Why Some of
the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump
Even on Wall Street, a powerful Sanders contingent
so hates what Clinton stands for—the status
quo—they’ll pull the lever for almost anyone else.
By Yves Smith
progressives reject Hillary Clinton? The highly
educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of
Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly
favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to
Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they
would even vote for Donald Trump over her.
don’t come by these views casually. Their
conclusions are the result of careful study of her
record and her policy proposals. They believe the
country can no longer endure the status quo that
Clinton represents—one of crushing inequality, and
an economy that is
literally killing off the less fortunate—and any
change will be better.
One reader writes:
is the nominee 9 out of 10 friends I polled will [do
one of three things]:
A. Not vote
for president in November.
B. Vote for Trump.
C. Write in Bernie as a protest vote.
"We are all
fifty-somethings with money and college educations.
Oh, and we are all registered Democrats.”
reader puts it:
want to vote for Trump. I want to vote for Bernie.
But I have reached the point where I feel like
voting for Trump against Clinton would be doing my
patriotic duty. … If the only way to escape a trap
is to gnaw off my leg, I’d like to think I’d have
the guts to do it.”
To be sure,
not all of my Sanders-supporting readers would vote
for Trump. But only a minority would ever vote for
Clinton, and I'd guess that a lot of them would just
stay home if she were the nominee. Many of my
readers tend to be very progressive, and they have
been driven even further in that direction by their
sophisticated understanding of the inequities of
Wall Street, especially in the run-up to and the
aftermath of the financial crisis, when no senior
executives went to jail, the biggest banks got
bigger, and Hillary paid homage to Goldman Sachs.
True progressives, as opposed to the Vichy Left,
recognize that the Clintons only helped these
inequities along. They recognize that, both in the
1990s and now, the Clintons do not and have never
represented them. They believe the most powerful
move they can take to foster change is to withhold
them also have very reasoned arguments for Trump.
Hillary is a known evil. Trump is unknown. They'd
rather bet on the unknown, since it will also send a
big message to Team Dem that they can no longer
abuse progressives. I personally know women in the
demographic that is viewed as being solidly behind
Hillary—older, professional women who live in major
cities—who regard Trump as an acceptable cost of
getting rid of the Clintons.
Naked Capitalism represent? The site, which I
describe as “fearless commentary on finance,
economics, politics and power,” receives 1.3 million
to 1.5 million page views a month and has amassed
approximately 80 million readers since its launch in
2006. Its readership is disproportionately graduate
school-educated, older, male and high income.
Despite the overall predominance of male readers,
many of the fiercest critics of Clinton in the
commentariat are women, with handles like HotFlash,
Katniss Everdeen, Martha r, Portia, Bev and Pat.
also object to is that the larger bloc of Sanders
voters has been treated with abuse and contempt by
the Clinton camp, despite the fact that their
positions—such as strengthening Social Security and
Medicare, stronger educational funding and higher
minimum wages—have for decades polled by solid
majorities or, at worst, ample pluralities in the
electorate at large.
contrast, the Democratic Party in the Clinton and
Obama administrations has consistently embraced and
implemented policies that strip workers of economic
and legal rights to benefit investors and the elite
professionals that serve them. Over time, the
“neoliberal” economic order—which sees only good,
never bad, in the relentless untrammeling of capital
and the deregulation of markets—has created an
unacceptable level of economic insecurity and
distress for those outside the 1 percent and the
elite professionals who serve them.
is that the U.S. economy is becoming lethal to the
less fortunate, according to the New York Times,
reported this week that U.S. death rates have
risen for the first time in a decade. The increase
in death rates among less educated whites since 2001
is roughly the size of the AIDS epidemic. One cause,
the opioid epidemic, resulted from Purdue Pharma
overselling the effectiveness of reformulated
OxyContin, then recommending higher dosages when it
failed to work properly, which experts deemed a
prescription for creating addicts, according to a
number of lawsuits. This was permitted by the U.S.
government, leading to thousands of unnecessary
deaths. Despite President Barack Obama’s Panglossian
claim that the economy is doing well,
the spike in suicides to levels over those during
the financial crisis belies that.
