“I’m voting for Hillary,” said Mark, a 24-year-old Democratic Party consultant outside the Marriott International Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, just hours after Clinton had accepted her party’s nomination to challenge Donald Trump in November.
“Why is Hillary the best choice?”
“Is that a question?” he asked. “It’s Trump or Hillary.”
“The thing I’ve heard from a lot of people in FDR Park” — the sight of a week of camped out protests accompanying the DNC — “is that they feel coerced, there’s lots of problems in this country that are unrecognized.”
As we spoke a person who appeared homeless wandered around the entrance to the hotel, listlessly waving an American flag he’d found. Mark continued:
“Well every election is coerced. We have a two party system. Every election is coerced, unfortunately. That’s the way it is. We have problems that need to be address, but it’s up to us, the voters, to make sure that these problems get addressed.”
“They would say, ‘no, I’m not comfortable with being coerced,’” I offered.
“So opt out of it,” Mark said. “Or move to another country where they don’t have a two party system.”
From Utah, the young man, Mark, wouldn’t give his last name or reveal much about what he was doing at the convention, except that he was “working.” He said that people are happy to complain, but they rarely vote. And so forth.
“We have so many privileges as American citizens, but we don’t want any of the responsibilities that come along with them,” he said.
One of those responsibilities, you could argue, is to the Palestinian people. American voters’ tax dollars have gone for decades to continuing the Israeli occupation. Clinton as a candidate has said she’d only hew tighter to the demands of Benjamin Netanyahu to squeeze the Palestinian people harder.
Then, as I do, I turned the question about boring old American party politics to the exciting Apocalyptic stakes of Israel/Palestine.
“I mean, that’s a fuckin’ issue like…yeah…we should take that up,” Mark said. “But before we deal with Palestinian rights we should fucking deal with our problems.”
So I brought up an American domestic issue, the Black Lives Matter movement, as having a confluence with Palestine.
“There’s a confluence with anything you would want to draw a confluence to. Like Palestinian rights…totally fucked up. What the Israelis are doing to Palestinians: Totally fucked up. But I think that there are oppressed groups all over the world..If you want to draw a parallel between Black Lives Matter you could draw a parallel to any oppressed group around the world…”
“It’s more solid than that. There were lots of Palestinian flags in the Black Lives Matter march. How does Clinton respond to this constituency?”
“I think you have to look at AIPAC,” he said, without extrapolating.
Then he said that “We have a government that’s supposed to by the people, for the people but we don’t give a fuck.”
“For Palestinian Americans who were drawn to Bernie Sanders in the campaign now…”
He cut me off: “Again, I feel for them. Palestinian Americans, great. They’re Americans. But Palestinians not my problem. We have things to deal with here.”
What Mark was saying reveals something disturbing about the Clinton campaign and its operatives. Some who even recognize the unfairness of the Israeli occupation and the assault on Gaza will relegate the issue to the back burner because, eh fuck it. Not their problem. More than that, Palestinian Americans who put their shoulder in the Sanders campaign are somehow totally divorced from the experience of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and Israel.
Of course, many Palestinian American families maintain close ties with their relatives in the region, and worry for their safety. For many Arab and Muslim Americans, new immigrants and ones born in the U.S., Clinton presents a bleak choice between fear of Trump’s racism and the indifference of Clinton-style party politics to issues that aren’t urgent because they don’t swing elections. But that’s a grim way of being a public servant.
This is the kind of logic that has led to a sharp split in the Democratic Party, between a politics of principles and a party of “What have you done for me lately?” But what can we expect? The Democratic Party that we know today descends from 20th century organized crime just as birds do from dinosaurs, and still abides by certain mafia codes: Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.
“What’s your last name,” I asked Mark.
“I’d rather not say.”