A (Beautiful) Colossal Wreck

What some of us had hoped is coming to pass: the wheels are coming off the bus of the Clinton campaign and it’s a glorious sight to behold.

Carl Bernstein reports of a “White House horrified at how Hillary Clinton is blowing up her campaign (and) that she could blow the Democrats’ chance for White House.”  According to Bernstein “they want her to win. Obama wants her to win. But Sanders has shown how vulnerable she is.  . . . White House (is tied) up in knots. They don’t know what to do. They’re beside themselves.”

Bernstein correctly identifies the roots of the “problem” in our “seeing a different time in America” recognizing that “(i)t is possible she is not in tune with the time of her country and her party. And somehow she has to get herself aligned with whatever this new strain of economic populism (is).”  The White House, according to him, is demanding that she “get back on track.”

But what Bernstein and the White House fail to understand is that they are demanding an impossibility: the old lies have lost the power to convince, the old smoke screens have blown away, and the intellectual and factual bankruptcy of the talking points of neoliberalism is now unveiled in its naked dishonesty and exposed for all to see.

It was very different election when a “clean” Ivy League African American functioned as a mouthpiece for them eight years ago.  Then even leftists such as Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Katrina van den Heuvel, and Tom Frank dutifully fell at his feet, acting as a willing sales force for the brand, browbeating the left with dark accusations that our failure to line up behind the latest neoliberal Democrat reflected our inability to “respect black leadership“, thereby manifesting our white privilege and even white supremacy.

In throwing their weight behind Clinton, elites were certain that they would be able to repackage the same neoliberal product in a different bottle.  As Glenn Greenwald predicted almost two years ago:  “Opposition to her is going to be depicted as misogynistic, like opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist.”

Indeed this was the attempt from the beginning as Clinton surrogates blasted away at the alleged sexism of Sanders supporters, though not finding sufficient evidence for its existence, they found it necessary to invent a category as a target for their smears, the “Berniebro”.

That this strategy failed to take off was an indication that the substitution of identitarian terms Greenwald was referring to was not as easy as the elites had hoped.  The same right wing pieties mellifluously dispensed by a African American no longer have the power to confuse and seduce as they once did when they are dispensed by the pre-eminent avatars of 90s shoulder-pad feminism.

Now when Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem suggests that women supporting Sanders are doing so “because the boys are with Bernie”, she is laughed off the stage.  And when Madeline Albright consigns to the fires of Hades women failing to support “other women”, by which she means one other woman, they merely make note of Albright’s previous comments which make her eternal presence in the darkest reaches of the underworld a near certainty.

Two other recent media appearances demonstrate the collapse of the foundations on which support for the Clintonite wing of the Democratic Party rested. One of these was New York City liberal operative Bertha Lewis resorting to a longstanding technocratic dodge on Democracy Now! in defense of Clinton’s receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. Rather than a simple pay off from a notorious corporate criminal to one of the many officials whose services they have purchased over the years they were, according to Lewis, “complex”: “she should be complex, be allowed to be complex, especially because she’s a woman” according to Lewis.

And the same goes for Lewis herself.  She was not offering craven support to a neoliberal Democrat with the expectation of a direct or indirect pay off in the form of administration “access”, it’s more “complex” than that:

That’s because “as a woman, as a black woman in America, ” she must be “allowed to be complex.”

A little less dramatic but more poignant was Jaisal Noor’s Real News interview with New Hampshire Clinton supporter Christine Carthage who dutifully passed on the Clinton talking point that “the money Clinton has gotten (from Wall Street banks) had never effected one single vote.”  When confronted with Elizabeth Warren’s statement that Clinton’s receipt of Wall Street cash effected her vote on the 2001 Bankruptcy Bill, she demurely responded that she “didn’t know that.”  Similarly, Noor’s suggestion that, in addition to her vote to authorize military force in Iraq, Clinton’s record of supporting brutal dictatorships and her catastrophic decision to bomb Libya might indicate a commitment to a dangerously aggressive military policy, is countered with the claim that Clinton “has learned a lot” as Carthage nervously looks to terminate the interview.

All this, it should be understood, goes well beyond the collapse of the Clinton campaign.  That those who try to defend it end up embarrassing themselves is indicative of the entirety of the neoliberal ideological program now lying in ruins. Its lies, cynicism, cravenness are now so obvious that any apologetics for it look not only feckless but ridiculous.

This gaping ideological and political hole is what we owe to the Sanders campaign, and it is why we should continue push it as far as it can go.

While we are doing so, we need to think carefully about all avenues to take advantage of what is perhaps the biggest opportunity for radically shifting the political center that has been offered in our lifetimes.

 

 

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