AFT 2016... Why I will vote for Hillary Clinton in November... Before we go on, let's make sure everyone knows where Sharon and I stand... and how history will not repeat itself in 2016 running a partial script from 1968...

Hillary Clinton speaking to the 2016 convention of the American Federation of Teachers, while AFT president Randi Weingarten looks on. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.As I write this, two days after Sharon Schmidt and I returned home to Chicago following the 2016 American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention in Minneapolis, we have all experienced the witlessness of the Republican National Convention and the almost completely mendacious versions of reality presented by the Trump family, culminating with Donald Trump's speech on Thursday night. As I'll be reporting elsewhere, the model for Trump's push for power may in part be Richard M. Nixon's 1968 "Law and Order" campaign, but the underlying model is actually the "Make Germany Great Again" election campaign of Adolf Hitler. (That story will be a series here, since we need to discuss all that history again, and make some things, as Nixon would say, "perfectly clear")...

But today I want to utilize our few photographs from the AFT convention (Sharon and I were both delegates, part of the 150-person delegation representing the Chicago Teachers Union) to make clear why I am supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and how this year is giving me flashbacks to a big mistake that I (and millions of other then-young people) made in 1968.

If you were among those of us protesting at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, as I was every night (except the time I spent in jail), you remember just how nasty it was. The Chicago police were beating demonstrators viciously. (Since virtually all of the demonstrators were white, and since most of the leading black activists in Chicago had left town because the police threatened to kill them, things were as nasty as possible). As one of the chants went: "The whole world is watching."

But as I noticed then and have noted ever since, the whole world was not there in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel with the rather small number of people with us. In fact, even demonstrators who had come to Chicago to protest were so cowed by that point that you could find as many of them hiding out in Hyde Park in "movement centers" near the University of Chicago as you could find downtown in Grant Park and on Michigan Ave. Later, those people would say, accurately, that they had been with us in Chicago, leaving others to assume, untruthfully, that they had been on Michigan Ave. with us.

Before going into the AFT convention on the afternoon of the HIllary Clinton speech, Sharon and George Schmidt decided to wear the AFT for Hillary tee shirts the union had provided all delegates. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.That famous night we sung along with Peter Paul and Mary (the one I remember best was not "Blowing in the Wind" but "The Times They Are a 'Changin') and "reviewed the troops" with Quentin Young and those brave people from the Medical Committee for Human Rights, you probably could have counted all of us in an hour. There were not many of us on Michigan Ave. that night, and it wasn't because so many people had been injured during the earlier police attacks. Many of those who had come to protest were afraid, and that was understandable.

The context needs to be shared, especially now. I walked late that night with Quentin Young as he did his "review" of the soldiers, all of whom were holding rifles with fixed bayonets. As the soldiers said when Quentin asked them "Why are you here?"

"We're here to protect you from them..." more than one said to us, gesturing towards the Chicago police who were by then arrayed behind the line of soldiers across Michigan Ave. from the Hilton.

And so, in all that confusion, many of us were chanting "Dump the Hump" as well as "Hey. Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?"

And so those of us who were rightfully enraged over what had taken place on the streets of Chicago became a bit too righteously angered at the choices we faced in the 1968 election (the first time I was old enough to vote). I don't know how the men (and one woman) in my "affinity group" voted a couple of months after the Democratic Convention, but I know how I did. I voted "Peace and Freedom Party" and thus for Richard M. Nixon. Simplistically (and a bit childishly), we actually took the position that there was no "fundamental" difference between the two major party candidates -- Nixon and Humphrey.

And in doing so, we worked on one of the most important voter suppression movements of the 20th Century and helped elect one of the most reactionary national figures of the 20th Century. Nixon had gotten himself elected to Congress in a nasty re-baiting campaign in California, the most reactionary wing of the Republican Party had forced Nixon on Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 (the "Checkers Speech" was part of Nixon's amazing ability to combine such stuff) and then re-elected that "team" in 1956. But in those days I was a kid growing up on the working class streets of Linden New Jersey. ("in the shadow of the refinery..." which was five blocks from our home in Linden...). We were trying to figure out a lot, but it wasn't easy.

Voter suppression in 1968?

Oh, yes. Especially in Black Chicago. In fact, Nixon invited Jeff Fort, then head of the Black P. Stone Nation, to his inauguration. Fort and his colleagues had gone around their part of Chicago warning their "community" "Don't vote -- they're all the same." Then, as now, Republicans knew that Black people in Chicago were likely to vote for a Democrat. Hence, anyone who stopped Black people from voting was doing voter suppression. And Nixon knew how to say "Thank You."

In 1968, in addition to being the "Law and Order" candidate, Nixon was the "peace candidate" -- and Hubert Humphrey was the "war" candidate. After all, HHH had served as Lyndon Johnson's Vice President following their election in 1964. And Humphrey had not, we reminded people, spoken out against the Vietnam War.

