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Hillary Clinton’s Basket of Deplorables

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Hillary Clinton recently said that half of Donald Trump’s supporters come from what she called a “basket of deplorables…. racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” I don’t doubt that many of the Donald’s backers are terrible, racist, nativist, and misogynist people. I’ve met a number of them. Still, it’s never smart to write off millions of voters (remember when Mitt Romney committed political suicide by denouncing 47 percent of the electorate as lazy moochers?) and Hillary’s word choice got me thinking about her and her friends and team.

“Deplorables?” How about Madeline Albright, the noxious woman who championed the mass-murderous bombing of Serbia and told the nation on CBS News that the death of half a million Iraqi children thanks to U.S.-led “economic sanctions” was a “price worth paying” for the advance of U.S. policy goals? She is Hillary Clinton’s very good friend and was former First Lady Clinton’s choice as Bill Clinton’s second Secretary of State. She is a fierce advocate of dangerous Western aggression against nuclear Russia. Hillary has put her to work the campaign trail this and last year. She’s dreadful.

Another gone one is Henry Kissinger. “Among the war profiteers, bankers and industrialists that Mrs. Clinton counts, opportunistically or not, among her friends,” Rob Urie notes, “Henry Kissinger holds a special place in human history. With a laundry list of crimes against humanity to his ‘credit,’ the term deplorable applied to Mr. Kissinger would be a kindness” (emphasis added). Urie suggests that we ask “those who saw their families murdered and their communities destroyed by Mr. Kissinger in Southeast Asia or by the Clintons in Iraq or Libya” about deplorable Americans.

How about Hillary’s despicable life semi-partner William Jefferson Clinton? His epic list of transgressions includes the advanced neoliberal deregulation of Wall Street and the elimination of poor families’ former entitlement to basic family cash assistance in the name of “welfare “reform.” Both of these and numerous other disgraceful Bill Clinton policies and actions have generated significant human disaster. He’s quite base and reprehensible on numerous levels. More on Bill below.

There’s also Hillary’s campaign manager, John Podesta. He’s a legendary ruling-class operative. A former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, Podesta has headed a major Washington, DC, lobbying firm whose clients have included BP, Citigroup, Walmart and Lockheed Martin. He founded the Center for American Progress (CAP), which has become a virtual policy arm of the neoliberal Obama White House and — as The New York Times reported after Obama appointed him as a special adviser in December of 2013 — “taken millions of dollars in corporate donations and has its own team of lobbyists who have pushed an agenda that sometimes echoes the interests of those corporate supporters.” The CAP poses as a “progressive,” even “left-leaning” alternative to right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, but it really embodies a kind of reconstructed “Third Way neoliberalism” that is deeply captive to global corporate and financial interests. Podesta also is president of the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project. He’s dreadful.

Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate? He’s a financial-sector darling who backed fast-tracking the arch-global corporatist, Wall Street-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As the Governor of Virginia, this “liberal” champion backed the state’s vicious anti-union “right to work” law. His declared opposition to the death penalty did not stop him from carrying out 11 executions. Appalling.

And then there’s Ken Salazar, a former US senator who strongly supports the TPP and angered environmentalists and cheered Big Carbon by backing offshore drilling and fracking during his years as Obama’s secretary of the Interior. He’s a partner at WilmerHale, one of the world’s most politically powerful law firms, representing multinational capital at home and abroad — making him a leading example of the shockingly widespread “revolving door” between high public office and the elite private sector. He’s the chair of Hillary Clinton’s transition team. Shameful.

What about Robert Rubin, the great Wall Street maestro behind “Clintonomics” and a great friend of Bill and Hill? Rubin will certainly play a key advisory role for a Hillary Clinton presidency (should she avoid blowing the 2016 presidential election). Under Rubin’s influence, and in accord with the “Rubinomics” trilogy of balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, Clinton joined with corporate Democrats and Republicans to: enact the great job-killing and anti-labor North American Free Trade Agreement, slash government spending, eliminate restrictions on interstate banking, repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had separated commercial from investment banking), and prevent the regulation of toxic “over-the-counter” financial derivatives with the so-called Commodity Futures Modernization Act. All this helped distribute wealth and power upward and prepare the ground for the financial collapse of 2008.

