These days, the counterfactual of a 2016 Hillary Clinton victory is on the minds of almost every left-of-centrist with a brain and a sense of empathy. About everyone (including a few radicals who inveighed mightily about Madame Secretary) has a variety of buyer’s remorse for the Trumpocalypse.
Recent word off the political gossip grapevine in the Ocean State, however, shows just how completely screwed we would have been under a Clinton administration as well.
We begin with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the first woman to hold that office in an extremely conservative blue state and a 2016 Clinton superdelegate. As Treasurer, she invested the pension fund, which had been mismanaged for decades by corrupt Democrats, in Wall Street hedge funds that finance union-busting charter schools in a service economy where public education employees make up a significant element of the Democratic voter base. She then made the legislature, who had used the pension as a bail-out fund for unbridled idiocy, pass a law that cut off annual retiree cost of living adjustment (COLA). That single policy itself has caused the continued cratering of the state economy. Let’s be clear: If you have an economy composed primarily of service sector employees, predominantly in tourism, restaurants, retail, medical, and education jobs, retirees are a major conduit of state-sponsored economic stimulation because their pensions offer them disposable income with which to reinflate the economy that has been caught in a depression. By robbing retirees to bail-out Wall Street, the whole Rhode Island economy is stagnant because of decreased pensioner purchase power and shopping habits.
Next we come to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, aka Wheldon Shitehouse. He carries on in public as a self-righteous conservationist that takes on the dread eco-cidal octopus of fossil capitalism, embodied by the Koch brothers. Thus spake the Green Pope:
It’s all a load of hogwash.
Whitehouse, member of a whites-only beach club in Newport (how Trumpian!), has endorsed for years the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, only he wants to replace petroleum products with natural gas, willfully ignoring that use of this so-called “bridge fuel” (his words) continues to increase the volume of global-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And at a moment when we have far exceeded the limits that climatologists warned should not be crossed, such increase is a recipe for coastal flooding that will genocidally eradicate whole cities and their majority-BIPOC populations.
The alleged backroom Democratic deal struck in 2015-16 was rather simple.
Whitehouse was going to be selected as a Cabinet officer, perhaps Administrator of an Environmental Protection Agency that would have blissfully ignored the decimation of Appalachia using mountaintop removal coal mining and the Midwest with natural gas-extracting fracking. Or perhaps he might have been put into a judicial position, such as Attorney General, a state-level office he held in Rhode Island. Raimondo in turn would have run in the special election for Whitehouse’s vacant Senate seat, which in turn would have made her two-year tenure in the Gubernatorial office (the Ocean State has off-year elections) extremely brief.
Raimondo’s Wall Street buddies include hedge funder Paul Tudor Jones, financier of the despicable, authoritarian Achievement First charter school chain, which has a long record of doing great harm to minority students both on the inside (there’s a nasty strain of anti-Black racism within its school culture) and outside (loss of funding that is channeled to a charter results in loss of services for English language learner and special education students). Another, Enron alumnus John Arnold, has waged a long-term war on public pensions that has included the compromising of purportedly-neutral media outlets like PBS NewsHour and the Pew Charitable Trust.
With ties that deep, it is not inconceivable to imagine a great deal of institutional national Democratic Party animus that would have antagonized the teacher union strikes of the past several years. Would a triumphant, reified neoliberal feminism, personified by Clinton and Raimondo, have succeeded in aborting the advent of the Squad in the Democratic Party? Would the reborn Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) (flaws and all) have become a mass organization, something that was catalyzed exactly and specifically by the surprise election of Donald Trump in November 2016?
If Hillary Clinton had won the Electoral College (she did win the popular vote), she still would have lacked the super-majority to demonstrate a popular mandate. As such, per her pedigree, she would have pivoted towards conciliation with a frothing-at-the-mouth Republican Party, rabid in the belief that their God Emperor Trump had been robbed of his victory and that they had been “stabbed in the back.” With support from the likes of Raimondo in the Senate, Clinton would have almost certainly followed the lead of her predecessor and offered to cut or alternatively fully-privatize Social Security, a plan dating back to the second Clinton administration that was detailed by historian Robin Blackburn.
A second Clinton victory in 2020 would have been far from certain. And because Trump vaporized the leadership superstructure of the GOP in 2015-16, incubating a hardcore white nationalist cadre lacking any patience for respectability politics, one is forced to imagine a slick, calculating, competent blood-and-soil national socialist arising for 2019-20, given buttress by Breitbart and Steve Bannon, that would have made the Trumpocalypse seem mild.
And the only person able to defeat such an ascendant fascist demagogue would have been Bernie Sanders, who would never dare primary Clinton as Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in 1980.