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Where realism and idealism meet Tony Brasunas, author of Double Happiness

The Deeper Reason Many Intelligent Progressives and Independents Will Not Support Hillary Clinton

The Deeper Reason Intelligent Progressives Support Bernie Sanders

The “lesser-of-evils” argument might not work for independent voters this year.

For those who hope for swift unity in the Democratic Party, there are reasons to believe it won’t happen if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

While there are serious policy differences between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a deeper fault line must be acknowledged between their supporters.

Certainly the two candidates remain far apart on issues that matter to progressives and independents — fracking, the TPP, tuition-free public colleges, universal single-payer healthcare, racist policing, militarism in the Middle East — to name just a few. Indeed, based on policy and political strategy, many independents and Democrats see Clinton as more like a traditional Republican. Many even see it as indicative of privilege if one supports Clinton over Sanders, given the current state of the economy and the environment. Many intelligent progressives see the two candidates as representing different social classes.

Nevertheless, a debate about policy differences only partially explains the disconnect between Clinton, on the one hand, and Democrats, independents, and progressives, on the other. Clinton has begun incorporating into her speeches many core issues of the Sanders campaign, including some mentioned above, but there remain deeper reasons many left-leaning voters remain unable to support Hillary Clinton: dishonesty and scandals.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

These deeper issues aren’t generally considered important by writers in the mainstream media. They paint Clinton’s dishonesty and scandals as Republican fabrications or as remnants of longstanding political vendettas that no longer matter. Writers, like yours truly, are generally accused of supporting the Republican if we even mention Clinton’s deeper shortcomings; we are also accused of sexism if we happen to be men.

So I will be attacked for writing this article. But I find it important nonetheless to try to help Democrats understand why, on a level deeper than just policy, intelligent non-sexist progressives and independents are generally unable to support Hillary Clinton.

First, it’s important to state that some of the scandals and darker rumors about Hillary and Bill Clinton are indeed the result of baseless political attacks. I’ve left those out of this article as much as possible.

Some Clinton scandals however are about real events, crimes, and misdemeanors, and those scandals are what must be acknowledged.

Just because a Republican says something doesn’t automatically mean that it’s false. Just because you don’t like the news that a messenger brings doesn’t mean that the messenger is wrong. Just because a journalist writes about the many reasons progressives are unlikely to support Clinton does not mean that that journalist is sexist or supports the atrocious and fraudulent candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is very bad, and must be defeated, but that doesn’t automatically make Clinton good in the minds of independent and progressive voters.

The truth is that poll after poll finds that people across the political spectrum do not trust Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders polls way ahead of her on the topic of honesty and trustworthiness — by as much as 50 points — and if he’s the nominee, polls show he would unite the left and independents in a way that Hillary will not.

Voters find even Trump — who seems to concoct his own facts and policy positions during each and every speech — more trustworthy than Clinton, by 8 points and growing.

Corporate media pundits who write for publications supporting Clinton (I’m looking at you, New York Times, CNN, NPR, and MSNBC) shrug off these numbers as the simple product of longstanding attacks on her credibility by her opponents. This is exactly the kind of nonchalant dismissiveness and shoddy journalism that doesn’t wash with intelligent progressives and independents anymore. There are many, many politicians who have been in the public eye for decades; only a handful are seen to be as dishonest as Hillary Clinton.

It’s not rocket science. The unbiased history shows that she does lie and obfuscate more frequently than other politicians, and she has changed her policy positions more often than most.

Intelligent voters notice this. Clinton rarely seems to be speaking her mind. She appears to calculate before speaking which specific words she should use to kill off a line of questioning, rather than engage in open discussion.

Barack Obama once said, “Hillary Clinton will say anything, and change nothing.” These words resonated with voters in 2008, and they resonate again now.

What She Says, or What She Does

To really understand why many non-sexist, intelligent progressives and independents are unable to support Clinton we have to look at some historical patterns that provide a basis for mistrust.

Author Michelle Alexander has eloquently explained that Hillary Clinton and her husband bear much responsibility for the rise of mass incarceration of African Americans and the “new jim-crow.” Alexander explores the uncomfortable awareness that the Clintons might be as racist as Trump, but just hide it better. When someone is viewed as dishonest, what they do and have done becomes much more important than what they say.

Intelligent progressives also know that because of who Hillary is, as journalist Naomi Klein puts it, she is unfit and unable to address the crucial issues of climate change and wealth inequality. In other words, regardless of what she says, her longstanding connections to corporations such as Walmart, Monsanto, and Goldman Sachs formed her worldview long ago and she is unwilling—and unable—to change. What is worse is that she can speak on the campaign trail as if she would challenge these corporations, but whether or not she would is less important than the sense that she is dishonest and secretive and will say anything to get elected.
Her Damn Emails

Let’s look at a very recent, pertinent event. FBI Director James Comey reported to the nation this month on the findings of an FBI investigation into Clinton’s secret use of a private email server to conduct official business.

