Hillary Clinton and the Manipulation of Populism

ZNet, May 12, 2015

“The Essence of American Politics”

Fifteen years ago, the then still left Christopher Hitchens published a short and pungent study of Bill and Hillary Clinton titled No One Left to Lie to: The Values of the Worst Family (Verso, 1999, 2000). The book’s first chapter, titled “Triangulation,” contained a memorable passage that summarized the duplicitous “essence of American politics” as “the manipulation of populism by elitism. That elite is most successful,” Hitchens noted:

“which can claim the heartiest allegiance of the fickle crowd; can present itself as most ‘in touch’ with popular concerns; can anticipate the tides and pulses of public opinion; can, in short, be the least apparently ‘elitist.’ It is no great distance from Huey Long’s robust cry of ‘Every man a king’ to the insipid ‘inclusiveness’  of [Bill Clinton’s slogan] ‘Putting People First,’ but the smarter elite managers have learned in the interlude that solid, measurable pledges have to be distinguished by a reserve’ tag that earmarks them for the bankrollers and backers. They have also learned that it can be imprudent to promise voters too much.”

Later in the same chapter, Hitchens noted that “At all times,” the Clinton administration’s “retreat from egalitarian and even ‘progressive’ positions has been hedged by a bodyguard of political correctness.”

Hitchens provided a useful take on the militantly corporatist, Wall Street-friendly core of the Clintons’ first two terms in the White House.  The “co-presidents” served the “bankrollers and backers” with such Big Business-pleasing policies as the regressive and anti-worker North American “Free Trade” (investor rights) Agreement (NAFTA), repeal of the New Deal’s separation of commercial and investment banking, sponsorship of oligopolistic hyper-conglomeration in the mass media (the 1996 Telecommunications Act), and the non- and de-regulation of Wall Street’s growing financial derivatives sector.  Bill Clinton apologized to corporations for the high U.S. taxes they supposedly endured.  He warmed CEO hearts by proclaiming that “the era of big government is over” and pursuing a “balanced budget” even while tens of millions of Americans were still mired in poverty and economic inequality climbed towards “Second Gilded Age” levels.  Clinton kept the gigantic Pentagon system of corporate welfare fully intact despite the disappearance of the Soviet nemesis that had provided the critical Cold War pretext for massive “defense” (Empire) spending. The Clintons did all this and more to satisfy the elite “donor class” that put them in power while claiming to speak and act on behalf of everyday working people and wrapping themselves in the outwardly progressive clothes of politically correct multicultural tolerance and diversity. Never mind the Clinton administration’s vicious liquidation of the disproportionately Black, Latino/a, and Native American poor’s entitlement to basic family cash assistance and its promotion and signing of legislation that accelerated the nation’s epic mass hyper-incarceration of Blacks.

A Blunt Lesson About Power and Money

For what it’s worth, the Obama administration has been an epitome of the same basic formula: fake-populist service to the wealthy few wrapped also in the false rebels’ clothes of identity-politicized diversity and tolerance. With the technically Black Obama in the White House, the corporate Democrats have dampened protest from multiculturalist liberals and “progressives” reluctant to question and challenge an actually “first Black president” (Black comedian Chris Rock’s amusing description of Bill Clinton). (Anticipation of such a “politically correct” windfall was always part of Obama’s special appeal to the donor class.) Beneath the surface spectacle of “change” (a black family in the White House, with a Muslim-sounding name to boot) lay more of the plutocratic same, consistent with the elite liberal political scientists Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page’s (Northwestern) finding that the U.S. has become “an oligarchy” in which wealthy elites and their corporations “rule” regardless of technically irrelevant public opinion and of which party holds nominal power in Washington. The venerable liberal-left commentator William Greider put it well in a March 2009 Washington Post column titled “Obama Told Us to Speak But is He Listening?”: “People everywhere learned a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t. They have watched Washington run to rescue the very financial interests who caused the catastrophe. They learned that government has plenty of money to spend – when the right people want it” (emphasis added). And little to spend on the rest of us, the wrong people, soon to be known as “the 99%,” left to ask “where’s my bailout?”  During Obama’s first term, 95% of the nation’s income gains went to the nation’s top 1 percent – a shocking statistic that provides some interesting context for right-wing celebrity Sarah Palin’s question: “how’s that hopey-changey thing working out?”

