While Bernie Sanders may have won the 2016 battle of ideas (at least on the Democratic side of things), alas, even the reddest Bernie supporter is beginning to face the awful eventuality that Hillary Clinton, the party’s princess, will probably be the nominee come summertime.
Bernie hardly stood a chance. Nearly all of the supposedly unpledged super delegates —made up of “distinguished” Democratic leaders, Democratic governors and members of Congress, and over 400 members of the Democratic National Committee— had already lined up for Hillary long before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses were held in early February, giving the former secretary of state a 400-plus head start in the delegate count. Though seemingly quite undemocratic of the Democratic Party, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has assured everyone that the party’s nominating process is entirely unfair by design, meant “to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.” Apparently we can’t have the American people deciding who runs their country, lest we run the risk of becoming an actual democracy.
Most people assume that, if Hillary secures her party’s nomination (and it is her party), and if faced with the specter of a Donald Trump presidency, Bernie bros and babes will do what all principled Americans do whenever their candidate isn’t nominated: sell out, compromise—that is, vote for the lesser of two evils. On Meet the Press last Sunday, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report reiterated this prognosis, averring that Democratic voters “like Bernie Sanders as much as they like Hillary Clinton,” and that “they are going to be united” at the July convention in Philly. Anybody who believes that severely underestimates the Sanders swell.
On the left (but not really on the left), Hillary supporters smell blood in the water and have been widening their smiles and opening their arms to the Sanders peeps in anticipation of the inevitable. Many, such as Miguel Guadalupe, have been trying assuage the Bernie camp by presenting Clinton as equally “progressive” as Sanders—though in what universe, I’m not sure. And while admittedly I’ve been haunted by the very real possibility that, by not voting for Hillary, I might simultaneously let Trump or Ted Cruz win the White House, I cannot bring myself to pull any lever for Hillary Clinton. Not now, not ever.
Being the son of an Honduran immigrant, I can’t vote for the woman who as secretary of state backed a coup in my maternal homeland. It’s not that “she didn’t personally intervene to stop” the unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected president, as Miguel puts it; Secretary Clinton actively bolstered the coup regime and did what she could to make sure President Zelaya wouldn’t return to office. Clinton avoided using the term coup in describing Zelaya’s removal from the country by soldiers, knowing full well that, under the Leahy Law, such a designation would’ve immediately cut off all U.S. military aid to the original banana republic. Her refusal to describe events accurately allowed the golpistas to crack down on the democratic opposition, all on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime.
When the Organization of American States called for the “immediate, secure and unconditional return of [President Zelaya] to his constitutional functions,” Hillary ignored the regional body, opting instead to shift the focus to the negotiations taking place in Costa Rica, a U.S. client state. And when most of Latin America —except Colombia, Peru and (surprise, surprise) Costa Rica— said it wouldn’t recognize the results of a presidential election held under the auspices of the coup regime in November 2009, the State Department endorsed the results anyway.
Why would Hillary Clinton do this? Simple: because whenever democratic goals are pitted against big-business interests —which they usually are, especially in Latin America— Hillary almost always sides with big business. She did it in Colombia, where the right-wing government of peacemaker President Juan Manuel Santos was using U.S.-funded, U.S.-trained security forces to attack striking oil workers. While journalists were being killed and the workers were being forced to renounce their union membership at gunpoint, Hillary’s department released annual reports praising Colombia’s nonexistent advances in human and workers’ rights. The consequences of Hillary’s deceit were similar to those in Honduras, as a stream of military and police funding continued to flow from Washington to Bogotá, money which was ultimately used to commit the very same atrocities Hillary refused to acknowledge.
If that were bad enough, the oil company treating its workers so miserably is Pacific Exploration and Production (formerly Pacific Rubiales), whose founder, Frank Giustra, currently sits on the Clinton Foundation’s board of directors and is a close friend of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. (On the night of her first official visit to Colombia as secretary of state in 2010, Hillary had dinner with Bill and Giustra, whose plane her husband was borrowing to conduct Clinton Foundation business all around the world.) In case you’re wondering —and you should be wondering— much of the profits from Pacific Rubiales and Giustra’s other shady global ventures find their way into a Canadian charity, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada), which is closely tied to the Clinton Foundation.
Giustra wasn’t Hillary’s go-to in Honduras. That privilege fell to Lanny Davis, a lawyer representing Honduras’s business elite at the time of the coup. (Some might remember Davis as the man who defended President Clinton during his impeachment fiasco.) Suffice it to say Honduras’s ruling diez familias —he Facussés, the Canahuatis, the Atalas, the Ferraris— all backed the coup. Again, it came down to economics: President Zelaya, himself from a well-to-do landholding family, suddenly moved his politics from center-right to center-left, implementing an agenda that included such radical reforms as raising the minimum wage, providing free education for every Honduran child, and setting up a court to examine the property titles of poor campesinos and indigenous peoples claiming their lands had been stolen by the agro-business industry. (Before he died in June 2015, Miguel Facussé was the richest man in Honduras and president of Dinant Corp., which had seized massive tracts of land in the Bajo Aguán in order to take advantage of a burgeoning palm oil trade. After the coup regime came to power, Facussé and his private army —trained and paid for by the U.S. government, of course— declared all out war on the campesinos.)
