If Donald Trump is the George McGovern of the GOP, what does that make Hillary Clinton?

I’ve been saying for months that Donald Trump is the George McGovern of the GOP, the fractious leader who so alienated the elders of his party that they deserted him in droves, handing the election to his opponent. We’re already seeing the signs.

From Talking Points Memo:

A former aide to John McCain, who served both as the Arizona senator’s chief of staff and a senior advisor on his 2008 presidential campaign, made clear Tuesday that he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the general election.

“I’m with her,” Mark Salter tweeted, referring to Clinton’s campaign slogan, after noting the likely nomination of Trump, “a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level.”

From the Associated Press:

Already, aides say, a number of Republicans have privately told Clinton and her team they plan to break party ranks and support her as soon as Trump formally captures his party’s nomination.

“We have an informed understanding that we could have the potential to expect support from not just Democrats and independents, but Republicans, too,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “There’s a time and place for that support to make itself known.”

Clinton has begun casting her candidacy in recent days as a cry to unify a divided country. After a series of victories last week, which all but ensured she will capture her party’s nomination, Clinton called on Democrats, independents and what she called “thoughtful Republicans” to back her bid.

Guy Cecil, chief strategist of Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing her campaign, echoed that language Tuesday night, calling on “Democrats, independents and reasonable Republicans” to reject Trump’s “outdated ideas.”

While a vocal segment of the Republican Party has denounced Trump, few have been willing to go as far as saying they would back Clinton in the fall.

Ben Howe, a Republican strategist who has worked for Cruz, said he’d be actively working against Trump — a decision he recognizes means backing Clinton.

“Anything right now that would allow Donald Trump to become president is the wrong move, so the de facto result is that Hillary would win,” he said. “I don’t agree with Hillary Clinton. What I think is Hillary Clinton is more honest than Trump, and that’s saying a lot.”

Endorsements from prominent GOP backers could potentially pave the way for Republican voters to back Clinton, particularly woman.

In the same way that McGovern prompted an exodus from the Democratic Party—most visibly and prominently among elites, but also among rank-and-filers—so will Trump. Indeed, it has already begun. And it will only gain strength in the coming months.

But if Trump is the McGovern of the Republicans, what does that make Hillary Clinton? As the Associated Press notes:

There is some irony in Clinton playing the role of a unifier: She’s long been one of the most divisive figures in American politics. But while 55 percent of Americans said they had a negative opinion of Clinton in an Associated Press-GfK poll released last month, 69 percent said the same of Trump.

The same was true of Richard Nixon. Long before Watergate, Cambodia, and the Plumbers, Nixon was widely viewed, and loathed, as one of the most divisive figures in American politics. People forget, but Nixon had been on the front lines—and in the headlines—of partisan warfare since his days on HUAC. Indeed, if there is any precedent for today’s conservative hatred of Hillary, it is yesterday’s liberal hatred of Tricky Dick.

That moniker raises another parallel.

Not unlike Clinton, Nixon had trouble in the authenticity department.

In his 1960 Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference?, Arthur Schlesinger devoted several pages to the proposition that Nixon was perhaps the most inauthentic man in American politics. The book features Evelyn Houston claiming that Nixon suffered from a “pervasive and alchemic falsity,” that Nixon had “a veritable Midas touch for making ersatz of the real.” Schlesinger even resorts to David Riesman’s famous theory of the “other-directed man” to explain Nixon’s being “obsessed with appearances rather than the reality of things, obsessed above all with his own appearance, his own image, seeking reassurance through winning, but never knowing why he is so made to win or what he will do with his victory.” Sound familiar?

In fairness to Clinton—and Nixon—such charges of inauthenticity and shiftiness often dog what Steve Skowronek calls “preemptive” presidencies. That is, presidents who are opposed, at least in a partisan sense (ideologically, they are more ambivalent and ambiguous), to the dominant, still-resilient regime. (In Clinton’s case, the regime is Ronald Reagan’s.) Classic trimmers, these are presidents who must nip and tuck, constantly maneuvering between a restive base that wants to see an overthrow of the dominant regime and an opposition that is still strong enough to call the shots. These are presidents who never make anyone happy, least of all their own supporters. That is why, in their moments of crisis, they often find themselves deserted, without any friends or allies. That is also why I don’t envy Clinton, who’s about to face one of the biggest shitstorms of her already shitstorm-ridden career, once she wins the election in November. (Yes, if she wins the nomination, which it seems she will, she’ll most definitely win the election.)

Despite all these deficits, Nixon was able to repackage himself in 1972—with the aid of an extraordinarily unpopular opponent, who couldn’t muster the support of his own party (sound familiar), and a robust economy—as the great unifier. Indeed, he went on to defeat McGovern in one of the all-time greatest landslides in American history.

And we all know how that ended. As I said, I don’t envy Clinton.

A final word from the pages of history: There’s going to be an awful lot of Clinton liberals trying to present Clinton’s candidacy as the second coming of the Popular Front, that hoary moment in progressive history when all the forces of the good and the gallant on the left gathered together to defeat the forces of fascism on the right.

However you cast your ballot in November, please remember this: Léon Blum was and ran as a Socialist, and the Popular Front was not simply about defeating fascism, but about defeating fascism through socialism.

“He who does not wish to speak of capitalism,” Max Horkheimer famously said, “should also remain silent about fascism.” I’m not exactly sure how that translates into the present moment, but of this I am certain: Don’t talk about Clinton and the Popular Front in the same breath.


  1. John Maher May 4, 2016 at 1:22 pm | #

    Maybe Trump is -instead- the George Wallace of the campaign? Neoliberals united in an across the aisle ‘let’s hug it out’ moment. Saw this one coming since Clinton I.The moral here is the beltway is a harness or noose around the throat of America, keeping it in thrall to the entrenched property interests. Burke would declaim this is a good thing and the highest function of responsible government. Ironic if it were to the barricades for someone as despicable as Trump, but both truth and politics will out in different ways.

