Public Comment

With malice towards none

Joanna Graham
Saturday November 26, 2016 - 10:46:00 AM

Both Becky O’Malley (“I get so angry as to be incoherent”) and Kurt Eichenwald (“You’re lucky it’s illegal for me to punch you in the face”) are expressing extreme anger with those on the left of the Democratic party who put Trump in the White House by failing to turn out for Hillary Clinton. 

They imply that a narcissistic concern for personal purity or residual (and unjustified) anger about Bernie Sanders’s defeat in the primary is what caused the “paranoid left,” “irrational people,” “fringe pseudo-leftists,” or the left wing of “the Trump/Sanders right-left axis” to vote for other candidates or kept them away from the poles. 

I cannot speak to what motivated others, but this year I voted for a third party candidate. I have been doing so in every presidential election since 1996 when I realized that Bill Clinton, far from being the lesser of two evils, had turned out to be exactly the same evil and I would be a fool to vote for him again. 

Since I therefore appear to be in the “paranoid left” category, but not for the reasons attributed to me, I would like to respond to the accusation, not because I wish to explain myself or be argumentative, but because I feel that this defeat indicates an urgent need for the Democratic party to rethink its principles and strategy. 

But many Democrats seem to be turning their rage—not on their party, which nominated one of the worst candidates imaginable—but on the progressive left which refused this time to play its assigned role in the standard Democratic party strategy: move rightward assuming the left has nowhere else to go while screaming loudly “their candidate is worse than our candidate.” 

This suggests that the sluicing out of the Democratic Augean stables for which I had desperately hoped is not going to take place. And among many other consequences, this may well mean that the Democratic Party is now, to all intents and purposes, dead. We must keep in mind that the Democrats lost not just the White House. In spite of months of gloating prognostication in the (mainly Democratic-leaning) mainstream media that the Republicans were finished, the Democratic losses ongoing through the entire Obama administration continued in this election so that Republican control across the entire country is now nearly total. 

So there are two possibilities. Either half the people in the United States are bad people—racists on the right and paranoids on the left—or there is something very very wrong with the Democratic party as it exists today, not in our nostalgic New Deal/Great Society memories. 

I have been reading O’Malley’s editorials and Bob Burnett’s column occasionally in the months leading up to the election. My sense is that their assumptions are so different from my own that we might as well inhabit different universes. 

The most obvious one, of course, is that Hillary Clinton was a good candidate. A second, I believe, is that the Democratic party is by definition the good party (an illusion I once shared—or perhaps it actually was the better party, pre-Clintons). 

A third is that the world as it is—although it obviously needs some fixing—is good enough. This certainly is the platform that HRC ran on—nothing so bad that neighborly cooperation (“Stronger Together”) and a little bit of tinkering by someone with good tinkering skills can’t fix it. 

I do not agree with any of these assumptions. But rather than discuss them rationally at this point, since we’re all raw with emotion I’d like to share my feelings. Several people have mentioned to me that they are experiencing a sense of “dread” since Trump won. I woke up with dread every morning for months before the election, fearing the outcome no matter who would eventually win—any of the 17 Republican contenders or Clinton. 

With Trump (the survivor!), besides his complete lack of relevant experience, there was his history of corruption; his narcissism, ignorance, and belligerence, as well as his disregard for facts or rules of engagement; and the racism, sexism, and other hatreds he was stirring up. 

With HRC, the issue for me was war—her known history of preference for war over diplomacy; her recklessness (“(I’d rather be caught trying”); her clear enjoyment of brutal murder (“What can I say? We came, we saw, he died!”); her predilection for interfering in other people’s countries, whether by war (Libya) or covert meddling (Ukraine); her stated intention to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, thereby setting the U.S. on a direct collision course with Russia; and, of course, her demonization of Russia, the drumbeat of which never faltered during the entire campaign, as if she were running for commander-in-chief—a characterization of the office she used frequently—instead of president of the United States, and was planning to march us into war on Day One. 

Not since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan talked about “winnable nuclear war,” put medium-range nuclear warheads into Europe, and came up with the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), have I felt such fear that we were on the verge of nuclear annihilation. 

I did feel sick to my stomach when, on November 8, it became clear that Trump would win—had won—but even by as early as that evening, I think, I had a sudden happy vision of Hillary vanishing like CGI in the movies, breaking apart into tiny tiny particles, and with her went Victoria Nuland, Michèle Flournoy, Samantha Power, and all the rest of that interventionist R2P crowd that terrified me. I realized they were really truly not going to be in a position to carry out their plans to save villages all over the world by destroying them and my dread lifted. And when, the next day or the day after, the news came out that Trump and Putin had spoken and talked about a potential reset between our countries, I felt a relief and optimism I had not felt for many many weeks. 

So then I knew it was Clinton I had feared more. Of the two great evils, it was Trump who was my lesser. 

It looks like what we are facing now may well be as horrifying as we feared—including continuing or increasing war. And we must resist in every way possible. But it is essential to understand that Hillary Clinton, despite having the entire Democratic establishment behind her, lost twice to the most improbable of outsiders, not because of the stupidity or irrationality or evil of those who voted against her in ’08 and ’16, but because of her own corruption, arrogance, mismanagement, and absolute inability to hear the desperation of those millions of Americans outside her well-off, self-satisfied elite circle. It is fantasy to think we would have thrived if only she had won. She is the ultimate insider, the epitome and beneficiary of everything that is wrong with the system—the world system of greed, violence, and destruction which is now in collapse across the planet. 

For God’s sake I beg you, at this critical time in world history, do not hate the progressive wing of your own party, people with whom you are most likely to share your moral convictions, if not all your political opinions. Do not hate, either, those Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the mistaken belief that he would make their lives better. Even if they are racists! Racism is embedded in the American experience. It is the problem of us all. And the worse things get—and they will get worse—the more selfish and angry humans are going to be. The more we are going to want to pull up the drawbridges and yell down from the parapets to those left out in the cold, “Die!” 

We must struggle against this impulse in ourselves and in others. Not because it’s right but because it’s necessary. It is almost certain that we humans have no chance of survival. But we are now so intertwined, so globalized (if I may use that expression), that if we have any chance at all, it will have to be cooperatively. It will have to be together.