“Great Debate” Demonstrates:
America Was Never Great....and Has NO Answers!
October 3, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We’re told that presidential elections, and especially presidential debates, epitomize why America and its democracy are so great. That’s when people supposedly get to choose, through open and serious debate and discussion, which leader will address their most pressing needs and concerns.
Billions around the world are suffering terribly. Syria, Yemen and much of the Middle East have been turned into infernos of death and destruction, thanks mainly to decades of U.S. domination and aggression. In the U.S., Black, Brown, and Native people are being relentlessly murdered by police. There’s nowhere on the globe—including America—where women aren’t subject to abuse and dehumanization, whether modern or medieval. And the planet itself is in the grip of an environmental crisis more threatening than anything we’ve faced since modern humans first emerged 200,000 years ago.
And what did we get treated to at this most serious, perilous moment? Ninety plus minutes of lying, deceit, rank chauvinism, empty promises, self-serving manipulations, personal attacks, and bullshit trivia that made reality TV look deep and meaningful. When all was said and done, not a single real answer and positive solution in people’s interests to any of the multiple crises imperiling humanity was offered. Instead, the proposals put forward and the debate itself were designed to strengthen and legitimize the very system responsible for all these nightmares, and channel people’s anger and aspirations into its killing confines.
On one side, Trump, his racism, misogyny, and law-and-order fascism hanging out all over the place, along with his lunatic self-promotion and shameless lying and bullying.
On the other, Clinton, the “reasonable,” steady, experienced candidate, already up to her eyeballs in the blood of literally millions of people here and around the world. All smiles, she signaled to the world that she’s ready to shed more.
Treating Trump As Legitimate…What Does THAT Tell You?
If Hillary Clinton represented the interests of the people and the children, as she claims, she’d have begun by calling Trump out as illegitimate for his naked racism, misogyny, America-over-all jingoism, and law-and-order fascism—and refused to debate him. But she didn’t; she welcomed him: “Donald, it's good to be with you.” Why? Because she does NOT represent those interests. She represents the interests of the same oppressive system he does, agrees with his core objective of maintaining America’s global dominance, and is fighting to maintain this system’s legitimacy. But what kind of a system treats someone like Trump as legitimate?
And treat Trump as legitimate she did. Look at how and where she focused her attacks. Not on the horrors his program would actually bring to millions and millions, or the system Trump and his program spring from and is supported by, but on Trump the person, his “temperament,” his "erratic" behavior, his personal dealings, as if the problem here is some individual personality disorder. Did Trump get a big loan from his father? Did he pay his taxes? Had his businesses failed? WHO GIVES A FUCK? What does any of this have to do with the future of humanity?
Clinton called out a bit of Trump’s personal racism and misogyny around his treatment of a Latina who was a former Miss Universe.
But speaking of racist, oppressive treatment of Latino/as and immigrants, Clinton’s been part of and supports the Obama administration which has deported over 2.5 million people, mainly Latin American immigrants. That’s more than any president in U.S. history. What did Hillary Clinton say in 2014 when thousands of children were fleeing from gang and police violence in Central America—in part “fallout” from U.S. wars against Central American countries and rebellions in the 1980’s—children desperately seeking sanctuary in the U.S.? Clinton said they should be deported: “Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay ... they should be sent back.”
And speaking of misogyny, Hillary Clinton claims to be a defender of women’s rights, including abortion. Yet during her husband’s administration in the 1990s, and as a New York Senator from 2001-2009, she sought “common ground” with misogynist anti-abortion fanatics. She said abortion should be “safe, legal and rare,” a position she’s only recently stopped stating. This did enormous harm by putting women on the defensive and demobilizing mass resistance to these outrageous assaults.
"Achieving Prosperity"... By Plundering the World
What moderator Lester Holt called “Achieving Prosperity” was a big theme. It revolved around how Americans can have more jobs and better jobs. Hillary promised “an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” with “new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.” How to do it? Simple—“having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.”
Trump’s diagnosis: “Our jobs are fleeing the country. They're going to Mexico. They're going to many other countries.” America is getting ripped off—China is using America as its “piggy bank.” He’s going to stop that by bringing the jobs back through massive tax and regulatory cuts and renegotiating trade deals.
Do people need to work and survive? Of course. But Clinton and Trump are spooning out poison. First, they’re training people to think only of America and Americans. Throughout the whole night there wasn’t a single expression of concern—much less outrage—about the plight of anyone outside U.S. borders, heaven forbid the actual truth about how the U.S. creates many of these horrors.
