Saturday, November 11, 2017

John Halle proposes that Clinton's campaign informally rigged the DNC game to secure the nomination and seems to have done so through leveraging labor leadership, as distinct from actual labor interests

There's no shortage of people who believe that Brazile is hardly clean-handed about things in the wake of her writings about the DNC, Clinton, Sanders and the nomination.  Even close to a year after the announcement, to say nothing of the actual electoral vote, it's tempting for partisans to embrace simple conspiracy theories to explain how and why the person they did or didn't want to get the Oval Office did or didn't get the role. 
 
What each conspiracy theory has that I find hard to embrace is the idea that a group of informed and actually competent people got together and decided how they would decide the future.  At the risk of invoking the years of research, writing and source archiving I did about the history of the fall of Mars Hill I am reminded constantly of a proverb shared with me by a history teacher--you should never assume a conspiracy when incompetence is an available option.  Partisans for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, since I can only assume some of those are still around, might want to believe Mars Hill had its reputation destroyed by hostility from secular/liberal media but, on the whole, the more and more I've dug through the primary source materials available and look at the history of real estate acquisitions and even the history of journalistic coverage associated with real estate and Mars Hill the more and more it seems that Mars Hill couldn't have been taken out by hostile media coverage.  An entire decade of hostile secular/progressive media coverage from 1998 to 2008 did virtually nothing except accelerate the church's meteoric rise within Puget Sound.  On the other hand, steady revelations of graft and sheer incompetence within the leadership culture of Mars Hill did go a long way to damaging its reputation.
 
Nobody probably wants to really run with the idea that in the 2016 election the least incompetent self-aggrandizing power-hungry egotists with more ambition than scruples managed to win despite still-existing incompetencies but it might be an idea to at least give a few seconds' thought to. 
 
Now .. on to Halle's actual post, or at least parts of it.  
 
...
 
Brazile’s disclosures immediately reinitiated the discussion of some months ago as to whether the primary was rigged, though now with new urgency.  The issue strikes me as a red herring in that it obscures how the Clinton machine operated to insure a victory. In a literal sense, at least, they did not rig the nomination, rather they exerted their influence. [emphasis added] An example of how they did returns us to Curry’s remarks.   As Curry points out, the major unions immediately endorsed Clinton, this despite her offering them virtually nothing, not to mention having served in an administration which did much worse than nothing by ramming through jobs destroying trade agreements, failing to enforce NLRB decisions and harsh reductions in the public sector workforce. [emphasis added]
 
Why did they endorse? While it will be hotly denied, the answer likely has to do with quid pro quo arrangements made with union leadership who, in addition to serving in positions within Democratic administrations, were also provided access to Clinton global initiative junkets, seats on corporate and foundation boards, positions at major “progressive” think tanks and other perks provided to respectable and “serious” insiders.  These favors were expected to be returned in the form of an immediate endorsement-dutifully provided, as we know, to the displeasure and disadvantage of rank and file membership which supported Sanders.  Did the Clintons calling in their chips constitute “rigging” of the election?  Again, not in a strict literal sense.  But at a certain point, the distinction becomes merely semantic: it is clear that in essence that’s exactly what it was. [emphasis added]
 
****
The predominant left reaction to Brazile’s charges has been to engage in yet another round of ritualistic thrashing of the DP leadership.  But, while eminently deserved,  no one with a basic familiarity with the facts should have regarded them as anything other than servants of the corporate donor class, which is to say, enemies of everything we are trying to accomplish.  On the other hard, the labor unions are still, at least in some circles, seen as allies.  That they could have won the nomination for Sanders but chose not to do so is, as I just mentioned, too bitter a pill for most of us to swallow. [emphasis added]
 
That Clinton and associated campaigners would be friends with deep pocketed people isn't much of a surprise.  I'm not particularly startled that labor union leadership would throw in with a Clinton because I don't see organized labor leadership as really ultimately being all that pro-labor at all.  It depends on what kind of labor and what kind of market.  I'm reminded of something Jacques Ellul wrote in Propaganda half a century ago, that he believed that as labor unions became more powerful as political entities and more influential they became the less they would actually be interested in helping the labor they were ostensibly representing.  If it turns out labor union leadership simply threw in with Clinton then expecting positive change to come from that sector is probably a misguided hope. 

