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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/12/15

Hillary's a "Bold Progressive"? Has Anyone Warned Her Donors?

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Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman!

Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman!
Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman!
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These days, if one shows the faintest interest in politics, one gets the most bizarre e-mails. Of course, it doesn't quite take a twelve-labors-of-Hercules effort to unsubscribe, but in doing so, we'd miss ought on much that's deeply informative (if usually not as mailers intended) or even knee-slappingly absurd. And often both at the same time.

For example, I was recently apprised by the Bold Progressive Campaign Committee of their "'Ready for Boldness' campaign -- urging Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic presidential candidates to run on 'big, bold, economic-populist ideas.'" And spearheading the list of "Ready for Boldness" campaigners, standing arrowhead front-and-center in the banner photo--as if to highlight her Pocahontas-like boldness --was none other than Elizabeth Warren. Who, as readers may recall, recently boldly declined to run against Clinton and--with even more exemplary boldness--neglected this ideal chance to force Clinton to take a public stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I was duly informed that "Senator Elizabeth Warren is heralding a commitment from thousands of party officials to push Hillary Rodham Clinton [and others] to adopt her populist economic policies." If Warren's done only the feeblest pushing of Hillary Rodham Clinton on the timely, supercritical economic-populism issue of TPP, are we really to buy the hooey that she'll nudge Clinton kicking and screaming (that part's guaranteed) into the promised land of bold-progressive economic populism?

Gag me with a chain saw!

Don't Warren and her "Bold Progressive" Democratic colleagues have the faintest inkling how utterly absurd--indeed, how Monty Pythonesque--their charade is? For starters, consider the whole approach: Wall Street's kindly dictated our presidential candidate, we'll supply her principles.

Now, if there's any stronger reason for progressives to vomit Hillary out of our mouths, it's hard to think of one. On the one hand, amidst the ongoing legal depravity of Citizens United, she merits progressives' deep resentment for being Democrats' presidential frontrunner exclusively because she alone can rake in enough Wall Street megabucks to win; progressives certainly have no reasons of principle to make Hillary our candidate. Indeed, with Wall Street being the ear-torturing DJ whose policy Muzak we're desperately fighting to change, we have every conceivable reason to resent his calling our candidate tune.

On the other hand, there's the overwhelming implication that, lacking principles herself, Hillary (like Barack before her) is a blank moral slate on which any message flattering--or hoodwinking--voters may be chalked. Sadly--when it comes to words rather than actions--there's every reason to think that's the case. Rather than proclaim a bold progressive message--or even a bold Wall Street message (based on experience, vastly more her cup of tea)--Hillary has boldly embraced the role of the blank slate, boldly committing herself to the silent accumulation of campaign dollars. Little wonder that most progressives suspect Hillary's only real principle is the lodestar of her personal ambition. And her repugnance toward taking any stance on the hot-button TPP--when standing against it could strongly burnish her populist credentials--amply reinforces that view. Machiavelli, world-renowned on matters of unprincipled political ambition, would surely counsel Hillary's close concealment of her TPP cards. Later on, when it's only a matter of campaign promises (by convention, lent roughly the credence of advertising puffery) rather than influencing important policy, Hillary will predictably feel freer to exercise her "progressive" vocal cords.

Now, even the reasons just cited--though perhaps already definitive--scarcely exhaust the absurdity of Bold Progressives' e-mail. In fact, they've hardly scratched the surface. See, as mentioned above, their principle seems to be: Wall Street's kindly dictated our presidential candidate, we'll supply her principles. As already mentioned, one might legitimately ask why anyone holding firm principles--like real progressives--would want anything to do with a candidate so easily malleable. I personally can't recall a single serious reform movement, let alone political revolution (probably closer to what's needed ), spearheaded by a mealy-mouthed political opportunist like Hillary. But what's worse, our "Bold Progressives" have been bold indeed: they've boldly ignored--as if it were some asinine belief in fairies--the venerable, empirically tested political adage "He who pays the piper calls the tune." Now granted, the malleability of Hillary's words-- provided they have no meaning for policy and serve only to fool voters--is perhaps infinite. But the malleability of Hillary's Wall Street donors is provably not, as perhaps best evidenced by the strong recent umbrage they've taken at the words of Warren herself. See, words are hardly completely divorced from policy, and when populist messages go beyond harmlessly placating disgruntled voters, but actually foster popular outrage against "malefactors of great wealth"--the kind of outrage shaping actual anti-plutocrat policies like the New Deal--Wall Street donors start demanding some heavy censorship. And if such censorship will already place deep constraints on Hillary's mere words, one can only imagine the shackles it will place on her behavior. The only realistic conclusion is that Clinton is Wall Street's handpicked tool to thwart Warren-style reforms.

