By Timothy Scott
This essay documents Hillary Clinton’s history and record as an agent of Wall Street, war, racial violence and inequity, economic inequality and conservative ideology. While Clinton’s early Republican Party history is well documented, it is unfair to judge her (or anyone) based on the political views of her youth. Like Clinton, all people are heavily influenced by the beliefs and values of their parents, local communities, religion, cultural and social identities as well as US dominant culture. Based on various factors, many people with conservative backgrounds are able to develop progressive and humanistic world views over time based on personal struggle, a capacity for empathy, and an expanded sense of consciousness through education and life experience. None of this appears to have happened for Hillary Clinton. Instead, she stayed the course as she and her husband pioneered the “New Democrat” (Centrist Democrats) movement and steered the party toward a neoliberal “Third Way” (dogmatic free-market and moderately liberal social policies). Yet, when it comes to the Clintons, many of their social policy positions are also distinctly conservative.
While incomplete, this post seeks to assist liberals and progressives in recognizing that when they support Hillary Clinton, they are in fact supporting violently oppressive and undemocratic interests. All of the information that follows is part of the public record.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Party’s foreordained 2016 presidential candidate, is both a champion for — and member of — the top one-tenth of the one percent. As such, she is duplicitously held up by party leaders and supporters as an advocate of social equity and fair-minded economic pragmatism. As the first woman to be a viable presidential candidate (a second time around), Clinton promotes herself, along with other prominent white neoliberal feminists, as a status recognition trailblazer for all women; despite the fact that every position she has taken, or role she has been in, has disproportionately inflicted considerable harm to women across the globe (especially dispossessed Black, Brown and Indigenous women). In her Salon article titled, The unexpected side effect of Hillary 2016: How she transformed Democrats into “new” Republicans, Sophia A. McClennen writes:
…within the Clinton campaign there is a real issue with “the woman card.” Of course, it is historic that she may well be the Democratic nominee. But that fact has nothing to do with whether or not she is feminist. It just means she is a woman who broke a barrier. Margaret Thatcher broke that barrier in her nation in 1975 and no one confused that with an advance for feminism… Having Clinton supporters like Gloria Steinem suggest that women who don’t support Clinton are just looking for sex, suggests that the Clinton camp has some pretty confused ideas about what feminism means.
Hillary Clinton has a net worth of 31.3 million dollars and is a long-time darling of corporations and elite financial investors. Clinton served as a Walmart board member between 1988-1992, during which time she conspired with the company when it waged a major anti-union campaign against Walmart workers who attempted to unionize. Her top contributors over the course of her political career include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, along with many other corporations and financial firms. During the 2016 primary election cycle, Clinton has portrayed herself as an advocate for income equality and an opponent of Wall Street greed. Yet, as the Washington Post reported in February 2016:
Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans. Through the end of December, donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.
Clinton’s pick for Vice President is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, whose campaign donors include the oil, gas and coal industries, the Israeli lobby, the finance and technology industries, defense contractors, agribusiness and more. He has thus been a champion of free-trade (TPP), bank deregulation, education reform (via EdTech), offshore drilling, hawkish foreign policies and union-busting. Kaine was also a supporter of a policy known as Project Exile, which was a federal crime and gun reduction strategy “championed by Republicans and Democrats alike and by both the top US gun lobby group and gun-control advocates.” According to Nicole Lee, a Black civil-rights attorney, “Project Exile broke black families… This is not a benign thing to be for. These measures were not used against white kids in the suburbs with guns, they were used against black kids in the cities.”
Clinton’s current campaign manager, John Podesta, is an aggressive “corporate education reform” advocate and a long-time corporate lobbyist who founded the Podesta Group with his brother Tony in the 1980s. Writing in Salon in 2011, Justin Elliot reported:
The Podesta Group has been retained by some of the biggest corporations in the country, including Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin. After starting the firm, John Podesta went on to serve as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and, more recently, to found the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely associated with the Obama administration. The Podesta Group counsels Egypt ‘on US policies of concern, activities in Congress and the Executive branch, and developments on the US political scene generally’ according to forms filed with the Justice Department in 2009.
