“We are in a global struggle between liberal democracy and a rising tide of illiberalism, authoritarianism and dictatorship.” Those are the words of Hillary Clinton to a Montreal audience last night, as reported by the Toronto Star. Urging activists and kneelers and protesters whom she sees around the world, Clinton posits a victory since, “we are on the right side of history”.
Promoting her book, “What Happened,” and hobbled by a broken foot, Hillary soldiers on, as much to vindicate her astounding defeat in the November 2016 presidential election, as to embolden women activists in every field of human endeavor. She embodies the archetypal feminist, ambitious, intellectually brilliant, assiduously prepared and studied, extremely hard working and disciplined, and the target of every projectile from the testosterone-infected male political establishment.
Both heroine and tragic victim of a culture which seems incapable of sorting the wheat from the chaf, if the election of trump is any indication, Hillary Clinton, the first woman on the ballot as a bonafide presidential candidate of one of the two established parties, nevertheless, will pass into the history books as one of the best presidents American never had.
Caught in and by the vortex of anger, myopia, narcissistic hubris and a converging tide of lies from both the trump bunker and the Kremlin, the illiberalism she identifies has some visceral and deep-seated misogyny that knows no nationalism, no geographic boundaries and no specific political party. It is an intimate component in the white supremacy movement, the oligarchic disease of the Kremlin, the racist anti-immigrant street protests in Europe, and the war-mongering in the middle East and north Africa. It is fostered, nurtured and illicitly reinforcing the rush to military arms, gun sales, and the addictive embrace of hard power for its own sake.
The “hard-power” culture is so pervasive that Ms Clinton herself became known as more “disposed” to the use of force than the president under whom she served as Secretary of State, Barack Obama, the reluctant warrior, undoubtedly to demonstrate that, just because she was a woman did and does not mean that she is weak or “mamby-pamby,” as many hardliners would like to think in order to dismiss her as a potential world leader. (Remember Margaret Thatcher!)
When Mika Brezinski disclosed, on CBS’ 60 Minutes this Sunday that she had learned her male counterparts on the Morning Joe political talk show on MSNBC were paid fourteen times what she was getting as co-host with her now life partner, Joe Scarborough, she shone a light into the dark corners of the deep divide that still haunts the American culture and workplace. That disparity between men and women at the top of a long-running television talk show where salaries climb into the six or seven figure stratosphere regularly, undermines both the legislative protections of women workers and the semblance of equality that sees women serving in the top positions in the military.
Public fantasies, like the parade to which the world is being subjected by the current ‘actor’ in the Oval Office, highlight the truth beneath the surface of the mascara and the lip-stick, given the insulting veneer of “respect” that fails to give cover to the pretender(s).
Ms Clinton, almost the inverse of her presidential rival, in her Methodism, her scholarship and her attention to and mastery of the many details of the many policy fronts to which a chief executive must attend, evoked echoes of her brilliant and polished immediate predecessor, at a time when intellectual excellence, including the threats borne out by respected science and the academic community seem to be too discomfiting for the average voter, especially those in the middle of the country. Policy, and the policy-wonks who write it, are both much less than magnetic and charismatic than the glib “entertainers” and “hucksters” like the current president. To many, they are boring, dull, uninspiring and easily dismissed. (That was also the fate of former Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, a human rights scholar from Harvard, when he returned to Canada and ran for the Prime Minister’s office. He was obliterated in a vote that elected a right-wing conservative aardvark, Stephen Harper.)
To Ms Clinton’s global conflict of illiberalism, authoritarianism and dictatorship, we must cautiously and respectfully add, a pervasive conflict between the genders.
Male autocracies can and do exist under many political, ideological and military banners; in fact, war and tribalism are two of the primary ingredients in many military and quasi-military conflicts….based as they are on fear, insecurity, desperation and the need to overcome perceived injustice. The notion of fairness, satiety, and the pursuit of equality are all anathema to the warmongers among us and to the macho “tribe” of which trump seeks to be ‘chief’. And there are so many highly sophisticated instances of how men are still upbraided if they do not conform to the “macho” creed:
· Sports network hosts berate the protection of NFL quarterbacks, as if they have become prima donna’s (under the rule changes)
· In the bars and pubs men who choose elementary teaching or nursing still have the “fag” barbs shot their way, although the marksmen are a little less obvious in their taunts.