Earlier this year I saw posters with slogans such as "no more shit jobs" here in Seattle.  There will always be those jobs.  For those of us who have read and reflected on Genesis 3 what Marxists have called the alienation of labor is the very nature of labor.  Creation itself rebels against us and we keep working to subjugate it.  There will always be shit jobs and even those jobs that don't seem to be shit jobs have terrible things about them.  If you work in a field where the goal is to save lives you clean up shit.  Saving lives is cleaning up the shit, oftentimes in fairly literal terms. 

So perhaps the breakthrough is in giving shit jobs dignity.  Whether through some kind of Lutheran doctrine of vocation or through Soviet propaganda praising the common worker, the most revolution we can see for maybe one generation or two is a sacralization of scut work.  Whoever would be greatest must be the servant of all, for instance.  But this would not just be in explicitly giving dignity to the kinds of service that is viewed with contempt if "you" or "I" have to do it, it would be in recognizing that there is a moral obligation on the part of those of us who don't do those sorts of tasks to those who do to express gratitude and love.

Honor thy father and mother, and to put this in crudely pedestrian terms, have regard and gratitude for those parents who literally cleaned up your shit after you dumped it on them.  Does this mean they are sinless?  Of course not, but they changed your diapers.  That counts for something and, after all, you may find yourself changing their diapers one day in return, or you may be changing the diapers of your own children one day, or you are or have been changing the diapers of children in your life now. 

Labor is labor, and if labor leaders spent so much time in the corridors of power that they identified more readily with the power-brokers than the rank and file people doing crap jobs then it would be hard to feel bad for them if their candidate lost.  Clinton and her advocates can keep saying Sanders didn't deserve the nomination and it's possible to even say that it wasn't realistic to expect the DNC machinery to even really give him a chance while also noting that thanks to the way super-delegates contributed to the political process that was one of many reasons we got Trump. 

Halle's proposal is simple enough, the left shouldn't be surprised that the Clintons turned out to be in the pocket of high finance and globalism.  The more unpleasant discovery is that labor union leadership decided to back Clinton when other options were available.  To borrow concepts from other fields, it can be too easy to assume that hard power is how decisions can be rigged when soft power and pedaling influence can be what decides elections, too.  But as scapegoating goes it's been easier for mainstream liberalism to blame the white racists morons without college degrees than to concede that it's not just Republican graft and evil that swung last year's big decision. 

But then after so many years of blogging about Mars Hill I feel like I shouldn't have to say what I'm about to say again, the disaster of American discourse is that we would rather share lessons that exonerate us than to share discoveries that implicate us. 

POSTSCRIPT 11-12-2017

Reminded of something I'd read a while back at Scott Timberg's blog.

...
 
They’ve been in retreat in the US for most of my life, but trade unions remain crucial and are important for the creative class, including journalists, just as they have traditionally been for the industrial working class. HERE is my piece for Salon about the pros and cons of unionization.
 
Oddly, Salon was caught in an ugly union fight while I was there. When I left, more than a year since it began, the instability of the place — constant turnover at both the staff and management level — made it impossible to settle on an agreement.
 
For those who have read this blog regularly, maybe you remember that Salon re-ran a piece that was originally published (if memory serves) at AlterNet a couple of years back. The piece was about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll and was so riven with factual inaccuracies in virtually every single paragraph I took a week to document them all and fact-check the errors.  So if Salon turns out to have been a bitter zoo behind the scenes I'm afraid I can't possibly be surprised about that.  
 
Halle's observations about how labor union leadership look like they sold out the Democratic Party to Clintonian power would seem like a corrective to ST's idea that unions remain crucial.  Crucial to actual workers?  I'm afraid I've never been all that sure about that my whole adult life.  Crucial to endorsing political figures?  Probably.  It's not that I can't fathom Generation X frustration that all the jobs we thought we might be able to do in journalism and arts coverage have evaporated in the last twenty years, or so it seems.  I get that.  I managed to never get any of the jobs Scott Timberg has been bitter about losing so I'll admit it's hard to feel all that bad for the guy. 

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