And they were lying to people about how U.S. capitalism-imperialism actually functions.
There’s no such thing as “American jobs.” Jobs are created when—and where—it fits the needs of one capitalist or another to maximize profits, gain market share, and position themselves against competitors. The system of capitalism-imperialism compels U.S. capitalists to circle the globe to exploit labor, dominate markets, and plunder resources in ruthless competition with other capitalists. This is backed and enforced by enormous military violence. This predatory system creates misery and suffering for billions around the world and is destroying our environment. Both Clinton and Trump represent this system. Its workings will mainly determine the “state of the economy,” not campaign promises.
Clinton, Trump and the rest of the ruling class know full well their wealth and power depends on global exploitation. Their crowning achievement, the U.S. high tech industry, was built by super exploiting labor in Asia—especially in China. Yet the needs of their empire and the disruptive impacts of globalization are forcing them to lie about and cover up this basic truth.
“Healing the Racial Divide”…
Law-and-Order Racist vs. Architect of Mass Incarceration and Police Terror
“Race” —in other words the very acute and increasingly acute contradiction between this system and Black and other oppressed peoples, a profound Achilles heel for this system that can only be resolved by revolution—was a big topic. “The share of Americans who say race relations are bad in this country is the highest it's been in decades, much of it amplified by shootings of African-Americans by police, as we've seen recently in Charlotte and Tulsa,” moderator Holt said, introducing the segment. “Race has been a big issue in this campaign, and one of you is going to have to bridge a very wide and bitter gap. So how do you heal the divide?”
Donald Trump vomited out his “law-and-order” fascism, justified by phony concern for African-American communities, while blaming the masses for their own oppression. Blacks and Hispanics “are living in hell because it’s so dangerous,” he said because bad people, felons, gangs, often of “illegal immigrants” are roaming the streets shooting people. His false sympathy is another racist assault to vilify and encircle the most oppressed and justify escalating police terror. Trump didn’t utter a negative word about the police, and condemned the righteous uprising in Charlotte against their murder and terror. “Look at what's going on in Charlotte, a city I love, a city where I have investments,” he whined. Then he demanded “we need law and order in our country” —violent police suppression.
And that’s Trump’s answer: law-and-order, racist profiling and stepped-up mass incarceration and terror in the form of stop-and-frisk, and giving the police free rein. Rudy “Adolph” Guiliani is one of Trump’s snarling mouthpieces, and Trump is a big fan of the racist, murdering policing carried out during Guiliani’s tenure as New York mayor. It was “Guiliani time” when they plunger-raped Abner Louima, and murdered Amadou Diallo with 41 shots for holding up his wallet just like he was supposed to.
Right now, Trump claims “police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything.” So in the midst of an ongoing epidemic of police murder, Trump is calling for even more warfare and naked terror against Black and other oppressed people.
Hillary Clinton: Maintaining the System Through More "Effective" Police Terror
Hillary Clinton portrayed herself as someone very concerned about police killings (while taking great care to whitewash the overall character and role of that pack of racist brutalizers, murderers and liars called cops). She seems to hope everyone has historical amnesia and no one will look into her actual record. And the debate was an example of deliberate historical amnesia.
But Hillary and Bill Clinton trafficked in some of the same racist vilifications of Black people and promoted the same draconian assaults on Black people as Trump is promoting now. In 1992, Bill Clinton ran for president, in part, on the basis not only of being tough on crime but willing “to put the Blacks in their place” —including major figures at the time like Jesse Jackson. And give Hillary her due—she was a major strategist in Bill Clinton’s camp.
The Clinton administration passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which led to a doubling of the prison population and added 100,000 police. The administration militarized the U.S.-Mexico border, ended “welfare as we know it,” and ideologically vilified Black and oppressed youth as “super-predators that need to be brought to heel.” All this destroyed millions of lives, including children’s. Over four million Black children now live in poverty and hunger.
Has Hillary Clinton repudiated this history in the face of video after video of police murders? No! She’s apologized for calling Black youth “super predators,” but she said, “Now, I believe in community policing. And, in fact, violent crime is one-half of what it was in 1991. Property crime is down 40 percent. We just don't want to see it creep back up. We've had 25 years of very good cooperation. But there were some problems, some unintended consequences. Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses.”
Unintended consequences? Are you fucking kidding? The whole point of your crime program was locking up tens of thousands of youth! The whole point of putting 100,000 more cops on the street was to criminalize and terrorize whole generations! And now you think you can wash away all the tears, the pain, the shattered and destroyed lives by talking about “unintended consequences”?