· Young boys are still being “coached” with the parental aphorism, ‘real boys don’t cry” if they suffer an accidental injury.
· Don Cherry continues to champion the hockey player who takes a shot to the head, and gets back up to block another, before heading to the dressing room…”that’s my kind of player!”
· Professional athletes who have suffered a head “blow” and are required to submit to a “concussion protocol” are still prone to minimize their symptoms, in spite of the serious danger to their lives from traumatic brain injury
· Police forces have been militarized to the tune of some $5.1 billion in the U.S. since 1997….police in the U.S. have fatally shot 782 people this year (according to the Washington Post, as quoted by Chris Hedges in his truthdig.com column, Our Ever-Deadlier Police State, October 22, 2017)
· LGBT persons continue to suffer human rights violations, including employment restrictions, and in many countries, imprisonment…just another example of the “right” masking its inherent sexism and racism.
Some observers (including Malcolm Gladwell) have argued convincingly that the Obama elections in which many white voters cast votes for their first black president, ironically and paradoxically were then ‘freed’ from the stigma of being a racist (simply be casting that single vote) both socially and in their own minds. And that tokenism may also have contributed to the election of trump, given the illusion of an ethical and moral escape route for some voters.
trump’s braggadocio about his blatant disrespect for women was horrific and was also magnified by the Clinton campaign, with a blow-back from those who persist in seeing liberals as effetes, snobs, self-righteous and to clever by half. It is an obvious show of inverted snobbery when the voters without college degrees find a candidate who panders to their kind of snobbery, bigotry, sexism and racism as if he were one of them. The irony is that he is even less ‘one of them’ than Ms Clinton who comes from a lower middle class family, and with excellent grades, hard work and the discipline to graduate from Yale Law, along with her husband has left a significant mark in United States history as a public servant.
Ms Clinton prefers not to focus on the global evidence of misogyny.,…preferring a more personal accounting by pointing fingers at Comey and Putin among others. Comey’s letter late in the campaign announcing his re-opening of the email investigation, and Putin’s alleged interference in the social media campaign, while significant, do not take into account of some macro factors such as:
· “Clinton-fatigue” that hung like a low-lying fog over the political landscape,
· the significant gap in “personal connection” that voters had with Obama as compared with the more reserved and more ‘court-room’ stiff stump persona of Ms. Clinton
· the failure of the Clinton campaign to take seriously the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector and the job losses from outsourcing in states like Michigan, Wisconsin an Ohio
· the millions from private donors to the ‘right’ ‘small government’ attitude, following presidential executive orders from Obama in a time of obstruction by Republicans on every idea that came from the White House
The notion that one heard often throughout the campaign was that although trump was ‘bad’ Ms Clinton was ‘worse’ demonstrates just how distorted was, is and continues to be the prevailing myth’s power over an electorate whose “drain the swamp” attitude (ironically it was Republicans who held power in both houses of Congress for most of Obama’s term in office) has effectively ham-strung all attempts at governance.
Now that we see both Bannon and trump committed to overturning the Republican establishment and paradoxically and likely intentionally chortling privately that ‘nothing is being done’ there is every reason to believe that had Ms Clinton become president, the world would be breathing more easily, the government would be making serious attempts to move to “normal order” (as John McCain so fervently urges) and respect for public institutions (in addition to the military) would be starting to return to something measureable on public opinion polls.
Of course, that kind of speculation is of no comfort to Ms Clinton or her supporters. It does, however, illustrate the distance off course the United States has fallen, and without compass, or normal navigating instruments, and a pilot untrained in instrument flying at night, the U.S. “airforce One” as metaphor for the state, is merely a flying stage show seeking circus crowds in campaign rallies as its substitute for authentic and reconciling leadership.