Colombo Telegraph

Appraising Hilary Without Prejudice

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Hilary Clinton is well-organised and committed on issues: Appraising Hilary without prejudice

Even the pro-Hilary media says she is likely to win only because her opponent is so lousy. A common jibe is that this election is between two unpopular personalities whose approval ratings are as low as 30% apiece. As a report of what people say this is true, as an appraisal of Hilary Clinton it is unfair and incorrect. Donald Trump is indeed an uncouth rat; unfit to be allowed near the Oval Office or the nuclear button, but this piece is not about this lewd jester. My focus is on Hilary and refutation of the shabby treatment meted out to her, mainly by white less educated America.

Hilary’s sterling moment was in fact a defeat; defeat of universal healthcare that she tried to pilot through Congress in Bill Clinton’s first term. She fought to bring sensible healthcare to America, but was shot down in flames by insurance companies, the healthcare industry, big pharma and US medical practitioners who are no less greedy than Lanka’s GMOA. She was reviled, humiliated, insulted in Congress and media and vilified by the aforesaid powerful lobbies. Her proposal was scuttled and Obamacare is an unsatisfactory second option that she will have to revisit and fix during her first term. To achieve this however, victory at the Tuesday (8 Nov) election will have to be complemented by Democratic majorities in the Senate (possible) and the House of Representatives. The latter is difficult unless there is a Hilary landslide because, though the whole House is up for re-election, Republicans currently hold a large House majority.

Hilary is no angel and this raises a parallel with my gambit in the January 2015 presidential election in Lanka. I did create the Single Issue Common Candidate strategy and employed many column inches of this valuable newspaper campaigning till the penny dropped. I had no idea who the candidate would be, a matter decided by the political powers of the day, but I do not minimise my answerability. The question is this: To what extend should I, along with others who latched on to the idea, be held responsible for the performance (good or bad) of this regime? Moral accountability in this instance pans out like this; defeating Rajapaksa was primary and had Sirisena turned out even inferior to what he is, prioritizing a Rajapaksa defeat was and remains the indisputably correct stance.

Next, having promoted this regime is one obliged to support it indefinitely? No, there is no time unlimited obligation. In the initial period one must support one’s creation and accept a degree of responsibility. I have extended critical support to the R&S outfit so far, but this is now wearing thin. Sirisena’s shenanigans (the Rs 200 billion Sampoor fiasco, sweeping the First-Son’s thuggery under the carpet, interfering with independent commissions and misdirecting the police) are cause for concern. Ranil’s prevarications on committing to a firm dirigisme economic policy evoke worry. However, let’s wait for the constitution before settling final accounts. These two paras, I trust, will put my personal accountability in context.

Hilary and the white working class

Hilary is said to be ‘less worse’ than Trump. I contest this damning with faint praises. The sociology is more complex. Traditional ‘old-industry’ white workers secreted in pockets in the rust-belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia and Georgia are fretful and gloomy; their world is in decay. Mines have closed, factories lie silent in industrial wastelands, the future looks hopeless. Workers who once were proud bearers of America’s industrial might are orphaned by the erosion of American capitalism. Trump’s eruptions are an outlet for despair and frustration; the more absurd and outrageous his bile the truer it resonates in their bitter gut. It is no wonder that 70% of white working class men and 62% of women abhor Hilary.

The drift of the white working class to right-wing extremism and racism is not confined to America. It is an emerging phenomenon in Britain, France, Austria, Denmark, Holland and most of Eastern Europe. Modernisation undermines the material basis of old working class family livelihood; Asia’s economic march is unstoppable; emigration of browns, blacks and Muslims is frightening.

The traditional white working class is only 20% of America’s population. In Europe and the US the new working class, which fondly thinks itself a middle-class, in trade, services, technology, digital activities, and clerical and key-board labour, numbers 50 to 70%. Little of this new working class is with Trump. The better-off middle classes and the bourgeoisie too have thrown in their lot with Hilary; Trump’s unruly rowdiness terrifies them. Is it surprising then that despite near total rejection by white workers, bookies give Hilary 3:1 odds of winning? Purveyors of gambling must know where their dollars lie.

