My Turn

Issue section: 

Doug Henwood sets out to challenge the idea that Hillary Clinton represents anything to do with progress or real change. “The case for Hillary boils down to this: she has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn.” Now Bernie Sanders’ challenge has forced her to tack left. Even her feminist claims have been undermined by polls showing women prefer Sanders. Rejecting misogynist attacks on Clinton, Henwood explains he’s not interested in analysing her policies as she’s unlikely to stick to them. It’s her political record that counts, and it’s “not inspiring”.

The book gives a detailed account of Clinton’s career working for corporate America. She spent six years on the board of the viciously anti-union WalMart, and says, “I represented Wall Street, as a senator from New York.” As secretary of state, she lobbied for US business interests around the world, and promoted fracking at every opportunity.

There are damning accounts of Walmart’s relationships with brutal regimes and their “philanthropic work”, for example in Haiti. Henwood meticulously exposes Hillary’s hypocrisy and opportunism. As senator, she supported the Iraq War of 2003. Now she says she regrets this. She used to oppose gay marriage. Now she says she supports it. Her claims to champion families and children are undermined by her support for attacks on welfare which have hit black and Latino women in particular.

She says she’s concerned about “biased policing, mass incarceration and maltreatment of immigrants”. But she supported the 1994 crime bill — which did indeed lead to biased policing and mass incarceration, especially of African Americans. Henwood helpfully includes some choice quotes detailing her attitude to immigration and other issues.

I don’t entirely agree with the account of Clinton’s record as secretary of state. We’re told she had “few accomplishments as a diplomat”, and that Obama kept her out of the loop. If by “diplomacy” Henwood means promoting world peace and harmony, she certainly hasn’t done that. But as Henwood shows elsewhere, her real aim is to promote US imperial power across the globe. I do think he’s right to point out her enthusiasm for military intervention in Afghanistan and Syria.

He describes Clinton’s support for repression in Honduras, but says little about US support for Israeli assaults on Gaza and, strangely, almost nothing about her role in the disastrous intervention in Libya. He does remind us of Clinton’s admiration for Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and her “friendship” with Kissinger — who backed Pinochet’s coup in Chile.

Henwood also credits her with the “pivot to Asia” strategy, but doesn’t seem to think it’s important. But this was a significant development for US imperialism. The aim is to counter growing Chinese economic power with less emphasis on intervention in the Middle East.

Henwood sees movements like Black Lives Matter and support for Bernie Sanders as part of a positive development in US politics. He thinks struggle from below is needed for real change. It’s a useful book, though marred by a partial understanding of imperialism.