"Dump the Hump!" chanted across the USA in 1968 was one of the many reasons why Richard Nixon, with his "secret plan" to end the War in Vietnam, became President of the United States. This was long before Watergate, but anyone who was paying attention knew that there was a big difference between the New Deal senator from Minnesota who became Vice President under LBJ and the vicious right wing former Congressman from California who had served two terms as Vice President during all those secret wars and reactionary policies pushed by the Eisenhower administration from 1952 through 1960.

I don't know if "Dump the Hump" made the difference, but it was a mistake, just as some of the other stuff done in the name of the "movement" in those days was.

And so, in Minnesota, preparing to hear from two of the most progressive senators in the country, we were wearing Hillary AFT tee shirts, and I was preparing, if necessary, to explain how I did not intend to make "that mistake" twice. Of course we are dealing with a "less evil" question, again. And over the next three months, we'll have lots of time to discuss it. But now that Hillary Clinton is our candidate, with all her flaws, I'll teach those I reach that there is a difference, as big a difference in 2016 as there was almost a half century ago, in 1968.


July 23, 2016 at 12:06 PM

By: Susan Hickey


I was there on Thursday for the whole day which included a march that is rarely reported: the one in the afternoon that was stopped by a tank (!) among other sundry military vehicles! I was there to hear Jean Genet, Pierre Salinger, Phil Ochs etc. I was arrested at 18th and Michigan and was the last female arraigned. I had the privilege to spend some time with Dick Gregory as he was the last male. He would go to Cook County Jail and go on one of his famous hunger strikes. I remember telling the other women in my cell (there were 7 of us in one cell)how lucky they were to be able to leave to go back home but I would have to face harassment from the Red Squad- which I did for a number of years- including having my apartment door forced open as three burly cops thought they would be able to intimidate me! I had the 'pleasure' of having a police plant- Bill Frapolly- (who later was on the witness stand, lying, causing Bobby Seale to be bound and gagged) promoting violence at Northeastern Illinois.

I can go on but needless to say it shaped me and helped me become a syste4m changer- as a school social worker, union organizer at various jobs I had. 1968 changed many and there were a few similar features in this year's politics.

Look forward to hearing your perspctive of the AFT.

July 24, 2016 at 4:22 AM

By: Jim Vail


The less evil is still evil.

July 24, 2016 at 6:55 AM

By: George Schmidt

Tanks and police spies in 1968 -- and since...

My "affinity group" during the Democratic National Convention consisted mostly of Marines who had just returned from Vietnam, where at least one of them had been at Khe Sahn. Because all of us (but one) had short hair, we could easily move in and out of the police cordons against the "hippie protesters." One of the things we did during that bloody day was provide first aid and ambulance service to those who's been injured. We would fill our old station wagon with the wounded, drive down Lake Shore Drive to Hyde Park, and carry the wounded into Quaker House.

It was there I saw the dozens (perhaps hundreds) of people huddled in front of the TVs watching the carnage. One of my comrades shouted something nasty about not leaving our wounded behind, but was ignored. Those heroes remained safely glued to those TVs.

That night, I walked south on Michigan Ave. and heard and infernal fumbling around eighth or ninth street. Then a tank popped out and made its "tank turn" and headed south on Michigan Ave. The entire street shook, and all I could think of was that the only way to fight against that monster was to win over the men inside. Which is what many of us were doing and continued to do for years afterwards (you can get the best video version of the "G.I Movement" in the video "Sir No Sir!" or by reading David Cortright's book "Soldiers in Revolt."

I'm convinced to this day that most of the stuff thrown at the police lines during those confrontations (both in Lincoln Park earlier in the week -- I was there, too -- and later in Grant Park and on Michigan Ave.) was thrown by agents procatateurs. Some of that I was able to prove later when Substance (in June 1976) exposed teacher Sheli Lulkin (who at the time was AFT Women's Rights chair) as a Red Squad spy ("C.I. 431" if my memory is still accurate).

I'm equally sure the same kind of stuff is going on today. One of the reasons why Donald Trump is so odious is that, like many who graduated from high school in 1964, 1965, and 1966 especially, he managed to dodge the draft (how, Donald) and then proclaim his heroism loudly and safely later. Although for decades the most odious of those privileged rich guys was Sylvester Stallone, Trump now trumps all those. And so the question every time he raises his strange head from now on to proclaim his love for "our veterans" is: WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE WAR, DONALD?!!!"

July 24, 2016 at 8:04 PM

By: Larry Duncan

Brought to heel by Hillary

In the 30s in Germany it came down to choosing between the United Front of the working class independent, or the Popular Front of workers and bourgeois class collaborative. That latter combination ultimately led to the betrayal and defeat of the unions, of the German CP and to the victory of fascism.

