March 10, 2015
The “Ready for Hilary” campaign has launched a not-very-subtle courtship of discontented Democrats, those leftish liberal activists who yearn for anybody but another Clinton.
The not-yet candidate herself spoke to their concerns indirectly when she recently addressed the Silicon Valley Conference for Women. Clinton sketched out progressive goals for family-centered labor-market reforms. They were like love bombs for bleeding-heart liberals.
Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress, the shadow think tank that speaks for Clinton-Obama politics, issued a more substantive agenda in a 161-page report from its self-appointed “Commission on Inclusive Prosperity.” The co-chair was Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and senior adviser to Obama. He performed an intellectual conversion equivalent to a double somersault in gymnastics. The new ideas were actually old ideas that progressive advocates have championed for decades to no avail. They were ignored or rejected by Summers himself and the two Democratic presidents he served.
Never mind, the message is: Hillary gets it. She’s ready to confront the inequality thing. She will bring fresh ideas to the campaign on how to reverse the deterioration of middle-class American life. Her list includes everything from parental leave to care for newborn infants to equal pay for women and paid vacations for all working people. The CAP agenda, among many sound ideas, opts for stronger labor unions, worker ownership of corporations, faster growth and full employment, a reformed global trading system that for American working people will become a “race to the top” instead of the bottom. What’s not to like?
But the Clinton seduction encountered a rocky start. In some progressive quarters, the shape-changing rhetoric inspired anger and abiding skepticism instead of applause. Many liberal advocates were reminded why they didn’t want Hillary in first place. Some saw a leopard changing spots into tiger stripes. Still, many policy activists were pleased that their agitation for Elizabeth Warren or other potential candidates was causing serious heartburn in establishment circles. The dissidents intend to do more.
Summers was especially infuriating with his condescending remarks. He has a well-known talent for foot-in-mouth (recall his Harvard speech on why women don’t do well in science and engineering). On economic reform, he offered a warning: “It’s not enough to address upward mobility without addressing inequality. The challenge, though, is to address inequality without embracing the politics of envy.”
“Envy” of the wealthy is a popular trope among the “1 percent” (remember Mitt Romney’s defense of his). In Summers’s case, he may have been thinking of his own grand windfall. A few weeks before his CAP report was issued, Summers hit the jackpot with the initial public offering for Lending Club. As a member of its board of directors, the Harvard economist had accumulated more one million shares in stock and options, priced at 70 cents each according to SEC filings. After the IPO, the stock was trading at $28 a share.
Do the math. The professor reaped something like $28 million for his undoubtedly wise advice to Lending Club. Are you feeling a little envy? (I know I am.) It reminds one of what Elizabeth Warren often says: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.”
The not-yet-announced candidate has a thing about money too. Hillary Clinton’s speech before the Silicon Valley women got a reported fee of $300,000 (the women each paid $245 to hear her). The Clinton family has been smart about raising money for their foundation—foreign interests contributed heavily while she was secretary of state. Her fundraisers are now in a nasty dogfight among themselves over who will get the credit and commissions for raising big bucks for her campaign. “Politics is a dirty business,” as my late friend Hunter S. Thompson used to say.
In normal times, all these maneuvers could be ignored as inside baseball, the usual arguments over messaging that policy wonks and campaign junkies chew over in the run-up to a presidential election year. The masses of voters are not listening at this early stage and not even the intended audience. The insiders are testing out themes and policy proposals, polling the unwashed public on what sells, what upsets.
The Clinton machine’s real target audience, I suspect, are the media pundits and political reporters who will cover the next campaign and inevitably shrink the terms of debate by reducing the substance to a handful of insipid, shorthand clichés. The expressions of what Hillary (maybe) thinks and says as a candidate are meant to assure big media that she truly is a progressive candidate and willing to get beyond the status quo.
Please read the rest of this most important of op-eds here.
Curated from www.thenation.com
William Greider is a national treasure. I highly recommend reading him on a regular basis not only for his perspective, but for the information he imparts that few, if any, of the cable and print punditry include in their analyses.
While many on the left would like us to believe that everyone is ready and waiting for Hillary, we must remind ourselves that back in 2007, Clinton was also deemed too ubiquitous for another candidate to deny her certain victory. We know different. As I wrote here and here, nothing in Hillary’s behavior over the last year has demonstrated that she has resolved to change the things the public didn’t like about her candidacy. Quite to the contrary, we have this email scandal precisely because it was her way to circumvent public opinion.
Let us not presume that Democrats won’t again think better of Hillary. As I explained in Election 2014: Lessons for progressives, voters’ spurning of every last one of Clinton’s candidates is proof of that.