Hillary Clinton is California bound.
The former Secretary of state and presidential aspirant will, according to CNN, be swinging through San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego to raise her profile in the Golden State. California is a crucial reservoir of resources for Democratic politicians contesting the presidency. Its ardent progressives provide the grassroots muscle for campaigns. And, more importantly in the post-Citizens United (“corporations are people and money is free speech”) days, it serves as a major funder for candidates.
President Obama has frustrated Californians by using the state as his political ATM, spending little to no time with those not prepared to open their wallets to attend fundraising dinners.
Clinton’s visit is a demonstration that she will, if anything, be worse. According to CNN, “the trip, which has Clinton appearing in front of an array of business and corporate groups, will likely happen behind closed doors, however, as all three appearances are closed to the press”.
Clinton’s behavior on her California visit is insulting in two ways. In the first it demonstrates her disrespect for California’s citizenry. Her decision to bypass them and speak only to the state’s corporate powerbrokers demonstrates where her priorities are. And keeping the press out of her events ensures that the public she spurns will not be aware of what she is saying to special interests behind closed doors. The secrecy that characterizes Clinton’s campaign is an affront to our already-beleaguered democracy.
Fortunately, we have some sense of what Clinton might be saying behind closed doors thanks to leaks from an earlier meeting with Goldman Sachs. In one of these $200,000-per-speech events, Clinton dismissed the concerns about inequality held by Occupy Wall Street groups as “foolish”, and reassured the assembled representatives of the plutocratic class that she had their backs.
CNN noted that “Clinton’s last sustained swing through California came in November, when the former secretary of state made a two-day trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco for a mix of corporate speaking engagements and award ceremonies”.
The fact that Clinton can get away with offering such contempt to the people who should be her focus as she plans her presidential bid indicates just how warped our politics have become by the corrosive influence of money.
Fortunately, there are other people out there who would have the capacity to make more principled, honest, and progressive bids for the presidency. Senator Elizabeth Warren is foremost amongst these. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who spent her Senate years keeping her head down, sponsoring anodyne legislation, and cultivating colleagues, Warren has been a blur ofactivity in her short time in the Senate. The progressive legislation Warren is pushing builds on her record of activism on behalf of the working and middle class prior to her arrival in the Senate: activism which has generated results.
Warren was also in California late last year. But instead of addressing potential donors in private she addressed organized labour in public, explaining why the health of the labour movement in the United States is a good indicator of the prosperity of working people, and identifying the difficult struggle faced by the vast majority of our country’s citizens as they struggle to make the case for their relevance in an economy dominated by the super-wealthy.
Many progressives are reflexively closing ranks about Clinton, embracing her as one of their own in spite of her neoconservative and neoliberal records. But we actually have a choice. There are candidates like Clinton, who think that talk of inequality is “foolish”—an attitude reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s remarks that we can only talk about inequality “in quiet rooms”. And there are progressives like Elizabeth Warren, who crusades against the inequality which is tearing our country to pieces. To me, the choice seems easy.