“Tell Me Something Interesting”

A technically female Hillary Clinton presidency promises a similar dividend and disguise for the nation’s corporate and financial oligarchy, this time with gender rather than race providing the main identity-politicized sheen of historic correction and change. Hitchens’ volume contained a chapter documenting Mrs. Clinton’s richly triangulation-ist history along with much to suggest that she (like her husband) is a power-mad sociopath.  Especially memorable was Hillary’s response, in her role as head of the White House’s health reform initiative, to Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein, head of Physicians for a National Health Program.  Himmelstein told her about the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-third of the U.S. public.  Beyond backing by a U.S. citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

“David,” Hillary commented with fading patience before sending him away in 1993, “tell me something interesting.” Along with the big insurance companies the Clintons deceptively railed against, the co-presidents decided from the start to exclude the popular health care alternative – single payer – from the national health care “discussion.” (Obama would of course do the same exact same thing in 2009.)  What she advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex and secretly developed system called “managed competition.” Mrs. Clinton’s plan went down in flames, thanks in no small part to her inflexible arrogance.

New Democrat Pioneers

No One Left to Lie To and other left critiques of the Clintons did little to dissuade liberal and “progressive” New Yorkers from backing Hillary’s successful, cynical, and carpet-bagging 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate – a body wherein she would offer “liberal” support for George W. Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq. What about 2015-16, with the Clintons poised for a return White House engagement? Will truthful, hard-hitting reporting and commentary make any differences her chances? An excellent article by the incisive Left commentator Doug Henwood in Harper’s last fall bears the title “Stop Hillary!” Henwood provides a clever and concise catalogue of Mrs. Clinton’s conservative, corrupt, corporate-neoliberal, and imperial record from her years at Yale Law and the Arkansas governor’s office (held by Bill for all but one 2-year term between 1978 and 1992) through her stints in the U.S. Senate (2001-2009) and atop the Department of State (2010-2013). Henwood’s essay is particularly valuable on how the Clintons during their tenure in Arkansas helped “lay…the groundwork for what would eventually hit the national stage as the New Democrat movement, which took institutional form as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).”

The essence of the DLC was dismal, dollar-drenched “neoliberal” abandonment of the Democratic Party’s last, lingering commitments to labor unions, social justice, civil rights, racial equality, the poor, and environmental protection in abject service to the “competitive” bottom-line concerns of Big Business. The Clintons helped launch the New Democrat/DLC juggernaut by assaulting Arkansas’ teacher unions (Hillary led the attack) and refusing to back the repeal of the state’s anti-union “right to work” law – this while Hillary began working for the Rose Law firm, which “represented the moneyed interests of Arkansas” (Henwood). Connection with one of the sleazier players among those interests, a Savings and Loan charlatan named Jim McDougal, got them involved in the Whitewater scandal, which involved the Arkansas Governor’s spouse (Hillary) doing legal work at Rose (work about which Hillary lied upon outside investigation) for a shady land speculator (McDougal) who had enticed the governor and his wife (the Clintons) to foolishly invest in a badly leveraged development project.

When the Arkansas-based community-organizing group ACORN passed a ballot measure lowering electrical rates residential users and raising them for commercial businesses in Little Rock, Rose sent Hillary into court to argue a business-backed challenge. As Henwood notes, Hillary “helped to craft the underlying legal strategy, which was that the new rate schedule amounted to an unconstitutional ‘taking of property’…now a common right-wing argument against regulation…” (Harper’s, November 2014)

“The Gold Standard in Trade Agreements”

There’s plenty more to say about Hillary’s intimate links and service to the economic elite – connections that could yield a bumper crop of reports on “conflicts of interest” between her claim to stand for everyday working folks and her real-life proximity and allegiance to the super-rich. In 2001, Mrs. Clinton was one of 36 Democratic U.S, Senators to do the bidding of the financial industry by voting for a bill designed to make it more difficult for consumers to use bankruptcy laws to get out from crushing debt. As Secretary of State, she repeatedly voiced strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The TPP is a secretive, richly corporatist 12-nation Pacific “free trade” (investor rights) agreement that promises to badly undermine wages, job security, environmental protections, and popular governance at home and abroad.  It would be the largest “trade agreement” in history, potentially affecting 40 percent of the world’s gross product. Obama’s championing of this regressive, authoritarian, eco-cidal, and anti-worker treaty has “set off perhaps the biggest fight of his presidency within his own party, with trade unions, environmentalists, and liberal activists lining up in opposition to the White House.  There is a strong possibility,” the New York Times reports, “that Mr. Obama could lose the battle.” (NYT, April 18, 2015). In Australia in November of 2012, Secretary of State Clinton declared that “we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. … This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”

