“This is not my natural habitat”
Street art in Bali, Indonesia,
by artist Kas Art.
Photo by Kas Art.
“This is not my natural habitat”
Street art in Bali, Indonesia,
by artist Kas Art.
Photo by Kas Art.
Donald Trump is so despicable that no one is paying attention to what Hillary Clinton actually stands for.think that should stop.
DONALD TRUMP proved once again in the final presidential debate that he’s the secret weapon…of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
The nominee of what was once the leading party of American capitalism again went out of his way to piss off even Republicans who haven’t retracted their endorsement of him.
His own running mate repudiated his unhinged nonsense about the election being rigged against him–so Trump insisted Wednesday night that he couldn’t promise to abide by the results of the election. The audiotape of him bragging about sexually assaulting women has repulsed women voters especially, so Trump sneered about every allegation–and nonchalantly acknowledged that as president, he would pack the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing justices who would overturn legal abortion.
We’re in uncharted territory–it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump will do worse on November 8 than any major-party candidate in modern political history.
But maybe even more incredible is the fact that the other major-party candidate on the ballot in three weeks’ time could be setting records herself if her opponent wasn’t Donald Trump.
As repellant as he is, lots of people seem ready to choose interstellar catastrophe over voting for Hillary Clinton. A recent poll of 18- to 35-year-olds inspired by the Twitter hashtag #GiantMeteor2016 found that one in four young respondents would rather a giant meteor destroy the Earth than see either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House.
The public demonstrations of hatred toward Trump are heartening–anti-sexist protesters in New York City and Chicago chanting “Pussy grabs back!” outside Trump skyscrapers, and culinary workers building their own “wall” of taco trucks at a Trump hotel near the debate site in Las Vegas.
But at the same time, every new outrage involving Trump means people pay less attention to the outrages of a Democratic presidential nominee whose top staff responded to the critique of a Black Lives Matter activist with the single word “Yuck,” as we know thanks to WikiLeaks.
The Democrats have happily stood silent while Trump’s gross behavior sets the terms of the debate. Clinton could easily take over the spotlight from Trump and challenge his reactionary bluster. But she’s infinitely more confortable with a campaign centered on how much she’s not like her opponent, rather than what she stands for.
You’ve probably heard from any number of Clinton supporters–your friends, your family, fellow unionists, members of the feminist organization you support–that this election isn’t about voting for what you believe in, but against what you definitely don’t believe in.
But each time the Trump campaign lurches and careens to the right, it takes the heat off the Clinton campaign to defend its candidate’s agenda.
So let’s take a break from the regularly scheduled Trump train wreck and talk about what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party ought to be held accountable for. You heard about some of it in the debate last night, but if the Clinton campaign has its way, you won’t hear much more before November 8–as long as Trump cooperates with his ongoing horror show.
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A Friend of Immigrants in the White House?
Immigration came up in the debate last night, but for anyone who cares about the issue, it wasn’t much of a discussion–especially after Hillary Clinton avoided a question about free trade and borders by blaming the Russkies for hacking her e-mails again.
Clinton could have called out Trump’s deplorable racism. He began his campaign by calling Mexicans immigrants “rapists” and vowing to build a border wall. His latest xenophobia includes a promise to institute “extreme vetting” on Muslims who want to enter the U.S.
But let’s stick to our theme today: What about Clinton?
On enforcement, Clinton joins Republican and Democratic politicians alike in calling for tougher border controls. In 2013, she supported legislation that included a path to citizenship, as she said in the debate–but on the condition that billions of dollars be devoted to new surveillance equipment and fencing (otherwise known as a wall) along the Mexican border, along with 20,000 more border agents.
The consequences of these policies are deadly. Since January, officials say that fewer people attempted to illegally cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but more have died trying to make the journey. According to the Pima County medical examiner in Arizona, 117 bodies have been recovered along migration routes in southern Arizona so far this year, an increase over last year.
This is the true face of Clinton’s promise to “protect our borders”–death and misery for people fleeing persecution and poverty.
Clinton supporters focus on the nightmare of a Trump presidency for immigrants. But the nightmare is already happening. Trump may have blustered about the actual number, but it’s true that Barack Obama has presided over the deportation of well over 2 million people, more than all the presidents of the 20th century combined.