Rubin left the Clinton administration in 1999 to join Citigroup, the primary benefactor of the Glass-Steagall repeal. American Banker calls “Exhibit A when progressives talk about the ‘revolving door’ between banks and Washington.” His formal return to the private sector hardly meant a full retreat from national politics and policy, however. Along with top positions at the CFR and Brookings, Rubin helped organize financial backing for Obama’s presidential campaign. As Greg Palast notes, “Rubin opened the doors to finance industry vaults for Obama. Extraordinarily for a Democrat, Obama in 2008 raised three times as much from bankers as his Republican opponent.”

Rubin also served as a top informal Obama adviser and placed a number of his protégés in high-ranking positions in the Obama administration. Rubin’s Obama appointees included Timothy Geithner (Obama’s first treasury secretary), Peter Orszag (Obama’s first Office of Management and Budget director), and Larry Summers (first chief economic adviser). “Perhaps,” Robert Reich writes, “it was not entirely coincidental that the Obama administration never put tough conditions on banks receiving bailout money, never prosecuted a single top Wall Street executive for the excesses that led to the financial meltdown and even refused to support a small tax on financial transactions that would have generated tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues and discouraged program trading.”

Disgraceful.

I could go on with Hillary friends and allies but Hillary might want to take a look in the mirror when searching out deplorable Americans. t’s not for nothing that Hillary Clinton is known on Wall Street as “Lady Klynton Kissinger Sachs.” The consistently war-hawkish Clinton is the quintessential power-elite and ruling-class insider.  She was minted and socialized at such ruling-class institutions as Oxford, Yale Law, Rose Law, the Wal-Mart board of directors, the Democratic Leadership Council (the DLC – more on that organization below), the globalist Clinton Foundation, the CFR and the U.S. State Department. She and her husband “operate in … a world awash in money and connections … [a] very privileged place,” as The New York Times’ Carolyn Ryan recently said. She is the candidate of campaign finance and of (exorbitant) speaking-fee choice for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the CFR, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Robert Rubin and the rest of the nation’s transnationally oriented corporate and financial aristocracy—including a remarkable number of pinstripe Republicans who do not trust Trump.

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. How deplorable was that?

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…” As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has cleverly reflected:

“All these woebegone Republicans whining that they can’t rally behind their flawed candidate is crazy. The G.O.P. angst, the gnashing and wailing and searching for last-minute substitutes and exit strategies, is getting old. They already have a 1-percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cuddle with hedge funds, secure the trade deals beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger and hawk it up. … The Republicans have their candidate: It’s Hillary.”

How, well…deplorable.

I agree with the distinguished left political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. when he argues that “Clinton and Trump are both evil, but voting isn’t about determining who goes to Heaven or choosing between good people and bad people.” I assent also when Reed maintains that voting is an “instrumental act” not to be confused with bearing moral witness on high moral principle. I am not so inured to the neo-fascistic evil of the Trump phenomenon and the horrific prospects of a Trump presidency that I would not at least entertain the possibility of following Reed’s advice to “vote for the neoliberal warmonger” HRC to block the Donald. Still, whatever I or other radical lefties (a very small part of the total U.S. electorate) do or don’t do on the Electoralist High Holy Day, Democratic politicos will have no legitimate business blaming “the left” if Trump beats the odds and triumphs over the Clintons. The main fault will lay with the Clintons and other deplorable dollar Democrats, who have opened the barn door for right-wing white-nationalist fake populism and who will have given the game away to the rightmost of the two reigning capitalist parties. It won’t be with left progressives who couldn’t bring themselves to mark a ballot for either of the reprehensible major party options in this deplorable double dumpster-fire of a presidential election.

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

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