Now, in contemporary American politics, it's the same dangerous class war rope-a-dope and it's called 'lesser of two evils'. They've got it fine-tuned quite nicely now; works like a charm. Hillary has now brought George Schmidt to heel with this old routine. The ruling class is alarmingly dangerous because it not only threatens with fascism but with wild-west imperialism and (we'll see more of this ugly face) corporatist trade unionism strengthening labor's relationship with the Big War Party.

July 24, 2016 at 11:43 PM

By: David R. Stone

Bread and circuses

If we are trying judge the current presidential election through a historical lens, let's go earlier than 1968 or the 1930s -- let's look at the Roman Empire. Long after emperors and the military took any real power away from citizens, they kept the Senate to maintain the illusion of a republic. They also kept the people pacified with bread and circuses.

Larry Duncan says the modern American version of this is the "rope-a-dope... called 'the lesser of two evils'." A change of emperors always left the status quo intact, but some emperors were much worse than others. George Schmidt is right to point out that a Trump presidency would be much worse than a Clinton one.

Yet it is still a rope-a-dope circus that won't provide much bread to ordinary citizens. We should vote for Clinton AND work outside of the electoral system for revolutionary change. Even Bernie Sanders' ability to push the Democratic Party to the left was not simply electoral politics. He would not have won so many primary elections -- and might not have even launched his campaign -- except for pressure from outside the two-party system. We need to continue support things like the Occupy Movement and radical unionism.

-David R. Stone

July 25, 2016 at 7:04 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

NOT supporting Hillary

If we continue to accept what the Democrats dish out, there is no hope they will ever reform.

July 25, 2016 at 7:36 AM

By: David R. Stone

They won't reform soon anyway

If your goal goal above all else is to "reform" the Democratic Party, then maybe you are justified in denying votes to Hillary Clinton, and thus risking a Donald Trump presidency. But even if you succeed in pushing the Democrats to reform over the next 4, 8 or 12 years, you will not achieve the revolution you seek. Is such incremental political change worth the harm that will be caused over the next four years by a Hitler style demagogue in the White House, and over many years after by his Supreme Court nominees?

-David R. Stone

July 25, 2016 at 10:31 AM

By: Larry Duncan

100 Years of Imperialist Decay

The last 100 years of global capitalism can be useful for our historical frame of reference. Next year will be the centenary of the publication of Lenin's Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Its thesis is that, as of 1917 (then in the midst of WWI), capitalism had reached its highest stage of development of human society, after which it will spiral into an epoch of decay. Meaning war, imperialism, economic collapses, war on unions, barbarism (read fascism as it evolved later), anarchy, etc. There are labor activists today who are familiar with this book, yet sadly few of them actually agree with its argument. That is, put its theory into practice.

I mention all this because it offers a new perspective on why many labor activists are adamant about their approach to the Democratic Party (the capitalist party of imperialism par excellence). This, even setting aside hard-knock experiences outside of political theory. They vigorously reject this theory through their backing progressive campaigns to reverse the imperialist decay of the Democratic Party. They were led to believe Obama would be the "peace" president, but learned differently. They thought Obama would enact an Employee Free Choice Act, which didn't happen. Obama wasn't working for them, but for Penny Pritzker who bankrolled his early rise to prominence, and who was later rewarded by getting appointed Secretary of Commerce. If your choice had been to ignore certain political theories, then it was easy to believe Obama would stop the wars and take the side of labor. You were told that by the Party line, transmitted down through progressive anti-war organizations and the AFL-CIO.

The fact is that, despite the repeated bait-and-switch scams pulled on workers election after election, progressive activists just keep lapping it up. For this, the ruling class, and DNC, has contempt for these 'suckers'; contempt which emboldens them to punch progressives in the stomach again and again while they follow orders from Wall Street and the Pentagon. Certainly, the world must wonder whether progressives are deficient in some way.

But we all know that such activists are intelligent enough, can advance arguments, read and discuss difficult material. The root of the problem is an ideological flaw, which paves the way toward serfdom. In some cases, this is also underpinned by direct, concrete relationships with Democratic Party aparatchiks.

Those who should know (and therefore act) better are willing to submit themselves to a ritual humiliation every election cycle, enacted with incantations of hope that the rulers (the Caesars) will throw them some scraps. Anything, even a few words, by which they can delude themselves that they are moving forward in some way. But the moving escalator they are on is always moving backwards faster than they can walk forwards.

