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Questions for Progressives in the Trump Era

In a recent Democracy Now interview, Glenn Greenwald a co-founding editor of The Intercept famous for reporting Snowden’s leaks about US electronic surveillance programs cautioned Trump opponents (who he feels are naïve and perhaps hypocritical) against cheering for the US Intelligence Community to check Trump. He does this without offering any specific names of elected officials who fit this description. Still, Greenwald notes that as horrible as he is, Trump was democratically elected (though I would concede just marginally so via the electoral college). He suggested that Congressional democrats were viciously opposed to whistleblowing when it came to Manning and Snowden, but now they are cheering for an unelected bureaucracy that violates privacy and other human rights.

While it might strike Greenwald as dangerous or hypocritical for left-leaning resistors to champion an intelligence community with a history of civil and human rights violations, and while he may have a point, the case of a Trump presidency constitutes a reason to suspend standard disdain toward the technocrats of the “Deep State.” Again, this part of his warning relies on his blurry characterization of democrats. According to a 2013 Quinnipiac University poll, 39 percent of democrats and 38 percent of republicans thought Snowden was a traitor (cited in Chappell). However, Greenwald is talking about Washington insiders, so it doesn’t seem to matter that most people (55 percent of those polled) democrat and republican considered Snowden a whistle-blower. He also seemed to suggest that the IC is a greater evil than Trump or Russia, and that liberals should not look to the IC to be a champion in the movement to resist Trump.

If I agreed, I might further add that there has been a max exodus of qualified people, including James Clapper who had been there since the 1970s. This sudden turnover in high-level personnel means that the current NSA in a state of disarray. I disagree that the current US intelligence community is pure evil, but I’m glad that people are pointing out the curious paradox of wishing and hoping and relying on republicans, military brass, spies, and centrist democrats for a push-back against the administration. While we can’t really trust the IC, they seem far more reliable than the current President. So the question is, must we “trust” the IC if we think that their leaks will provide the opportunity to impeach Trump? Is there any merit to the idea that the so-called deep state is so insidious that it would use this moment to seize power and diminish democracy? I tend to see slippery slope as a fallacy rather than a warning.

The next question also revolves around another great rift among the liberal-democratic-progressive left. Who is responsible for Trump’s win? Some of my friends of the far left insist that 1) Trump was still the lesser evil or Clinton would have been just as bad. 2) Trump’s win was due more to Sanders having been cheated and/or that Clinton was weak. I wonder if they ever considered the possibility that the outcome of the election was at least in part the result of a 25-year smear campaign against Hillary Clinton by the right-wing media as well as BS investigations into her role in the Benghazi incident and her emails. I also have a few casual friends on here who think that those who voted for a third-party candidate were somehow less responsible for Trump’s election than the DNC/Debbie Wasserman Schultz or John Podesta.

In past presidential elections, I have voted for Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. I am proud that I once voted for a true progressive, but it would be hard to argue that Al Gore would have mucked things up worse than Bush (counterfactuals are a dead end, so I won’t dig into that here). Bush was responsible for a heinous abuse of US military power. While I see the folly of the two-party system, the unhealthy influence of big money on campaigns, and the impulse to vote for more green candidates; I am shocked that so many progressives are aligned with the right in insisting that Hillary Clinton posed as much as or more of a threat than Trump. Yes, neoliberalism is a serious problem for both parties, but I still see the argument that Trump and Clinton were two equally bad candidates as a false equivalence.

Because I appreciated his efforts to stand up to corporate power, I voted for Sanders in the primary. Yet I also understand the science of public opinion. As keenly aware of the unfortunate horse race frame driving campaigns in a two-party system that undermines our democracy, I was compelled by logic and ethics to vote for Clinton. I didn’t totally hate the idea of voting for Clinton. After all, Clinton and Sanders while in the Senate together voted the same way 93 percent of the time (Willis).

This month-old blog entry from Medium/Extra News Feed sums up my frustration with some of my dearest friends who still think that centrist democrats are just as much a threat to democracy as our current President.

So the questions are as follows: Does wishing for the IC to put the smackdown on Trump make you a bad progressive? Is it a rational political strategy for the far-left to refuse to compromise with moderates?

Works Cited

Chappell, Bill. “Snowden is a Whistle-blower, Americans Say in a Poll.” The Two-Way:

Breaking News from NPR, 20 July 2013, National Public Radio.

“Greenwald: Empowering the "Deep State" to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying

Democracy. Democracy Now, 16 February 2017, Interviewed by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to.

Leonard, Sammy. “The Nihilistic Purity of the Far Left Will Kill Us All.” Extra Newsfeed, 16

January 2017. https://extranewsfeed.com/the-nihilistic-purity-of-the-far-left-will-kill-us-all-54169b25e3a8#.hmrekz9c8

Willis, Derek. “The Senate Votes that Divided Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.” The Upshot,

New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/upshot/the-senate-votes-that-divided-hillary-clinton-and-bernie-sanders.html?_r=1