And forfeiting immigrant lives in the name of border security is hardly unique to the latest Democrat in the White House. It was Bill Clinton who imposed “Operation Gatekeeper” in 1994, pandering to the right wing by pouring more millions into border enforcement and, yes, wall-building.
With friends like these…well, you know the rest.
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What Clinton Told Goldman Sachs
Okay, okay, the real news story is how WikiLeaks got hold of e-mails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches, not what was in them. Clinton herself said the most important question of the final debate was whether Trump would condemn Russian espionage to hack her e-mails.
But hey, bear with us.
It’s not news that Clinton has deep ties to Corporate America going back decades. But with Clinton touring the country and telling her supporters that America is “already great,” it’s worth remembering who America is really great for.
In a speech at Goldman Sachs three years ago, Clinton did everything but apologize for the weak banking regulations imposed in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here,” Clinton pandered to an audience of banksters.
Explaining that Dodd-Frank bill was passed for “political” reasons, Clinton assured the investment bank aptly referred to in 2010 as “a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” that she believes the best overseers of Wall Street are…wait for it…Wall Street itself.
“There’s nothing magic about regulations–too much is bad, too little is bad,” Clinton said, and one assumes that she emphasized the “too much is bad” part.
For all the working-class families who bore the burden of underwater mortgages during the housing crisis, Clinton has signaled, if anyone was still wondering, whose side she’s on–the parasites on Wall Street.
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The Return of Roe
Remember reproductive rights? It was pretty shocking to hear the words “abortion” or “Roe” and “Wade” uttered in last night’s debate. So far this election, we’ve heard precious little about this essential health care question for women.
It’s not for a lack of things to talk about–Texas shuttering its clinics becaue of punitive legislative restrictions, an Indiana woman facing murder charges for having a miscarriage, congressional Republicans smearing Planned Parenthood with fabricated video.
But you wouldn’t know about any of that from the two presidential candidates, including the Democrat who says she supports a woman’s right to choose.
Last night, Trump admitted that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would, without doubt, overturn legal abortion. By comparison, Clinton seemed, well, actually human. But as a result, the limitations of her defense of the right to legal abortion, now and in the past, were overshadowed.
Clinton helped perfect the modern-day Democratic strategy of searching for “common ground” with conservatives on the issue of abortion–an issue on which any sincere defender of women’s rights shouldn’t find common anything with the right. She helped coin the slogan of “safe, legal and rare” as the goal of pro-choice Democrats.
The “common ground” arguments haven’t saved reproductive rights–instead, they’ve given up ideological ground to the right and made the pro-choice side weaker.
If you want to know how important reproductive rights are to Hillary Clinton, look at her vice presidential choice Tim Kaine. In 2005, he ran for Virginia governor promising to lower the number of abortions in the state by promoting abstinence-only education. The state’s chapter of NARAL withheld their endorsement because he “embraces many of the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.”
But of course, nothing is getting in the way of the mainstream women’s organizations backing the Clinton-Kaine ticket to the hilt this year. They don’t care if reproductive rights are part of the debate. But a lot of women out there do–and many of them are fed up with the way the Democrats take them for granted at election time, and don’t lift a finger to stem the attacks when they come.
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Remember the $15 Minimum Wage and All That Socialist Stuff?
It’s almost obliterated from our memory, thanks to the monstrosity that is Donald Trump, but during the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton had to talk about some of the issues that supporters of the Democratic Party care about
The socialist message of the Bernie Sanders campaign put these questions in the spotlight and forced the most corporate of Democrats to address them–and also answer for her own terrible record on a number of things that didn’t come up at the debate. For a time, the brewing anger at corporate greed and the corrupt political status quo–given expression in grassroots movements like the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter–found a voice in the political mainstream.
With a few weeks to go before the election, that seems like a long time ago.
Part of the reason is Hillary Clinton, but another part is Bernie Sanders. He’s stopped his sharp criticisms of Clinton and tells his supporters that now is the time to stop Trump, not make demands on Clinton. In the debate, when Trump repeated one of his routine sound bites about Sanders saying Clinton had “bad judgment,” Clinton smiled smugly and pointed out that Sanders was campaigning and urging a vote for her.
There were many issues that Clinton had to address this year only because people mobilized to make sure they couldn’t be ignored–like anti-racist activists who made sure she was reminded of her support for Bill Clinton’s crime bills, or Palestinian rights supporters who confronted her support for Israeli apartheid.