But even the staunch anti-reform agenda of donors is inadequate to depict Bold Progressives' absurd project of giving Hillary a progressive makeover. They're blithely ignoring the long-standing ideological commitments of the candidate herself--commitments backed by a long policy track record. See, it's not as if opportunism--especially not under our current political system--is a complete freedom from ideology, based on doing whatever will get one personally ahead. Instead, I'd argue (and the argument seems a compelling one) that opportunism is now a political ideology in and of itself--in fact, it seems the core ideology of present-day capitalism. Simply put, getting ahead in terms of money and power--the two, as our ever-worsening revolving door between high office and lucrative corporate lobbying amply proves, are interchangeable--is for Hillary and her ilk the core political value; and building a world safe for self-seeking opportunists like themselves is now itself a political philosophy. In fact, translated into older philosophical language, it amounts to a meritocracy based on crude social Darwinism. I'd defy anyone to explain Hillary's career or policy behavior--her hawkishness, her coziness with Wall Street, her gung-ho embrace of fossil fuels, her unwavering support for Israel, or her love of secrecy and detestation for whistleblowers--on any basis than the crude social Darwinism at the core of today's capitalism. Where those fittest to survive--and beyond that, virtually handpicked by a ruthless Calvinist God-to thrive--are unprincipled opportunists like herself.

So, far from being a blank slate who'll say or do anything, Hillary is a self-seeking opportunist for whom self-seeking opportunism is elevated to a philosophical principle. And not just any philosophical principle, but the reigning one at the heart of our deeply corrupted capitalist system. And needless to say, her political "tribe"--the people whose interests and values she's ideologically attached to and seeks to further--consists of high-and-mighty successful opportunists like hubby Bill and herself. Not even adultery matters when a genius for ascending the money-and-power food chain is the highest value.

That, ultimately, is why Bold Progressives' and Warren's acceptance of Hillary's inevitability in hopes of dictating what policies she'll run on is so utterly foolish. Not only will Hillary's donors exercise a potent veto--like, say, transferring their dollars to Jeb Bush--but Hillary's heart (if one can call it that) lies completely with her unscrupulous, social-climbing class. Granted, the alarming malfeasance of Hillary and her corporatist political class is starting to cause such pain (especially to the middle class) that Hillary, if she really wants to be president, may have to do some knuckling under. But unless Warren starts demonstrating the will and ability to manipulate Clinton like a sock puppet, no progressives should accept her as their presidential candidate. Unless Democrats find someone genuinely populist and concerned for the common good, it's time to vote Green instead.

For now, the best we can do--and what my Pitchforks Against Plutocracy movement is committed to--is to keep piling on the political pressure. On Warren, to follow up her first tenuous efforts to pressure Clinton into opposing fast track and TPP. And on Clinton herself, to prove herself realist enough to knuckle under before burgeoning popular outrage that must one day explode. Not that Clinton is to be trusted even if she denounces TPP, but our forcing her to knuckle under will send a forcible signal to plutocrats of a mounting populist wave they resist at their own peril. Failing to embrace the reforms of a latter-day FDR may hasten the regrettable day when the populist cry becomes, "Off with their heads."

To pressure Warren (to demand Clinton denounce the TPP), her contact coordinates are

E-mail: http://www.warren.senate.gov/?p=email_senator

Phone: (202) 224-4543 (Washington); (617) 565-3170; (Boston) (413) 788-2690 (Springfield)

To pressure Clinton directly on TPP, please sign this timely CREDO petition.
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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he wields his pen (more...)

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