Hillary Regnant: Perpetual War Party Prepares to Coronate Its First Queen


The Obamas are going all out for Hillary. Of course, they are; when she is in charge, Barack will look good in comparison. Even his Nobel Prize won’t seem quite so ludicrous.

Running against Donald Trump, Hillary will win – or rather Trump will lose — by a landslide. She will become Queen of the Perpetual War Party.

Her victory — or rather Trump’s defeat — will please the liberal imperialists she and Obama empowered. Neoconservatives, in and out of the Obama administration, will be delighted as well.

Hillary is no Dick Cheney, but she tries; and the neocons can hardly fault her for not being servile enough to Israel or for not doing her utmost to provoke Russia and China.

This is why it is urgent now to mobilize – not just against austerity and the neoliberal nostrums that benefit “the one percent” and that are bringing American workers to ruin, but also for peace.

Task Number One therefore is to build a peace movement large enough and militant enough to impose serious costs on Clinton and her co-thinkers, and on their enablers.

But with Democrats and their media flacks working overtime to stir up anti-Trump hysteria, even as Trump destroys himself before their eyes, getting people to see this is a hard sell.   Defeat Trump first, they say; then go on about how awful Clinton is, as if everybody doesn’t already know.

This is a grave, but not fatal, mistake. The time and effort now being squandered cannot be recovered, but when Hillary is back in the White House, struggles against Clintonism (neoliberalism, imperialism, and war) are bound to resume with an even greater intensity than in recent years.

Any groundwork laid down now will be much appreciated then, but if the terminally anxious want to pile on for Hillary instead, it is pointless, at this late date, to try to talk them out of it.

The task now is to find ways to make up for at least some of the time and effort lost.


It will be a lot harder, after November 8, to strike a blow for democracy — by damaging, and perhaps mortally wounding, the Republican and Democratic Parties, and the duopoly party system they enforce.

Trump has already done his part. To his everlasting credit, he has driven a stake through the heart of the GOP.

In the years ahead, historians and others will ponder his rise and fall. It has been quite a spectacle.

Even without him, presidential elections make for great entertainment. This is why the kinds of historians that corporate media call on for commentary obsess over them; and why serious historians study them too. But Trump’s show biz flair and uncontrollable vileness have upped the interest level a thousand fold.

However, if it turns out that, after Trump, the GOP is beyond repair, he will have done more than just entertain; he will have made history.

This doesn’t happen every four years. For all the attention elections get, they are seldom where the action is. This time could be an exception.

If so, the Cunning of Reason, as Hegel called it, will have outdone itself – transforming a risible tabloid tycoon into a man of destiny.

It is too soon to say for sure, but this seems to be what is happening. The Party’s body and head, its base and leadership, are hanging together by a thread. At this point, it wouldn’t take much to finish it off.

Well-healed, suburban Republicans are defecting in droves. So are many of the Party’s financial backers and leading figures. Can the lower level apparatchiks be far behind?

Even before the video surfaced in which Trump and Billy Bush, first cousin of Jeb and George W., go on about grabbing pussy, the grandees, including Billy’s Uncle George H.W., supported by the editorial boards of historically Republican newspapers all over the country, were voicing support for anyone but Trump.

They are late to the game. Quite a few Republican women were doing that months ago. Trump’s misogyny is not exactly news.

But, if the polls are right, the “deplorables,” as Hillary calls them, still have it in mind to vote for the hapless Donald – some because they identify with what he says when he rants, and some because it is their way of flipping the bird at the Clintons and everything they represent.

They detest Hillary and Bill for all the wrong reasons and their faith in Trump is wrong-headed, but their sense of defiance is beyond reproach.

And so, the Party of Lincoln has become “a house divided.” Its future is uncertain; anything could happen.

In the Tea Party days, the fear was that the inmates would take over the asylum. What happened instead, thanks to Trump, is that the staff, having demonstrated how pitifully inadequate it is, bolted – leaving the inmates to do as they please.

Will the old order be restored after the election is over? It isn’t likely.

When there are rifts of comparable depth in political parties in liberal democracies that are unencumbered with a party system like ours, troubled parties are prone to splintering apart. Something like that could happen in this case too; the GOP’s traditional constituencies could go their separate ways.

But our duopoly party system is so deeply institutionalized, and so thoroughly entrenched in the hearts and minds of Americans, that it is still possible that the old cultural and political contradictions will be smoothed over again.

Whether they are or not, expect turbulence ahead.

Now is therefore a time to think about how to take advantage of the situation that emerges. The Republican Party is destroying itself. There may be no need, and no way, to help it along, but the issue merits serious consideration.

The Democratic Party is a house divided too, of course; but its immediate future is more secure.

On the principle that the scum rises to the top, genuine progressives who run for office as Democrats are mainly down-ticket.   At the top, there are Hillary supporters, and little else.