“The Choice is Clear: There is None”

In the years since she resigned as Secretary of State to prepare – mainly to raise godawful piles of cash – for her next presidential run, Mrs. Clinton has faced criticism for giving speeches to leading Wall Street firms and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for more than $200,000 each – more than four times U.S. median household income. Hillary depends heavily on the elite financial sector and big corporate interests to pay for her campaign, which is expected to spend at least $2.5 billion. “Hillary, Inc.’s” preemptive “money machine” will smash previous fundraising records and prevent rivals from mounting serious opposition in the caucuses and primaries.  “It’s going to be like nothing you’ve seen,” a top Democratic donor gleefully told The Hill, “The numbers will be astounding.”

The “numbers” are driven by giant contributions from super-wealthy donors who have no interest – quite the opposite in fact – in seeing government serve the “everyday Americans” in whose name Mrs. Clinton is running.  Black Agenda Report’s Executive Director Glen Ford provides some sobering context on what’s going on:

“[The United States is] a nation of more than 300 million people in which politics has become the sole property and domain of the rich. The rich decided some time ago that Hillary Clinton would be the virtually unchallenged presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The 48 percent of Americans that express an affinity with the Democratic Party have not yet chosen Clinton. There has been no primary election in any state. But, that does not matter because the selection process that counts occurs in the boardrooms and mansions and private clubs and getaways of the rich. Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill, have spent virtually their entire adult lives on the millionaires’ campaign circuit, the rich man’s primary. In the process of pleasing the rich, they have become rich, themselves….Hillary hopes to spend two and a half billion dollars of – mostly – rich people’s money in the 2016 campaign. Wealthy people will be just as generous with the Republican candidate. The outcome on Election Day is absolutely certain: the rich man’s candidate will definitely win, and the people will lose – because they have no candidate in the major parties.”

Ford’s summary provides context for a Hillary-mocking bumper sticker that is starting to circulate as the presidential caucus and primary campaign begins to heat up in Iowa and New Hampshire. “Ready for Oligarchy. The Choice,” the sticker reads, “is Clear: There is None.”

“A World Awash in Money and Connections”

There’s more than a few plutocratic skeletons rattling around in Hillary Clinton’s campaign closet. According to a New York Times report last April 23rd, the owners of a uranium company that donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation (Bill Clinton’s giant global “nonprofit” organization) sought approval from the U.S. government during the time of Hillary’s tenure at the State Department to sell the company to Russia’s atomic energy agency. Mrs. Clinton’s agency signed off on the deal. The Clintons failed to report the donations as they had agreed to in the agreement they made with the Obama White House when Hillary became Secretary of State. On the same day, Reuters reported the Clinton Foundation and another family charity were refiling at least five annual tax forms “due to errors.” The foundation failed to include tens of millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments. According to New York Times reporter Carolyn Ryan, speaking on the Public Broadcasting System’s Newshour, “the timing [of the Times’ and Reuters’ revelations] is not great [for the Hillary Clinton campaign], because… she’s really trying to present herself in a way to blunt the Elizabeth Warrens of her party as a sincere messenger for the message of economic mobility, economic inequality….these stories…have a way of underscoring the international orbit that the Clintons operate in…a world awash in money and connections and a very privileged place” (PBS, 4/23/2015, emphasis added).

 “Inclusive Capitalism”

Hillary and her handlers, including long-time top Monsanto lobbyist Jerry Crawford (recently tapped to run the “Ready for Hillary” Political Action Committee), are conscious that Mrs. Clinton has a public relations problem with the working class and middle class Americans. She enjoys a net worth of $13 million and “a high flying lifestyle” (Politico, 4/15/2015) while seeking popular support in a savagely unequal New Gilded Age U.S. where (thanks in part to the neoliberal policies advanced by the first Clinton administration) the top 1 percent now dangerously owns more than 90 percent of the nation’s wealth.   A Gallup poll taken last January found that 67 percent of the US population is dissatisfied with the nation’s top-heavy distribution of wealth and income.