Indisputably the root cause of the downfall of the traditional left (LSSP and CP) in Lanka was degeneration of the Sinhalese working class into racism. The sociological basics were familial and demographic merger of the working class with the rural and semi-urban petty-bourgeois, and secondly isolation of the Tamil working class in plantations instead of blending in industry. Once the rot set in, the underpinning for left ideology disappeared clearing the way for the upsurge of chauvinism. The JVP took the place of the old-left but its racist tinged propaganda in its early years verifies my thesis. During the civil-war, workers were as rabidly racist as the worst dregs of urban and semi-urban petty-bourgeois and intellectually inane, high-society, Colombo drawing rooms.

Hilary Clinton and the labours of Sisyphus calculates with 90+% certainty that Hilary will win 22 states plus DC (273 electoral votes) and in 22 other states (180 votes) predicts that her chances as less than 10%. In six toss-ups (85 votes) her probability varies from 25% to 77%. [The magic number is 270; five days is a long time in politics and odds are slowly drifting in Trumps favour]. Prosperous and tech-savvy California, Connecticut, DC, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Michigan are Hilary’s; Trump gets most of the dregs. Identity of a political divide, with a modern versus atrophied social divide, has profound consequences if the economic crisis deepens.

Mainstream media, baffled by the intensity of Hilary hatred, contends that many males are hostile to a woman as president. The US presidency is the ultimate glass ceiling and to expect cruder white males, having put up with a black man in the White House for eight years, to now stomach a woman is too much. I do not know if the charge is fair but it is being repeated not only by women. For sure Obama is hated because he is a black and an intellectual to boot, which together engender a sense of inferiority among less educated whites.

Hilary has a feminist past dating back to the 1960s and once upon a time she was radical. She is a fighter who picks herself up again and again after being knocked down; the record shows she is no wilting violet. She is no orator and lacks Obama’s magical skill with words, nor does she project warmth and charisma and instead comes across as a well organised doer. But for heaven’s sake, what does a country need, a president who can govern or a prima donna on a floorshow?

The frenzy of the white working class is mirrored in the muted anger of some sections of the electorate. The complaint “Washington does not care, the establishment is corrupt, we have been left to wither” finds resonance. Add America’s hard-boiled reactionaries, religious conservatives, nativists and racists and you have the formula that assures Trump a minimum 40% of the popular vote. Hilary’s Achilles’ heel, which in a worst case may be fatal, is that she is an insider who has been around the Washington circuit for 40 years; the quintessential establishment candidate.

Still the truth is not the undeniable negligence of the Washington elite, it is that global and US capitalism is in the throes of an insoluble systemic crisis. Putting mad monk Rasputin, slayer-caliph al-Baghdadi, disoriented Idi Amin or a like figure in the Oval Office will make bedlam worse. The US voter is out of his/her depth at mention of ‘capitalism’. The overflow of this ignorance is that Hilary Clinton will lose lots of votes on the count of being “establishment”.

The other downside that will cost her votes is the e-mail scandal and suspicion that she used her position as Secretary of State to raise funds for the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation is a charity of sterling quality and the world’s biggest donor of anti-HIV retroviral drugs to reverse the harm done by Thambo Mbeki’s lunacy. But this will not count as excuse enough in the minds of voters in the throes of this vicious election campaign. In any case Hilary is guilty of stupidity if not misdemeanour. Not since the days of Edgar Hoover has the FBI blatantly interfered in politics. Ten days before D-day it manufactured innuendoes that Hilary may be liable for ‘something’ but it’s not sure what! Amazing! Democratic Party leaders allege that FBI Director James Comey has acted illegally. Damage has been done to Democrats in Congressional races. A probe of Comey’s bank accounts is in order.

The charge that Hilary was paid tens of thousands to make speeches to big firms is facetious. So what if they were willing to pay? More seriously, will she, as president, lean towards Wall Street and the healthcare moguls? The later I rule out, but the former is possible.

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