Those issues were invisible at the October 19 debate, but so were many others that people care about. They don’t come up within the narrow confines of mainstream politics in the U.S.–where the politics of fear of what’s worse forces voters to settle for what’s hopefully less bad.
The two-party duopoly is organized to squash political debate and dissent outside the mainstream–which is why it’s up to us to raise both, before the election between Clinton and Trump is decided, and especially after.
In 1946, George Orwell pondered the fragility of the capitalist order.
Reviewing the work of the influential theorist James Burnham, Orwell presaged several concepts that would later form the groundwork for his best-known novel, 1984.
“Not only is the best of capitalism behind us, but the worst of it may lie just ahead.”
In his book The Managerial Revolution, Burnham envisioned, as Orwell put it, “a new kind of planned, centralised society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic. The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production.”
“The real question,” Orwell adds, “is not whether the people who wipe their boots on us during the next fifty years are to be called managers, bureaucrats, or politicians: the question is whether capitalism, now obviously doomed, is to give way to oligarchy or to true democracy.”
While Orwell was wary of Burnham’s worldview and of his more specific predictions, he agreed that the relationship between capitalism and democracy has always been, and always will be, a precarious one.
“For quite fifty years past,” Orwell noted, “the general drift has almost certainly been towards oligarchy.”
Pointing to the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the few and acknowledging “the weakness of the proletariat against the centralised state,” Orwell was far from optimistic about the future — but he was quite certain that the economic status quo would eventually give way.
Recent events, and the material circumstances of much of the world’s population, have prompted serious examinations of the same questions Orwell was considering seven decades ago. And though it appears as if rumors of capitalism’s imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated, there is good reason to believe that its remarkable ability to adapt and evolve in the face of frequent (self-induced) shocks has reached a breaking point.
Widespread discontent over stagnant incomes and the uneven prosperity brought about by neoliberal globalization has, in 2016, come to a head in striking fashion; Donald Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far-right parties in Europe have many questioning previously sacred assumptions.
“Is the marriage between liberal democracy and global capitalism an enduring one?” asked Martin Wolf, a formidable commentator in one of the world’s leading business papers, the Financial Times.
This was no rhetorical softball; Wolf is genuinely concerned that the winners of globalization have grown complacent, that they have “taken for granted” a couple that was only tenuously compatible to begin with. He also worries, rightly, that they have downplayed the concerns of the “losers.”
Wolf concludes that “if the legitimacy of our democratic political systems is to be maintained, economic policy must be orientated towards promoting the interests of the many not the few; in the first place would be the citizenry, to whom the politicians are accountable.”
Not all members of the commentariat share Wolf’s willingness to engage with these cherished assumptions, however. Indeed, many analysts have reserved their ire not for failing institutions or policies but for the public, reviving Walter Lippmann’s characterization of the masses as a “bewildered herd” that, if left to its own devices, is sure to usher in a regime of chaos.
Apologists like Traub and Barro — just two among many — speak and write as if the leash previously restraining the “herd” has been loosened, and that the resulting freedom has laid bare what elitists have long believed to be the case: To use Barro’s infamous words, “Elites are usually elite for good reason, and tend to have better judgment than the average person.” They point to the rise of Donald Trump as evidence of an intolerable democratic surplus — evidence, in short, of what the masses will do if granted a loud enough voice.
Aside from being conveniently self-serving, this narrative is also false.
Far from loosening the leash, elites have consolidated power to an unprecedented extent, and they have used their influence to undercut democratic movements and hijack public institutions. The resulting concentration of wealth and political power is jarring, and it puts the lie to the farcical notion that elites are a persecuted minority.
But, in the midst of these anti-democratic diatribes, fascinating and important critiques of a rather different nature have emerged.
“Far from loosening the leash, elites have consolidated power to anunprecedented extent, and they have used their influence to undercut democratic movements and hijack public institutions.”
Instead of urging us to align Against Democracy, to use the name of a recent book by the libertarian political philosopher Jason Brennan, many are arguing that it is capitalism, and not the excesses of the democratic process, that has provided figures like Trump a launching pad.
In his book Postcapitalism, Paul Mason argues that the rapid emergence of information technology has corroded the boundaries of the market; “capitalism,” he insists, “has reached the limits of its capacity to adapt.” And its attempts to reach beyond these limits have fostered an economic environment defined by instability, crippling austerity for the many, and rapid accumulation of wealth for the few.
