[I said this on my radio show yesterday as a Hillary teaser. Jane McAlevey urged me to circulate it, and I do what Jane says.]
A little self-promotion. I have a cover story in this month’s Harper’s on Hillary Rodham Clinton, which the editors gave the tabloidish headline, “Stop Hillary!” (And I do mean tabloidish—it caught the attention of a New York Post reporter, who wrote it up for the paper’s Page Six gossip feature.) In it, I review Hillary’s life in a very non-friendly way, in hope of derailing her unannounced yet all-but-certain presidential campaign.
I have three major objections to Hillary (which is how she seems to brand herself these days): the dynastic, the personal, and the political.
First, after two Bushes, do we really need another Clinton?
Second, the personal. Hillary has a long record of dishonesty, ranging from making up a stories about the origin of her name (she said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, but he didn’t climb Mt Everest until several years after she was born) to lies about all the various Arkansas scandals she brought with her to Washington. Par for the politician course, I suppose, but her supporters like to think of her as several cuts above the ordinary, a judgment I’m sure she concurs with.
But the most important objection is political: the last thing we need is another hawkish, Wall Street-friendly Democrat in the White House. Many people—including me, when I started researching the piece—don’t appreciate how deeply involved Hillary was with creating the New Democrat paradigm, tough and business-friendly, replacing the old New Deal/Great Society model. While governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton took a number of swipes at unions in the state as part of a campaign to shred the longstanding Democratic alliance with labor. He, with Hillary closely involved, launched an attack on the teachers union in Arkansas, a campaign with ugly racial undertones, that was a model for later edu-reform efforts. Once on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary supported Bill’s efforts to end welfare, which is responsible for keeping millions of people, mostly women and children, in poverty now—though, of course, she likes to present herself as an advocate for women and children. That advocacy mainly takes the form of photo-ops and symbolic programs. It’s very reminiscent of her husband’s approach. I remember, back in the 1990s, taking apart his budget proposals. The prose sections always contained rhetoric about “investing in people” and “building a bridge to the 21st century,” but when you looked at the actual numbers, you had to take them out to two or three decimal places to notice any change. That’s the essence of the New Democrat paradigm.
But it isn’t new anymore—it’s more than 20 years old. It represented a consolidation of Reaganism, the conversion of what is supposed to be the popular party into a near-pure instrument of neoliberalism. To a neoliberal, the solution to a social problem should always involve a market, and if the market doesn’t exist, it must be created ex nihilo. (That’s the logic of Obamacare.)
That whole approach has lost even its novelty value now. It is not adequate to deal with climate change, polarization, and structural economic stagnation—problems that are caused by an excess of markets, not a deficiency. The marketization of everything has led to severe social fragmentation and the erosion of all notions of solidarity. Hillary sometimes evokes those notions of solidarity, but usually in photo-ops with women from poor countries in their colorful native garb, where she uplifts them by her mere presence. As for policies that might change their actual material and social status, well, they’re rather thin on the ground, because they might spoil the investment climate.