  2. fosforos17 May 4, 2016 at 1:27 pm | #

    This description of the Pop Front–“the Popular Front was not simply about defeating fascism, but about defeating fascism through socialism”– is simply outrageous. Blum, running a government in combination with “centrist:” capitalist politicians Herriot and Daladier, with the support of Stalin and his French tool Thorez, was immediately tested by the Fascist insurrection in Spain–and betrayed the Spanish Republic by forming (together with Baldwin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini) the “Nonintervention Committee” that covered for the nazi-fascist intervention while effectively preventing any military help to the antifascist defenders of the Republic (Stalin’s “help” came later and at the price of the elimination from government of left-socialists like Largo Caballero and the murder of revolutionaries like Andreu Nin). Moreover, Blum kept the Moroccan Berber revolutionary Abd-el-Krim, who had already once defeated the Spanish colonialists in their Zone of Morocco only to be suppressed by the Spaniards’ French colonial partners, imprisoned rather than releasing him to destroy Franco’s rear base in Spanish Morocco. And all this without even considering the effect of the Pop Front Majority in squelching a developing revolutionary situation in France itself and ultimately under Daladier capitulating to Hitler first at Munich and finally at Vichy.

  3. Michael Lichtenstein May 4, 2016 at 1:29 pm | #

    I worked for McGovern in 72; was 13 then, and tough lesson/disillusionment
    Did not think until today that landslide result of abandonment
    (Nixon was perfect boogeyman for leftists as you point out
    On an aside Obama’s manipulation of IRS worst presidential abyss of power I have seen since trick dick)
    Both Clinton and trump repulse
    Oi vey

    Where is ralph Nader this cycle when I need soneone to throw my vote away on?

  4. DLJames May 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm | #

    If Donald Drumpf is Sec. Clinton’s George McGovern as you suggest, who then WOULD be her Gov. Wallace?

  5. xenon2 May 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm | #

    if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination,
    I will vote for Trump.

    Sanders has a lot in common with Trump.
    Don’t think Sanders should use so many
    ad hominem arguments against Trump.
    There are enough arguments in the things
    Trump has said.

    But, nobody owns Trump.
    He owes no one.
    Hillary means more wars,
    more prisons, more unemployment,
    worse infrastructure.

  6. stephenkmacksd May 4, 2016 at 1:50 pm | #

    Pardon me if I say that you riff on James Pinkerton’s obsessive references to McGovern as a political apostate, although your meaning is quite clear in your essay, its is still redolent, for this reader, of that kind of rhetoric. It might be fruitful to view Hillary as representative of a New Republican Party, post Trump: she is rumored to be considering a Republican for a running mate, as part of her candidacy of national reconciliation. And Sanders as representative of a Democratic Party that will seek, after the coronation of Hillary, to return to the New Deal root of FDR, as answer to the New Democrat’s conscious desertion of that tradition as a means to power. Just some thoughts.

  7. Miguel Angel Chavez May 4, 2016 at 5:06 pm | #

    I’m a Chicano in Dallas, and after doing my day’s work in adjuncting, I went to visit my mother at her beauty salon to pick up a few things. I could see everyone there was apprehensive about the prospect of a Trump presidency, with CNN Español on the background. And given the race-baiting and fascistic rhetoric from both Trump and his ilk on illegals – the current codeword for any Hispanic – I can’t blame them. I am frankly mortified at the prospect of Trump and empowered bigots undoing this Second Reconstruction.

    I voted for Sanders on the basis of moving the Democratic platform to the left. I am by no means a Clinton shill or someone who is deaf to the Left. But if given a choice between Trump and a moldy bag of potatoes, the potatoes have my vote. Even if the Democratic Party isn’t up to my own desires on the subject of immigration reform, attempts to call Clinton a “neoliberal” doesn’t change the fact that she supports the DREAM Act and Trump listens to the foulest rhetoric of the Alternative Right and the HBD/Racialist movement.

    This is all to say that I am somewhat disgusted at many of my white leftist friends contemplating a vote for Trump. Whether they’ve drunk the “Neoliberal Clinton” kool-aid or not, I can’t say. So while Mr. Robin can chide us on the “misuse” of the 1930s Popular Front on the prospect of rallying around Ms. Clinton, that isn’t going to stop me. Nor is his constant referrals to Clinton as a “Goldwater Girl” or that she’s a neoliberal. Because in my view, the stakes are so much higher. I do not doubt the murmurings among us when we view a Trump presidency as both an existential threat, and a violent reaction to that presidency.

    Maybe Trump is full of it. Maybe he won’t do what he said he’ll do. But I can’t take that risk. If anything, these discussions have moved me more towards the Ta-Nehesi Coates perspective that race and racism is the guiding influence of American history. The Left’s failure to recognize that – as evidence by Jacobin’s repeated failed rebuttals to Coates – would be exemplified by their ignorance on that matter.

    If Socialists could hold their nose to vote for Chirac over Jean Marie La Pen, surely the American Left can do that for Clinton. But I’m increasingly doubtful of that.

    • John Maher May 5, 2016 at 12:09 am | #

      When you get back from the beauty salon, you might consider that despite the ugly race baiting of Trump, anybody but a neoliberal will be better economically and socially for the vast majority of Chinanos. I don’t know anyone who actually likes Trump and he is clearly the candidate by default, but the road to serfdom is surely paved with neoliberal deregulation.So is race baiting enough to make one vote against what I argue is one’s best interest? An ethical dilemma for sure.