According to Oxfam, the global 1 percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent. CEO pay has continued to soar. And though post-crisis reforms have carried soaring promises of stability, the financial sector is still far too large, and many of the banks harmed by the crash they created are back and nearly as powerful as ever.
Mason summarizes: “According to the OECD, growth in the developed world will be ‘weak’ for the next fifty years. Inequality will rise by 40 per cent. Even in the developing countries, the current dynamism will be exhausted by 2060.”
“The OECD’s economists were too polite to say it,” he adds, “so let’s spell it out: for the developed world the best of capitalism is behind us, and for the rest it will be over in our lifetime.”
Sociologist Peter Frase, in his new book Four Futures, implicitly agrees with many of Mason’s key points, but he then takes up the task of looking further ahead, of contemplating possible futures that hinge largely upon how we respond to the crises we are likely to face in the coming years.
For Frase, not only is the best of capitalism behind us, but the worst of it may lie just ahead.
Central to Four Futures are what Frase calls the “[t]wo specters…haunting Earth in the twenty-first century” — “the specters of environmental catastrophe and automation.”
Rather than attempting to predict the future, Frase — guided by Rosa Luxemburg’s famous words, “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism” — lays out potential, contingent scenarios. And while Mason’s book exudes optimism about the advancement of information technology and automation, Frase is more cautious.
“To the extent that the rich are able to maintain their power,” Frase writes, “we will live in a world where they enjoy the benefits of automated production, while the rest of us pay the costs of ecological destruction—if we can survive at all.” And, “To the extent that we can move toward a world of greater equality, then the future will be characterized by some combination of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity, depending on where we are on the other, ecological dimension.”
It comes down, in short, to who wins the class struggle. “I am a very old-fashioned Marxist in that way,” Frase remarked in a recent interview.
None of the futures Frase maps out are inevitable, the result of historical forces that are beyond our control. He is contemptuous of those who cling to “secular eschatology”; capitalism’s collapse, he notes, will not likely be the result of a single, revolutionary moment.
In expressing this view he aligns with Wolfgang Streeck, who has argued that capitalism is “a social system in chronic disrepair,” and that while “we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and what will succeed it,” we can know that a system that depends on endless growth and the elimination of all restraints will eventually self-destruct.
The disappearance of capitalism, though, as Orwell understood, does not necessarily imply the emergence of an egalitarian society, one in which resources are shared for the benefit of the many. But while few agree on precisely how to establish the framework for such a society, there are, Mason and Frase argue, policies that can move us in the right direction.
Both, for instance, support the idea of a universal basic income, which, in Frase’s words, would “create a situation in which it possible to survive without depending on selling your labor to anyone who will pay for it,” making automation a path to liberation, not destitution. And Mason rightly argues that, in order to avert catastrophic warming, we must radically reduce carbon emissions.
But the usual political obstacles remain, as does the fact that the “winners” are not likely to hand over their gains, or their positions of power and influence, without a fight. We cannot, then, passively rely on amoral forces like technology to bring about the necessary change.
“Technological developments give a context for social transformations,” Frase writes, “but they never determine them directly; change is always mediated by the power struggles between organized masses of people.”
The future is necessarily disobedient; it rarely conforms to even the most meticulous theoretical anticipations, to say nothing of our deepest desires or fears.
But one thing is clear: The future of capitalism and the future of the planet are intertwined. The health of the latter depends on our ability to dismantle the former, and on our ability to construct an alternative that radically alters our course, which is at present leading us toward catastrophe.
“One thing is clear: The future of capitalism and the future of the planet are intertwined.”
Whether the path to which we are ultimately confined is one that leads to a utopian dream or a dystopian nightmare is contingent upon our ability to connect the struggles that currently occupy the left — those fighting for the right to organize are confronting, at bottom, the same forces as those working to prevent the plunder of sacred land.
There are reasons to be both hopeful and pessimistic about the prospects of these struggles.
The campaign of Bernie Sanders, and the movements that emerged before it and alongside it, revealed that there is a large base of support for social democratic changes that, if enacted, would move us in the right direction.
The obstacles, however, are immense, as is the arithmetic: As Bill McKibben has noted, “The future of humanity depends on math,” and the climate math we face is “ominous.”
But, as Noam Chomsky has argued, the debate over the choice between pessimism and optimism is really no debate at all.
