In America, we do not lock up our murdering politicians. We rarely prosecute or impeach them. The only scandals that stick are sex ones. Serious voters, writers, pundits, and anyone else who feels as if they have deep principles invariably buckle under the partisan weight of the political system.
She hasn’t yet been coronated, but Hillary Clinton is surely about to win the Democratic nomination. Sure, Sen. Bernie Sanders has given her an amusing amount of trouble. And though he’s voted for deaths abroad as well, he hasn’t voted for as many as Clinton. (This is not an argument for Sanders, but it is unquestionably an argument against Clinton.) Still, she’s got this thing in the bag, because she’s got party loyalty, and she may even win the hearts of a few lost, sad little neocons running away from Donald Trump.
Clinton also has the nomination because war doesn’t bother Democrats. They like to think it does, when they remember it exists, but they will risk no political capital whatsoever on making sure it stops, or making sure a warmongering candidate isn’t nominated or elected.
During the last few decades, any semblance of an antiwar movement has withered under Democratic presidents. Not since “hey/hey/LBJ/how many kids did you kill today?” has a warmonger from the left side of the isle provoked ire. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have much blood on their hands, but not enough to push people into the streets. There are encouraging exceptions, as there are to all rules. Code Pink and other activist groups come out and protest Democrats, and don’t seem to have any plans to stop. However, it seems the anti-Iraq, antiwar movement of the early 21st century was a Dubya blip and nothing more. Part of that may be the public’s feeble attention span for atrocities far away. But it certainly appears that another aspect is that polite Democratic wars are easier to accept than grand Republican ones. Even if they both lead to the deaths of innocent people.
There’s a lot of unhappiness about the two presumed nominees for president. Clinton and Donald Trump are loathed at historical levels. There’s exciting talk about a third party candidate (perhaps the Libertarian Party’s) having a good year. But for the LP, say, a good year would be winning more than one percent of the vote. Like good little party partisans, we should accept that one (D) or (R) candidate is going to win. Unlike them, we do not have to vote for major party candidates, and we shouldn’t. But the party hacks will.
Trump is an elusive mess. Justin Raimondo has made compelling cases for Trump’s whispers of isolationism. But Trump is not libertarian, if that matter to you (it does to me). And he’s happy to say warmongering things when it fits his mood. He also repeatedly stresses his desire to build an impossibly expensive wall, deport 11 million people in an immoral, impractical act of ethnic cleansing, and he keeps saying cops are America’s most oppressed people, thereby making it seem unlikely he would be an ally in criminal justice reform.
There are a lot of real reasons to dislike or to fear Trump. Myriad ones to not vote for him. However, there is one difference between him and Hillary Clinton that has been forgotten in the Trump panic spreading through left, right, center, and libertarian circles. Trump hasn’t done anything yet. He has had no political power, and is therefore not to blame for terrible things (yet).
Clinton has done it all already. She voted for the worst foreign policy decision in recent memory, and she lamely apologized for it a few years later. Like most powerful people’s expressions of “regret” it meant nothing, and Clinton clearly learned nothing. If her time as Secretary of State is any way to judge (and it is), Clinton turns towards war whenever possible. It is never the last resort, and is quite often the first. Her pride in the Libyan invasion, which was based on the lie of a would-be genocidal Gaddafi remains. The instability, death, and terrorist empowerment that that wrought for Libya remains. Furthermore, choosing sides against (the loathsome) Bashar al-Assad helped that bloodbath continue. It is now on its sixth year. It is fueling a constant refugee crisis, and has destroyed Syria.
Any one of these foreign policy choices should be enough to knock Clinton out of the running for most powerful person in the world. But not even this cumulatively is enough, for one simple reason: Democrats don’t care about war. Now, partisanship is powerful. So much so that picking your team so the other team doesn’t win is satisfactory motivation. However, so many other issues appear to be deal breakers for Democrats. With rare, heroic exception, war is never one of those.
The leftist, apparent Sanders-supporting cartoonist Ted Rall has summed up the weakness of Democrats on this both in prose and in art. In an outstanding Counterpunch article, Rall explains why no matter the dangers of Trump and Republicans, he’s “#NeverHillary.” Troubled by Trump, Rall still makes it clear that he will not give Clinton even the whisper of support that voting entails. Why? Lots of reasons. But her war record is right there at the top. It’s enough of a reason to say no to her.
An even more pure condemnation of this attitude that Democrats, progressives, leftist, hell, anyone not a Republican, should get in line with Hillary can be found in several of Rall’s recent cartoons that mock Clinton’s nasty record. A May cartoon shows two figures: a woman is asking a man why he won’t vote for Clinton. The man responds with four panels of (purposefully melodramatic) description of the blood on Clinton’s hands, the dead of Iraq, Libya, and Syria. In the final square, the woman says “I mean, besides that.”
That’s the attitude. War is simply not on the priorities list for Democrats, especially when one of their own is in office, or is racing to win that office. Got to be practical, sensible; worry about the Supreme Court; worry about a woman’s right to choose — about the fabled misogyny of overly enthusiastic Sanders fans. Any of one of these is worth casting a ballot for Clinton over, and her own bloody, aggressive history is not enough to stop or even slow voters down. Wars happen thousands of miles away, trading them for domestic policy bliss is all too easy. You don’t like Clinton because she’s such a hawk? “Besides that” is nearly every Democrat’s true-heart answer, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. War just doesn’t matter to them.
Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and a columnist for VICE.com. She previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. She is most angry about police, prisons, and wars. Steigerwald blogs at www.thestagblog.com.