      • Ra May 5, 2016 at 1:40 am | #

        Dear Miguel,

        As a Muslim immigrant, I can relate. White leftists like Corey Robin and John Maher mean well, as do many of my white leftist friends in grad school, but only they would sincerely “consider that despite the ugly race baiting of Trump, anybody but” an entirely unproblematic proposition. It’s not unlike saying, “I’m not a racist, but,” isn’t it? Of course, we’re hardly alone in this. “Something — we cannot say what — inside certain corners of the ostensibly progressive and overwhelmingly white ranks of Sanders voters is amiss,” says one woman of color. “There is a pattern — demonstrated time and time again — by both Sanders and some Sanders supporters of racial cluelessness, an infantilizing and almost colonial kind of condescension about policy, and a tendency to react to anyone who points that out by, well, supplying even more evidence of racial tone-deafness, self-ordained intellectual superiority and sometimes completely open displays of various forms of outright bigotry.” Indeed, to borrow another woman of color’s words, it truly is “one of the greatest forms of privilege there is” when voting for Hillary Clinton counts as “an ethical dilemma.” White people’s problems par excellence, isn’t it? Good intentions, road to hell. Talk about paving, right? God help us all.

        • Graham Clark May 5, 2016 at 8:47 pm | #

          “White leftists like Corey Robin and John Maher mean well” How would you know?

    • Roquentin May 6, 2016 at 9:57 am | #

      I see the point you are after, but this is precisely what guarantees the onward march of neoliberalism. The system works very, very well at reproducing the same conditions which allow it to go on existing. I agree that Trump, while completely full of shit, may actually follow through on some of his racist rhetoric and they even following through on a small fraction of it would be catastrophic. Our political system is primarily focused on getting us all to accept that our own oppression is necessary, that what they hand is is the best of all possible (real) worlds.

      But does the fact that Hillary is now openly courting support from the right not bother you? Doesn’t this in and of itself indicate that she will be scarcely different in office in practical terms? Oh sure, she has enough sense not say blatantly racist things on camera and isn’t racist herself in those terms. But the end result of the neoliberal capitalist politics she is the figurehead of will be almost identical, minus that moronic scheme for a wall. I don’t have statistics to back it up, but I don’t think deportations have slowed any under Obama. Do you think she’ll be any different?

      I’d never in a thousand years consider Trump, but the very fact I’m being forced into this dilemma (of bad vs worse) and told yet again to give support because of a crisis makes me want to just go out and vote Green this time around. Because the hard fact of the matter is: there’s always a crisis. There’s always an excuse. There’s always a reason for us to play their game because that’s the way everything is set up. Frighten everyone into thinking there is no “realistic” alternative, and it works very, very well. I may yet hold my nose and vote for HRC, but at this point I don’t even know.

      • fosforos17 May 6, 2016 at 10:29 am | #

        Unfortunately, this ain’t true: “Oh sure, she has enough sense not say blatantly racist things on camera.” Her very recent phrase “off the reservation” is the single most racist thing anyone has said in this campaign.

      • Zach Braff May 6, 2016 at 12:40 pm | #

        Obama’s deported more than all other presidents ever — http://fusion.net/story/252637/obama-has-deported-more-immigrants-than-any-other-president-now-hes-running-up-the-score/ — almost more than every other president for the past 100 years combined.

        Also, consider Hillary’s record on Latin America & Haiti — we would have less “illegals” (refugees fleeing violence) from Honduras, for example, if she had not supported the toppling of their government.

        To her credit, she seems to have pushed hard to lift the Cuban trade embargo. Otoh, she has deep ties to the Fanjul sugar baron family, who are looking to start sugar plantations there http://fanjulbrothers.com/

        Roquentin, you mention below that Bill called young black teenagers “superpredators”, but it was Hillary who did so and also repeated a bizarre myth that gangs were getting inner city (black) children “hopped up on drugs” and then sending them out to kill people

        • Miguel Angel Chavez May 9, 2016 at 1:10 am | #

          @Zack Braff, yes, I know that Obama has a reputation as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” This argument is occasionally used by the same people I referenced in my earlier post to “stump” my annoyance at their seemingly irrational hatred of Clinton.

          But such arguments ignores the fact that much of the immigration reform movement has focused on shifting the policies of the administration towards supporting DACA and DAPA. This argument ignores the fact that we are angry at Obama, not naively hoping for is wisdom or mercy.

          And if we’re annoyed at Obama, how do you think we feel about Trump? If Obama’s fault is not living up to his 2008 campaign rhetoric, what do we make of Trump’s dog-whistling and race baiting? What is a “lesser” version of Trump? Do we not have decades of Jim Crow to reference the ever-present specter of white supremacy in this country? Do we not know how the story turns out?

          For the purposes of this comment, let’s say Clinton is a neoliberal. The choice before me is a neoliberal or a white supremacists. It is the hallmark of white privilege to even contemplate this choice. Clearly, the vast majority of Hispanics and African-Americans will choose the former and not the latter.

          What the left has to do is this: articulate the dangers of neoliberalism for us to actually view that as a worse alternative than the potential end of this Second Reconstruction. And it’s frankly impossible, to be quite honest.

          @fosforos17 – I don’t know why you’re calling me a “neocon” troll. I am not going to assume anything about you, how about you return that courtesy?

          @John Maher – Well, if the general election were between Clinton and Sanders, I’d vote for Sanders. Which I did for the primary here in Texas. I don’t dispute the fact that we have massive inequality, and addressing this is paramount for the economic well-being of the American people.

          But the general election isn’t between Bernie or Hillary. It’s between a centrist Democrat and a race-baiting, attention-seeking, fascist. I do not believe in the inevitability of progress. Progress can be reversed; just ask African-Americans during and after Reconstruction.

          I’ll lay it out here: a thing that many leftists ignore is that the nations they want the US to emulate in terms of social welfare, be it Scandinavia or elsewhere, are able to do so because of a high-degree of social solidarity and unity. And part of this is that these countries are relatively ethnically homogenous. That the plight Syrian refugees is being used by race baiters to foster the rebirth of the European far-right is not coincidental. The far-right is also using anti-capitalist, anti-elite, and anti-neoliberal rhetoric to garner support among Europe’s youth.