However, the base is primed and ready to move. The Sanders campaign demonstrated that beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the leadership is not yet seriously threatened.

Sanders lost because, as everybody knows, the fix was in. Had he somehow prevailed even so, the Party’s leaders would have found ways to sabotage or coopt the movement he got going.

And had he led his supporters out of the Democratic Party altogether, as he ought to have done, those wretched bigwigs would have let loose all the furies of hell.

It didn’t come to that, however. Using anti-Trump hysteria for an excuse, and “Our Revolution” as a fig leaf, Sanders betrayed his supporters instead.

Forfeiting his chance to make history, he did the Democratic National Committee’s work for them. In this one respect, Trump looks good in comparison.

For now, the voters Sanders energized and then abandoned are acquiescent. Some of them will follow him, or otherwise find their way, into the Clinton fold. Others will stay home on November 8, or cast protest votes for President. And, fortunately, some will break free from the Democratic Party altogether.

If only more would! That rotting hulk is no place for twenty-first century versions of New Deal–Fair Deal–Great Society liberals — Sanders calls them “democratic socialists.”

Sanders’ democratic socialism, like Roosevelt’s New Deal, aims to tame capitalism, not replace it; the idea is to save capitalism from the capitalists.   A truly counter-systemic politics, anti-capitalist (genuinely socialist) or otherwise, would not have been tolerated for a moment within the Democratic fold.

This was true even before the Party became Clintonized, but at least, in those days, the Democratic Party would sometimes serve as a kind of gateway drug for political radicals. No longer — except insofar as Democratic voters learn from the disappointments and betrayals they suffer through.

For advancing the political development of people drawn to the Occupy movements and the Sanders insurgency, what goes on within the Democratic Party is, at best, useless.  For moving the center of American politics off its rightward veering track, it is worse than useless.

The Democratic Party does have an ostensibly progressive wing that was tolerated under Obama, but never encouraged. Those “progressives” – Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are among the most egregious examples — are now, almost without exception, in the Hillary camp. When she takes over from Obama, they will have a harder time seeming to keep the faith, as the situation goes from bad to worse.

Unlike the Party’s rank-and-file, the faux-liberals in the House of Representative’s Progressive Caucus, and their counterparts in the Senate, are, for the most part, hopeless cases.   But with the Democrats on the brink of major victories, the base, bereft of leadership, is not about to bolt. And, since Hillary is likely to be cut some slack for weeks or even months after Inauguration Day, this is not going to change once the specter of Trumpian “fascism” disappears down the memory hole.

In the short run, therefore, the “lesser evil” Party, unlike its rival, will emerge from this election season strengthened.

Blame Sanders for that. For all the good he accomplished, he has much to answer for.

Despite him, though, there is still a chance that the duopoly will take a hit – not a fatal one, but not an insignificant one either. Its custodians must think so; why else would they expend so much effort vilifying Gary Johnson and Jill Stein?

Johnson is getting the lion’s share of abuse – in part because he is no fan of empire, but mainly because he is doing well in the polls, especially in New Mexico, where he was once governor, throughout the mountain West, and in a few other states where Clinton’s lead over Trump seems close.

Lately, though, he hasn’t helped his cause much – most famously, by revealing that he didn’t know what Aleppo was; then by being unable to name a foreign leader. Was he channeling Sarah Palin?   Johnson does not seem to be an all-around, Palin-style dunce, but sometimes he sure acts like one.

Corporate media, The Washington Post especially, have made squelching his campaign a hobby. Their degree of condescension is breathtaking, but it is having effects.

So are revivals of the decade and a half old nonsense about how George W. Bush was set loose upon the world because Ralph Nader had the temerity to run against him and Al Gore. Substitute Johnson and/or Stein for Nader, Hillary for Gore, Trump for Bush, and voilà. How many times does that argument have to be refuted before defenders of the duopoly system stop carting it out every chance they get?

Johnson’s unfitness for office is no more blatant than Trump’s, but because he is not a major party candidate and because, unlike Trump, he is not a bully, he is easier for mainstream media to ignore.

And so, his campaign has probably reached its upper limit. If anti-Trump Republicans haven’t already decided en masse to vote Libertarian this year, it is unlikely that they will change their minds in the next few weeks.

Stein’s poll numbers are barely half as good as Johnson’s, but she is the one Hillary and her people worry about most – because anyone tinged by the Bern ought to prefer her many times over to Sanders. She is at least as good as Sanders ever was on economic and social policy issues, and better by far on matters of war and empire.

And so the word is that she is too friendly towards Russia, and a “conspiracy theorist” on vaccinations and drugs.

It is not worth dignifying the first charge with a reply; the vilification of Vladimir Putin, and of Putin’s Russia, has become the latest idiotic bipartisan obsession.