Now Clinton claims she’s concerned about police killings. But during the debate she whitewashed the police murders in Charlotte and Tulsa by labeling them “tragedies.” She whitewashed the nature of the police, saying there are “so many good, brave police officers,” and told people they should respect the pigs, who dog and abuse them, behind the lie that someday the pigs will respect them. She called for community policing and minor sentencing reforms and more “second chance” programs.
None of this is about ending police murder and terror. It’s about trying to legitimize the police and their violence, and make it more “effective” for the system, at a moment of profound questioning and ongoing upheaval about this—one of this system’s most outrageous and intractable crimes.
For instance, Clinton didn’t touch the much more damning example of Trump’s role in railroading the Central Park 5 in 1989—five Black and Latino youths jailed for years for a violent crime in New York they didn’t commit. Trump took out a full page ad, a modern-day call for lynch-mob “justice,” demanding: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police.”
During the debate, there was back and forth over Trump’s defense of “stop-and-frisk.” Hillary “critiqued” this racist, draconian program as “ineffective ... It did not do what it needed to do.” But she refused to say a word about what stop-and-frisk actually did: target an entire population of Black men of all ages, especially youth; treat them as having absolutely no rights; and subject them at any time to what were almost invariably extremely abusive and threatening police searches—for any reason or no reason whatsoever.
Why not go after Trump around the Central Park 5 and stop-and-frisk? Because that would open up big questions, for millions and millions of people, about the whole criminal machinery of mass incarceration, the actual role of the police as this system’s murderous enforcers, and the ideological campaigns the rulers have consciously waged to demonize Black and Brown youth. “Super predator” Hillary Clinton—and the whole U.S. ruling class—have supported and played a critical role in justifying and expanding all this. And this system still rests on massive incarceration and police terror to maintain its rule, no matter how many duplicitous crocodile tears these mass murderers shed about “tragedies” in Charlotte, Tulsa, or wherever else their armed enforcers have gunned people down.
Lester Holt questioned Clinton on her recent comment that “we have to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias. Do you believe that police are implicitly biased against black people?” Clinton’s response: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.”
No Hillary Clinton: police brutality and murder is NOT a problem of individual personal bias. That glosses over the reality that racism and the oppression of Black people is embedded in the deep structure of every institution of this system—from education to health care, from housing to employment, from culture to, yes, the so-called criminal justice system. It ignores how all of this was baked into the whole way capitalism developed in this country and worldwide and can only be eliminated by uprooting that system. Reducing this sordid, bloody history and present day reality to a few phrases—and only because she HAS to in the face of a mass upsurge which has raised “uncomfortable questions” for the system as a whole and the Democratic Party which has presided over much of this—does not cut it.
None of this is about ending police terror—it’s about legitimizing it and maintaining the system that cannot do other that keep carrying it out!
Vying to Be Commander-In-Chief of a Violent, Global Empire
For all his bullying and bluster, in vying over who would be the most belligerent, ruthless “protector” of American interests, it was Hillary Clinton, not Trump who spelled out the most ruthless program.
There was some back-and-forth about whether or not Trump had supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq—he had despite his lying denials. Nobody bothered to ask Hillary—she’s acknowledged she made a “mistake.”
But Hillary Clinton didn’t just have a bad day and cast a bad vote. For 24 years, she’s been at the center of U.S. imperialism’s wars, interventions, and machinations to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Hussein was a reactionary oppressor whose savagery had been backed by the U.S. at different points, but by the 1990's, he had become an obstacle, undermining American domination of the Middle East. It was a towering crime that she was part of causing the deaths of 500,000 children as a result of starvation and preventable disease caused by the U.S. sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s—sanctions maintained behind the deliberate conscious lie even back then that Saddam was refusing to disarm in violation of UN resolutions. He had disarmed, which the U.S. knew. That’s why no WMD were found when the U.S. and UN searched high and low after the 2003 invasion. But that wasn’t Clinton’s only crime; sanctions were part of a bigger plan to bring down Hussein’s regime which also included bombing strikes and using arms “inspections” for intelligence gathering and coup plotting. In 1998 the Clinton administration backed the “Iraq Liberation Act” and made regime change official U.S. policy. All this paved the way for George W. Bush, the 2002 vote authorizing war, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has led to over a million deaths. Has Clinton been grilled on any of this history? No, because the rulers pretty much all supported it.