Clinton campaign is in such denial about this that
it has become vitriolic in its verbal and tactical
attacks on Sanders and his supporters—rather than
recognizing that the stunning success of his
campaign is proof of their abject policy failures.
The message is clear: The Clintons believe, as Bill
himself put it, that the true progressives have
nowhere to go.
fact, they’ve been leaving. The Clinton and Obama
administrations presided over the worst losses in
congressional and state races in modern history in
1994, 2010 and 2012. And voter preferences were
clear. Under Obama, it was the Blue Dog, Third Way
Democrats who were turfed out, while candidates with
strong stances on economic justice kept their seats.
Similarly, as political scientist Tom Ferguson
pointed out in a
Roosevelt Institute paper, Obama’s loss of a
Senate majority when Republican Scott Brown won in
Massachusetts was the result of his focus on bailing
out banks rather than aiding distressed homeowners
(or forcing mortgage services to give modifications
to borrowers who still had adequate income, as banks
had done historically). The level of votes for Brown
was strongly correlated with the amount of
foreclosures in those particular districts.
progressives know that the Clinton and Obama
presidencies have brought inequality to Gilded Era,
banana-republic levels. They know that Obama’s
policies, which the Clintons embrace, have had all
of the post-crisis income gains
accrue to the top 1 percent. In addition,
corporate profits have risen to nearly double the
ratio to GDP that Warren Buffett deemed
unsustainably high in the early 2000s. Unlike China,
they’ve also ushered in an era of high unemployment
and underemployment, as reflected in unheard-of low
levels of labor force participation and unemployment
among the young in a nominal expansion.
Clintons’ dismal record, which Hillary cannot run
away from, speaks for itself. And this is what makes
many progressives I know unable to support her, even
if she wins the nomination. Consider the reasons why
they feel this way:
Social Security. Bill
made a deal with Newt Gingrich to privatize Social
Security, but Monica Lewinsky derailed his plans.
Sanders has promised to strengthen Social
Security. By contrast, Clinton wants to “preserve”
it, which includes means-testing. That would put
Social Security on a path to being a welfare
program, not a universal safety net, making it
vulnerable in the long run. Bill Clinton’s ending of
welfare is an illustration of the regular pattern,
dating back to England’s Poor Law of 1834, of
gutting safety nets for the poor.
Climate change. Sanders
calls for a full-bore, Marshall-Plan level
commitment to reducing carbon output. Hillary talks
about climate change but pushed for fracking in
Europe while secretary of state. The Clintons remain
firmly committed to fracking, which ruins water
supplies and releases large amounts of methane.
Inflation-adjusted minimum wage increases under
Clinton were negligible—virtually identical to those
under George H.W. Bush. Obama promised a minimum
wage increase to $9.50 an hour and failed to act in
the first four years of his presidency. Sanders
wants to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour, while
Clinton stands pat with the administration plan to
increase wages to $12 an hour by 2020.
Trade deals. Bill Clinton
ushered in NAFTA, which was touted as positive for
growth and employment, and is now widely
acknowledged to have cost nearly a million jobs.
Even one of its chief promoters, former Clinton
Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now deems it to have
been a failure for American workers. Hillary
consistently backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership
until Sanders made an issue of it, and she’s
recently returned to supporting it. The potential
growth and income gains from this agreement and its
European sister, the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership, are only marginally
positive, while the loss of national sovereignty
would be enormous. These agreements would enable
foreign investors to challenge laws for labor,
environmental and consumer protection, for
threatening future profits.
Health care. Sanders wants
single-payer, government-provided health care.