The Podesta Group also does PR work for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
After becoming governor of Arkansas (again) in 1983, Bill Clinton appointed Hillary Clinton to chair the state’s Education Standards Committee, a task force charged with reforming Arkansas’ education system. According to author Jeffrey Saint Clair, Hillary Clinton’s law:
…showcased teacher testing and funding the schools through a sales tax increase, an astoundingly regressive proposal since it imposed new costs on the poor in a very poor state while sparing any levies on big corporations. The plan went through. Arkansas’ educational ranking remained abysmal, but Hillary won national attention as a “realistic Democrat” who could make “hard” choices, like taxing welfare mothers.
The Arkansas Education Association (AES), unsuccessfully sued the state to overturn the law. Speaking of the law in 1983, AES president Peggy Nabors, claimed, “[t]he law was not designed to help, but was designed to be punitive in nature and to make teachers the scapegoat for education`s ills.”
Clinton continues to have close personal and professional relationships within the education reform industry and with some of its key venture philanthropists. Yet, with growing national opposition to corporate education reform policies, Clinton is currently playing it safe on the campaign trail about her support for these policies. DLA Piper, a corporate law firm that represents major companies in the global education market is a major Clinton campaign donor. So is Walmart heiress Alice Walton (the world’s 13th-richest person), who is a highly influential education reformer through her family’s Walton Family Foundation. Clinton also served as a board member and a paid consultant for the National Center on Education and the Economy, a leading education reform policy advocacy think tank dating back to 1988. In a speech at the 1999 National Education Association’s convention, Clinton asked of the union’s leadership, “I also hope that you will continue to stand behind the charter school/public school movement, because I believe that parents do deserve greater choice within the public school system to meet the unique needs of their children.” The charter school movement Clinton was extolling is instrumental in the privatization of public education via market-based education reform policies. Charter schools have been advanced by free market zealots and are currently being financed by billionaire venture philanthropists and hedge funders. Charter schools have also been instrumental in the resegregation of schooling in the US For more information about education reform, check out Education, Inc or this more comprehensive multi-media article. You can also listen to Education Radio.
The Clinton Foundation (known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation until 2015) has a sordid history. It has been accused over the years of being non transparent on many levels, which include being a slush fund for the Clinton family and racking up conflicts of interest in its support of aid projects that serve the interests of markets over human suffering. According to the Clinton Foundation website:
Everywhere we go, we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job. Whether it’s improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, or helping communities address the effects of climate change, we keep score by the lives that are saved or improved.
The foundation is funded by a “who’s who” of banks, corporations, venture philanthropists, trade associations, military contractors, oil and pharmaceutical companies and governments that are clearly at odds with foundation’s stated mission. A very short list of donors includes the US Chamber of Commerce, Gates Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Exxon, BP, Pfizer, Monsanto, Mars, Coca-Cola, and the infamous private security firm Blackwater.
In 1994, president Bill Clinton passed the deeply racist Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, of which intensified the criminalized Black and Brown Americans. First lady Hillary Clinton actively lobbied for the bill’s passage, famously referring to Black youth as “super predators.” With Hillary Clinton’s active support, the bill increased prison sentences for nonviolent offenders, adopted harsh mandatory minimum sentences, encouraged police and prosecutors to be tougher on defendants; allocated $9.7 billion in new funding for the construction of prisons and $10.8 billion for 100,000 new police officers; attached the death penalty to more federal crimes; ended higher-education grants for prisoners; excluded ex drug offenders from food stamps and welfare; encouraged states to try more children as adults; facilitated the distribution of surplus military equipment to local police departments; and put time limits on death-penalty appeals. In just eight years following the crime bill, the prison population increased by more than 673,000 inmates.Hillary Clinton was also an ardent supporter of the Clinton administration’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare Reform); legislation that disproportionately hurt Black and Brown women and children by dismantling the federal safety net program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In her 2004 memoir Clinton claimed, “By the time Bill and I left the White House, welfare rolls had dropped 60 percent.” This fact was not due to a reduction in poverty.
