Sunday, May 01, 2016

What Hillary Won't Agree To On May Day... Or Any Other Day


Let's put Adolph Reed's quote-- "Ideology is the mechanism that harmonizes the principles that you want to hold and what gets you paid"-- aside for a moment and look at what Bernie would like to accomplish within the confines of the Democratic Party at this point. During a speech Thursday in Springfield, Oregon he said said the party should go back to Howard Dean's 50-state strategy-- shit-canned by Rahm Emanuel, Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- as well as towards open primaries and automatic voter registration. "All over this country we have Republican governors trying to make it harder for people to vote," he reminded his supporters. "Our job is make it easier. Bring more people into the system and that means if you are 18 years of age you are registered to vote, end of discussion." Aside from the process reforms, there are specific policy proposals he would like to see the party adopt-- from free public university education, a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation, significant improvements to Obamacare in the direction of Medicare-for-all, and a real commitment to fighting climate change to equal pay for equal work for women, far more muscular Wall Street reform, expanded Social Security and a fairer tax system.

Hillary's unlikely to go along with any of this-- other than equal pay for women-- and her supporters insist that Bernie has already pushed her too far to the left in a way that will risk her general election victory. This is absurd for a number of reasons. First of all Bernie's proposals are extremely popular among Democrats and independents and the only groups who don't like them are die-hard Republicans and the wealthy Clinton financiers who have captured her career. If the general election is between Hillary and Trump-- as looks likely-- it will be an ugly, bitter, divisive lesser-of-two-evils contest in which policy nuances will not play a decisive role.

One of her conservaDem Missouri surrogates, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, sounds a lot like the official Clinton line: "I don’t know what’s left to extract," claiming Bernie has pushed her "farther to the left than most moderate Democrats would like to see. Some would say it even endangers a victory in November because the further you go to the left or right, the further you frustrate independents." First off, Cleaver uses Beltway-speak that substitutes "moderate" for "corrupt conservative." Second, it wrongly pre-supposes that independent voters (40% of the electorate now) are between the 2 corrupted Beltway professional parties instead of against them, a concept Beltway politicians find impossible to grasp.

In the new issue of Jacobin, Samir Chopra makes a compelling case that "Clinton's record suggests she’ll wield power to undermine progressive goals-- not advance them." His critique stems from her "political opportunism, her reflexive secrecy, her frequent patronage of friends and cronies, her belligerent approach to foreign policy, her scant legislative record in the Senate, and her unimpressive tenure as secretary of state." His point is that "her identification with, and championing of the interests of, the powerful and wealthy American elite that makes her an unworthy candidate."
The Clintons are card-carrying members of that elite: Bill Clinton’s wealth has been estimated at is $55 million; Hillary’s at $32 million. They defend the powerful and the structures that maintain that power, they pay lip service to caring for the not-so-fortunate, and under cover of doing so, find ways to increase their wealth and political power (as the close ties between their Clinton Foundation and its corporate allies show)... Clinton’s record has repeatedly demonstrated: her desire to cozy up to power and her disinclination to rock political boats; her commitment to expediency above any political principle; and her trafficking in greed of several flavors.

In Arkansas, during her pre-Washington days, Clinton served on Walmart’s board for six years and never spoke up against its anti-union activities or against its discrimination against women, and in her Senate campaign, Clinton supported the death penalty, welfare restrictions, and a balanced budget.

Once in the Senate, she voted for the Iraq war-- without, as Henwood notes, even reading the intelligence report on Iraq-- while opposing the 2001 bankruptcy reform bill, which made it harder for ordinary Americans to file for bankruptcy, more often than not caused by unaffordable medical bills.

Overall, Clinton’s legislative record was scant, and as [My Turn: Hillary Clinton Takes Aim At The Presidency author Doug] Henwood caustically concludes, purely nominal-- the equivalent of “opposing cancer.” In this regard, Clinton is in no way unique among career politicians, but she’s certainly no transformational outsider either.

...Clinton’s lack of progressive ideals is especially visible in her work as secretary of state-- a record that Henwood subjects to especially withering analysis-- where she oversaw a belligerent foreign policy: she backed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, supported intervention in Libya, called for strikes in Syria, urged an ongoing military role in Iraq, and enthusiastically supported Israel’s policies in Gaza.

As secretary of state, Clinton supposedly worked on issues like “empowerment of women, gay rights, Third World development, health and internet freedoms,” but there is little tangible impact to report in those domains. She did help impose tough sanctions on Iran and negotiated neoliberal free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. She also dispensed plenty of patronage to friends, ensuring waiver of the usual background scrutiny for those she hired to well-paid positions at the Department of State.

In a classic instance of neocolonial appropriation of nationalized industries, Clinton actively worked to open up Mexican oil and gas to American corporations, and joined a long and dishonorable tradition of American foreign policy by supporting a coup in Honduras against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya.

Henwood’s account of the Clinton State Department is damning in other respects as well. He argues that the position was extremely lucrative for the Clintons: in a rather transparent quid pro quo Clinton dispensed favors in international business deals to her corporate allies who in turn donated to the Clinton philanthropies-- business elites got contracts and in turn gave funds to the foundation, which were siphoned off for luxurious travel and sundry expenses.

During her tenure as secretary of state, Bill Clinton gave ten of his thirteen speeches-- between 2001 and 2012-- that have netted him over half a million dollars each; “many of those speeches were sponsored by groups with interests before the state department.” As Henwood notes, journalists can only go so far in charging the Clintons with corruption; legal investigation is needed to make these charges stick.

Whatever factors motivated Clinton’s retreat from the positions she once held, she has now had ample opportunity-- as first lady, as US senator, as secretary of state-- to demonstrate how she will wield power once she gets it; it is implausible to suggest the real, more progressive politician will emerge once the demands of the campaign are behind her.

Henwood’s critique of Clinton is, however, more than just a long recitation of charges to be laid at her door. He reminds us real political change will only be achieved by unglamorous work, by racking up, slowly, the small victories of the kind that Clinton, in her battles against ACORN in Arkansas, did a great deal to undermine.

It will not be enough to crown a new ruler; militant political mobilization and worker organizing remain the only sure way to challenge entrenched corporate power.
In the immortal words of Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up. Let's support the candidates who are doing just that in their congressional campaigns, who don't believe in ever giving up the fight... here at the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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