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Hillary and the Corporate Elite


“Mainstream” U.S. media is struck by the “strange bedfellows” phenomenon whereby a number of right wing foreign policy neoconservatives and top business elites – including at least one of the notorious hard right-wing Koch brothers – are lining up with Democrat Hillary Clinton against the Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race. But what’s so strange about it? Trump is off the elite capitalist and imperial leash. He channels some nasty things that have long been part of the Republican Party playbook: frustrated white nationalism, racism, nativism, and male chauvinism.

At the same time, however, he often sounds remarkably populist in ways that white working class voters appreciate. He has been critical of things that elite Republicans (and elite corporate Democrats) hold dear, including corporate globalization, “free trade’ (investor rights) deals, global capital mobility, cheap labor immigration. He questions imperialist adventures like the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya, the destabilization of Syria, and the provocation of Russia. He’s a largely self-funded lone wolf and wild card who cannot be counted to reliably make policy in accord with the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. And he’s seizing the nomination of a political organization that may have ceased to be a functioning national political party.

Things are different with Hillary. She’s a tried and true operative on behalf of both of the nation’s capitalist and imperialist ruling class who sits atop the United States’ only remaining fully effective national and major party – the Democrats. She’s a deeply conservative right-winger on both the domestic and the foreign policy fronts, consistent with the rightward drift of the Democratic Party (and the entire U.S. party system) – a drift that she and her husband helped trail-blaze back in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1964, when Mrs. Clinton was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”

It was a telling reflection. The First Lady acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in conservatism of her family of origin. Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.” She spoke the language not of a liberal Democrat but of a moderate Republican in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower or Richard Nixon.

The language was a perfect match for Hillary and Bill Clinton’s politico-ideological history and trajectory. After graduating from the venerable ruling class training ground Yale Law School, the Clintons went to Bill’s home state of Arkansas. There they 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)” (Doug Henwood). 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 and abject service to the “competitive” bottom-line concerns of Big Business.

The Clintons helped launch the New (neoliberal corporatist) Democrat 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). 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 deployed Hillary to shoot down the new rate schedule as an unconstitutional “taking of property.” Hillary joined the board of directors at the low wage retail giant Wal-Mart.

During the Clintons’ time in the White House, Bill advanced the neoliberal agenda beneath fake-progressive cover, in ways that no Republican president could have pulled off. Channeling Ronald Reagan by declaring that “the era of big government is over,” Clinton collaborated with the right wing Congress of his time to end poor families’ entitlement to basic minimal family cash assistance. Hillary backed this vicious welfare “reform” (elimination), which has proved disastrous for millions of disadvantaged Americans. Mr. Clinton earned the gratitude of Wall Street and corporate America by passing the arch-global-corporatist North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act (which had mandated a necessary separation between commercial deposit and investment banking), and by de-regulating the burgeoning super-risky and high-stakes financial derivatives sector. Hillary took the lead role in the White House’s efforts to pass a corporate-friendly version of “health reform.” 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.” (Barack Obama would do the same thing in 2009.)

The Clinton White House’s hostility to “big government” did not extend to the United States’ giant and globally unmatched mass incarceration state or to its vast global military empire. Clinton’s 1994 crime bill helped expand the chilling expansion of the nation’s mostly Black and Latino prison population. Clinton kept the nation’s “defense” (Empire) budget (a giant welfare program for high-tech military corporations) at Cold War levels despite the disappearance of the United States’ Cold War rival the Soviet Union.

Mrs. Clinton’s service to the rich and powerful has continued into the current millennium. As a U.S. Senator, she did 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 (2009-2012), she repeatedly voiced strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – 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. In Australia in November of 2012, she said that “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements for open free, transparent, [and]fair trade…”

Bernie Sanders supporters like to claim that they’ve been moving the eventual Democratic nominee Hillary “to the left.” But nobody actually moves a dyed-in-the wool Goldman Sachs-neoliberal-top-of-the Ivy League-Council of Foreign Relations Eisenhower Democrat like Hillary or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama to the left. All that might shift somewhat to the portside is such politicians’ purposively deceptive campaign rhetoric. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows this very well. A top Chamber lobbyist calmly observed last January that Mrs. Clinton will be on board with the unpopular TPP after the 2016 election. The Chamber understands that she has no choice right now but to pose as an opponent of the measure as part of her unavoidable election year job of impersonating someone who cares about the working class majority.