Consistent with the Hitchens’ dictum on “the essence of American politics,” Times reporter Amy Chozick aptly describes Hillary’s central campaign “quandary” as “how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.” As Chozick ads, “She must convince a middle class that feels frustrated and left behind that she understands its struggle, even as she relies heavily on the financial industry and corporate interests to fund her candidacy” (NYT, 2/7/2015).” Stated more fully, the dilemma is how to sound populist enough to win tens of millions of working class votes without sounding so populist as to alienate the privileged financial elite that pays for viable presidential campaigns and owns the corporate media that confers or denies legitimacy to candidates. The job, as usual, is to seem “in touch with popular concerns” while keeping “the bankrollers and backers” assured that the candidate will honor the capitalist “reserve tag” she will (if successful) carry into office.

In a sloppy effort along those lines last year, Mrs. Clinton preposterously told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that the Clintons were “dead broke” after leaving the White House in 2001. It was a transparently preposterous and widely mocked claim that only highlighted Hillary’s huge distance from the real lives of “everyday Americans.”

But now the real populism-manipulating game is on. Last February, the New York Times dutifully related the claim of “Mrs. Clinton’s closest economic advisors” to embrace  a “philosophy” of “inclusive capitalism” that “calls for corporations to put less emphasis on short-term profits that increase shareholder value and to invest more in employees, the environment, and communities.” (The democratic socialist George Orwell would smile at this oxymoronic formulation in a time when the profits system poses an ever more apparent danger not merely to democracy, justice, and economic stability but to life itself). Hillary’s spokesman Nick Merrill told the Times that Hillary’s “economic plan” is “more populist and reliant on government than the centrist approach of trade agreements, welfare reform and deficit reduction associated with her husband, former president Bill Clinton” (NYT, 2/7/2015).

To Steal “a Footnote’s” Populist Thunder

Behind the claim of a left-leaning “populist” Hillary lay the shadow of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a former financial regulator whose “blistering critique of Wall Street” (in the word of the Times) was a big hit at the last Democratic National Convention.  Many liberals and progressives in Iowa and New Hampshire wish that the more genuinely progressive Sen. Warren was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sensing Warren’s popularity and vulnerability on her left flank, Hillary Clinton went to the pages of Time magazine last April to praise Warren as someone who became one of “the world’s 100 most influential people” because “She never hesitates to the hold powerful people’s feet to the fire.”

In the outwardly folksy and progressive, politically correct, multicultural, and admirably  gay-friendly online video that announced her candidacy last April, Hillary claimed to be upset that “the deck is stacked” in favor of the rich and powerful.  “My job,” Mrs. Clinton said, “is to reshuffle the cards.”  (Here she was clearly channeling Warren, who regularly says that “The game is rigged to work for those who have money and power.”)  As Chozick, the leading Times reporter on the Hillary beat, noted last April 21st:

“For anyone who wondered what kind of an economic message Mrs. Clinton would deliver in her campaign, the first few days made it clear: She is embracing the ideas trumpeted by Ms. Warren and the populist movement – that the wealthy have been benefiting disproportionately from the economy while the middle class and the poor have been left behind… Mrs. Clinton was the original Elizabeth Warren, her advisers say, a populist fighter who for decades has been advocate for families and children; only now have the party and primary voters caught up….A 16-page dosser, titled ‘Hillary Clinton: A Lifetime Champion of Income Opportunity,’ and assembled by a close friend and adviser to Mrs. Clinton, calls Ms. Warren a ‘footnote.’  The document, provided to The New York Times, presents 40 instances in which Mrs. Clinton took the same stance as Ms. Warren on issues….”

Perhaps Mrs. Clinton should revise her assessment of Elizabeth Warren and call her one of “the world’s 100 most influential footnotes.”