          The American alt-right is doing the exact same thing. This may be paranoia on my part, but I sense that the American left is absolutely oblivious to this. Misogyny is already rampant on social media, and the rallying call against “political correctness” is seeing more people spout racism online. My fear is that many young leftists would be enamored to follow Trump given his seemingly anti-conservative politics.

          Essentially, that minorities would be thrown under the bus for the desire goal of an expansive welfare state. If this fear is real (and not simply the result of my paranoia), then if neoliberals are the only allies I have, well I guess I’m voting for them.

          This isn’t my ideal, but I do hope the left becomes more attentive to the attitudes of their colored allies.

    • Roquentin May 6, 2016 at 10:02 am | #

      Oh, and one more thing: If race really is the defining factor of American politics you neglect the very obvious fact. Hillary Clinton is still white. It will never stop fascinating me how she manages to wind on up the winning side of ethnic and other political identities she doesn’t have or represent herself. Where was she when Sanders was getting arrested for supporting Civil Rights? Where was she during the 90s when her husband was talking about “super-predators?”

      To act as if Hillary is any less a white person than Sanders or his supporters is disingenuous in the extreme, if not outright bullshit.

    • Zach Braff May 6, 2016 at 1:26 pm | #

      I really appreciate Miguel & Ra’s comments, and I also completely agree with Roquentin’s argument. And yes, I’m a white Bernie supporter. I don’t know what I’ll do in the general

      I could never vote for Trump, because he wants to “ban Muslims.” (Although he did say “for now,” and trust me, a lot of Americans have opinions worse than that. To say “for now” implies this is not necessarily a Christian nation with which Islam is incompatible, which is what a lot of Cruz-types believe.)

      Personally, my biggest issue is foreign policy, and I think an HRC presidency would be a disaster for black and brown people across the globe. I’m hopeful Trump would be more of an isolationist, in the case where every smart person is wrong (again) and he wins.

      And keep in mind, although Republicans talk big about “making the sand glow,” Obama has dropped so many bombs in the Middle East and Africa the Air Force says they’re running out. (And HRC is well to his right on intervention vs. diplomacy.)

      Also, he’s pushing ahead on plans to build “tactical nuclear weapons,” Jesus Christ

      Democrats are able to do things Republican presidents never could — gutting welfare, re-instating assassinations (including of at least one American w/o trial) — because they seem to us like nice, smart parents that we should trust.

      At some point, we have to stop brainwashing ourselves with this red team/blue team bullshit

      • Zach Braff May 6, 2016 at 1:31 pm | #

        Oh, I didn’t mention immigration:

        Same thing — Why do we celebrate Obama’s record on immigration when he has deported more people in 8 years than the previous 108? When private prison tents for “illegals” in Texas were literally overflowing with rivers of shit?

        And for the Black Lives Matter movement, all Obama has to show is a report from the DoJ criticizing Ferguson for aggressive traffic violations. I don’t see him using even the power of the pulpit to defend the lives of young black people against arbitrary state violence.

        • Ra May 7, 2016 at 12:11 am | #

          The “fact that Hillary is now openly courting support from the right” does not bother me at all. She’s a politician: that’s not even pragmatism; that’s just her job description. Reaching across the aisle is what she’s supposed to do. Refusing to do that is how you get government shutdowns and don’t get Supreme Court appointments. In any case, you don’t ever hear Bernie disavowing the support he gets from some on the right. On the contrary, that’s precisely one of his chief selling points: his ability to attract independent and Republican voters alike (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/the-lifelong-conservatives-who-love-bernie-sanders/417441/, http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-surprising-numbers-republicans-have-been-voting-bernie-sanders-vermont, http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/republicans-offer-unsolicited-support-bernie-sanders, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-01-19/republican-operatives-are-trying-to-help-bernie-sanders, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420262/bernie-sanders-republicans-myra-adams, https://www.reddit.com/r/RepublicansForSanders, my God it really is quite endless).

          As for Hillary’s whiteness, that is beside the point. This is: https://youtu.be/hA5ezR0Kh80?t=3m2s. That thunderous applause, that visceral otherness of “she,” magnified by its mere mention by a black man, that is the point. That “she” matters.

          And lastly, I don’t think you guys understand the nuances of American Muslim politics. When polls showed that Americans disapproved of an intervention in Syria, many in the American Muslim community actually rallied for the opposite. “All energies were exhausted (not necessarily in the most efficient ways) into trying to get the Obama administration to budge on Syria– there were many victories within Congress, the State Department, and the broader DC think tank and media community– but it is quite clear that there is only one person standing in the way of an effective strategy in Syria that possesses a set of teeth and long-term approach. From Secretary Hillary Clinton to Secretary Robert Gates to the recently retired U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and other former high ranking administration officials (cutting across partisan lines), all recommendations for a more engaged Syria policy fell upon deaf ears– President Obama’s ears, that is. And here we are. Assad seems to be living quite comfortably with the Islamic State providing him with a thick smokescreen to hide behind. There are 191,369 deaths in Syria confirmed out of the 318,910 reported. Millions are displaced, the country’s infrastructure is in shambles, the war has spread to Iraq and Lebanon, and there is a reality called the Islamic State that isn’t planning on leaving any time soon. I think it is time for a change in approach on the Syrian American community’s behalf. Arming the Free Syrian Army and enacting a no-fly zone are policy asks we should continue to champion, but I strongly believe that we should focus primarily on relief and development, along with making sure that our government doesn’t hop into bed with Assad to fight IS. If President Obama approaches the Islamic State as an entity that emerged out of a vacuum (rather than the power vacuum he created) and doesn’t incorporate Syria and the remaining moderate rebels into his anti-ISIS strategy, then we can expect more deaf ears until this president’s term is over in 2016. The fight is nowhere near over, and we have a responsibility to continue informing our fellow citizens and holding our elected officials accountable” (https://shamrocksheikh.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/chicago-where-art-thou/). And that’s a millennial talking (https://twitter.com/adhamsahloul/status/674659267073466368), not an old hawk. We who are new to this land and who have lived in another understand that the world is just a little bit more complicated than the Jacobin view so ascendant on the left these days. That’s why we’re with her: the complicated candidate.

