Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Nation Attacks Clinton: Should We Listen?

These are not easy days for the left, and the once venerated The Nation is suffering right along with the rest of the marginalized gang. One of the many successful strategies conservatives have pursued to undermine their ideological enemies in recent years is either decreasing funding (ala PBS and NPR) or increasing the costs of postage for magazines, often forcing lower circulation publications to seek funding beyond their traditional base. PBS and NPR have responded by looking to corporate sponsors to make up the shortfall, pushing their content more to the center in the process and undermining the idea of “public” media in the process. The Nation hasn’t yet undermined their political resolve, but they appear to have raised the stakes in their own funding battle by sending out an email to all their subscribers shilling the latest Clinton attack book, Clinton Cash.

The book, written by conservative Peter Schweizer, has been heavily criticized by the Clinton team and other media outlets as littered with errors and outright lies, leading Schweizer to make some corrections. But why would The Nation being pushing the book in the first place? Some, appear to be arguing The Nation has turned away from its liberal/progressive roots, even as they played an instrumental role in the rise and ultimate victory of Bill de Blasio in the Mayoral race less than 18 months ago. The reality is probably completely different, however, as The Nation has been consistently pushing for a more progressive alternative to the Clinton candidacy before she even announced.

To me, the email really sums up the conundrum for the left ever since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. Should they support a truly “liberal,” or I guess one should say “progressive,” candidate and most likely lose the election or moderate their ideological position to win the battle of the “lesser of two evils.” It was obviously the first Clinton that best demonstrated the dilemma. He finally broke the 12-year stranglehold of the Presidency by Republicans (a trend that actually stretched back to 1968, and controlling the highest office in the land for 20 of 24 years). But what did Clinton do during his eight years in charge? As he and his DLCers promised, they followed more conservative economic policies while being more progressive on the social issues (arguably pushing the social conservatives to numerous victories ever since). Given his ideological leanings, one would not be surprised to discover that beyond overseeing a decade of economic growth (though partially based on the Internet bubble), he also became the most effective purveyor of conservative (neoliberal) policy ever, including the following “achievements”: 1. Tough on crime legislation that dramatically increased the number of minorities in prison for minor drug offenses (the total incarcerated population stands at 2.2 million today), 2. Deregulation of media that now allows five companies to control more than 90 percent of what we see, hear and read, 3. Deregulation of the banking industry (arguably directly increasing personal debt and contributing to the 2007 financial crisis), 4. Increasing income inequality, and 5. Expanding free trade (through NAFTA, most famously) spreading the neoliberal ideology across the globe as never before.

The prospect of another Clinton, who may be even more conservative than her husband, in the Oval Office is a proposition largely overshadowed by the sense that she could march to a relatively easy victory and finally smash the political glass ceiling; at least at the top. But what will this mean for the progressive agenda? Will it mean at least another four years of fealty before Wall Street and the corporate agenda for America? Will it imply continued disinterest in addressing the growing climate change perils? Will it lead to purely rhetorical answers to the continued accumulation of wealth and income in the hands of the few? And will it ultimately be continuation of the neoliberal policies that have essentially made the quality of life of the average citizen on the globe worse?

These are important questions that go beyond one advertisement and whether The Nation is a turncoat to the liberal cause. They are questions about the very future of the country and its citizens. And many of us might then stand beside The Nation and demand better for our nation than another Clinton or, god forbid, Bush in the highest office in the land.

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