Hillary Clinton tells voters: Don’t let Trump steal the election, again
2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is warning voters not to let Donald Trump steal another election. Clinton beat Trump by more than three million votes, but he squeezed out an Electoral College victory. Here, Trump and Clinton are on stage at a presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Oct. 9, 2016. | John Locher / AP

Three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump in 2016. It’s been nearly four years since that fateful election, but the number is worth repeating. If not for the anachronistic institution known as the Electoral College, there would be no President Donald Trump. On Wednesday night, the woman who beat Trump warned Americans that it could happen again—Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can win by millions of votes but still lose. That’s why, Clinton said, “we need numbers so overwhelming that Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”

The first woman to have ever been nominated for president by a major party, Clinton spoke just after the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. She was one of many women leaders who addressed the nation, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and VP nominee Sen. Kamala Harris. The target of intense sexism and misogynistic attacks not just in 2016 but for more than 30 years, Clinton still looked the picture of defiance and determination Wednesday, confident of her own role in history but unceasing in her advocacy for the women who will come after her.

Clinton’s remarks, delivered on the third night of the Democrats’ virtual national convention, are being overshadowed in media coverage by the powerfully damning attack on Trump issued by former President Barack Obama later on Wednesday evening. But her speech was important in its own right for reasons both strategic and symbolic.

The former Secretary of State put front and center the absolute necessity of beating Trump by as wide a margin as possible on Nov. 3 so that he will have no credibility to claim election fraud. Way back in April 2016, Clinton rang the alarm that a Republican victory would threaten democracy itself. The past four years—and even more intensely, the past four weeks—have proven that allowing Trump to continue occupying the Oval Office could permanently cripple the United States’ already limited democratic order.

The record is clear: Trump will do anything necessary—lie, cheat, and steal—to hold onto power. He’s again rolling out the racist conspiracy theories that he deployed against Obama, this time saying Harris can’t possibly be eligible for office, essentially because she’s a Black woman born to immigrant parents. He’s already been impeached for colluding with a foreign power to tamper with an election, but now he’s doing it again. And he’s sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service to keep millions of people from voting. Nothing is off the table for wannabe dictators like Trump who hold democracy in contempt.

Clinton recounted how far too many times since her loss she has heard comments like “I didn’t realize how dangerous he was,” “I wish I could do it all over,” or “I should have voted.” If the Trump years haven’t been a wake-up call to just how essential it is to get maximum turnout, then what else will it take? Mail ballots have to be requested now and sent back immediately to prevent any mail slowdown from costing people their vote. Those voting in person must do so early. Clinton made all those points, repeating them a couple of times for emphasis.

Her speech merits attention for a second reason, though. Many of her critics on the left might not want to admit it, but the remarks delivered by Clinton, undeniably one of the most prominent icons of the Democrats’ centrist faction, demonstrate just how much impact the left has actually had on the party. If saying that sounds surprising to anti-Clintonistas, then they haven’t been paying attention these last few years.

The 2016 Democratic Platform was widely hailed by labor leaders and grassroots movement activists as the most progressive and pro-worker agenda since FDR. Under a Clinton presidency, workers’ organizations were anticipating the chance to target corporate and financial capital at the top with new taxes and regulations. They expected the chance to win laws making it easier to organize unions and raise wages. And they looked forward to injecting billions of dollars into new infrastructure jobs.

Meanwhile, the “Mothers of the Movement,” those Black moms who’d lost their children to police violence, commanded the respect of the party and the whole country at the Democratic convention last time. And the women’s equality movement was set to change history forever by putting a woman in the White House.

Of course, Trump’s victory might make it seem like all of that came to naught. And criticisms have been rightfully made that the Clinton campaign took the votes of workers in industrial states for granted, that it underestimated the appeal of Trump’s economic populism to people whose lives had been devastated by free trade, and that it committed another dozen or more errors.

But Clinton’s speech on Wednesday showed, as did her 2016 convention address, that the Democratic Party is not immune to the pressures and power of the people’s movements. The people have made the party adopt their agenda as its own.

Clean energy jobs to fight climate change. Caregiving jobs with living wages. Emergency relief that saves people from foreclosures and evictions. Help for parents and teachers struggling to balance their children’s safety and education. Aid for health care workers fighting COVID-19. Paid family leave and health care for every person. Saving Social Security, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood. A path forward for DREAMers and their families. Condemnation of billionaires who got $400 billion richer during the COVID-19 pandemic while millions lost their jobs and the extra $600 unemployment help. Law enforcement purged of racial bias. Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. It was all there in Clinton’s rally cry.

Susan Dowd in a shirt supporting Hillary Clinton before participating in Bridge Together Golden Gate, a demonstration and performance art piece against the inauguration of President Donald Trump, on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Jan. 20, 2017. As Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, demonstrators gathered across the country in massive ‘Resistance’ protests. | Jeff Chiu / AP

It’s a reflection of the power of Bernie Sanders’s insurgency campaigns of the last two elections. A sign of a whole generation’s shift to the left in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the financial crisis. Of the mass resistance of women against a pussy-grabbing president. Of the righteous anger of the Movement for Black Lives. And, yes, it bears some signs of the “socialist moment” that has emerged in our country’s politics over the last several years.

When people get organized and flex their muscles, leaders and institutions are forced to respond. The #MeToo movement that exploded in the wake of the Clinton campaign was proof of that. So were the 2018 midterms, when more women—and particularly progressive women of color—were elected to Congress than ever before. 2020 has to be made into an election that provides further confirmation of grassroots power.

In 2016, Trump asked Americans to take a chance on him, telling them, “What do you have to lose?” As Clinton reminded us, now we know. Our health care, our jobs, our loved ones, and even our lives. Did 50 million people actually anticipate they’d be jobless by the fourth year of Trump’s presidency? Did hundreds of thousands believe they’d be facing possible homelessness because they can no longer afford rent? Did the 175,000 people who have died of coronavirus so far think that Trump’s victory would contribute to their early death?

There is no doubt that Trump must be removed from power, but as Clinton said, “Let’s set our sights higher than getting one man out of the White House.” Thanks to the growing influence of the labor and people’s movements, we can actually envision building a better future out of the chaos and destruction of COVID-19 and the Trump presidency. Clinton just reminded us of the power we have—if we mobilize and stay united.

As with all opinion articles published by People’s World, the views presented here are those of the author.


CONTRIBUTOR

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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