Consistent with her latest populist campaign makeover (her last one was in 2007 and 2008), Mrs. Clinton is now somewhat “skeptical” about the TPP (Bill was similarly skeptical towards NAFTA on the campaign trail in 1991 and 1992). “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,” Hillary has said since leaving the State Department.  Candidate Hillary is now openly bothered that Wall Street financers profit from the “carried interest” loophole, which allows them to pay a capital gains tax, lower than the ordinary tax rate, on large portions of their incomes. She rode in a modest van to the automotive shop of an Iowa community college to say that “There is something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days.”  Mrs. Clinton also claimed to be upset that “the average CEO makes 300 times what the average worker makes” and empathized with students bemoaning the extreme costs of a college education. “People are struggling,” Clinton said, adding that she “want[s] to stand up and fight for people so they can not just get by, but they can get ahead and stay ahead.”

If this all sounds a bit like what Obama promised in 2008, only to deliver a “blunt lesson” about oligarchy, Mrs. Clinton’s liberal promoters want us to know that the current president had a noble “progressive vision” but lacks Hillary’s hands-on experience and practical political skills to “get [progressive] things done.” She will carry the mere vision of progressive transformation out of the “hopey-changey” mist and into the real world of politics and policy.

“Populist Rhetoric is Good Politics”

How is Mrs. Clinton’s latest leap into Hitchens’ “essence of American politics” working? It’s too early to tell in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the “progressive” sorts who tend to become most intensely involved in the nation’s first presidential caucus and primary campaigns are still pining for Warren.  The good news for Hillary is that there’s nothing remotely around like the big dollar Obama phenomenon (which began accumulating large amounts of corporate and financial money four years before the 2007-2008 campaign) to de-rail her ascendancy to the Democratic nomination this time around.

It’s time for serious progressives to undertake a quadrennial reality check. Given her long power-serving past, her considerable personal wealth, the Democratic Party’s long record of serving the rich and powerful (from the Andrew Jackson7 through the Clinton42 and Obama44 administrations), the ever more openly plutocratic nature of U.S. politics, and the deep structural captivity of both of the nation’s dominant political organization to the corporate and financial donor class and to the corporate media, two things seem clear. First, a voter or activist has to be pretty naïve to fall for Hillary Clinton’s effort to recast herself as a dedicated and lifelong populist – as someone who seriously cares that “the deck is stacked” on behalf of the wealthy few. Second, it’s just as naïve to think it would make all that much difference if Mrs. Clinton really was the “fighting populist” her campaign claims she is. As Laurence Shoup noted in Z Magazine in early 2008:

“Every four years many Americans put their hopes in an electoral process, hopes that a savior can be elected—someone who will make their daily lives more livable, someone who will raise wages, create well-paying jobs, enforce union rights, provide adequate health care, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, and end war and militarism. In actuality, the leading ‘electable’ presidential candidates have all been well vetted by the hidden primary of the ruling class and are tied to corporate power in multiple ways. They will stay safely within the bounds set by those who rule America behind the scenes, making sure that members of the plutocracy continue to be the main beneficiaries of the system…It is clear that, at best, U.S. ‘democracy’ is a guided one; at its worst it is a corrupt farce, amounting to manipulation, with the larger population objects of propaganda in a controlled and trivialized electoral process.”

Nobody understands this harsh reality better, perhaps, than Hillary’s Wall Street backers.  A recent report in the widely read insider online Washington political journal Politico bears a perfectly Hitchensian title and theme: “Hillary’s Wall Street Backers: ‘We Get It.’” As Politico explains:

“Populist rhetoric, many say, is good politics – but doesn’t portend an assault on the rich…It’s ‘just politics,’ said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of Clinton’s Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried-interest loophole as president…’The question is not going to be whether or not hedge fund managers or CEOs make too much money,’ said a separate Clinton supporter who manages a hedge fund. …Nobody takes it like she is going after them personally’…Indeed, many of the financial-sector donors supporting her just-declared presidential campaign say they’ve been expecting all along the moment when Clinton would start calling out hedge fund managers and decrying executive pay — right down to the complaints from critics that such arguments are rich coming from someone who recently made north of $200,000 per speech and who has been close to Wall Street since her days representing it as a senator from New York.”

