What makes for a successful social justice movement?
By all accounts, feminism has had a rough history. Before the 1990’s, mainstream feminist thought focused heavily on the rights and aspirations of affluent white women in the Western world. Little attention was paid to the plight of working class, queer, and non-white women, while sex workers and porn stars were ignored or condemned. Today, though transphobia and casual racism still plague the movement, third-wave feminism has at least attempted to rectify its supremacist leanings from days gone by.
The gay rights movement struggles ever more: “No fats, no femmes, no Asians” is a common slogan to be found on the profiles of Grindr users across the Western world, many mainstream LGBT organizations care little for the challenges that low income queers face, while Hollywood’s acceptance of gay rights depends on erasing the role of black and transgender activists from their films, putting mediocre white men in their place.
Though the civil rights movement of MLK Jr and Malcolm X’s day did suffer its own shortcomings – LGBT Americans were unforgivably silenced at this time – for the most part, its resurgence has avoided these pitfalls: The Movement for Black Lives’ manifesto, for example, includes economic justice, reparations, and freedom for oppressed peoples in different parts of the globe, not just in the U.S. There is no attempt to campaign exclusively for the rights of cisgendered, heterosexual black men, nor is there any attempt to play nice with the status quo. The message has not been diluted to make it easier for white people to swallow, and nor should it be.
In fact, it would probably not be a stretch to say that the resurgent civil rights movement has done more to rectify its exclusionary attitudes towards women and LGBT people than third-wave feminism or the gay rights movement has towards people of colour.
But that rectification took something of a hit this week.
Deray McKesson, rightfully respected as a tireless advocate of racial justice, has endorsed Hillary Clinton in a Washington Post opinion piece. Putting aside the immediate question of why McKesson would endorse somebody whose campaign has silenced black voices during this election, it is frankly confusing to see why somebody so deeply committed to social justice would align themselves with somebody so opposed to it.
Setting aside McKesson’s use of banal slogans from the Clinton camp, such as the especially dull “I believe in moving forward”, his endorsement of Clinton follows the same tired lines as other high profile endorsements: She isn’t Trump, and that should be good enough.
“Trump wants to take us back to a time when people like him could abuse others with little to no consequence, when people like him could exploit the labor of others to build vast amounts of wealth, when people like him could create public policy that specifically benefited them, while suppressing the rights and social mobility of others”
Ironically, such a description fits Hillary Clinton as well:
Abusing others with little to no consequence: During her reign as Secretary of State, Clinton was given the power to approve or deny CIA requests to launch drone strikes against suspected or known terrorists. An imprecise, illegal and immoral war mechanic, this drone strike program was rapidly expanded under Obama’s first term (a man McKesson also admires), and now routinely kills innocent bystanders and people never convicted of a crime. Though she had the power to stop these murderous attacks, Secretary Clinton approved all but two of the CIA’s requests during her time at the State Department. To add insult to injury, Clinton blithely signed many of these death warrants from her cellphone.
Exploiting the labor of others to build vast amounts of wealth: When put together, three aspects of Clinton’s campaign suggest that her administration will exploit workers to feed the rich. Firstly, her donor list is packed full of corporations like Citigroup (known for bribing politicians into supporting corrupt laws), Time Warner (known for its monopolistic and predatory business practices), and Goldman Sachs (which speaks for itself). Secondly, Clinton used a ‘pay to play’ policy while at the State Department, by which powerful individuals could get an audience with the Secretary in return for donating to the Clinton Foundation. Thirdly, Clinton has stated that she has both a “public and private position” on Wall Street. Which one becomes policy? The public position, said to ordinary people who don’t donate enormous amounts of money to her campaign and Foundation? Or the private policy, said to corporations that have essentially financed her campaigns since 2002?
Creating public policy that specifically benefits her: Last December, Clinton gave a speech on Middle Eastern policy to the Saban Forum. Initially, Clinton’s speechwriters wanted to show that she understood the misery and suffering that the occupation of Palestine causes, but campaign Chairman John Podesta urged them to erase such references. Why? Because the Saban Forum is owned by pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban, and Podesta was worried that he wouldn’t endorse Clinton unless she proved she was “totally committed to Israeli security”. Saban and his wife, in return for Clinton’s negligence towards Palestinian rights, have donated $7 million to a pro-Clinton Super PAC this election. Her policy choice was dictated by how much money and power she could squeeze out of it. This is but one example: Clinton’s support for aggressive crime laws, coupled with money she’s received from predatory private prisons, is questionable indeed.
Suppressing the rights and social mobility of others: Clinton’s campaign website has just 14 words dedicated to challenging labour exploitation. No surprise, given that union-busting corporations have given over $3 billion to the Clinton Foundation since its creation. Then there is her time on the board of WalMart, in which she sat back while fellow board members plotted the demise of their workers’ freedoms. There is no evidence that Clinton ever spoke out against the viciousness of these strategies, but she sure made money from them. Her running mate fares no better: Hailing from a so-called “right to work” state, VP candidate Tim Kaine supports undemocratic, anti-worker trade deals like TTIP, and has repeatedly argued in favour of looser banking regulations. He is, as one headline suggests, “a Democrat Wall Street can like”.
In summation, Hillary Clinton’s legacy has seen the rights and lives of millions traded in for power, prestige, and cold hard cash. There is a cornucopia of warnings from the past which suggest that Clinton has not learned the error of her ways, and has not made amends for her misdeeds. She is, yet again, being investigated by the FBI. She has, as Deray even admits, been stubborn and useless when it comes to racial justice. At nearly seventy years of age, with priceless life experience, it still takes a black man from Baltimore to urge her to think more carefully about her policies. Simply put, she should know better by now. She does not deserve more power.
We leftists are repeatedly told to shut up during elections, warned that our commitment to human rights and transparency is letting the other side win. We are always told that this is the most dangerous time to be alive, that nothing more has ever been at stake in an election. We are informed that the other candidate is the literal embodiment of Satan, and that he must be stopped at all costs.
Deray is testament to the fact that liberals tend to stop Satan at all costs by endorsing candidates who are simply missing the pointy horns.