          • fosforos17 May 7, 2016 at 10:52 am | #

            To that neocon troll: How come you don’t offer your oh-so-clever defense of the Clinton’s disgraceful racist “off the reservation” meme?

          • Ra May 7, 2016 at 12:07 pm | #

            A regrettable instance of misspeech with absolutely zero malicious intent in context does not a “meme” make. A meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Words have meanings, you know. A liberal interventionist is not a neocon any more than a Muslim like me is a terrorist. Samantha Power is not Bill Kristol (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/30power.html) any more than Michael Ignatieff is Ted Cruz (http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2013/09/13/how-save-syrians/). But given such statements of yours as “Her very recent phrase “off the reservation” is the single most racist thing anyone has said in this campaign,” I highly suspect you have any coherent grasp of reality, much less deference for lexical integrity. As such, do know that this reply of mine will be my last, for though “I [too] have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes [go off the rails] in the way they behave and how they speak” — I am, after all, not only Muslim and immigrant but also gay — I do not typically, as a matter of self-preservation — of my sanity, that is — engage with people like you. That is all. Have a lovely day.

          • Gavolt May 7, 2016 at 5:42 pm | #

            “Venal” is not the same thing as “complicated”.

          • Xander May 7, 2016 at 6:31 pm | #

            As a straight white male, I hope you would accept my apologies on behalf of all the sore losers on this comment thread, Ra. And thank you for your thoughtful comments!

          • Roquentin May 9, 2016 at 11:40 am | #

            “That’s why we’re with her: the complicated candidate.”

            There is nothing complicated about Clinton. Stop saying this. While I can at least on some level understand the argument that supporting her is necessary because the white supremacist rhetoric of Trump is that much worse, how otherwise reasonable people delude themselves into thinking she is anything but a center-right neoliberal politician is beyond me. Another extreme annoying thing, passing off the the most conventional, worn-out lines as complex when they are the furthest thing from it. You’re desperate to portray this as “complicated” because it absolves you from admitting that Hillary, and people such as yourself are center-right neoliberals who privately despise the left and always have.

          • Ra May 9, 2016 at 4:14 pm | #

            I’m a liberal. And because I’m a liberal (http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390667.001.0001/acprof-9780195390667), I want all the basic things that liberals everywhere do: universal healthcare, free college, and so on. Hillary plainly does too. She fought for universal healthcare and failed. I don’t presume to know her mind, but that, I think, taught her to be pragmatic. So instead of universal healthcare, she aims for affordable healthcare. Instead of free college, she aims for debt-free college. Because America, she must have come to accept (or celebrate, as leftists like you would no doubt argue), is not Europe. As an immigrant who has spent some time studying in Europe, I have come to see this, too: all the ways that America is not Denmark. Americans, for instance, have a love affair with capitalism unlike anything I have ever seen in Europe. And as a Muslim, the way that religion mingles so freely with politics in America is frankly a little bit traumatic for me; as a gay man, even more so. That is to say, I do not despise the left, privately or publicly. After all, the left — and by that I include the liberals — has been good to people like me and, well, just people in general. But questioning the left is not the same as despising it. In fact, your accusations are eerily reminiscent of the ones that have been hurled at Muslims like me by many in the Muslim community whenever we interrogate the wisdom or prudence of their cherished old certainties. We are self-hating, they say, when they are feeling charitable; but when they’re not, we’re apostates seeking to destroy the religion from within. In the context of the dominant discourse on the left these days, “There is nothing complicated about Clinton” is a certitude that many people like me simply do not have either the temperament or the luxury of having. My God, I have family abroad: Muslim family. A Trump presidency is unfathomable for me — for Miguel. So forgive us for being horrified that those who so often loudly claim to be on our side now find themselves with “an ethical dilemma” so confounding as to warrant a serious consideration of “Bernie or Bust” (mercifully, from what I can gather that is not you). It’s like knowing that the terrorists are coming and still arguing about the minimum wage. “Unskilled persons whose eye of intelligence is obscured by the darkness of delusion conceive of an essence in things and then generate attachment and hostility with regard to them.” That’s Buddhapalita, a classical Buddhist philosopher. And you think we’re deluded?

          • Zach Braff May 10, 2016 at 3:06 pm | #


            I do understand there are Syrians that wanted America to intervene. I still disagree — also, that blog post is wrong about a lot:

            (A) The FSA, if it ever was a cohesive moderate opposition party capable of governing, it certainly isn’t now. (B) That post presents American intervention as impartial and benevolent, which I don’t think anyone believes in 2016. (C) Hillary’s position on Syria proves that point — if what we really want is peace, why premise any “peace negotioation” on Assad relinquishing power? If you believe in incremental change for America, why prefer chaos for Syria? Also, HRC thought Obama should invade solely because he said chemical weapons were a “red line” for him, and she felt back-tracking on that would make the president seem weak. Meanwhile, Robert Gates and others were telling Obama the intelligence was not certain. (D) Speaking of, Gates said “Shouldn’t we finish up the two wars we have before we look for another?” this blog post is entirely wrong about him, also.

            [For sources on the above, see The Atlantic’s Obama Doctrine article]

            As for Samantha Power, she formulated a doctrine of pre-emptive war, in which America functions as the sole legitimate moral authority. So no, I don’t see much daylight between her and Bush’s neocons — just because she’s a Democrat and they’re Republicans doesn’t make her better. (Also, she referred to Hillary as “a monster” in 2008, so holy shit)

            I like reading your comments, so if I sound angry here it’s not about you — It irks me that most Americans think the sky is falling because Trump is speaking plainly what the GOP has been dog-whistling for decades (and Dems have gone along with), and yet there is zero interest in the carnage our country wreaks abroad. The president cannot make their will manifest, EXCEPT on issues of the military & foreign policy.

