Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hillary, give your fortune to charity and win my vote

I’ve been saying for quite a while that I’m not anti-Hillary, I’m just very pro-Bernie, because I recognized from long before he started running for president that he shares my values and the authentic desire to see the nation swayed in a direction I favor. I have said that if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, I will be very happy to vote for Hillary against any Republican opponent.

But I’ve recently come to recognize more clearly what sticks in my craw about Hillary. There are plenty of critical positions she’s taken over the years that I really disagree with, the Iraq War vote being exhibit A. Right now, though, what looms largest for me is the Clinton wealth. I ask you: do you really know who this person is? She and her husband are people who, since his presidency ended, have amassed a personal fortune of, it is said, $125 million. Hello – that’s about the same as Mitt Romney’s. Do you identify with that? How many other people do you know like that?

And how did they get all that wealth in less than 20 years? Did they found a great and profitable enterprise? No, it was purely through tight political connections to the wealthiest and most powerful. That’s not even exploitative capitalism; that sort of insider game shades closer to the formal definition of fascism (government owned by business); or if you find that idea too distasteful, let’s compromise and say it’s generally how wealth is amassed in and around the world’s politburos. Is that the profile of a model leader for the Democratic Party? Really?

To be honest with you, I look at that kind of amassed wealth through my own kind of religious lens, and I see in it too much of what’s deeply wrong in our time with our world, and with our country.

Here’s how Hillary could win my vote: she’d wake up tomorrow and say, “For one couple to win the trust of the American people and hold the presidency of the United States twice is enough good fortune for one lifetime. We don’t need this money also. Bill, let’s give $120 million of it to charity, today. I insist…. And no, not to the Clinton Global Initiative.”

That act of letting go would be a sign of personal integrity that would win my enthusiasm. Without it, I ask you, why and how should I imagine her to be different from her fellow members of the 1% of the 1%? The distinctive perspective of people of such high wealth doesn’t make me go after them with pitchforks, but it does disqualify them from getting my vote for public office, because I believe very high wealth individuals are psychologically unable to represent me and my values and interests. I’ll make the exception in this case and vote for her. But enthusiastically? Can't say so.

And by the way, as soon as the general election starts, Trump will thump Hillary about this - with great success. He will argue that he earned his money by building businesses and creating jobs, whereas Hillary and Bill just rode the corrupt Washington-Wall Street circuit, and represent everything that's gone wrong with America. I could critique Trump as 100 times worse than Hillary in all sorts of dimension, but you gotta keep your eye on the ball: that critique doesn't matter to a large proportion of 2016 voters across the spectrum. When it comes to the sin of money in politics, Trump will have Hillary by the balls.*

* Note: I stoop to this low rhetorical level here because Trump has shown that in 2016 this kind of unrestrained, intentionally crude archetypal mastery over the opponent - characterizing them as pitifully weak or fatally flawed so as to disarm them - is essential to victory. To overcome it and win the punch-drunk public's favor, the "liberal" candidate will have to somehow counterpunch with as much devastating force and more, while managing to retain their personal integrity. Good luck with that! Not for nothing, Bernie's faithfulness would help a lot for that job... 

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