Nobody grasps the Machiavellian nature of her campaign rhetoric better than Hillary’s Wall Street funders. A report in the widely read insider online Washington political journal Politico last year was titled “Hillary’s Wall Street Backers: ‘We Get It.’” As Politico explained, “Populist rhetoric, many [of those backers] 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…many of the financial-sector donors supporting her …say they’ve been expecting [such rhetoric] all along.” 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.”

It’s nothing new. In his bitter and acerbic book on and against the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To (2000), the still left Christopher Hitchens usefully described “the essence of American politics” as “the manipulation of populism by elitism.” It’s a story that goes back as far as the 1820s but nobody has perfected the game more insidiously and effectively in the neoliberal era than the Clinton machine.

Partisan liberal Democrats don’t like to hear it, but, there’s nothing all that surprising about the Koch brothers turning to Hillary over Trump. It’s not at all difficult to believe that Bill Clinton will succeed in his recently reported efforts to court support from other Republican billionaires. It’s not at all surprising that Wall Street and corporate America prefer the good friend they know.

In a subsequent essay, I will show why there’s nothing all that strange or surprising about the support Hillary is getting from foreign policy neoconservatives.

Paul Street’s latest book is, “They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy” (Paradigm, 2014). 

2 Comments

  1. Glenn Fritz May 18, 2016 5:32 pm 

    An appeal here to Trump supporters, who have largely recognized the greater possibility of Sanders beating Trump in the general election:

    Trump is the winner. A few delegates more and there’s no way the Republican Party can take away his victory.

    Congratulations, Trump insurgents. Job well done!

    But now that the GOP anti-Trump oligarchy is close to being toppled, the rats are leaving the ship and they’re looking to vote for Hillary to defeat Trump in the general election.

    They’ve blown their own cover. We can see who they are now. The anti-Trump Republicans who would vote for Hillary are owned by the big money donors just like Trump said.

    The Republican Party regulars who rejected Trump in the primaries are now going to try to force Hillary Clinton on you by voting for her in the general election.

    So before they can vote for Hillary in the general election, you Trump insurgents must take her off the Democratic Party ballot by voting for Bernie Sanders in the remaining primaries before those Republican Party regulars can perform their intended malevolent obscenity of voting for Hillary in the general election.

    Don’t settle for a Hillary win by anti-Trump Republican cross voters. You can do it by voting for Sanders in the remaining primaries.

    So, for all the Republican Party Trump insurgents that hate the Democratic Party, and Hillary, just as much or more, here’s your big chance to dump the disgusting big money, job outsourcing pig Hillary out on her ass.

    Because Trump is the winner, he doesn’t need your votes anymore and you can safely give them to Sanders.

    The victorious Trump insurgents need to vote for Sanders in the remaining primaries to shake up the Democratic Party oligarchs in a way they will never forget. The same way they have shaken up the Republican Party.

    If a large number of Republicans are defecting to Hillary, then now is the historic opportunity to dump the oligarchic puppets of both parties, and prevent a Hillary win by anti-Trump Republican votes.

    There is still time for the insurgent voters to knock Hillary out of the box with a vote for Bernie Sanders.
    An election between Trump and Sanders would shake up the Duopoly like nothing else ever could. Imagine if the Duopoly actually had to pay attention to the voice of the people instead of the voice of big money talking.

  2. Glenn Fritz May 18, 2016 5:20 pm 

    The function of the Democratic Party is to act as a null placeholder to block the formation of a party in opposition to the avowed party of the right.

    The Democratic Party markets itself as the party of the left but objects to left participation, blocking that participation by setting roadblocks such as Super Delegates.

    The Left does not have a political home.

    The Democratic Party coordinated the removal of Occupy Wall Street encampments, treating them as criminals in their calls for justice, while funding the bailouts and bonuses of Wall Street criminals.

    The Left does not have a political home so the Left must exist where it is not welcome. Therefore I support the occupation of the Democratic Convention (where the Left is not welcome) by Sanders supporters.

    I have never supported Sanders as a Savior. I support the issues he invokes, issues he did not invent, and issues that will not disappear when he disappears from his candidacy. I have never believed that Sanders would be able to overcome the real nature of the corporatist Democratic Party even if he were to win election. I recognize Sanders’ failure to provide opposition to many corporatist issues, but the effectively conservative position of ignoring and suppressing the party’s dividing wedge issues at the convention is unacceptable.

    I don’t find the fate of the Democratic Party of any concern if it cannot represent the pressing issues of the demos.

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