Dear Hillary: Ignore the Left at Your Peril

© Josh Sager – August 2014

Over the past few months, Hillary Clinton has done the media rounds on a variety of news outlets, released a book, attended a bunch of big-money fundraisers, and differentiated her opinion from Obama’s on several controversial political issues—in short, she is preparing for her spot as the Democratic heir apparent for the 2016 presidential race.

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Unfortunately, during this pre-election flurry of activity, Hillary is taking actions that are, at best, damaging to her potential run, and, at worst, indicative of her intention to run as a corporatist, center-right, Democrat.

Over the past year, Hillary has been paid millions of dollars for speeches by a wide variety of big-money interests. Her largest speech purchaser, Goldman Sachs, paid Hillary $400,000 for just two events in the last year. In addition to big banks like Goldman Sachs and Fidelity Mutual (which she spoke for last April) , industry groups like the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Association of Realtors, as well as Universities have all bought speaking engagements from Hillary Clinton.

While many in the media and most politicians will argue that these types of speaking engagements by political candidates and ex-politicians are just ways for corporate groups to get advice and guidance from intelligent leaders, the simple fact is that these speaking engagements are de-facto bribes. None of these banks or industry groups actually care what politicians have to say, but they do want to have an excuse to pay the politicians—such payments ensure that a politician doesn’t rock the boat while in office (you don’t see politicians who actually try to regulate the banks getting these giant paydays from the banks) and impress upon future politicians that compliance with the corporate agenda has its perks.

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I am not asserting that Hillary has already sold out to corporate interests; merely that they are clearly putting in their bids for when she does run. It is certainly possible for Hillary to take this corporate money and to stiff them once she is in office, but that is looking like a remote possibility. If Hillary is elected in 2016, she will be millions of dollar in debt to a variety of corporate interests and will feel beholden to them to pay back their “generosity.”

In addition to taking money from these interest groups, Hillary has made a concerted effort to shift towards the right on several issues, making public statements that espouse right wing beliefs. I have no doubt that she believes that these positions line up with the American mainstream, but she is dramatically misunderstanding the American electorate.

For example:

  • In June, Clinton spoke at BIO, a major biotech conference, where she voiced support for GMOs, increased federal subsidies for American biotech corporations, and giving biotech companies more influence on the regulatory process.
  • In her book “Hard Choices,” Clinton spoke about several major foreign policy disagreements that she had with Obama while in his administration. Among other issues, she claims to have opposed Obama’s effort to convince Israel to freeze its construction of settlements on contested territory, and supported tougher sanctions on Putin for his encroachment into Ukraine. All in, she is portraying herself to be much more hawkish than Obama, supporting a more heavy-handed approach to resolving issues abroad.

If Hillary Clinton believes that the American people support more big-money subsidies, corruption in our regulatory processes, pointless wars, and blowback-laden intervention in foreign conflicts that don’t concern us, she is in for a truly awful surprise.

Given her recent economic and ideological actions, it is clear that Clinton sees space to her right and is perfectly willing to fill it. She is taking corporate money and making center-right ideological stands, proving that she is, at best, ignorant about the opinions of the American people—at worst, she is hoping that her ascendant status will insulate her from a truly left-wing challenge in the primary and is showing her true colors as another blue-dog corporate democrat who agrees with the Republicans on virtually every big-money issue (ex. deregulate, cut taxes, give money to big business, and hope that the money trickles down).

If Clinton isn’t careful, she will overplay her hand and will face somebody in the Democratic primary who is truly progressive and can tap into the true populism of the left wing (Hint…Elizabeth Warren please run…Hint). Just as in 2008, when Obama tricked the American people into thinking that he was a progressive, Clinton could be beaten in the primary by an insurgent dark horse challenger.

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Personally, I would support a primary from the left, if only to drag Hillary back to the base of the Democrats and to ensure that she knows exactly who her base is. I am not hopeful that any Democratic candidate could actually beat Clinton, but it is important to impress upon her that the left has force in this country and will not stand by silent as she pushes a corporate agenda.

Finally, I would like to impress upon the reader that, in no way, am I arguing that Clinton is not the better choice when put up against a Republican candidate. The types of corruption mentioned in this article are ubiquitous, and any potential GOP nominee is almost certainly more in bed with corporations than Clinton. If Clinton wins the primary, even given her right wing shift and corporate ties, she is still the lesser of two evils and every Democrat in a district that matters must vote to protect the country from the GOP taking back the presidency.

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