“Choice” and the Limited Sphere of Presidential Electoral Politics

karen_biopic By Karen Miller

I think Trump and Clinton will be equally bad on foreign policy. Both firmly believe in American Empire (which by the way is not in decline). Their differences are superficial, as are the differences between the parties generally when it comes to international engagement. Promotions of free trade, consensus that the massive exploitation of workers globally serves the “interests” of the U.S., zero commitment to climate justice, or any other forms of justice, accountability only to the ruling class, the full-on embrace of different forms of global racism, misogyny, and I could go on and on.

That being said, I think that while the Dems are awful, there is some tiny tiny way they need to stay accountable to their progressive flank when it comes to domestic politics. Tiny. Don’t get me wrong. So for me, it’s that tiny space that has me wanting Hilary to win over Trump.

I also think presidential voting is not a site for real politics. It’s a site for assessing which aspects of the ruling class may be open to some form of accountability from “the people.” I know that there are millions of examples of the ways that Clinton has failed to be accountable. Of course. But the question for me is not about those failures. It’s about the 3 times she may have been open to even pretending she cared. It’s about the little-bit-less-reactionary judge she may appoint. It’s about an anti-union NLRB rather than a union busting one. It’s about tokenism rather than (like we see in the Brazilian coup) the full on rejection of any compensatory gestures from the state.

Trump is building his political career on his claim that he has no interest in being accountable to POC, working people, etc. etc. at all. And while I don’t believe that Hilary is even remotely adequately accountable (I hate her as much as you do), I do believe Trump when he says that he is accountable to the forces of reaction. If we had a stronger movement of workers and disenfranchised people this would not be our choice. But we don’t. And it is.

Karen Miller is Professor of History at LaGuardia Community College and in the MALS Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently writing a book about internal labor migration and the US colonial state in the Philippines. Her first book, Managing Inequality: Northern Racial Liberalism in Interwar Detroit shows that white northern leaders embraced egalitarian ideas about race in the 1920s and 30s at the same time that they helped build racially segregated and unequal cities. Dr. Miller’s articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of American History, The Middle West Review, The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Michigan Feminist Studies, and Against the Current and the edited collection, Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Struggles in America.

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