“ ‘As a CEO and former Wall Street executive, I applaud Secretary Clinton’s remarks, and I do not view them  as populist nor far left,’ said Robert Wolf, former CEO of UBS Americas and a major Democratic fundraiser who now runs his own firm….In the words of Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House who now advises Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist hedge-fund manager and donor: ‘The fact is that any Democrat running for president would talk about this. It’s as surprising as the sun rising in the east.’”

One Democrat at a top Wall Street firm even told Politico that Hillary’s politically unavoidable populist rhetoric “is a Rorschach test for how politically sophisticated [rich] people are…If someone is upset by this it’s because they have no idea how populist the mood of the country still is. The fact is, if she didn’t say this stuff now she would be open to massive attacks from the left, and would have to say even more dramatic stuff later.” (Politico. 4/15/2015)

These reflections from “liberal” elites atop what Edward S. Herman and David Peterson have called the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money” speak volumes about the nation’s descent into abject plutocracy and the limits of progressive change permitted under elections and through parties subject to “the hidden primary of the ruling class.” They are also a monument to the continuing relevance of Hitchens’ properly cynical take on the manipulative “essence of U.S. [electoral and major party] politics.”

Why Hillary Welcomes Bernie

What about the entrance of progressive Democrat and nominal “socialist,” the former “independent” U.S. Bernie Sanders, into the Democratic presidential primary?  Does the “Sanders challenge” complicate or complement the Clinton’s populism-manipulating game?  Clearly it’s the latter (complementation).  It’s not for nothing that, as the New York Times reported two Saturdays ago, “Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race.”  Of course she did. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Sanders’ “good friend Hillary Clinton” (that’s how Sanders described Mrs. Clinton in Iowa City last February 19th) is pleased to hear that Bernie is throwing his hat in the ring.  The Clintons are very smart and calculating political actors. They know that the only real threat to de-rail Hillary (as Obama did in 2007 and 2008) on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination this time was Warren. But with Warren appearing to mean it when she says she’s not up for a presidential run (not ready for fighting Hillary’s daunting money machine, perhaps) and with little else to contest her ascendancy on “the left” (Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb…seriously?), Hillary now faces a rather different political and public relations problem.  She is in danger of enjoying an all-too obviously Wall Street-funded dynastic coronation as the Democratic nominee.  She probably sees it as useful to face a progressive challenge from a progressive candidate like Sanders who could never receive the funding or corporate media approval required to make a serious bid for the nomination. That way her pre-selected nomination can look less transparently plutocratic and more like a passably “democratic” outcome of “a real debate.” Ashley Smith puts things very well in a trenchant analysis on SocialistWorker.org:

“Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat. She knows that the election business follows the golden rule: Whoever has more gold, wins. Clinton is expected to amass a war chest of more than $1 billion, mostly from Wall Street and Corporate America, to pay for advertising, an army of paid staff and Astroturf support. This will overwhelm Sanders’ fundraising goal of $50 million and his underdeveloped volunteer infrastructure….In fact, Clinton regards Sanders as an asset to her campaign. He will bring enthusiasm and attention to Democratic primaries that promised to be lackluster at best. He will also help her frame the election in populist terms that have widespread support. That benefits the Democrats and undermines the Republicans, who have little to say about inequality, except that they like it….No wonder Clinton celebrated Sander’s entry into the race.”

Anyone who doubts that Sanders will hand over his voters, delegates, and money to Hillary once he’s through in the primaries hasn’t been paying attention. “No matter what I do,” Sanders said last January, “I will not be a spoiler. I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as president of the United States.”[1]

Of course Sanders could have avoided the “spoiler” charge by running for and very likely winning Vermont’s Governorship as the standard-bearer of that state’s Progressive Party.  There Sanders could likely succeed in pushing through single-payer health insurance, recently and shamefully abandoned by Vermont’s Democratic governor Peter Shumlin. That would be a very significant progressive victory with very real social-democratic substance.  But Vermont working peoples’ loss is Hillary Clinton’s gain. A very strange choice for an independent “socialist.”

Paul Street lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where he “enjoys” a front row seat for the latest quadrennial electoral extravaganza.  His latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

[1] For further critical reflections on Sanders’ decision to run in the Democratic presidential primary race, see my most recent previous essay on ZNet: “Bernie Sanders Enlists in the Hillary Clinton Campaign.”

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By | 2015-05-17T13:55:50+00:00 May 17th, 2015|Articles|