“We have two choices,” he concludes. “We can be pessimistic, give up and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist and maybe help make the world a better place. Not much of a choice.”
The US government announced this week that Social Security beneficiaries would receive an insulting 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment in their monthly checks for 2017, amounting to about $4 for the average recipient, a cut in real income.
The $4 monthly increase is less than a round trip bus or subway fare in many major cities. It follows no increase at all for 2016. For the years 2010 and 2011, there were also zero cost-of-living adjustments, based on official claims of no inflation. As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said in a statement, “Over the past eight years, the current COLA formula has led to average increases of just over one percent” annually.
The average annual benefit for the 65 million in the US currently receiving Social Security is less than $15,000. The notion that the cost of living for these recipients has increased by only 1 percent per year for the past period is preposterous on its face. In New York City, for instance, the cost of a subway or bus fare has risen by more than 20 percent since 2009 ($2.25 to $2.75). Rent-stabilized apartments in New York have seen increases averaging significantly more than 1 percent annually, even after zero increases in the past two years.
In addition to keeping Social Security increases below the actual rate of inflation, the upcoming 0.3 percent increase will be entirely eaten up by increases in the Medicare Part B premiums (currently $104.90 for most Medicare beneficiaries) that are automatically deducted from Social Security checks.
The new premiums have not yet been officially announced but are projected as significantly more than a 0.3 percent hike. According to a “hold harmless” rule, which forbids an actual cut in Social Security benefits, however, the increase in Medicare premiums will be capped for about 70 percent of the 56 million people receiving Medicare. These relatively “lucky” beneficiaries will see their Social Security frozen while living costs continue to go up.
For about 30 percent of those on Medicare, however, premiums will go up much more. These include those eligible for Medicare for the first time, those enrolled in Medicare but not receiving Social Security, and those subject to Medicare surcharges because they did not enroll in the first year of their eligibility. These millions of recipients will see an absolute reduction in their net income for 2017.
In addition to the Medicare premium increases, Medicare trustees have also projected a sizable jump in the annual deductible before recipients can begin receiving their benefits. This is now $166 for the year and is projected to increase to $204. This increase alone is nearly as great as the average cost-of-living adjustment of about $48 annually.
Finally, the Social Security Administration has also announced a rise in the ceiling on wages subject to payroll taxes for Social Security, from the current level of $118,500 to $127,200. This change, at first glance not unreasonable, will in fact hit many working class two-income families where after-tax earnings do not leave much left over after mortgage and car payments, college tuition and other major expenses. The super-rich and the upper middle-class layers, who have incomes well into the six figures, will easily absorb what is a very small increase in their tax liability.
The continuous chipping away at retirement benefits is no small matter for the great majority on Social Security. Millions have already been forced to remain in the workforce well past the expected retirement age because their benefits do not begin to cover basic necessities. Now, those who face a modest increase in rent of $50 a month, for instance, will have not a penny in increased Social Security to meet the added expense. They will have to find some other way to cut their already meager standard of living.
The official Consumer Price Index (CPI) understates inflation by allocating a far smaller percentage of costs to such items as housing, medicine and transportation. Some advocacy groups call for the use of CPI-E, an experimental index that increases the weight of such items as housing and health care. Even this would leave most retirees far short of an adequate income.
The latest attack on the working class and especially on its most vulnerable sections highlights the grotesque character of the 2016 election campaign. The issue of Social Security never arose at the first two presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The candidates were too busy dealing with sex scandals and the importance of getting tough on Russia to discuss working class living standards.
According to a report in the Huffington Post, in fact, a retired government worker in North Carolina submitted a question to the Open Debate Commission for the “town hall” debate format at the second meeting between Trump and Clinton. According to Huffington Post, “Ellen Pleasant…struggles to make ends meet on her monthly check of $996 and a monthly state pension benefit of $299. She has declared bankruptcy twice in recent years, because she was not able to make her mortgage payments and ‘do the things I need to live.’”
Pleasant’s question about whether the candidates “support expanding, and not cutting, Social Security’s modest benefits…was the third most popular question based on readers’ votes, but the debate moderators never raised it.”
Both Trump and Clinton have issued vague promises to defend Social Security. Clinton’s more detailed proposals have been advertised as strongly supportive of the program, but a New York Times editorial on October 19 praises the candidate for “allow[ing] for compromise with Republicans who favor cutting benefits to keep the system viable.” Clearly, no matter which candidate wins on November 8, attacks on Social Security and Medicare will escalate.