(Trump clamored that the U.S. hadn’t been imperialist enough, arguing the U.S. should have grabbed Iraq’s oil. Actually, while the war’s main strategic objectives were strengthening U.S. regional and global dominance, grabbing the oil was one U.S. objective in the 2003 war. It took the form of attempting to reshape Iraq as a U.S. client and open up its economy and vast oil fields to U.S. capital and the global market. But things didn’t work out as planned and this grand design failed, with severe and long-term consequences for the U.S. imperialists.)
Clinton continued this murderous course as Secretary of State under Obama (2009-13), highlighted by her lead role in the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime in Libya and the horrors that followed for millions of Libyans.
As if to prove the point, Clinton went on to outline what sounded like a massive expansion of spying and extreme aggression, possibly war on a global scale. The U.S. needs an “intelligence surge” she said, “looking for every scrap of information ... vacuum up intelligence from Europe, from the Middle East"—in other words massive spying on steroids. She threatened cyberwar: “We need to make it very clear—whether it's Russia, China, Iran or anybody else—the United States has much greater capacity.” She talked of escalating against ISIS in Iraq, pushing into Syria and assassinating their leaders. She refused to reject the first use of nuclear weapons, and declared the U.S.—the world’s number one bully—would stand up to “bullies.” “We cannot let those who would try to destabilize the world to interfere with American interests and security...” Clinton essentially attacked Trump from the right, declaring, “Donald is unfit to be the commander- in-chief.” Why? Because he wouldn’t give peace a chance? No! Because he wasn’t capable of effectively maintaining U.S. global domination with all the tools at its disposal at a moment when it’s under great stress and strain, and possibly facing major setbacks.
All this points to why supporting Hillary Clinton, as the “reasonable alternative” to Donald Trump is a vivid example of why Bob Avakian says “The politics of the ‘possible’ is the politics of monstrosity. To adhere to, or acquiesce in, the politics of the ‘possible’ is to support, and actually facilitate, monstrosity.”
Fact-checking? What about truth-telling?
“Fact-checking” was the big theme afterward, and yes there were plenty of lies—by commission but also by omission—all the way around.
But what about “history-checking”? Have Lester Holt or any of the media brought up Trump and Clinton’s real history? Trump’s role in the lynching of the Central Park 5? Clinton’s part in the mass murder of 500,000 Iraqi children? Or doesn’t the ruling class believe in history-checkers? Or is “oops, I made a mistake,” all it takes to wipe away responsibility for the suffering and deaths of millions?
And how about truth-telling? Were there any “truth-tellers” informing the public that both sides lied about the nature of America, etc., that it was never great, that it’s a predatory imperialist power, that the oppression of Black people and women is built into the fabric of this society, and that the only way out of this madness is through revolution, and that thanks to the work of the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA), which readers can check out at this website, there is a strategy to make such a revolution and a framework and blueprint for a radically different and much better society on the road to human emancipation? BA’s work and leadership stands in stark contrast to the representatives of this system like Clinton and Trump who have no scientific understanding of their own system and no answers to the horrors crippling humanity, but further horrors.
We Need to Overthrow, Not Vote For, This System
The candidates on display on the Hofstra debate stage, and the proposals, claims, and lies that came out of their mouths—a few of which we’ve had space to detail here—were ugly, horrific, and deadly for humanity.
But the whole spectacle also pointed to this system’s profound difficulties and vulnerabilities. There was the pathetic, pitiful and absurd: Trump up there going on and on about himself, his ugly American outlook on full display: No, I haven’t borrowed too much, “I'm extremely underleveraged.” Sure, I was indicted for racism in housing, but “We settled the suit with zero—with no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do.” It sounded like movie lines spoken by a petty criminal.
And think about just how nasty, vituperative, and verging on out of control the whole “debate” was. And the question Holt’s felt he needed to end with: “One of you will not win this election. So my final question to you tonight, are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters?”
This ruling class may—or may not—be able to hold it together for the time being, but they are seriously fractured and getting more so, with no answers to the intensifying and intractable contradictions they face. They have a huge challenge in trying to maintain the legitimacy of their system at a time of enormous stress, when they’ve facing defeats in the Middle East. “We've lost control of things that we used to have control over,” Trump blurted out. There is deep anger among millions, and bitterness approaching open warfare within their own ranks over how to advance and hold it all together.
The worst thing anyone who yearns for revolution or a better world could do at this moment of crisis is to turn to either of these representatives of imperialism, the system responsible for this world of horrors. This debate actually pointed to the need, and—with all their infighting and acrimony—the real possibility for revolution. We need to seize on these predators’ difficulties to hasten their overthrow—not allow this system to continue chewing up humanity and the very earth we live on.
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