Putin is no saint, but, in his dealings with the governments of sovereign nations – Syria is just the latest example — he is far more capable and law abiding than Hillary Clinton or the Nobel laureate she will succeed.

Unlike them too, he knows when and how to deploy military force, and how diplomacy can render its use unnecessary. If Obama is not grateful for the several ways that he has helped him find ways out of succumbing to the machinations of his first Secretary of State and the other war mongering advisors he foolishly empowered, he ought to be.

The sad thing is that the preposterousness of the anti-Putin campaign hardly even stands out, amidst all the other nonsense in general circulation. But none of it is more dangerous – because souring relations with Russia could sink the world.

Hillary is currently leading the anti-Putin charge; for this, she deserves special condemnation. Stein is the only principled opponent of the on-going vilification campaign, but Trump and Johnson are taking heat nevertheless for not being anti-Putin enough. All three deserve praise for that, Stein most of all.

Once Hillary takes over from Obama, there will be many things to worry about, but the fact that she seems unable to forbear from Russia baiting whenever an opportunity arises is high on the list. Russia baiting is what redbaiting becomes when there are no Reds around to bait. Apparently, the impulse is wired into Hillary’s mind, like pain in the phantom limb of an amputee.

As for the second charge, see this.

I voted for Stein in 2012, and I will vote for her again this year. In 2012, it was a protest vote. Hillary’s handlers and their media flacks have nothing good to say about protest votes; they are pushing the line that protest votes this year are votes for Trump, and that anyone who doesn’t see this is an idiot.

Of course, just the opposite is the case. Insofar as protest votes convey a message, they are worthwhile indeed – especially when the point is to convey the message to a future Commander-in-Chief who is hell bent on provoking wars that could end life on earth “as we know it,” as the Clintons boast of having done to America’s already feeble anti-poverty welfare state programs.

And it goes without saying that anyone who looks at standard issue New York Times or Washington Post op-eds, or who reads New Yorker opinion pieces, or who watches CNN or MSNBC, or who listens to NPR, will know in an instant who the idiots are.

As a general rule, though, in American presidential elections, protest votes seldom convey messages powerful enough for anyone to heed, since corporate media ignore them, just as they ignore everything else having to do with party politics outside the duopoly’s ambit.

2012 was no exception; 2016 may be different, however – because after the Sanders debacle, there is a lot of pent up anger in left of center circles, crying out to be expressed.

If he stays in the race until then, November 8 will be the last day that the worrywarts will be able to worry about the Donald. It will also be the day when people who ought now to be working to hold the Hillary juggernaut back will finally begin to realize how wrong they were.

Before long, events will make today’s Hillary voters anti-Hillary fighters. Too bad, though, that this won’t happen in time to do Stein and the Greens much good. But, fortunately, not everyone has fallen for the Stop Trump First hype. That could do the Greens, and American politics generally, a lot of good.

Before and during the Democratic Party Convention last summer, it seemed that the Greens were on the threshold of a breakthrough. Democrats have been working assiduously to wipe out all traces of that very salutary development ever since, but with only partial success. The chances are therefore good that too many protest votes will be cast this year to be ignored.

It is even possible that the Stein-Baraka ticket will garner enough votes – the magic number is five percent — for the Greens not to have to struggle quite so much next time for ballot access and public funding.

Thanks to Democratic Party and media opposition, Nader barely got more than half way there sixteen years ago. He was, of course, far better known than Stein will ever be; he still is. He is also more charismatic; and, as General Motors learned decades ago, all but impossible to vilify.

To be sure, after they flubbed the Gore v. Bush election, Democrats found a way to vilify him even so – for the crime of running against them in the 2000 election. But, much as they might have liked to, they couldn’t red (or Russia) bait him because, back then, Russia, still reeling from its regression to capitalism, didn’t seem worth deriding; and there was nothing he said, even taken out of context, that any right thinking liberal could find troubling.

Even so, he couldn’t get more than 2.7% of the national vote.

This time, however, it could be different. The consciousness is there; the question is whether the appetite for defying the tide is still there too, now that Bernie scuttled the movement he started.

There is a chance that it is. After years of Clintonization, the Democratic Party is, by now, nearly as unpopular as its standard bearer.

And, ironically, thanks to the Sanders campaign, we now know that, even in the face of Democratic Party resistance and concerted media opposition, an outraged populace can find ways to make itself heard.

This time around, the “vast rightwing conspiracy” Hillary famously complained of is at last on track for getting swamped by a principled and militant Left Opposition. This will become painfully apparent, even to corporate media’s talking heads, once the consequences of Commander-in-Chief Hillary’s Cold War mentality and fondness for military “solutions” start to sink in.

If she really does impose no-fly zones over Syria, as she says she would, that time will not be far off.

Even now, though, there may still be enough unsuppressed outrage out there to make it possible to salvage something worthwhile from Clinton’s landslide victory – or rather Trump’s landslide defeat.

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).