By refusing to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cast doubt on her independence from the crooks who run the financial system. By contrast, Clinton’s program for “technology and innovation policy” has been an open book since June 2016. What she publicized is as revealing – and as disturbing – as what she tried to keep secret.
Clinton paints her tech agenda in appealing terms. She says it’s about reducing social and economic inequality, creating good jobs, and bridging the digital divide. The real goals – and beneficiaries – are different. The document is described as “a love letter to Silicon Valley” by a journalist, and as a “Silicon Valley wish list” by theWashington Post.
On the domestic side, Clinton promises to invest in STEM education and immigration reform to expand the STEM workforce by allowing green cards for foreign workers who’ve earned STEM degrees in the US. The internet industry has been lobbying Congress for years to reform US immigration policy to gain flexibility in hiring, to ease access to a global pool of skilled labor, and to weaken employees’ bargaining power.
Clinton’s blanket endorsement of online education opens new room for an odious private industry. With buzzwords like “entrepreneurship,” “competitive,” and “bootstrap,” Clinton wants to “leverage technology”: by “delivering high-speed broadband to all Americans” she declares it will be feasible to provide “wrap-around learning for our students in the home and in our schools.” Absent an overt commitment to public education, this is an encouragement to online vendors to renew their attack on the U.S. education system – despite a track record of failure and flagrant corruption. Still more deceitful is Hillary’s lack of acknowledgment of a personal conflict of interest. According to a Financial Times analysis, after stepping down as Secretary of State in 2013, Hillary accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches to private education providers; her husband Bill has “earned” something like $21 million from for-profit education companies since 2010.
Clinton’s proposal for access to high-speed Internet for all by 2020 would further relax regulation to help the Internet industry to build new networks, tap into existing public infrastructure, and encourage “public and private” partnerships. These are euphemisms for corporate welfare, after the fashion of the Google fiber project – which is substantially subsidized by taxpayers, as cities lease land to the giant company for its broadband project at far below market value and offer city services for free or below cost. Clinton’s policy program also backs the 5G wireless network initiative and the release of unlicensed spectrum to fuel the “Internet of Thing.” (IoT). 5G wireless and IoT are a solution in search of a problem – unless you are a corporate supplier or a business user of networks. This is an unacknowledged program to accelerate and expand digital commodification.
Clinton’s international plans are equally manipulative. She will press for “an open Internet abroad,” that is, for “internet freedom” and “free flow of information across borders.” Despite the powerful appeal of this rhetoric, which she exploited systematically when she was Secretary of State, Clinton actually is pushing to bulwark U.S. big capital in general, and U.S. internet and media industries, in particular. Secretary Clinton’s major speech on Internet freedomin 2010 came mere days after Google’s exit from China, supposedly on grounds of principle, making it plain that the two interventions – one private, one public – were coordinated elements of a single campaign. Outside the United States, especially since the disclosures by Edward Snowden in 2013, it is increasingly well-understood that the rhetoric of human rights is a smokescreen for furthering U.S. business interests. Reviving this approach is cynical electioneering rather than an endeavor to advance human rights or, indeed, more just international relations.
This in turn provides the context in which to understand Clinton’s vow to support the “multi-stakeholder” approach to Internet governance. “Multi-stakeholderism” endows private corporations with public responsibilities, while it downgrades the ability of governments to influence Internet policy – as they have tried to do, notably, in the United Nations. By shifting the domain in this way, the multi-stakeholder model actually reduces the institutional room available to challenge U.S. power over the global Internet. It was for this very reason that the Obama Administration recently elevated multi-stakeholderism into the reigning principle for global Internet governance: On 1 October, the U.S. Commerce Department preempted (other) governments from exercising a formal role.
This is, once again, the preferred agenda of Silicon Valley. Aaron Cooper, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Software Alliance, a Washington trade group representing software developers, crowed in a Washington Post interview, “A lot of the proposals that are in the Clinton initiative are consistent with the broad themes that [we] and other tech associations have been talking about, so we’re very pleased.”
To build up her policy platform in this vital field, Clinton has assembled a network of more than 100 tech and telecom advisors. The members of this shadowy group have not been named, but they are said to include former advisors and officials, affiliates of think-tanks and trade groups, and executives at media corporations. Apparently, just as with respect to Wall Street, the public has no right to know who is shaping Clinton’s program for technology. Equally clearly, however, it is meant to resonate with Apple’s Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz – all of whom have publicly rallied to her campaign.
