A critique of the Clinton/Kaine ticket

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Over the course of the democratic primary election, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred frequently over the label “progressive.” One of Clinton’s arguments was that under Sanders’ definition, herself, Barack Obama and Joe Biden would not be considered progressives, as they had all received corporate donations and supported projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP).

Well, she’s right. They’re not.

In modern usage, a progressive is someone who fights for progress on issues of social and economic justice and is somewhere to the left of the term “liberal.” Clinton has described her running mate Tim Kaine as “a progressive who likes to get things done.” If Clinton and Kaine are progressives, then the word has become meaningless. The Clinton/Kaine ticket represents a continuation of the Democratic Party’s tradition of paying lip service to progressive causes, then abandoning them once in power.

Clinton worked as a union-busting corporate lawyer and served on the board of directors of Walmart, yet she would like you to believe that she is a champion for working families. Clinton’s corporatist stance is reflected in her support for the TPP, a position she was forced to flip on when it became clear how unpopular the secretly negotiated trade deal had become. Add to this the millions of dollars that corporations have donated to her campaign and paid her in speech fees, and it becomes difficult to take any pro-worker rhetoric from Clinton seriously.

When it comes to foreign policy, Clinton is probably the most hawkish Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson. This trend goes back to her support for the Iraq War, but is most disturbingly apparent in her tenure as Secretary of State. At the State Department, Clinton supported a disastrous U.S. intervention in Libya, backed a coup in Honduras that led to a drastic increase in murder and rape and attempted to convince President Obama to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war. And, of course, she supports targeted assassinations without due process through the use of drone strikes.

Clinton falls short of being a progressive when it comes to environmental issues, as well. She supports fracking, and as Secretary of State promoted the ecologically destructive practice across the globe as a way to undermine Russia’s energy sector. The leader of her transition team, Ken Salazar, also supports fracking, the TPP and the Keystone XL pipeline. Kaine has a disappointing record of his own on the environment, and all three have accepted large donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Clinton’s choice of Kaine as her running mate is an obvious attempt to reach out to conservatives who are disgusted with the Republican nominee. Kaine’s record is full of conservative positions on topics like marriage equality, reproductive choice, labor, free trade and finance.

During the 2005 race for governor of Virginia, Kaine explicitly described himself in ads as a conservative, saying, “I oppose gay marriage, I support restrictions on abortion – no public funding and parental consent – and I’ve worked to pass a state law banning partial-birth abortion.”

Kaine also has a record of supporting corporate interests over those of American workers. He’s vocally supported Virginia’s anti-union right-to-work law and was among a group of senators pushing for fast-track approval of the TPP. This summer, just before being tapped as Clinton’s running mate, Kaine signed two letters to financial regulators urging lax regulation on banks. The message to finance was clear: Tim Kaine will go to bat for you in the White House (oh, and please donate to our campaign).

I hope it goes without saying that none of the above critiques mean I want to see a crazed racist oligarch like Donald Trump and his homophobic bigot of a running mate in the White House. If you’re LGBT, Muslim or a woman who would like to control your own body, there are very real material differences between the candidates. The question is, should liberals and progressives be willing to accept a Democratic ticket that is better on multicultural and women’s issues if it’s packaged with perpetual war and corporate dominance of our political system?

I realize that as a straight, nonreligious man, I have the privilege of not being directly affected by the abortion restrictions or the erosions of LGBT and Muslims’ civil rights that a Trump/Pence administration could put in place. However, anyone planning on voting for Clinton must recognize that they also enjoy certain privileges, like not being an Afghan civilian at risk of being killed by the drone strikes that a Clinton administration will certainly conduct, or not living in a country at risk of “regime change” with Clinton as president.

The only way to stop the Democratic Party’s steady rightward trend is for Democratic voters to demand that politicians like Clinton uphold progressive values. If the Democratic base wants to reject corporate Trojan
Horses like the TPP, institute humane foreign policy and get Clinton’s promised debt-free college and paid family leave, they must place sustained critical pressure on her administration. Based on what I’ve seen of Democratic partisans’ willingness to hold their party accountable, I’m not holding my breath.