In 2011 as Secretary of State, Clinton penned a Foreign Policy essay titled “America’s Pacific Century.” In it she emphasized the importance of “opening new markets for American businesses” through using “the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade” by locking “in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.” According to Clinton, this project will entail dispatching:
…our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.
The strategy that Clinton outlined is based on a familiar empire building formula that the US has utilized over the past half century. Multilateral institutions refer to development banks and other organizations that shape and protect inequitable neoliberal economies. Bilateral security alliances (see Afghanistan) means providing direct military support (troops and arms) to allied governments, often times violent dictatorships. Broad-based military presence is about maintaining US military dominance over an entire region by having a continuous and visible display of readily deployable forces and weaponry. Expanding “trade and investment” means ensuring that US based financial investors and corporations dominate markets, resources and economies byway of the aforementioned strategies. This is all part of an Obama administration plan called “pivot to Asia” that was developed in response to China’s growing economic power and influence, which is threatening US military and economic dominance in the region. As retired US Army colonel Ann Wright puts it, “with the Obama administration’s ‘pivot’ of the United States military and economic strategy to Asia and the Pacific, the Chinese have seen military construction in their front yard.” Read more about Clinton and “pivot to Asia” here. When it comes to expanding and protecting US hegemony at any cost, it appears that Hillary Clinton has learned much from her close personal friend Henry Kissinger.
As First Lady, Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As a US Senator, Clinton had a chance to vote on ten free trade deals. She voted yes to six and no to two. She actively supported agreements with Jordan and Peru, but skipped the votes while running for president against Obama. Clinton voted against the Trade Act of 2002, which expanded duty-free exports from Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, because it gave fast-track authority to President Bush. During this time, free trade polled as being largely unpopular with the US electorate, so in anticipation of her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton voted against the 2005 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement. As did the politically ambitious Senator Obama, who up to then was a vocal supporter of free trade, with the caveat that they protect the rights of workers. As soon Obama became president, he forged ahead as an aggressive agent of free trade without concern for workers’ rights. Secretary Clinton’s recently released emails reveal that in 2011 she personally lobbied Senate Democrats to support three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. While running for president in 2007, she claimed that she would oppose all three.
As Secretary of State, Clinton played a leading role in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a widely unpopular free trade pact negotiated between eleven Pacific Rim countries and the US It is designed to maximize profits for global investors, while also advantaging the financial interests that are aligned with the US and its allies over that of China. Ultimately, coupled with “pivot to Asia,” TPP is intended to be a financial weapon that is part of an escalating cold war between the US and China. As with other free trade pacts, Clinton has only backed off of her support for TPP during her latest bid for president. As presidential candidate Obama put it in 2008, Clinton said “great things about NAFTA until she started running for president.”
In 2013 Bloomberg BusinessWeek reflected on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, claiming that “Clinton’s corporate cheerleading has won praise from business groups.” The article went on to chronicle how she prioritized State Department activities to focus on advancing US business interests and conducted herself as if she were a high-ranking business lobbyist, at times taking it upon herself to negotiate lucrative global contracts for US based corporations and military contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed, and General Electric. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “In one directive, called the ‘Ambassador-as-CEO’ memo, she ordered US embassies to make it a priority to help US businesses win contracts. Science officers now extoll American clean-tech companies. Military affairs officers promote US fighter planes.” More audaciously, according to a 2015 International Business Times investigation:
Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation…[and] authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation. American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements.
Clinton’s State Department approved these arms deals even though many of them strengthened the militaries of authoritarian regimes with well-documented records of human rights abuses.
As a US Senator, Clinton voted for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in up to 175,172 civilian deaths (from violence alone) and a total of 242,000 deaths when combatants are included. In 2011, during a roundtable event on investing in Iraq, which included senior executives from thirty US companies, Secretary of State Clinton declared “It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.” Iraq had long been considered a “business opportunity” by many US investment firms, corporations and political leaders. Yet, in her role as Secretary of State, Clinton was not obligated to take the lead in these matters, which are normally the domain of the US Secretary of Commerce. Representatives from JPMorgan, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs were present, all of which (among others) received profitable US government and other contracts resulting from the decimation of Iraq (war profiteering). These four firms and others present during this 2011 roundtable were donors to the Clinton Foundation.
