Tag Archives: politics

Eleven Questions for Hillary Clinton, from Bernie Sanders Supporters

Hillary Clinton’s supporters’ argument that Bernie Sanders backers should throw their support to her in November relies on two main points: mainly, that the party must unite to defeat Donald Trump; but also, that Sanders has already pushed Hillary to the left, and hence 2016 Hillary is much more palatable to left-liberals than her earlier incarnations.

Photo courtesy Phil Roeder

On some issues, this might be true.  Hillary now claims to support raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, expanding the Social Security Trust Fund, and inaugurating a work-study program to eliminate college debt.

Still, Hillary’s stances on several key issues remain unclear, and if she wishes to sway Bernie voters to her side, she should answer the following questions:

1) Is Hillary for or against “capital f” Free Trade?  

A cynic might claim that Hillary opposes Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) while running for office, but supports them while in office.  Or, perhaps she opposes them generally, but favors them in every specific case—since every new FTA, unlike the previous, includes provisions that will protect labor rights and the environment.

As a candidate in 2008, Hillary opposed the Panama, Colombia, and South Korea FTAs, and promised to renegotiate NAFTA.  As Obama’s Secretary of State, she vigorously supported all of these agreements and did nothing to alter NAFTA.  In so doing, she stood far to the right of House Democrats (84%, 67%, and 65% voted against the Colombia, Korea, and Panama deals, respectively).  She also heaped praise upon the TPP, calling it the “gold standard” of FTAs. She now opposes it, and would adduce this flip-flop and her only other opposition to an FTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA) as evidence that she has always staunchly opposed them.

Debating in Michigan, Hillary stated, “I voted against the only multinational trade agreement that came before me when I was in the Senate. It was called CAFTA.”  This is true only in the most gymnastically semantic sense. Yes, technically, the Central American Free Trade Agreement was the only “multinational” FTA that Clinton voted on as a senator (she joined 77% of Senate Democrats in opposing it) if “multi-national” is defined as involving three or more countries, rather than two.  But as senator, she supported “bi-national” FTAs with all of the following countries: Oman, Morocco, Australia, Singapore, and Chile.

Substance-minded Sanders voters have strong reasons for disliking, distrusting and opposing her, and since Bernie's campaign is based on ideas, not idolatry, a remark or two won't sway them.

Her world-class prevarications notwithstanding, Hillary must do two simple things to impress Bernie voters: 1) Defend or repudiate her record or overwhelming support for FTAs, and 2) “Set the record straight” that she will unconditionally oppose similar FTAs as president. Continue reading

Fictional Politics and Politicized Fictions: “House of Cards” and “Scandal”

Politicians debating

Photo courtesy Beto O’Rourke.

Since 2013, critics have been comparing and contrasting the hit shows House of Cards and Scandal. Both deal with the seedy, often immoral world of Washington politics, and the ambitions and passions of those playing the game. But aside from these surface similarities, critics have often dismissed them as radically different shows. House of Cards is a sleek, efficient portrayal of Democrat Frank Underwood’s rise to the presidency. Scandal tells the passionate, if trashy, tale of how Olivia Pope and a cabal of players made Republican Fitzgerald Grant president, and the fallout (both personal and political) of their machinations. With their differing tones, visual styles, and intended audiences, critics can often overlook what connects these two shows at their hearts: their fictional depictions of American liberalism in action.

Liberalism in the United States is difficult to define, but can be broadly summarized as service to the individual, encapsulated in America’s self-appointed nickname “Land of Opportunity.” Individuals in America have the opportunity to vote for their elected officials, to speak freely without fear of government censorship, to advance within the class system through education or hard work. The liberal narrative is Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches archetype retold: Frank Underwood can go from Gaffney, South Carolina to the White House, simply by being more clever and ruthless than those around him; Olivia Pope can become the most powerful woman in Washington by working twice as hard and being twice as good as her white contemporaries. The writers imply that America is a meritocracy, because if anyone else was as devious as Underwood, or worked as hard as Olivia, they would be in the same positions of power.

In both cases, the characters gain their social and political power through their actions, rather than the legacies left to them by their parents or the class boundaries inherent in capitalism. Frank Underwood’s father was an abusive alcoholic, but he overcame; Olivia’s mother died when she was young, and her father was manipulative and controlling, but she overcame. In overcoming, both characters choose success over morality. House of Card’s Frank Underwood knows that he can lead the United States better than Garrett Walker, the man he helped get elected, so he resorts to extreme measures and careful gambles throughout season two to ensure his place as Walker’s replacement. Scandal’s Olivia knows that Fitz is the man that America needs as president, so she rigs voting machines to ensure his place in the election. Continue reading