ADDED: It is also curious to observe those who grasp and affirm the force of this point as it pertains now in the context of the general election alternative of Clinton against Trump, but who did and do not grasp its pertinence in the context of the alternative, during the primary contest, of Clinton against Sanders.Curious, the de-professionalization via celebritization of presidential contests as at once the executive concentrates and imperializes.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) August 6, 2016
To the extent that a presidential campaign is a public job interview rather than an occasion for fandoms to exhibit and enjoy the enthusiasms of membership, it seemed to me that Clinton was as obviously the better choice over Sanders as she is over Trump. As a democratic eco-socialist feminist anti-racist queer I always had quite a bit in common with the subculture of Bernie enthusiasts. Not to open old wounds, but I will admit that what seemed to me the too slow investment of his class politics with an intersectional critique of a kind that has to be foregrounded in any American-relevant class analysis, coupled with the campaign's early and ongoing dismissal of Obama coalition voters in the South, and then the abusive non-representative but noisy minority of racist, sexist brosocialists his campaign did little to discipline undermined my feelings of solidarity considerably, whatever our shared radicalism otherwise.
But for me the larger point is that I have simply never been particularly interested in treating the primary campaign as a symbolic space to harangue people about ideal outcomes and indulge in purity cabaret. (Admittedly, as a college lecturer by profession who teaches critical, political, and cultural theory to an audience greater and more abiding than I manage to reach in my online efforts I have a very real space in which to lecture and engage people about ideal outcomes, which is rare and very lucky for me.)
I view the presidential primary as a vetting of candidates mostly as a professional matter, to gauge their personal knowledge, flexibility, incisiveness, and thoughtfulness under pressure and in their more well-considered published positions as well as the fitness, diversity, reach, and pragmatic effectiveness of their campaigns as organizations. I don't think there is much of a contest on any of these grounds now -- nor then. HRC is politically to my right by all appearances, a bit more so than Bernie was but less so than her monsterologists and his sanctifiers would have it.
Be that as it may, HRC is a Democrat on the partisan left -- whatever my disagreements with and worries about her -- and to the extent that partisan reform politics and real-time stakeholder problem-solving politics are indispensable if inadequate to the work of progress toward sustainable equity-in-diversity, then HRC's elevation to the presidency (an actually-existing Constitutionally defined position in real governance whether you approve of it or not) is to be appreciated and her qualifications over her actually-available rivals to the position seem to me pretty obvious.
But... let's say your political focus is a larger or more radical one for which HRC remains a disturbing symptom. Let's say you have concerns about the ongoing anti-democratizing militarization of public life. Or let's say that you are worried about the ongoing consolidation of the unitary executive in the context of legislative dysfunction in the context of general partisan/geographic polarization in the context of the eclipse of white-racist patriarchal extractive-industrialism in the context of a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing America.
As it happens, I completely share such concerns. I've been writing about them here, not to mention discussing them in classrooms, for years. Nevertheless, I regard as incoherent at best and frivolous at worst the choice to express such concerns, let alone to pretend to do work to address them, primarily or even entirely through ineffectual and symbolic "presidential" politics, rather than educating and agitating to change understanding and laws at a local level while at once organizing for better representatives at the state and congressional levels.
The unitary executive won't be dismantled by the executive, especially so long as congressional obstructionism and dysfunction leaves fewer and fewer avenues available for functional governance but those smuggled through the war-making powers of the commander-in-chief wreathed in the terrifying mass-mediated glory of celebrity qua pater patria.
Similarly, the military-industrial complex won't be dismantled so long as war is profitable and Defense remains the primary space in which an assertively "market-based" economy stealthily does its economic planning. It sure would be nice if our congress-critters would actually take their responsibilities for war declarations and budgets seriously as presently they obviously do not, refusing even public debates and hence on-record stands on by-now generationally-ongoing and amplifying and ramifying military conflicts -- though the record is pretty dismal all around, it is worth noting that the Clinton's vice-presidential nominee has taken public stands on this issue -- and in the long term it is pretty obvious that it will be Congress and not the President who rectifies the dangerous unbalance in the separation of powers in a time of wars without end. As far as the executive is concerned, given the work of the cabinet, it seems that supplementation of belligerent military threats and actions with multilateral diplomacy and diversion of military spending into green investment to subsidize a green economy are both ways to aid in the likely multi-generational work to dis-inter democracy from the military-industrial complex.
Not to be unkind, but none of this involves the ineffectual tantrums (zOMG Impeach Obama!) in the face of real crimes and atrocities nor wish-fulfillment fantasies (Look, a "World Peace" Birdie!) of total spontaneous dis-invention or domestication of the armed services scarcely more realistic than levitating the Pentagon via meditation (much as I might approve of that gesture as a form of performance art or might enjoy participating in it as a form of partying) that pass too often for presidential politics.
It is worth noting that the Obama administration and HRC's tenure as Secretary of State engaged explicitly in both of these very efforts -- very imperfectly, convulsively, in the context of complex historical vicissitudes, making all the while many mistakes and committing what seem to me unacceptable and even criminal acts against civilians -- that is what HRC's "Smart Power" and "Green Superpower" rhetoric are all about, and they should be recognized and welcomed as such even as we remain enormously aware and critical about their implementation -- a criticism that should recognize the contexts at home and around the world pressuring, often beyond recognition, these efforts at implementation.
Again, I share such concerns but I insist that we recognize how long-term and compromised their effective address will be as a matter of fact. And since Americans are all beneficiaries of imperial war crimes and ongoing exploitation of manufactured precarity (from slavery to Native American genocide to the Monroe Doctrine to Pacific colonization to world war to military-backed globalization to "Tech"s digi-financial fraud and managed climate catastrophism) the fraught complexity and infuriating pace of this necessary address means that we are and will remain complicit in horrors hard to square with a sense of self we can live with -- and this in turn will invite denialisms that amount to complacent acquiescence to evil and ineffectual perfectionisms that amount to pre-emptive surrender to evil. It is not enough to see clearly what is wrong, one has to do something about what is wrong with the tools at hand and the tools that can be made, for as long as it actually takes to do it, however hard it is, however heartbreaking.
Whether or not you approve some notion of revolutionary politics as the right level to pitch collective efforts to make historical change adequate to our shared problems, it should not be that difficult to recognize that anybody calling a presidential election, let alone a primary contest over a party presidential nomination, a "Revolution" is peddling embarrassing nonsense. To fall for a revolutionary marketing of partisan politics is hard to distinguish from falling for a revolutionary marketing of a soft drink or handheld app: It is a recipe for disappointments accumulating into disaster.
Don't choose a political candidate so you can wear a tee shirt that makes you feel like you are the Revolution, choose a political candidate who can do the job on offer in a way that is most compatible with your values and understanding in the context of the limits of partisan governance such as they are. And if your values and understanding cannot be compassed within the present limits of partisan governance, then do not confine your politics to making choices constrained by those limits, supplement (and I do say supplement, not substitute, because that which is inadequate may still be indispensable) those politics with education, agitation, organization, expression to change the terrain of the possible and important in which legislation plays out. Let partisan politics do the work that partisan politics can do, participate in partisan politics to facilitate its best work... and then do more.