Many people remember Hillary last year answering questions about this secret server. Even Bernie Sanders said, “We’re tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

It turns out virtually everything she said last year about her secret server was contradicted by Comey and the FBI:

To neutral observers, and to many progressives, this scandal isn’t “much ado about nothing,” as some diehard Clinton supporters maintain.

The fact that she set up her own email server and used her own personal email accounts isn’t just probable evidence that she broke numerous parts of the Espionage Act and thus might no longer qualify for security clearance. It’s an even bigger deal when one considers the allegations, discussed below, that Clinton ran the state department partly for personal enrichment by accepting large donations to the Clinton Foundation from repressive countries for which she approved weapons deals. If she sent classified information via her personal email account or communicated secretly with countries or foreign nationals who were donating to the Clinton Foundation, and then wiped her private server, this could point to serious corruption.

An Honest Appraisal of Scandals, Fraud, and Worse

Dozens of scandals have swirled around the Clintons’ rise through Arkansas and national politics. It would be difficult to compile a full appraisal of these scandals, as there are so many, but doing a short survey of them should go a long way toward explaining why the “lesser-of-evils” argument probably won’t work for independent and progressive voters considering their options in November.

I’ve chosen four that I think best provide an understanding of the state of mind of independent and progressive voters.

1. Election Rigging and Fraud. This is a current scandal on the minds of voters today. As has been documented extensively in both the corporate and alternative media, this Democratic primary was rigged in countless ways for Clinton from the very beginning. The media began counting superdelegates in October as if they’d already voted even though today they still haven’t; the DNC performed something shockingly similar to money laundering for the Clinton campaign to circumvent donation maximums and funnel millions to her campaign; the debates were reduced, canceled, or scheduled at times few people would watch, which prevented Bernie Sanders from becoming better known earlier in the primary; and the primary rules as a whole were written and rewritten by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who happens to be a longtime Clinton friend and ally.

Even worse: voter rolls were mysteriously purged in many states; caucus rules were changed suddenly; and actual votes were flipped by the thousands in many states, according to scientific analysis.

In nearly every single instance, the election fraud and rigging of the rules favored Clinton.

The fact that Clinton benefited so much from all of this and never said anything about it, for many, is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s one thing if an imperfect system is a little bit unfair here and there. It’s another thing if the rules are systematically broken, always in favor of one candidate, and the beneficiary simply takes the spoils and runs. Mathematicians and election analysts have shown that when likely fraud is taken into account, Bernie Sanders might be rightfully winning right now going into the convention. At the very least, if Clinton values party unity, she should call for investigations and, where merited by evidence, request recounts or even revotes. That would go a long, long way to building party unity. Most voters want, first and foremost, a basic sense that the election has been fair.

This scandal has gotten little corporate media coverage so far, but it has been covered extensively in alternative media. Were Clinton viewed generally as trustworthy, this might not matter so much, but as it is, it’s a reason many independent voters remain uneasy, if not outright suspicious, about Hillary.

2. The Clinton Foundation. Mentioned above, this scandal is problematic even from a nonpartisan standpoint. There is a disturbing correlation between large donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation from repressive regimes, on the one hand, and enormous weapons deals approved for those same repressive regimes by the Clinton-led State Department, on the other.

To an honest, nonpartisan observer, it appears raising money for her foundation was at least as important as sending arms to repressive Middle Eastern regimes.

Here’s a segment that covers this scandal in a vituperative but informative short documentary from investigative journalist Abby Martin.

What Hillary Clinton Really Represents, a documentary by Telesur investigative journalist Abby Martin

3. Drug Money in Arkansas. Of the many other scandals surrounding the Clintons’ rise to power in Arkansas and Washington, DC— I’m leaving out anything to do with Bill Clinton’s affairs and alleged sexual violence — this one scandal, to many progressives and independents, is the most damning. You don’t have to be a Republican to become suspicious when you learn the role the Clintons played in the longstanding importation of cocaine into the rural Mena, Arkansas airport by the CIA; this took place as part of the Iran-Contra scandal, while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

The corporate media at first ignored the Mena story, but as numerous independent sources reported that the Clintons reaped benefits from this cocaine trafficking, it eventually broke through into the corporate media too. Millions in cash were evidently laundered through a state agency the Clintons created — the Arkansas Development Finance Authority — and some of the money was used to fund their political rise.

4. Dead People. This one is the most difficult to contemplate, most difficult to prove, and most difficult to ignore. I mention it because it would seriously stain a Clinton candidacy in the eyes of many independent voters come November.

