillary prejudice, usually peppered with an illustration of just how qualified the former Secretary of State is.

Is the writing on the wall with respect to the Democratic Party nomination? Yes, and on newspapers, blogs, Facebook Walls and across the “Twitter-verse.” Is Hillary subject to a different standard than that of many of her male contemporaries? Definitely. Have some Bernie Sanders supporters and other right-wing detractors been guilty of prejudice and worse toward women? I fully admit as much. But is a resistance to supporting Clinton in her bid to be the first female president in U.S. history necessarily a failure on the part of those who resist?

As someone who begrudgingly would vote for Hillary in the general election, I submit the answer to that last one is a resounding no. I mean, it’s nothing personal, Ms. Clinton. You’re just not “the One.”

Why aren’t you the One, former Madam Secretary? It’s not youit’s me. Sorry, I have that the wrong way. It’s not meit’s you. That is, it’s your politics, not your gender, or my latent chauvinism, or that cackle. OK, so the cackle probably doesn’t help. But, yes, it’s what you represent. Anis Shivani, in a lengthy piece in Salon that makes even my usual “TL;DR” status blush, outlines how the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump facing the majority of pragmatic American voters represents a “neoliberal nightmare,” even going as far as to identify the crux of neoliberal theory which explains why the Clinton-Trump binary is so troublesome. At its core, explains Shivani, “Neoliberalism presumes a strong state, working only for the benefit of the wealthy, and as such it has little pretence to neutrality and universality, unlike the classical liberal state.”

For someone like Clinton who boasts of her identity as a “progressive who gets things done” in contrast to someone like Bernie Sanders, this is indeed a problem, for a strong state that works only for the benefit of the wealthy is decidedly not progressive. As Shivani goes on to say:

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis, and has proven more adept than previous ideologies at exploiting these crises to its benefit, which then makes the situation worse, so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier.

In this way, the neoliberal tradition seems particularly, dare we say, insidious, for, within this purview, it is not only responsible for widening disparities of wealth and power, but gets excused for its role in promoting such inequality. As Shivani argues, the market is the ideal structure for the neoliberal politician, such that attempts to regulate the literal markets or rein in this philosophy are met with swift rebuttal. A particularly instructive example would seem to be found in the Salon piece’s example of Hillary Clinton’s hesitancy to support regulation of Wall Street and commercial banking under the premise that we as Americans have to “abide by the rule of law” (Bernie-or-Busters, please try to hold your laughter at the apparent hypocrisy), in which everyday individuals are subjugated in favor of the corporation.

By no means is Hillary the only influential neoliberal in politics today; Obama is also referenced heavily in Shivani’s thought piece, as is Mr. Clinton and even George W. Bush. That said, its author views the presumptive Democratic Party nominee as the example par excellence, and views her espoused policies—many of them critical points of contention for Sanders supporters—as indicative of the internalization of the neoliberal mindset. The attack on trade unions, climate change and a messy break with fossil fuels and fracking, Clintonian criminal justice and welfare reform, debt/deficit reduction and slashing taxes, the $15 minimum wage, free college tuition—these issues and the people behind them matter. In Clinton’s neoliberal world, however, people are more or less “human capital,” as her shameless pandering to and trotting out of minorities in her campaign ads suggests. Even the references to her “firewall” among African-American voters in the deep South are, for all intents and purposes, dehumanizing. There is a wide range of experiences and opinions among the larger black community in the United States, and terminology such as this sends the wrong message about politicians thinking they do not and perhaps should not have to earn each and every vote.

The antithesis to the neoliberal movement marked by figures such as Clinton, Dubya and Obama has been identified by Anis Shivani and other social critics in the persons of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. A growing negative reaction to neoliberalism’s maintenance of the status quo within the American people, characterized by an anger toward established economic and political institutions, is seen as a key reason why both politicians have maintained such a high profile until the end of the primary season. In fact, many pundits envision Sanders and Trump as two sides of the same red-faced coin. In reality, the objects of scorn for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are quite different, as is their level of insistence on a reform of the political process to benefit the public. For Sanders, political reform is his raison d’être; for Trump, such matters are of secondary performance because the Republican primary produced a winner—him.

Accordingly, it is Bernie who has taken it upon himself to wage a personal war against the erosion of the middle class in the United States and the influence of money in politics that makes our vaunted American democracy so disturbingly undemocratic—and helping lead a revolution against our so-called corporate overlords. Returning at last to the Matrix analogy, this would make the 74-year-old secular Jewish democratic socialist from Brooklyn Neo—or maybe Morpheus—I’m still working out the kinks on this whole Matrix parallel thing. His path, one of freedom from the cycle of pay-to-play, my-more-expensive-vote-counts-more-than-yours politics, I believe, is the true path, and I also hold to the belief that the establishment politics of figureheads such as Barack Obama, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan—the “Matrix” of moneyed interests—is living on borrowed time.

So, addressing you directly one more time, Ms. Clinton, consider yourself lucky. If not for the threat of a Donald Trump presidency and all hell breaking loose, you might not be on the march to the White House that you find yourself. For all your hard work in playing the political game and for your decades of professed service to the American people, because of your neoliberal politics—more than any other factor which might lack legitimacy—you are playing the wrong game, and serving the wrong interests. Hillary, if I may call you that, you may be the first female POTUS, reaching a long-overdue milestone in U.S. politics, and you may have my vote come November, but in spite of yourself. Though your attitude betrays a sense of entitlement that your coronation is a long time coming, you’re not the One. Not by a long shot.