As Secretary of State Clinton was a forceful advocate for escalating US military operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. She also presided over the expansion of drone attacks that have killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians (up to 90% not being the intended targets), while reinforcing US commitments to dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco and elsewhere. In a 2009 interview (two years before the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt) with the Arab television network Al Arabiya, Secretary of State Clinton was asked, “the State Department issued a report about criticizing the human rights record of Egypt. And what kind of — in order for Egypt to enhance its record, what do you recommend or ask Egypt to do?” Clinton replied — in part — with the following:
We issue these reports on every country. We consider Egypt to be a friend and we engage in very forthright conversations with our friends… we look forward to President Mubarak coming [to the US] as soon as his schedule would permit. I had a wonderful time with him this morning. I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.
In 2009 the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed by a military coup not long after he took a leftist turn, allying the nation with the Chávez government in Venezuela, while taking steps to pass comprehensive land reform legislation. Naturally, this course upset the nation’s business elite and international investors. While much of the world expressed outrage over the coup, demanding Zelaya’s return, Secretary Clinton (at the behest of president Obama) continued to fund Honduran security forces and proceeded to enter secret negotiations with the coup leader — Roberto Micheletti — to not return Zelaya to power and instead schedule new elections. The two subsequent “elected” presidents have since reinforced Honduras’ grossly unequal and despotic neoliberal paradise for the business elite, while violently suppressing efforts for social, environmental and economic justice by the most impoverished Hondurans. Clinton and the Obama administration have shown both active and passive support for both post-coup Honduran presidents, primarily through the continuance of military aid.
In terms of Haiti, Hillary Clinton’s record is consistent, “where she blatantly manipulated and threatened Haitian government officials to control electoral outcomes. In that country, too, she and her husband have led the way in promoting a sweatshop-led development model.” Read more here.
Finally, in a June 2016 campaign speech immediately following the mass murder within the LGBTQ club in Orlando Florida, Hillary Clinton emphasized the need for an “intelligence surge.” She went on to explain, “we will work with our” Big Data (technology) companies — as the prevailing domestic surveillance apparatus — to expand their existing practices of “tracking and analyzing social media posts” along with other digital platforms.
In conclusion, yes Donald Trump is a scary and unpredictable bigot who should never hold public office. Yet, Clinton is far from being progressive, let alone liberal, and in fact is an agent of the status quo: a nation of unprecedented social inequity, economic inequality, militarism and structural racism. Additionally, there is no evidence to support claims that Clinton will actively support “reasonable” gun laws, LGBTQ rights and parental leave. There is, however, evidence that she will perpetuate legal and institutionalized racial violence against Black and Brown people through the “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, economic austerity, militarism, immigration policy, the ongoing subjugation of Native people and summary executions by the police. While Clinton may “heed” climate science, her past and present cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry does not bode well for her taking a lead in advancing urgent solutions for climate change. Yes, she will support Obamacare because it is in line with her market-based worldview. Still, let’s stop perpetuating myths about Obamacare. It is a highly inequitable and ineffective system that mandates people to buy increasingly expensive plans that provide extensively inadequate health care coverage from nefarious insurance companies. Under the reign of Obamacare, the less money you have, the shi**ier the health care coverage you get. We must only support candidates that will advance a comprehensive single-payer healthcare system. In terms of fear about Supreme Court nominees and the overturning of decisions like Roe v. Wade — as with the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision — the age-old problem of federal enforcement and states rights have systematically been reversing Roe v. Wade, particularly within the last 5 years. Even if Clinton wanted to take such action (more than likely halfheartedly), she cannot do anything about those structural realities that impede lasting legal solutions that protect civil and human rights.
At the very least, if you choose to support Clinton out of fear of a Trump presidency, then do so without perpetuating the multitude of myths and lies that portray Clinton as a champion of equity and social justice. Her record speaks for itself and it is horrific.
Timothy Scott is a social justice educator, critical theorist and social worker who has been a community and union activist and organizer for nearly 20 years.