Some might choose to emphasize that the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has not even bothered to hint to voters about his tech and information policy. Fair enough. Clinton’s program, though, is both surreptitious and plutocratic. It’s not that she’s not good enough – it’s that she’s in the wrong camp. England’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “Digital Democracy” program offers a better entry point for thinking about democratic information policy, as it includes publicly financed universal internet access, fair wages for cultural workers, release to open source of publicly funded software and hardware, cooperative ownership of digital platforms and more. That would be a start.
 Noah Kulwin, “Hillary Clinton’s tech policy proposal sounds like a love letter to Silicon Valley,” recode, June 28, 2016.
 Brian Fung, “Hillary Clinton’s tech agenda is really a huge economic plan in disguise,” Washington Post, June 28, 2016.
 Schiller, D. & Yeo. S. (Forthcoming, Fall 2016) Science and Engineering Into Digital Capitalism, in Tyfield, D., Lave, R., Randalls, S., and Thorpe, C. (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science.
 “Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology and Innovation,” The Briefing, June 27, 2016.
 Gary Silverman, “Hillary and Bill Clinton: The For-Profit Partnership,” Financial Times, July 21, 2016.
 Kenric Ward, “Taxpayers subsidize Google Fiber in this city with bargain land leases,” Watchdog.org, August 16, 2016; Timothy B. Lee,”How Kansas City taxpayers support Google Fiber,” arstechnica, September 7, 2012.
 Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, “Remarks on Internet Freedom,” January 21, 2010, The Newseum, Washington, DC.
 Dan Schiller, Digital Depression. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014: 161-69.
 Heather Greenfield, “CCIA Applauds Hillary Clinton’s Tech Agenda,” Computer & Communications Industry Association, June 28, 2016.
 Brian Fung, “Hillary Clinton’s tech agenda is really a huge economic plan in disguise,” Washington Post, June 28, 2016.
 Margaret Harding McGill & Nancy Scola, “Clinton quietly amasses tech policy corps,” Politico, August 24, 2016; Steven Levy, “How Hillary Clinton Adopted the Wonkiest Tech Policy Ever,” Backchannel, August 29, 2016 ; Tony Romm, “Inside Clinton’s tech policy circle,”Politico, June 7, 2016.
Sen. Hilary Clinton, OpenSecrets.org; Levy Sumagaysay, “Facebook co-founder pledges $20 million to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump,” The Mercury News, September 9, 2016; Russell Brandom, “Tim Cook is hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton,” Verge, July 29, 2016.
This article originally appeared on Information Observatory.
WEDNESDAY, OCT 19, 2016 01:59 AM PDT
On Oct. 3, Longwood University, a public university in Virginia, hosted the first and only 2016 vice presidential debate. In what were described as the debate’s “most sincere” and “most honest” moments, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) discussed their religious faiths.
Pence, a Roman-Catholic-turned-evangelical, appealed to familiar concerns of the Christian right, such as abortion and “the sanctity of life.” Kaine, a Roman Catholic, emphasized the moral responsibility of honoring individual choice.
That Pence pivoted toward abortion is not surprising. Since 1973 — when the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized the right to an abortion — the Christian right has put abortion, as well as homosexuality and “family values,” at the center of conservative politics.
This particular focus stemmed from the fear, particularly among white southern evangelicals, of disturbing an old order based on white supremacy, heterosexuality and female domesticity. Decades of judicial and legislative progress toward a more inclusive and democratic nation as a result of the civil rights, women’s rights and gay liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s only increased that fear. It also consolidated southern white evangelicals’ political strength in the Christian right.
It is not surprising, therefore, that since the 1970s, it is the Christian right that has set the discourse about religion in America. What has remained unrecognized is the important role the Christian left has played during the last 50 years.
What is the “Christian left” really?
Generally, left and left-leaning Christians seek religion not so much in expressing faith in social justice. Sociologist Nancy T. Ammerman has found that these “lay liberals” are “defined not by ideology, but by practice.” They especially value practicing Christianity according to the Golden Rule, or Jesus’ message,
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)
Their concerns include income inequality, racism, violence, hunger and homelessness. They do not necessarily support the hard-line ideological positions of the Christian right, including those regarding LGBTQ Americans and marriage equality.
