Sunday, October 2, 2016

You Cannot Hope to Bribe or Twist, Thank God! the Clinton Loyalist

As we trudge wearily into the home stretch of the current horse-race-cum-WWE bout, it looks like "false equivalence" may be the Clintonista word of the week.  Among other cases, a friend of a friend linked to this hopefully satirical piece from the Washington Post about Monday's Trump-Clinton debate, and commented on it:
This is great whether you watched the debate or not. In fact, I kind of wish I hadn't and just read this instead. It's a satirical (but totally accurate) version of the debate. Let's try to remember that Hillary may have politics we don't agree with (I put myself strongly in this camp), but she is a person with actual experience in governance that takes the issues seriously and actually has some understanding of them. Trump can tick neither of those boxes. I can think of many politicians I would prefer to Hillary, but I can't think of anyone less qualified or more ignorant than Donald J. Drumpf. Please, please, please, no more false equivalence. It only benefits the more dishonest, inaccurate candidate.
Someone else added this comment: "Um...seems like there is a big gap between perfect and evil? And um...pretty sure Hillary is in that gap."  Um... no.  But go ahead, make a case.  (Of course, the person didn't.)

There was also an article by on a self-styled progressive site by one Allen Clifton, which in tone resembles the Onion's fake editorials.  "I'd Like to Address This Absurd 'Hillary Clinton Is the Lesser of Two Evils' Nonsense" is the title -- see what I mean? -- but the pros at the Onion would have done a better job of addressing the topic.
I’ve met entirely too many individuals who mistake an overall “lack of excitement” for Clinton, or the fact that she’s not the best public speaker (sometimes too robotic/can come off disingenuous) with how terrible and dangerous Donald Trump is by citing the only reason they’re supporting her is because they’re choosing the “lesser of two evils.” ...

Is Hillary Clinton perfect? No. Does she have flaws? Of course. I’m not here to tell anyone that she’s some flawless candidate who can do no wrong. But I will say, without hesitation, that she’s one of the most qualified human beings to ever run for president. 

Saying she’s the “lesser of two evils” when comparing her to Trump is like saying a college kid arrested for selling marijuana out of his dorm room to help pay tuition is the “lesser of two evils” when compared to Charles Manson. 

It’s ridiculous ...

So this nonsense that she’s the “lesser of two evils” has to stop. Just because they’re part of the same debate, running for the same office, doesn’t mean that these two are equals. Believing that is sort of like suggesting Donald Trump is just as much of an expert on climate change as Bill Nye simply because they’re both well-known figures who have weighed in on the topic. The real truth is that Hillary Clinton’s “worst flaw” is the perception of her that’s largely impacted by the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent slandering her for nearly a quarter century.
Throughout his overwrought screed Clifton keeps working with variations on "lesser of two evils" and "these two are equals."  But those are two very different claims: to call Clinton the lesser of two evils is to assert explicitly that she and Trump are not equals, not the same.  To lack enthusiasm for her, which Clifton pretends to accept, is not at all the same thing as seeing no difference between her and Trump; I, for one, lack enthusiasm for Clinton, but I hold Trump in contempt, and I know I'm not alone.  That seems obvious to me, and I don't quite understand why Clifton keeps making that elementary mistake -- aside from the practical necessity of defending his candidate from any and all criticisms, of course.  His entire 'argument' is based on confusing the two.

He concedes that she's not perfect, but he does not really address any serious criticism that has been made of her, such as her foreign policy, her coziness with dictators (which is really more problematic in a Secretary of State and presidential hopeful than it is for a business tycoon), her fondness for neoliberal economics at home, her hostility to civil liberties, her offer/threat to put her husband in charge of the economy, and so on.  This is business as usual, as I said, but it's no endorsement of her.

Clifton also declares of Clinton's various political posts that "she left each of those positions extremely popular and admired."  Maybe so, but if so, why is she so disliked now?  Clifton blames it on Americans' short historical memories, and of course on the millions of dollars that have been spent attacking her.   But short historical memories also help unpopular politicians, as with George W. Bush, and the well-funded propaganda campaigns against President Obama have not really breached his teflon.  Another common claim is to blame the media, but their attacks on Trump have not stopped him, and they also were barely able to stop Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination, though they failed to crush him.  Much as people (including media people themselves) like to think so, the media are not omnipotent.  I wouldn't want to put too much store by most people's good judgment, but they (we!) just aren't as controllable as our rulers wish.

One simple point might help to clarify all this: In the primaries, I voted for Bernie Sanders as the lesser of two evils.  I didn't think he was the messiah his fans wanted to believe he was; his foreign policy was open to serious criticism, for one thing, if not quite as bad as Clinton's.  He was, in short, the lesser evil, and that obviously (I hope) does not imply that I thought him and Clinton to be equals.  But I thought, and the evidence indicates, that he could do better against Trump than Clinton could.  If this is as historically portentous an election as the Clinton campaign and its hangers-on and toadies would have us believe, then putting a candidate as weak as Clinton against Trump was foolish at best on the part of the DNC.  One would think, given the peril in which our Republic now stands according to just about every Trump opponent, that people's willingness to vote for Clinton, even if they do not love her, would be enough.  (It damn well had better be.)  But no -- for the loyalist, only total surrender will do.  Every knee must bend, and every mouth confess Her name: Hillary!

I admit, though, I have begun to see some actual examples of what could be called false equivalence about the campaign.  There was an editorial cartoon, which I unfortunately didn't save and seems to have disappeared from my feed, which showed Uncle Sam weeping into his hands in front of a big-screen TV displaying Trump and Clinton, the two major-party candidates.  I posted a critique as a comment, which may be why the cartoon and my comment disappeared.  By the kind of mainstream American political standards that Uncle Sam represents, Clinton is a notably better candidate than Trump.  Trump is a buffoon, though hardly the first buffoon to run for President or to be elected to the office.  Clinton is a thoroughly competent technocrat, with abundant experience at high levels of government.  Mainstream politicians mostly love her, as shown by the numbers of establishment Republicans who've been lining up with her (which her fans, inexplicably but revealingly, consider a recommendation).  And by their standards, why shouldn't they love her?  She'll steer the great ship Business As Usual like the pro she is.  Uncle Sam would be busting his shirt buttons with pride over her.

I've also seen numerous posts and comments from ordinary citizens, the common clay of the new west, to the effect of Who cares, they're both crooks -- all politicians are crooks! They would say the same of any candidates, so I can't see that they represent a specific response to Clinton.  Nor do they reflect the specific criticisms of Clinton that better minds have made.  Pretending that your cornpone general-store cynics and informed political writers are on the same plane, though, reeks of false equivalence itself.

P.S. I just encountered another indignant "not a lesser evil" piece, and it's more of the same.  I don't get it.  It isn't necessary to flail around incoherently and fall on your face in a puddle of stale verbiage either to endorse Clinton or to savage Trump.  Why, then, this compulsion to repeat Clinton campaign talking points?