            So yes, I’m still as worried what Hillary (and even Obama) do abroad as I am Trump’s rhetoric. And I can “check” my white privilege, but I don’t think that’s it.

          • fosforos17 May 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm | #

            You are enormously too charitable to the Clinton when you write “HRC thought Obama should invade solely because he said chemical weapons were a “red line” for him, and she felt back-tracking on that would make the president seem weak.” That is her lying excuse for her subservience to the Saudi tyranny and its worldwide propagation of Islamofascism (aka Wahhabi Islam). Not only was the sarin accusation a transparent falsehood, but Obama’s “red line” comment specifically said “a *bunch* of chemical weapons” and even the false accusation claimed only ONE attack. Only a conscienceless liar would take a single instance and claim it amounts to a “bunch” and that Obama, who in a moment of relative wisdom refused to be pushed by her, the Saudis, and their weapons-of-death French Socialist suppliers into doing a VERY “stupid thing,” was somehow showing “weakness.”

    • Roquentin May 10, 2016 at 9:55 am | #

      If you have family abroad, although you haven’t said where and Muslim could mean almost anywhere, I have to ask whether or not Hillary’s warmongering doesn’t bother you. It was she he pushed so hard for military action in Libya. It is she who has talked so favorably of “regime change” during multiple debates. It is she who has a personal friendship with Henry Kissinger. So much of this difference you want so badly to believe is there between her and the GOP just isn’t. It’s empty posturing, same as it was back in the 90s. She hasn’t changed and neither have the people behind her.

      What you call compromise isn’t compromise at all, this Hillary and liberals like her wanted to happen all along and they desperately need the excuse of a compromise to make it happen. She also desperately needs the racism and sexism of the GOP to obscure the fact how similar they are, so we can all feel like voting for her means something.

      Also, regarding liberals despising the left (socialist..democratic or otherwise), the actions of the mainstream media and the DNC during this primary stand on their own merit. The coverage of the primary has been so slanted against Sanders and so in favor of Hillary as to be almost a joke. Young people are never going to forget that, just you watch. I know I lost what little faith I had left in the supposedly liberal corporate media giants during this primary.

      • Ra May 11, 2016 at 12:53 am | #

        @Zach Braff

        “The FSA, if it ever was a cohesive moderate opposition party capable of governing, it certainly isn’t now.”

        The thing is, when that post was written, it was. When the President of the Syrian National Coalition Hadi al-Bahra came on The Daily Show to plead his case for the Syrian people http://www.cc.com/shows/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart/interviews/s6gcz0/hadi-al-bahra-extended-interview), it was.

        “Hillary’s position on Syria proves that point — if what we really want is peace, why premise any “peace negotioation” on Assad relinquishing power?”

        Because Assad, as history and al-Bahra himself have attested to, “is the sole cause of terrorist organization in the area. This has been since in the ’80s, since the invasion of Lebanon by Syrian army.” You simply cannot defeat ISIS while Assad is still in power. That’s not how you beat cancer.

        “If you believe in incremental change for America, why prefer chaos for Syria?”

        I appreciate your humility and self-awareness (“I can “check” my white privilege, but I don’t think that’s it”), but that very statement is the height of privilege. Have you lost your father and brothers in a civil war here in America? Have you ever had to traverse thousands of miles with your mother and sisters and baby brothers through land and/or sea into an entirely new continent to seek refuge? Indeed, as alluded to above, there seems to be a confusion of causality in your understanding of the conflict. Chaos was already there. Unlike Iraq, America did not cause it. That is to say, to “prefer chaos for Syria” is to do exactly what Obama has been doing: next to nothing. Precisely because chaos was already the status quo, further inaction would only cement it. As a result, the worst refugee crisis since World War Two, the worst terrorist attack in the West since 9/11, the worst rightwing gains in electoral support in Europe and America, even in such liberal utopias as Sweden and Denmark.

        “Also, HRC thought Obama should invade solely because he said chemical weapons were a “red line” for him, and she felt back-tracking on that would make the president seem weak.”

        Daenerys to Tyrion: “What would you have me do with him? I swore I would kill him if he ever returned? Why should the people trust a queen who can’t keep her promises?” Hillary to Obama: “Why should the world trust a president who can’t keep his promises?” Can’t you see that Obama has never recovered from that, from the Israeli opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal to the recent treatment that he got from the Saudis? To many in the world, his word means nothing now. I will never be president — I can’t, constitutionally — and even I know the importance of honoring my word, which is why I haven’t dignified fosforos17 with a response ever since I told him, “As such, do know that this reply of mine will be my last.”

        “As for Samantha Power, she formulated a doctrine of pre-emptive war, in which America functions as the sole legitimate moral authority. So no, I don’t see much daylight between her and Bush’s neocons — just because she’s a Democrat and they’re Republicans doesn’t make her better.”

        How about Desmond Tutu? Do you see much daylight between him and Bush’s neocons (http://www.globalr2p.org/about_us#patrons)?

        “(Also, she referred to Hillary as “a monster” in 2008, so holy shit)”

        Daenerys: “I’m terrible?” Tyrion: “I’ve heard stories.” Also, that actually adds to her credibility. When even your fiercest critics agree with you, you know you’re onto something. The same thing with Republicans now vowing they will vote for her against Trump.

        “The president cannot make their will manifest, EXCEPT on issues of the military & foreign policy.”

        President Trump + This Republican Congress + Conservative Supreme Court = If you still “don’t think that’s it” (“So yes, I’m still as worried what Hillary (and even Obama) do abroad as I am Trump’s rhetoric. And I can “check” my white privilege, but I don’t think that’s it”), my fellow citizen, Lord have mercy.