In states where independent labor candidates are running (as has happened in Ohio) or socialist candidates are running (as in Seattle), campaigning for them would be a healthy step, even though they might not win, because it is a public step to break out of the cycle, the psychosis. Where there are no such candidates, like in Chicago, it would be far healthier for the labor movement to organize public events declaring that workers here do not have a worthy party to support, and that they hereby declare their dedication toward building such a party. That would be a positive step which would uplift spirits; but the labor rallies coming in the fall for Hillary here will do nothing more than demoralize and deaden the intellects of workers. That demoralization and subservience will weaken them and chain them even more to capitalism, as they actually need to prepare to oppose fascism and imperialism.

If you wear a Hillary button or t-shirt, look more closely and see behind it the visage of Rahm. They are peas in a pod. These Democrats will explain-away even more racist murders by police and official whitewashes. Having gone to many anti-KKK and anti-Nazi rallies, I can predict that it will be these police that Hillary supports who will be there to defend 20 Klan members against a thousand righteous anti-racist activists.

This week the DNC, and presumably Berine Sanders too, will tell us that workers must learn to somehow adjust to senile, toxic capitalism 100 years after Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism was written.

Mike Griffin, a Labor Party supporter and one of the leaders of the historic War Zone labor struggle in Decatur, Illinois in the mid-90s, explained back then labor's relationship with imperialism: "There's been a deal cut out there. And a lot of you will shake your head no, but I've seen it. It's never a smoking gun. I've seen it, that says 'we'll go along with the boss. We'll allow you to roll back wages and working conditions. You can make us a third world nation along with the rest. We can become part of the global world order. That we're part of the new world order. We'll let that happen, Mr Employer, if you just don't beat us to death. Just beat us a lot, but don't beat us to death.' "

July 25, 2016 at 11:08 PM

By: Rich Gibson

Capitalist Democracy

The original title of the NEA RA article this month was: "The NEA Representative Assembly

Demonstrating Voluntary Servitude Performed by Highly Educated People

Who Use Capitalist Democracy to Consolidate Fascism

Via the Inseparable Bond of Imperialism and Opportunism."

That's what's going on. Pick your fascist. Choose who will oppress you, and the people of the world, best.

From that NEA piece: "Then came NEA's Garcia’s predictable denunciation of greater-evil Donald Trump and a promise that Hillary Clinton, the wanton war-whore, savage executioner of the American Inquisition, cuckqueen, psychopathic liar who thinks her insistence (with Samantha Power and Susan Rice–bourgeois feminists arise) for wars on Iraq, Libya, the overthrow of a fully bought regime in Egypt, the attacks on Syria and the fabricated revolution in the Ukraine are exceptionally good ideas—as is the “pivot” (encircling) to China. SHE will arrive tomorrow to the delight of NEA’s delegates. Two million refugees and hundreds of thousands of innocent dead would differ, if they could.

The NEA's (and AFT's) top officials find a very strange bedfellow at Substance. I hope that doesn't translate into "no action that will hurt Hillary until after November."

"The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of perpetual war and booming inequality met by the potential of the direct actions of masses of class-conscious people. Nobody could personify war and class war from above (mass incarceration, NAFTA) more than Hillary Clinton."

Nobody ever voted their way out of fascism. The project is class consciousness, a pedagogical and practical effort that is more than diverted by this especially bogus election.

In short, I disagree with George and I am saddened by that.

July 29, 2016 at 8:49 AM

By: Jean Schwab

I agree

It is helpful that we can all debate the election here. I may even read a new book. I respect everyone's opinions and am lucky to have this opportunity to express myself.

August 3, 2016 at 11:47 AM

By: Edward F Hershey

Hillary is not a rampart against Trump

Trump built up his base of support during 8 years of the Obama presidency. What he built, the reactionary grouping that the Republican party cultivated and that he succeeded in hijacking, is dangerous. It is a dangerous development for the working class with Trump in office or without. Hillary will not address the underlying decay in American (and world) capitalism that has allowed this movement to fester and grow.

The Democrats and Republicans effectively divide portions of the working class between them (and against each other). We need to pose the interests of the working class clearly, and independently of the two capitalist parties.

August 5, 2016 at 8:37 AM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

United Working Families Party--Does it exist?

The eloquence and enlightened perspective of many comment makers here makes me want to weep--sincerely. To me the only solution to the election conundrum so incisively explicated here by so many is to work on an independent political party that would truly represent the interests of working people (as well as global justice and equity). In the meantime, as wrenchingly hurtful as it feels, the only stopgap measure I see is to vote for "crooked" Hillary or else to be the "defective" leftie to whom some comment maker here referred. What is happening to the United Working Families Party here (somewhat different and better than the Working Families United that started on the East Coast)? We need a party like that rather than a party like the admirable Green Party which comes off too much as a single-issue party working on the environment. Unless we are seeing a strong party promoting the interest of working people successfully forming, we had better vote Democratic and keep hoping in as futile a way as many always have.

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