Ninety-one people who have been close, politically or personally, to the Clintons have died in unusual or unexplained circumstances during the Clintons’ time in Arkansas and national politics. Not included in that devastating count are two people who died just in the past month: Young DNC data director Seth Rich, who was managing Democratic Party voter records and had a passion for election integrity, was murdered via four shots to the back in Washington DC; and John Ashe, former UN President who was about to testify in a corruption case surrounding a Chinese businessman with connections to the Clintons, died in New York apparently from a dumbbell falling on his neck.

Please note that I’m not making an allegation about either of these particular murders, just conveying the horrifying sense of this strange series of deaths. This piece recounts forty or so of the worst, if you want to read more. Perhaps it’s enough to say that many independent and progressive voters view the Clintons as actual criminals. For many people, there’s just too much evidence to reject these deaths as—to use the most anti-intellectual epithet of our time—a ‘conspiracy theory.’ It’s an ugly picture.

Aura of Secrecy and Avoidance

Ultimately Hillary Clinton’s campaign managers must know that she either has things to hide or simply fears speaking freely. Whatever the reason, she hasn’t held any public news conferences this entire year. Let me say that again: While running for the highest office in the land, Hillary Clinton hasn’t held a single public news conference where the media can ask her questions.

This aura of avoidance adds to a perception that she’s dishonest and secretive. Whether or not she’s hiding something, avoiding the press provides another reason to think that she is hiding something. The easiest way to dispel perceptions of dishonesty and secrecy is simply to speak more and to speak more openly. Simply releasing the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches, as she pledged long ago, would help. Hillary Clinton doesn’t do these things, and so we’re all left with our own assumptions about her.

Some voters assume that she has nothing to hide and that all of this is a Republican or sexist plot to discredit her.

Other intelligent progressives and independents of all ages, races, and genders assume that she does have something to hide. There seem to be scandals within scandals surrounding her, and, in a nutshell, this is why so many voters do not trust her and cannot support her.

If Clinton becomes the nominee, this mistrust does not bode well for party unity, and it might prove foolish to expect the “lesser of evils” argument to work in November, even against Donald Trump. Many progressives and independents will vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein, write in Bernie Sanders on their ballots, or simply stay home.

If the Democratic Party delegates, on the other hand, vote to award Bernie Sanders the nomination at the convention in Philadelphia, they will nominate a candidate not only more trustworthy than Donald Trump, but a historically honest, trustworthy, and scandal-free candidate. Bernie Sanders will likely appeal to progressives and independents across the spectrum, unite the entirety of the Democratic party, and defeat Donald Trump in a November landslide.

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 9:03 pm on July 19, 2016

The Connection Between Brexit and Bernie

Leon Neal / AFP

It has never been more important to ‘think global, act local.’

The movement in Britain to leave the EU and the movement to elect Bernie Sanders in the US share an underlying cause. Across the world today there is massive dissatisfaction and anger with how global capitalist rule is converging into smaller and smaller units with more and more power via elite agreements — NAFTA, WTO, TPP perhaps, and yes, the EU. These elite agreements are driving down wages for nearly everyone, destroying the environment, and starting or abetting wars.

There are several responses to this dissatisfaction and anger.

One shortsighted and simplistic response is xenophobia and isolationism. This response is manifest in the appeal of the Brexit vote and in the appeal of Donald Trump. If you can tell yourself that it’s your neighbor — rather than unregulated global corporate rule — that is making people you know lose their healthcare, their jobs, or their homes, then you can close a symbolic door to the world.

The more challenging response is manifest in the rise of Bernie Sanders — and also in the push to radically democratize the EU. People across the world need to work together as a planet now more than ever to take on climate change, corruption, economic justice, for-profit wars, and the refugee crises that these other problems create. We must work together to ensure healthcare for all, clean water and food for all, and a peaceful and healthy environment that all can live in. A world in which all have clean water, healthy food, and peace is a world with little terrorism and few refugees. Human beings generally prefer to live out their lives peacefully in the culture in which they grew up. 

Status quo politics — the Hillary Clintons and the David Camerons — is being rejected by both the right and the left because it pushes ever onward with corporate, oligarchic rule that further enriches the already wealthy under deceptive names like “free trade” and “neoliberalism.” These policies create inequality, war, refugees, and terrorism.

In my humble opinion, we should all support Bernie Sanders and a much more democratic EU. And we should oppose the xenophobic supporters of Brexit and Trump — not by yelling at them or calling them stupid, but by acknowledging that they’re partly right. Yes, the corporate-rule status quo is making 99% of the planet poorer and more dangerous. Yes, we do need to make changes as soon as possible. But breaking into smaller and smaller units based on xenophobia will only make the real problems that we must face as a planet less likely to be addressed.

It is through working together as a planet that can we address these issues.