        “If you have family abroad, although you haven’t said where and Muslim could mean almost anywhere, I have to ask whether or not Hillary’s warmongering doesn’t bother you. It was she he pushed so hard for military action in Libya.”

        I have friends and family who are still alive in Bosnia because of her husband (http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/clinton-recalls-us-role-in-stopping-bosnia-war). And as a grad student in religion, what you call “Hillary’s warmongering” strikes me as a prime example of exegetical malfeasance in light of the actual context of her actual record (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2016/02/hillary_clinton_told_the_truth_about_her_iraq_war_vote.html#cx). Another is Libya (http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/14/hillary-clinton-has-no-regrets-about-libya/). Now, I’m sure that none of this is going to change your mind. And it’s fine. I’ve spent years trying to convince my own father that the Qur’an does not actually say that I am an abomination. In fact, I gave up a scholarship to study economics just so that I could study religion instead for that very purpose. Such a millennial thing to do, wasn’t it? I could parse the Arabic text and provide the historical context and even elaborate on the biblical antecedents but no, none of that matters to him, as I’m sure none of this matters to you. And again, it’s fine. What is not fine, however, is this: “So much of this difference you want so badly to believe is there between her and the GOP just isn’t.” Every part of my identity — gay, Muslim, immigrant — every fiber of my being simply cannot abide it. The sheer falseness of that sentence, from its substance to its sentiment, is just staggering to me. And therein lies the chasm between people like you and people like me. A Trump presidency or, for that matter, any Republican presidency wouldn’t really have any meaningful impact on your life. You are inoculated from electoral vicissitudes virtually every single election. Privilege is profound that way. So many complaints, you have — many of them perfectly valid, in fact — and yet I doubt you have ever known this existential fear and dread that people like me and Miguel have been living with since Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee. Privilege is profound that way, isn’t it? But don’t worry, I am not one of those social justice warriors who think that shouting at people is anything other than submoronic. “Let not the hatred of others towards you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice,” says the Qur’an 5:8. “Be just! That is next to piety!” I wonder if Paulo Freire ever read the Qur’an. “In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.” I’m pretty sure Hobbes never did. “Manners are small morals.” I don’t know about young people (“Young people are never going to forget that, just you watch”) — my fellow young people, I should say, as I’m only 28 myself (http://www.salon.com/2016/04/26/donald_trump_wipes_away_hillary_clintons_troubles_with_millennials_new_poll_shows_clinton_sweeping_young_voters_by_larger_margins_than_obama_won_in_2008/) — but people like me will certainly never forget this betrayal should Trump win in November.

  8. Jeff Doyler May 4, 2016 at 5:25 pm | #

    Always interesting Corey, but this is irrelevant in my opinion. How’s that “the left is overestimating the right” thing working out?

  9. Ra May 4, 2016 at 6:18 pm | #

    “Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton /ˈhɪləri daɪˈæn ˈrɒdəm ˈklɪntən/ (born October 26, 1947),” thus making her a…

    “Scorpio: The Phoenix Rises

    Scorpio’s waters are the most potent in the zodiac. Though it soothes and nurtures us, water is the most powerful of the elements. It’s the one that can and does wear down all the others, drop by drop.

    Running with deep swift power beneath the surface of things, Scorpio carries the tremendous energy of the unseen and invisible. From the surface, it looks low-key and understated. Don’t be fooled. Underneath, this energy is intensely magnetic, keenly sensitive–and absolutely irresistible.

    Scorpio frightens people, and for good reason. It’s extreme. For Scorpio the world is black and white. It’s a place where forgiveness is possible yet forgetting never happens. With built-in radar, Scorpio smells secrets like others smell fire. It knows where the bodies are buried, what is vulnerable, and where it is hidden.

    And it knows what it wants.” http://starsisterastrology.com/scorpio-the-phoenix-rises/

    Interesting, isn’t it? http://twelvehouses.tumblr.com/post/56780322694/house-of-scorpio-like-the-phoenix-the-scorpio

    “Tribal lords mistrust her, but refugees and former slaves flock to her banner, and her moral standing is crucial to helping her gain increasing power in the lands beyond the Narrow Sea. Daenerys faces HARD CHOICES (emphasis mine) and embodies contradictions, and she ends up grappling with all-too-familiar challenges and limits of humanitarian intervention and liberal imperialism. But she tries to balance the demands of power and principle rather than retreat into cynicism or indifference — hardly the standard realist response.” https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2012-03-29/game-thrones-theory

    Something to consider.

  10. kevin May 4, 2016 at 9:27 pm | #

    Hillary = Nixon?? Really? And your “rationale” / proof is that Republicans and media machiavels detest her? Umm . . . not convincing??

    You will soon realize that during Election 2016 you were a parody of a thoughtful intellectual. Here’s hoping you get the chance to look back on these 1980’s-style Clinton hate rants with chagrin and embarrassed humility.

    • Corey Robin May 6, 2016 at 12:08 am | #

      Kevin: This is my blog, you’re my guest here. Feel free to disagree. But please don’t show up, uninvited, and be rude to me. If you can’t abide by the simplest good manners, you’re not welcome here.

    • fosforos17 May 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm | #

      If this troll were indeed a “muslim,”: as he claims, he would certainly not have chosen a *pagan* name of God, “RA,” as his pseudonym. Brock is wasting Her monies.

  11. calling all toasters May 5, 2016 at 1:27 am | #

    Trump is a Republican and a recent convert. Hillary has been the target of Republican attacks for more than a decade. She must be FDR and Trump is Henry Wallace!

    No, wait: Trump is the biggest liar in American politics and Hillary represents another term for the incumbent in a year when the Democratic left was feeling its oats. He must be Nixon and she is Humphrey.

