With New York’s US Senate race grinding to its inevitable outcome, I’ve been girding my loins – and realizing that discomforting old expression fits the situation all too well. I can actually feel a tightness south of the solar plexus when I think about Hillary Clinton’s easy victory. Here’s a candidate that preserves a reputation as a progressive while being pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-corporate power and money, pro-inadequate health care, pro-homophobic marriage restrictions. Radicals, and even liberals, are justified in mourning, “With friends like that…”
Sure, she’s better than Republican challenger John Spencer, and way ahead of Alaric and Tamerlane, but no civilized person should cast a vote for her.
Yet there she is, at the head of the pack. And there she’ll stay, thanks in part to local institutions with curious ideas about democratic forms and intellectual honesty.
Here’s what I mean: Last Friday night, Clinton and Spencer took part in a “debate” – the term now meaning banter between candidates who basically are in agreement, answering journalists who move in lockstep – hosted by the University of Rochester. Time Warner’s R News broadcast the event from Strong Auditorium; WXXI carried the audio. As reported later on R News, everything looked peachy. No notes of discord, in the hall or outside. A fine exercise in electoral politics, and a credit to the home team.
But R News left out the real story. And the next morning, the D&C hardly did better, with this one sentence way down in a piece by Joseph Spector: “Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Senate, was not included in the event, drawing protests from him and the League of Women Voters.” You have to look elsewhere in the news to find out what really happened. Hawkins didn’t take his exclusion lying down. He called the event a “farce” and likened the selection process to the accomplishments of Boss Tweed. And he noted that all four anti-war candidates (himself, a Libertarian, and two socialists) had been undemocratically dumped.
The League of Women Voters was mighty pissed, too, or whatever expression fits their respectable image. As reported by news outlets here and there, the League had determined, using in-house criteria that allow some subjective application but still are relatively fair, that the debates should include Hawkins along with Clinton and Spencer. Nevertheless, the local newspeople and the University went ahead with the farce.
This was particularly galling in the UR’s case – an institution of “higher learning” in cahoots with those who trample the most basic principles of fairness. Okay, okay – what planet am I on? We’re talking about the same institution that hosts the Simon School.
Luckily, we’ve got the internet, and you can check out the Hawkins campaign at www.hawkinsforsenate.org. Brace yourself: this is a pablum-free-zone, with well-thought out statements on the full range of issues. If you get tired of being challenged and respected as a voter, you can switch back to Hillary or John for a snooze.