Around the world, single payer has uncontestably
demonstrated that it delivers better results overall
at vastly lower cost. Obamacare took single payer
off the table, instead rearranging the current
costly, clumsy system while guaranteeing profits for
health insurers and Big Pharma. Clinton at most has
offered patches, but the pressure from Sanders has
compelled her to suggest an early buy-in for
before we get to the Clintons’ loyalty to the Robert
Rubin and neoliberal fetish of balanced budgets,
which most economists say are not necessary. The
recent European experience with austerity shows how
disastrous that approach is, particularly in the
wake of a financial crisis. Hillary’s hawkishness
means an even greater commitment to military
spending, so voters are assured to get more guns and
less butter were she to become president.
supporters I interact with also reject Hillary’s
trickle-down feminism as a substitute for economic
and social justice. Clinton is correct when she
points out that there is a glass-ceiling issue for
women. There are fewer female CEOs, billionaires and
senators. Women in the elite don’t have it as good
as men. But pray tell, what is having more women, or
Hispanics or blacks, in top roles going to do for
nurses and hospital orderlies, or the minority group
members disproportionately represented in low-wage
jobs like part-time fast food workers? Class
mobility has become close to nonexistent in America.
If you are born in one of the lower-income cohorts,
you are almost certain to stay there.
As a woman
who broke through an important glass ceiling on Wall
Street—Christina Mohr, the first woman to become
partner in mergers and acquisitions at Lazard—told a
shocked group at Radcliffe seeking better career
opportunities for women many years ago: “Nothing
will change until women own the means of
production.” And that sort of change comes from the
are questions of competence. Hillary has a résumé of
glittering titles with disasters or at best thin
accomplishments under each. Her vaunted
co-presidency with Bill? After her first major
project, health care reform, turned into such a
debacle that it was impossible to broach the topic
for a generation, she retreated into a more
traditional first lady role. As New York senator,
she accomplished less with a bigger name and from a
more powerful state
than Sanders did. As secretary of state, she
participated and encouraged strategically pointless
nation-breaking in Iraq and Syria. She
bureaucratically outmaneuvered Obama, leading to
U.S. intervention in Libya, which he has called the
worst decision of his administration. And her plan
to fob her domestic economic duties off on Bill
comes off as an admission that she can’t handle
being president on her own.
these issues are all topics in the current debates.
But what is as important, but not as obvious, is the
way that most citizens have been stripped of legal
and economic protections. As economist Michael
Hudson put it, “Most inequality does not reflect
differing levels of productivity, but distortions
resulting from property rights or other special
privileges." The Clinton era brought in weaker
anti-trust enforcement, which allowed companies to
accumulate more market share and with it, more
ability to extract rents. Binding arbitration, which
strips employees and consumers of their right to a
day in court, has become widespread. Pensions, which
used to be sacrosanct (and still are if you are a
CEO), are regularly renegotiated. Banks got away
with predatory servicing and wrongful foreclosures.
Not only was the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement a
“get out of liability almost free” card so large
that it was tantamount to a second bailout, but
banks were not required to fix their faulty
servicing platforms, assuring that they’d revert to
foreclosure abuses again when delinquencies rise.
And let us not forget that senior bankers are a
protected class, exempt from prosecution.
there is the stench of corruption, dating back to
Hillary’s impossible—by any legitimate means—trick
of parlaying $1,000 into $100,000 in a series of
commodities trades in 1978. The Clintons and their
backers seriously expect the rubes to believe that
large financial firms happily forked over their
hefty speaking fees purely out of interest in what
they had to say, or that Middle Eastern and
Taiwanese moneybags gave big bucks to the Clinton
Foundation while Hillary was
secretary of state out of their deep belief in the
foundation’s lofty goals. Why has Hillary refused to
release the transcripts of her Goldman speeches,
wiped her server and foot-dragged on releasing
allegedly personal emails?
voters in Naked Capitalism’s active
commentariat also explicitly reject lesser-evilism,
the cudgel that has previously kept true lefties
somewhat in line. They are willing to gamble, given
that outsider presidents like Jimmy Carter and
celebrity governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Jesse Ventura didn’t get much done, that a Trump
presidency represents an acceptable cost of
inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20
years of selling out ordinary Americans.
Clintons, like the Bourbons before the French
Revolution, have ensconced themselves in such a
bubble of operative and media sycophancy that
they’ve mistakenly viewed escalating distress and
legitimate demands from citizens as mere noise.
Sanders voters are taking their cue from Talleyrand,
the statesman who navigated the Revolution and the
turbulent 50 years that followed with remarkable
success: “I have never abandoned a party before it
readers are representative, Clinton and the
Democratic Party are about to have a long-overdue
day of reckoning.