    No, WAIT: Trump is a fascist and a racist and Hillary is a boring member of the old regime. She must be Hindenburg. Vote Hitler! Feel the Reichstag Burn!

    According to Wikipedia you were born in 1967, so you are forgiven for having no understanding of what Nixon was. But you really ought to remember the 90s (and all the years since), when Hillary has been under dishonest attack after dishonest attack. Either you think Nixon was a victim, or you are willing to pretend that the lies about Hillary are true. One point of view is ignorant and the other is dishonest. I’ll let you pick which one you want to go with.

  12. mark May 5, 2016 at 4:43 am | #

    BBC website ‘Simon Burns interview’ (Sunday, 1 June 2008):

    JON SOPEL: Right. And clear up something else for us because I’m sure a lot of people were thinking, hang on you’re a Tory, shouldn’t you be supporting a republican and isn’t it Labour people who support the Democrats.

    SIMON BURNS: No, I think that’s too simplistic because the Democrats are very broad church and the old days that if you’re a Democrat, you’re automatically Labour or Liberal Democrat, if you’re Republican, you were Tory, has gone.

    […and later in the interview…]

    JON SOPEL: Right. So you think – but then, if, you know, you were saying about Barack Obama not attracting voters. Hillary Clinton is going to alienate certain voters as well.

    SIMON BURNS: Well Hillary Clinton has always alienated certain people cos she is a polarizing figure. The fact is though that she appeals to core democratic voters in a way that so far during the primaries Obama hasn’t.

    I believe Mr Burns was out campaigning again for Hillary Clinton in the US just a few months ago.

  13. Ben Johannson May 5, 2016 at 6:49 am | #

    Trump’s negatives are fixable, Clinton’s are not. One $675,000 tie clip thrown to a debate audience with the declaration “That’s what she sold herself for!” and she’s done.

  14. jimbales May 5, 2016 at 8:29 am | #

    Prof. Robin,

    You draw a parallel between Ms Clinton’s campaign for the 2016 election and Mr. Nixon’s campaign for re-election in 1972. Then you write:

    Nixon was able to repackage himself in 1972—with the aid of an extraordinarily unpopular opponent, who couldn’t muster the support of his own party (sound familiar), and a robust economy—as the great unifier. Indeed, he went on to defeat McGovern in one of the all-time greatest landslides in American history.

    And we all know how that ended. As I said, I don’t envy Clinton.

    We do know how it ended. Nixon resigned in disgrace for reasons that had nothing to do with the economy, or Mr. McGovern’s status vis-a-vis the Democratic party. That is, the how Nixon’s presidency ended had nothing to do with the similarities you note between his ’72 re-election campaign and Clinton’s 2016 election campaign.

    I cannot fathom why you added that last paragraph I quoted.It appears as an attempt to imply a guilt by association, where there is no association.

    Could you clarify your intent in writing that paragraph?

    Jim Bales

  15. John Maher May 5, 2016 at 4:35 pm | #

    The paradox is Nixon was a true statesman as well as a win ugly politician. He started the Vietnam evacuation, integrated schools, jump started the ERA, and passed landmark environmental legislation where democrats dithered and neglected structural reform (OK, LBJ Accomplished some good civil rights law). Whatever one thinks of his politics, and I do not like them, Nixon, was a great president. Trump may have the same methods but I doubt he will ever be a statesman as opposed to a placeholder.

    This is not about supporting right wingers, I support the greens for fuck’s sake. This is about a watershed moment in American politics where the hydra of neoliberal strangulation becomes recognizable and even rightwing nutjobs such as Trump begin to seem attractive as alternatives.

    • Graham Clark May 5, 2016 at 8:21 pm | #

      “He started the Vietnam evacuation” – Yeah, after Congress cut off the money. Nixon was exactly as much of a statesman as an American president had to be in 1972 and no more – which, heartbreakingly, was actually a considerable amount back then.

    • Dawgzy May 5, 2016 at 10:18 pm | #

      In the 1968 campaign, while Humphrey dithered about Vietnam, Johnson had back channel contacts attempting to bring the North Vietnamese to peace talks. (Presumably HHH was aware, perhaps this explains in some way his failure to take a firm anti war stance. I think that he was simply testing the winds, for the sake of winning. His timidity cost him the election.) Nixon meanwhile campaigned saying that he had a ” secret plan to end The war.” Of course, the plan to end the war was ruinous escalation and expansion, but It had the merit of being ” a plan” to end it, while HHH couldn’t bring himself to talk about ending the war until very late in the campaign, so had no plan at all. Meanwhile, Nixon himself went back channel to the NVNmese, promising them a better deal than the one LBJ could offer. He lied. He effectively ” ended” the war 7 years later after 10s of thousands more of U.S. casualties, many more wounded, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dead, Cambodia destabilized, ((that domino fell to an authoritarian ” communist.” ) Great president and statesman.

      • Dawgzy May 5, 2016 at 10:26 pm | #

        To clarify, Nixons overtures undercut LBJ’s and NVN walked away from preliminary negotiations One of their few missteps.

  16. Graham Clark May 5, 2016 at 8:19 pm | #

    Okay, but if we take the analogy a step further: McGovern lost, but the unpopular policy that made him lose – withdrawing from Vietnam – mostly succeeded less than 5 months after his defeat. In Trump’s case, I guess that’s deporting all undocumented immigrants and building a wall. Should we expect the analogy to hold in that respect?

    • fosforos17 May 9, 2016 at 7:50 pm | #

      The troll posting as a muslim who calls himself “Ra” says “I’m a liberal.” As my old friend Phil Ochs would say, “I Love You–You’re a Liberal!”

      • Samuel May 14, 2016 at 9:58 pm | #

        fosforos17, who feels compelled to resort to the hugely overused, and essentially meaningless, insult, “troll”, has descended to such a pedestrian level that all else he/she posts should be viewed similarly.

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