Monday, May 9, 2016


There’s something ironic about the flailing going on in a GOP in full disarray, something eerily familiar for many on the left to the questions now roiling “traditional” Republicans leery of Trump. Do you go with him after all? Do you vote for the “lesser evil”, presumably Hillary? Do you try to mount a “third party” challenge? Do you just not vote?

For a variety of reasons, one can’t take much comfort from the GOP’s anguish. For one thing, Trump’s rise is not just a freak turn of events. It is testimony to deeply rooted problems in our country, in our society, which the Sanders campaign has targeted. The ultra-Right of “the billionaire class” wields great power within government and the media to exploit fears, insecurity and racist anger. All things considered, one may not rest assured that Trump, the demagogue, can’t win.

Inevitably, as we get to crunch time in the closing phase of the primaries, echoes of old dilemmas surface on the left. If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, as is most likely, vulnerabilities exposed in the primaries are not readily dismissed. There is significant criticism of her uninspiring emphasis on the limits of what’s possible, her questionable relations with Wall Street, her reliance on big money campaign financing, and, most important, there is clear evidence of hawkish differences with Obama and her commitment to an even more aggressively militaristic foreign policy. Her strengths were also apparent. Despite problems dating back to the1990s, she connected more fully than Sanders with communities of color fighting racism and xenophobia in the criminal justice system and in immigration policy. Responding to central issues raised by Sanders, she moved somewhat forward on questions of workers’ rights, trade policy and the minimum wage. She always has been a strong advocate for equality for women and supports gender equality as a matter of principle. It will certainly not be a small thing whenever the USA elects its first woman President.

I believe most supporters of Sanders and Clinton will come together because they recognize what a disaster it would be for us and for the world if Trump or any would-be dictator were to succeed Obama. There are those who would give contrary advice, some with understandable reservations. But I want to take issue with one view sent to me by email yesterday that suggests the left should actually favor a Trump victory. He writes: “… the rest of the world (if not those living in the United States) has less to fear from Donald Trump than from Hillary Clinton.” He actually proposes a strategy that could elect Trump, soliciting support for a letter to Bernie Sanders urging a Sanders-Stein Green Party ticket. Of course, there is absolutely no reason to think Sanders would consider such advice. 

The author of the letter to Sanders has been the source of much worthwhile material on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. An American who lives in Europe, he can be cavalier about what a President Trump might mean for “those living in the United States”, while he nurses illusions of Trump as a boon to world peace. Millions of Americans have very good reason to fear a Trump regime. In fact, the very best reason to work for a landslide defeat of the GOP would be to register a historic rejection of racism and bigotry.

But supreme folly would be to paint Trump as an agent for peace. Yes, he’s unpredictable and might not feel bound by conventional wisdoms, many of which have proved costly and resulted in failure. But “America First” and “Peace through Strength” are not recipes for non-violence in world affairs. Trump boasts a reputation as a notorious corporate “deal maker”, but that doesn’t make him less of a bully, one who boasts he would use torture even beyond water-boarding, favors nuclear proliferation and justifies our own past and potential use of nuclear weapons. 

The world would have more reason than it already has to fear the arrogant flaunting of US power. In these times, we live with nightmares, none worse than contemplating a megalomaniac as commander-in-chief of the all-too expansive worldwide US military establishment and keeper of the keys to a nuclear arsenal that could obliterate life on earth.

While Trump is most dangerous, it looks like there may be no real peace candidate in 2016, at least not one with a real chance to influence the course of events. Tom Hayden makes this point in his latest bulletin, but then surprisingly blasts Bernie Sanders as a supporter of “regime change” military interventionism. Of course Sanders, whatever may be questionable about some past Congressional votes, is the one who voted against the Iraq war and, in these primaries, has explicitly criticized “regime change” adventurism. He has also had the courage to resist political pressure from AIPAC for support of Israel’s occupation regime and the Netanyahu government’s determination to prevent establishment of a Palestinian state. 

Frankly I don’t understand why Hayden, who originally supported the Sanders campaign, chooses now to direct his fire at Sanders. Perhaps he means to justify his decision to vote for Clinton in the California primary. I certainly agree with his appeal for unity in support of the Democratic nominee to ensure a crushing defeat for Trump (or whomever may still emerge from a chaotic and possibly violent GOP Convention).  But dumping on Sanders is no way to get unity when the movement he has launched is more important than ever going forward to the Democratic Convention and beyond. The movement which has achieved so much so far, which has transformed political consideration of some of our most basic social and economic problems, still has work to do. Not least is to elevate the need for a turn in foreign policy toward peace and coping with climate change. Concern for peace can be a unifying issue for Hillary and Bernie supporters. 

We and the whole world would surely be safer with a peace president committed to less militaristic and provocative pursuits. We haven’t had too many such since the USA became a military superpower. Thus the necessity for a popular movement to push back against the hawks. Even a stubborn loyalist of the military-industrial establishment can be compelled to adjust to reality, to engage more in diplomacy to deal with problems rather than resort to military intervention that yields so many failures and so much peril. 

‘These are the times that try our souls’. And what else is new?

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