The Christian left does not easily fit within traditional organizational structures, though they do value church membership.
The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey is suggestive of this trend. In the American South, where 34 percent of residents identify as evangelicals and 14 percent as mainline Protestant, the survey found that at least 21 percent of adults identify as liberal and 32 percent as moderate. These data suggest that the Christian left has found space within evangelical and mainline Protestant southern churches.
A historic tradition, a southern legacy
The Christian left is not a new phenomenon. American Christians have played important roles in many progressive movements dating back to the anti-slavery movement of the early- to mid-19th century.
After the Civil War, many Christians championed workers’ rights, orphanages and schools, women’s suffrage and resistance to American intervention in World War I. During this time, the black church, particularly in the South, became an important instrument in promoting social activism based on ideas of “social responsibility and good works” grounded in Christianity.
The black church was integral to the civil rights movement. At the time, both black and white Christians living in the South confronted head-on the Jim Crow laws, which enforced segregation and voting rights.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which made racial segregation illegal, many white Christian leaders joined hands with African-Americans to advocate for racial justice within their white congregations, as racial injustice continued.
One of the most well-known Christian left organizations at the time was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Formed in 1957, the SCLC put black evangelical clergy at the forefront of the movement, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It coordinated with local civil rights organizations and played a role in voter drives and the 1963 March on Washington. That was where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Perhaps King best summarized his vision for the Christian left, shared by the SCLC, when he wrote from inside a Birmingham jail cell,
“Was not Jesus an extremist in love?”
It is important to note that the Christian left did not limit its reach to racial justice, nor did its significance wane in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Christian right consolidated its political base.
For example, it is not widely known that some Christian denominations welcomed LGBTQ Americans. According to historian Jim Downs, churches for gay men and women, including those located in the South, played an important role in gay liberation in the 1970s. In the 1980s, mainline Protestant denominations such as the Episcopal Church formed support ministries for LGBTQ members. Episcopalians also took a lead role in affirming women’s rights by ordaining women.
A southern phenomenon then and now
This history of Christian activism in the South continues today. North Carolina — a state that has been the focus of my own research — exemplifies how the Christian left’s past informs its present.
Historically one of the most progressive southern states, North Carolina is home tothe Moral Monday Movement. Formed in 2013 by Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the movement raises its voice against a wide range of issues related to unfair treatment and discrimination such as restriction of voting rights and cutting funding for Medicaid, welfare and education.
When the Moral Monday Movement began in North Carolina in 2013, religious leaders issued a joint statement urging activism not along partisan but religious lines.
Lost in media coverage
Despite the growth of movements such as Moral Mondays, however, the Christian left often gets lost in media coverage during election cycles.
This is not surprising as media coverage of religion is limited. In 2008 and 2012,merely one percent of media coverage concerned religion, and 2016 appears to be no different.
Furthermore, whatever coverage does take place is often limited to conservative Christians and the “red states” of the South.
Unfortunately, the “red state” identification does not capture the region’s social, political and racial diversity. It is true that religion is important in the South. In 2014,62 percent of adults in the South reported that religion was “very important” to them. However, the percentage of religious southerners who lean Republican and Democrat are roughly the same (approximately 40 percent).
The voices that have been missed
It is important to note that even in this election cycle, the South’s Christian left has not been silent.
On Sept. 26, in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer, Rev. William Barber led a “unity rally for justice and transparency” at a historic black church in North Carolina, where he asked his audience to hold up their “faithful voter cards.” He led the gathering in a civil rights marching song.
This year’s presidential election might be an opportunity for the Christian left to become more visible. There were indications of this when on Oct. 6 more than 100 evangelical leaders denounced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and warned the media against viewing evangelicals as a monolithic group.
Of course, the “Christian left versus Christian right” discussion is itself limiting. In the context of the rich religious pluralism of the United States, we must ask more broadly what the religious left can do collaboratively to affect change in American political discourse.
There is movement in this direction, including in the federal government. For example, in 2009, just two weeks into his first term, President Barack Obama established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The office has embraced core principles of the Christian left, including social and economic justice. This year it appointed Barbara Stein to the advisory council, who is the first openly transgender appointee and an active member of the United Church of Christ.
Such examples can prove instructive, especially to local, grassroots organizations. As election day approaches, the Christian left can play an important role in taking a stand in favor of this progress.