The Honduran establishment used President Zelaya’s proposed referendum for a constitutional convention as a pretext to remove him from office, claiming he was trying to remain in power by removing presidential term limits. The truth is that the referendum, had it passed a preliminary vote, would’ve appeared on the very same ballot on which Honduran voters were to select Zelaya’s successor, meaning the removal of term limits via a constitutional convention held after the election wouldn’t have affected Zelaya one bit, as he would’ve been long gone. (Even still, the coup regime saw nothing wrong when it removed presidential term limits early last year.)
The golpistas, propped up by an increasing stream of military aid from Washington, continue their assault on democracy, especially freedom of the press, as well as the rights of the indigenous, and members of the LGBT and Garifuna communities. The murder rate has skyrocketed, narcotraffickers have infiltrated both the business and public sectors, and every summer tens of thousands of women and children trek across Guatemala and then Mexico toward the imagined safety of the United States. Meanwhile, the Honduran government moves forward with its plans to found “model cities,” in which neoliberal rules apply and the Honduran constitution doesn’t.
The last time I was in Honduras, back in June 2011, President Zelaya had just been allowed to return to the erstwhile republic. And just last week I booked a flight back to Toncontín, whose short runway bordered by steep hills make it a fittingly beautiful and dangerous airport to land in. Almost seven years after the coup, and nearly five years after my visit, I’ll climb El Picacho a second time and gaze over Tegu—to, as a knowing maniac famously put it, “see the high water mark,” where the wave carrying the hopes of the Honduran people crashed against big business… “and rolled back.”
Liberals, leftists, the PC police and Latinos alike all lose their collective minds whenever they hear Trump talk about building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and banning Muslims from entering the country. Yet Hillary sounds a lot like Trump in this regard. After all, what’s the difference between a border wall or a ban on Syrian refugees, on the one hand, and what Hillary said about the refugees attempting to flee the mess she made in the region—first with NAFTA, which she wholeheartedly supported, and then with the Honduran coup? Trump wants to keep Mexicans immigrants out; Hillary wants to keep Central American refugees out.
The only difference I can see is that, when Hillary says she’d deport children whose lives are in danger, she does it as a smiling abuelita.
Plus a border wall would be much more humane then throwing mothers and children into cold detention centers for months on end, and then having three-year-olds appear in immigration courts without legal representation. Sure, Hillary had left the State Department when the spike in Central American refugees began in the summer of 2014, but it’s clear she supported (and still supports) the Obama administration’s callous solution—at least until an aide informed her that treating refugees like fugitive slaves is unpopular among Democrats. (Just as she was receiving campaign contributions from the same private prison companies that built those detention centers, until Democratic voters found out.)
That Hillary played a role in the mass incarceration of blacks and Latinos persisting to this day is also a matter of public record. We know how openly she campaigned for her husband’s 1994 crime bill, and what she said about some black youths being “super-predators” (though black people are invisible in this country). We know that her husband then signed a bill in 1996 that hallowed out the welfare system, piping more and more young men of color into already overcrowded prisons, and that Hillary Clinton supported that, too.
We know that she was on the board of directors for Wal-Mart, which in 2002 was the defendant in “the largest sex discrimination class-action lawsuit in history.” We know that Hillary isn’t only a New Democrat — basically a centrist, neoliberal hawk — but that, as a Clinton, she’s a founding member of the wing (and the New Democrats are called “Clinton Democrats” for that reason). We know that her and her partner received at least $7 million in speaking fees since 2001 for speeches they gave to executives at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and others, and that her close ties to the financial sector essentially make her the Wall Street candidate in this year’s race.
To say a vote for Hillary is a vote for the status quo is putting it gently. If anything, Clinton is a bit to the right of President Obama on both foreign and economic policy. It was Hillary the Hawk who pressured her boss to go into Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and wherever else some two-bit government wasn’t towing the U.S. corporate line. And if anyone believes Hillary is serious about reining in her buddies (and donors) on Wall Street, and in the prison and fossil fuel industries, then I have a packet of magic beans I’m looking to unload at a fair price. The Clintons are part of the establishment — not just the Democratic Party establishment, but the establishment.
I don’t know if Hillary Clinton is a bad person. I just know she’s a terrible politician. No, scratch that: She’s a very good politician who does terrible things. Should she win the nomination, and should Trump win his party’s nomination, it’ll be a matter of substance versus style: Trump says a lot of ugly stuff, but Hillary has done a lot of ugly stuff. How many lives has the coup regime in Honduras claimed—women, children, LGBTs, activists, journalists, Lenca, Garifuna, environmentalist? People like Berta Cáceres, Nelson García, Obed Murillo Mencía, Roger Vallejo, Walter Trochez, and countless others: names we will never know, names that don’t appear among those of the dead, because they’re not officially dead yet, simply “disappeared.” Their blood is on Hillary’s hands, not because she did nothing to stop the coup, but because she did everything to insure it.
Given her various big-business relationships and her vicious foreign policy, a choice between a Hillary Clinton and a Donald Trump may not be the stark contrast presented by fans of Hillary. Others may think that by voting for Hillary Clinton against Trump or Cruz is a choice of the lesser of two evils, but some of us know better than to believe in such an inanities. Even a child, if presented with the option in the way that children are used to, would see past the delusion most Democrats and leftists revive every four years.
So let me ask you, cipote: If someone offers you two evils, and you pick one, what are you left with?
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer and journalist. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.