by Ben Cohen
Not that this is important, but I've never been a fan of Hillary Clinton. I've written about this numerous times, supported Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election, and always thought she wasn't the right candidate for the presidency. Clinton had too much political baggage, wasn't inspiring and had an uncanny ability to create problems for herself.
I did of course get behind her after she won the primary and did everything in my power to articulate why every rational American should get out and vote for her. I believed Clinton was a solid, respectable candidate with a phenomenal track record in government and a fine mind that would have seen the country through the next 4-8 years without too many problems. Compared to her opponent, I regarded Clinton as the second coming of Jesus -- a sentiment much of the country (and world) would probably now agree with me on.
Hillary Clinton lost, and has since almost completely retired from public life. Yet she is still front and center of the national dialogue, brought back to life by both the far right and the far left for nefarious political purposes that have little to do with, well, Hillary Clinton. The right continues to use Clinton as a distraction from the cascading scandals engulfing the president. Trump's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election is being investigated, and as more evidence comes to light, he cannot shake the attention that grows by the day. The Trump team learned that by merely mentioning Clinton's name, the base responds and provides enough cover for Trump to slither through the scandals without catastrophic political damage (so far, at least). Since the inception of his candidacy, Trump's team has created an alternative reality catering to the whims of his less than educated supporters, and the evilness of Hillary Clinton is central to the mythology. The trick is tiring on the Hill, but the pavlovian response from diehard Trump supporters can almost always be counted on.
More bizarre though, is the hard left's obsession with Hillary Clinton and the 'Neoliberals' they seem to believe are trying to foment World War III and destroy the world. Jill Stein, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, Glenn Greenwald and a host of fringe conspiracy theorists have created another self contained reality that relies on dastardly centrist Democrats plotting to undermine working people and create a nuclear conflict with Russia over a supposedly non-existent crisis. The far left has branded anyone who disagrees with their fire and brimstone analysis of the world as being a "Neoliberal", a term uttered with such disdain and disgust that you get the impression they'd take cancer over sitting in a room with someone who voted for Hillary Clinton.
“In the world of neoliberal consensus, it’s a simple taken-for-granted axiom that senators — the lead fundraisers and media figures in both major parties — call the shots, and should be entrusted with charting an electoral comeback,” wrote The Baffler's Chris Lehmann in a recent attack on Elizabeth Warren (Elizabeth Warren!).
“All the reliable notes of arm’s-length cultural puzzlement are struck soundly here," he continued. "From the putative identity-politics-class-politics divide on the left to the neoliberal wonk class’s painfully absent common touch.”
Just take a second to absorb that.
The rank and file Sanders acolytes are slightly less pretentious, but equally as insufferable. "Russiagate is bullshit!", they'll happily tell anyone listening. "It's a distraction for the failures of the Democratic Party that should have run Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton!" No matter how much evidence surfaces, these figures on the left will never, ever accept the gravity of a foreign government interfering with the country's electoral process. "But America has interfered with foreign governments for decades!" they'll argue. "America did it to Russia 30 years ago, so what if Russia did it to us? We should be looking at ourselves and not blaming others for our failures". This memo is even being passed around by the likes of the usually astute Matt Taibbi, who has dropped the ball on one of the biggest scandals in US history in a truly alarming way.
This line of thinking isn't completely insane (although some figures on the hard left have taken this into cuckoo land), but it is deeply flawed, intellectually disingenuous and above all, completely oblivious to reality. Of course no one wants a nuclear war with Russia, but the evidence for collusion is serious and growing, not to mention Trump's flagrant attempts to obstruct justice after he fired FBI director James Comey (who was investigating him). There is now a Department of Justice led investigation into Trump's alleged crimes, and the very real threat that Trump may fire lead investigator, Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This is incredibly dangerous territory for a democracy, and one of the reasons why most Americas are disturbed by Trump's behavior isn't necessarily the crime itself, but the attempts to cover it up. We are currently in Nixon land, and only the most stringent ideologue cannot see it.
Secondly, yes, America has interfered with many foreign elections for some truly nefarious purposes. No one even vaguely aware of modern history can deny this, but it doesn't mean that every country now has a green light to do it to America. It is perfectly legitimate to denounce American involvement in foreign elections and denounce foreign interference in American elections too. Just because you want action taken against Russia doesn't mean you want a nuclear war -- a fact that seems completely lost on the frenzied left.
The truth is, the militant left's hatred for Hillary Clinton and centrist Democrats trumps almost everything else. It even trumps reality to the point where blatant evidence of collusion and obstruction of justice is downplayed as a "distraction" and a conspiracy promoted by corporate Democrats to distract the public from their failures as a party. While there is much wrong with the Democratic party, their dysfunction doesn't mean that Russia didn't hack the election and Donald Trump didn't collude with them. It is logically possible for both to be true, although the hard left appears to be incapable of comprehending this.
Really, this is all about ideology and a strict commitment to beliefs that have little to do with reality, and even less to do with working for a better future. The hardened Bernie Sanders supporters believe that centrist Democrats are the enemy, worse than the Republicans currently laying waste to the country, and worse than the tinpot fascist (supposedly) running the country. It takes some serious mental gymnastics to convince oneself that a democrat with an almost identical voting record to your own candidate is the epitome of evil and a grave threat to the future of humanity. As Bernie Sanders said himself during a debate with Clinton:
“I have said many times, you know, sometimes in these campaigns, things get a little bit out of hand. I happen to respect the secretary very much, I hope it’s mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.”
According to Sanders' supporters though, Clinton is apparently still 100 times worse.
There seems to be no tangible way to reach out to those on the far left, just as it seems impossible to reach out to those who still support Trump. Ideologues are notoriously difficult to reason with, and America's political landscape appears more fractured than it has ever been making paving a coherent, humane future for the country all the more difficult. But as Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address in 1861, "We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature."
Lincoln led a country far more divided that the one Americans live in today, and his words helped bring together a country on the brink of collapse. While the differences may appear stark today, it should be remembered that the far left generally want the same things as centrists do -- affordable health care, protection of the environment, the funding of public education and a respect for science. Common ground can be reached, and both sides must be willing to put aside differences to work towards the common good. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton managed to do this, and while I find the hard left irritating and self defeating, I will never forget who the real enemy is -- the Trump administration and the GOP who appear to be plunging the country and the planet into a crisis it may never recover from. The hard left is not my enemy, and I am not the enemy of the hard left. If we can agree on that, progress might eventually be made.