The Hillary Clinton charade: Elitist or progressive populist?


WASHINGTON, December 3, 2014 — The Democrat party has always used the fiction that it is the party of the poor and the working class as an eminent electoral theme and while governing. It became an essential part of their branding, particularly during and after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’. Another iteration was LBJ’s “Great Society”.

Perception became reality and the Democrats have been milking it for over 80 years. Until the last few years, the Republicans really have not attempted such pretenses. The relatively new wrinkle of the iconic “Party of the Little Guy” shtick with the Democrats, is their pitch to the Middle Class – which to a great extent, their policies have harmed the most.

Hillary Clinton’s version of the middle class elevator speech, was delivered to the New American Foundation in May:

When all our people believe they have the opportunity and are in fact due to participate fully in our economy and our democracy. The empirical evidence tells us that our society is healthiest and our economy grows fast when people in the middle are working and thriving and when people at the bottom believe that they can make their way into that broad-based middle.

The truth is that both parties are, at their power centers, elitist parties. They serve the oligarchs and the predatory investment class. Read that to mean, not you with your mutual funds and equities in your retirement portfolio, but the Wall Street Casino bankers and the Fed, who engineer economic meltdowns with somewhat predictable regularity, hand the taxpayers the bill and then scoop up distressed assets at the resulting fire sales.

With this as the backdrop, it is amusing to say the least, to watch Hillary Clinton attempt to cast herself as a populist / socialist while the Democrats try to do their own makeover. The only problem for Hillary is that she too often leaves the house with the wrong script. It’s something you never could have accused Bill Clinton of.

In the same speech to NAF, Hillary tried to sell this:

More than four out of 10 children born into our lowest-income families never managed to climb out of relative poverty. Forget about getting rich. I am just talking about getting into, and staying there in, the middle class and that should not be as hard as it is now. And what is more, an almost equal percentage of kids who are born into the most affluent families stay there for life no matter what their effort. That is the opposite of the mobility we think of as a hallmark of America.

That would appear to be an indictment of the new paradigm of financialization, in which money is churned in the vacuum of the 1 percent economy, while generating at best, only marginal productivity to help Main street prosper. But it’s merely positioning, and her coterie of campaign contributors in the investor class understand the dynamics of the game. They hear the dog whistling and salivate accordingly.

As William D. Cohan writing in Politico, observes, “Clinton’s rock-solid support on Wall Street is not anything that can be dislodged based on a few seemingly off-the-cuff comments in Boston calculated to protect her left flank”.

The latest episode is still fresh in everyone’s mind. This was when Hillary tried to upstage Elizabeth Warren at a campaign event in Boston, for Martha Coakley, whose run for Governor, went nowhere. Clinton put some new lipstick on one of Senator Warren’s memes and it ended disastrously. “Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory, trickle-down economics? That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

The “smartest woman in the world” was also too smart by half when she tried to sell her bit about, “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt” to ABC’s Diane Sawyer last Summer. Whatever Diane Sawyer might be, she’s not stupid or easily caught flatfooted by mendacious politicians – even Democrats.

Ms. Sawyer was ready for Hillary’s solecism, which opened the door for her to bring up the Clinton’s lucrative speaking engagements. This prompted Hillary to dig even a deeper hole.

“We had no money when we got there (the White House), and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. It was not easy. Bill has worked really hard. And it’s been amazing to me. He’s worked very hard.”

Indeed he has. Bill Clinton has leveraged his status as a politically connected ex-President to broker lucrative deals for him and his personal cronies, typified by the multi-Billion dollar Uranium mining contract Clinton acted as go-between for with his friend, the autocratic President of Kazakhstan and Frank Giustra, Canadian mining magnate. For this ‘hard work’ alone, Giustra ponied up $31 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

Hillary Clinton’s attempts to pacify the segment of her party which genuinely views the Wall Street / Washington Axis with suspicion and contempt – while re assuring the derivative, hedge funds and private equity firms that she has their back, are woefully transparent to all but her most ardent zealots.

“The problem is these speeches give the impression that she’s still in the Wall Street wing of the party,” the Hill quotes Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the group Democracy for America, as saying. It’s much more than merely an impression – it’s a foregone conclusion.

Although Ms. Clinton evidently understands the need for a skillful tightwire act, she seems incapable of performing it competently. She falsely believes that the industrial grade Teflon her husband has prodigiously refined, has adhered to her own ersatz exterior.

How else could she believe she could ingratiate herself with the likes of Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, et al., and keep it on the down low in today’s media environment? But then, if you are trying to pander to the social welfare state while simultaneously collecting checks from the corporate welfare combine in the form of six figure fees and honorariums, there will be some awkward contradictions along the way.

No matter what Hillary disseminates for the consumption of egalitarians in her party, her patrons on Wall Street know she’ll be a reliable mercenary for their interests once she’s firmly ensconced in the Oval Office. As political researcher and historian Robert Morrow notes:

“Hillary is a phony populist. The reason Wall Street invests in her, boils down to influence peddling. They see the Clintons as Democratic royalty, who’ve always surrounded themselves with wealthy investment banker friends. Hillary has never deviated from being pro-Federal Reserve, pro-endless war and pro-big government.”

And that assessment is born out by the reputations the Clintons have earned on “the Street”. Politico’s William D. Cohan continues:

“Hillary Clinton—and the Clintons generally—have always courted Wall Street assiduously and without apology. In June, the biggest donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation met with the Clintons at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in lower Manhattan for a day-long discussion about the foundation’s goals.”

Hillary is loath to have her pledges to the financial elite disclosed publicly. As a consequence her booking firm, the Harry Walker agency stipulates that no members of the media are allowed to attend her speeches to these benefactors.

“Obviously I would like to know what she’s saying to those groups, and it does raise questions that she has to clarify about what she believes about the power of big money, and the politics and the regulation of Wall Street”, says Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with populism. The Tea Party has a brand of populism that is deep and wide. Conservatives advocate Free Enterprise capitalism as opposed to crony capitalism and corporate socialism.

But Hillary’s populism is spurious and disingenuous – serving as a mask to hide her true impulses and her orientation as a servant of the ultra wealthy.

She’s just not doing a great job ‘selling’ it.

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  • Jorge Orwell

    Only the dead have seen the end of war.