There is a reason that the famous axiom is: “think global, act local.” Think global. It isn’t “think local, act local.” Thinking locally simply won’t bring the sustainable, peaceful, just, and healthy society we all can share.

Whether you’re trying to get by in Britain, the US, or anywhere else on earth today, it is time to think globally and to work together.

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 4:13 pm on July 1, 2016

A Vote for the World: Bernie Sanders for President

It is a rare, historic moment right now in the United States. There is a political movement to take our democracy back from the giant corporations that have been running things, a movement aligned with the great progressive movements of history, a movement to tackle society’s most pressing problems, a movement to spread wealth and power more broadly among the American people.

In this rare moment, Double Happiness is proud to make its first-ever political endorsement: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

Here are four reasons Bernie Sanders and this movement are uniquely positioned to do great things for this country and our planet.

  1. Bernie Sanders doesn’t accept corporate contributions or run a “Super PAC” to bundle corporate money. In our corrupted political landscape, this is amazingly rare if not outright unique. Because of this, Bernie Sanders will be able to be his own president and not be beholden to the giant banks and corporations that normally fund candidates’ campaigns for office. This will enable him to take action nimbly and powerfully — and for the right things. If President Bernie Sanders is sitting in the Oval Office wondering whether to enforce a particular law, nominate a judge, or sign a piece of legislation, he will think not whether a giant bank would approve of his actions but whether the funders of his campaign — ordinary people — would approve.
  2. Bernie Sanders sees war as a last option in foreign affairs. He voted against both Iraq Wars, (more…)

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 6:44 pm on May 12, 2016

Something New: Calligraphy

Trying something new is a humbling experience. It’s also one of the ways we feel alive. The “beginner mind” we experience when we do something for the first time is a combination of the pleasure we get as our brain wires new neural pathways and the awkwardness our body feels doing something new.

I recently tried Chinese calligraphy, and it was an intimidating and sublime experience.Chinese calligraphy name posters

I’ve been writing Chinese characters — at least occasionally — ever since my first Mandarin class at Amherst in 1994. But calligraphy is a different animal entirely.

In China, calligraphy is truly a revered art form, a practice of creating beauty that is as highly regarded as painting or music. Great calligraphers throughout Chinese history have become famous throwing themselves into painting poetry with strokes that evoke the full range of human emotion.

I was after a more modest goal. I wanted to create name posters for some of the early supporters of Double Happiness.

First, I devised a name for each person I wanted to honor. I chose common (more…)

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 1:55 pm on January 30, 2016

There is Good News Too

Amid all the news about terrorism and war — there seems to be bad news all over the world these days — Double Happiness recounts and celebrates the possibility of cross-cultural understanding and self-discovery.

And my journey isn’t unique. International comprehension and amity is growing all over the world, in places and at events not covered in the media. Let’s remember: There is good news too, and a great deal of it.

The journey of exploring a culture and a people who are different (say, Chinese, Peruvian, or Iranian, etc.) is a powerful thing, and coming to understand oneself better through this exploration is an inspiring idea. When did you last take a journey into the unknown, and didn’t you come back wiser and kinder?

Holiday Discount

To Holidays 2015 Discountshare my story — and to inspire you to create more like it — I’m delighted to offer a Double Happy discount on the book this season. The journey of Double Happiness can be a gift for yourself or for a traveler on your list for half off the normal price.

Here’s the Holiday Discount >

And remember: Bad news is given more space in the media than good news, but that doesn’t mean there’s more bad than good going on today.

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 10:44 pm on December 16, 2015

Advance Praise From Writer’s Digest Awards

The winners aren’t announced until next year, but getting fives in all the judges’ categories should be a good sign.

Here are the judges’ review and remarks.

A fully experiential read, this book takes us on quite an adventure, immersing us into Chinese culture with the author’s extremely well-written details, made all the richer through exemplary use of sensory elements. We experience Chinese culture with him via tastes, smells, sounds, and textures. This author has a mastery of making his book an experience, not just a story to observe. Very well done.

Especially good are the moments of tension. When he is confronted by the ticket taker with a terse statement about Americans thinking their voice is the only one, the author diffuses the situation brilliantly, and provides smart diplomacy in the moment. Well done. We’re also worried in a scene where he suspects that someone will get into his bag. The author’s sense of exhale/relief, when he suspected for nothing, holds great resonance.

Beautiful phrasing throughout. The author has a majestic sense of description. Very well done.

We’re hopeful for him and Michiko, and when it doesn’t develop into a fulfilling relationship for him, we are disappointed for him. Yet he explains this not with any bitterness. Just a mature explanation and a glance forward. Well done.

Gorgeous ending with a look at nature, at how all grows, at how you must have a little death in the moment to open a path for growth. Excellent. This is a very talented writer, and his journey is filled with rich insight.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

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Posted by Tony Brasunas at 9:38 pm on December 7, 2015