The gloves were off during last night’s Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clashed heatedly in the first half of the debate, primarily as they argued about campaign finance, corporate interests, and who was the true progressive.
Clinton offered her definition within the first few minutes: “A progressive is someone who makes progress,” she declared, as she rattled off a list of ideals she hopes to accomplish during her presidency.
She later elucidated that, “I am a progressive who gets things done. And the root of that word, progressive, is progress.”
Clinton claimed that according to Sanders’s definition of progressive, hardly any current Democrats would fit the bill, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and many liberal Senators in Congress. She boxed Sanders into a corner when she pointedly asked him whether he believed Obama was a progressive.
However, Clinton’s point may not have landed the way she wanted it to, because she’s right: current Democrats are not true progressives. They are moderates who compromise repeatedly, unable to pass any radical legislation (as we’ve witnessed for the past eight years).
Obama, despite his efforts with the Affordable Care Act, is not really progressive; he, like Clinton, is quite moderate. Yet Sanders could not answer this without harming his own chances at election, so he diplomatically agreed that, yes, Obama is a progressive.
But Sanders later made a very cogent, clear point that resonated. “[Clinton] was in Ohio…and she got up and said…’I have been criticized because people think I'm a moderate. Well, I am a moderate.’ There's nothing wrong with being a moderate. But, you can't be a moderate [and] a progressive.”
This was the theme that carried through the night. Clinton, no matter how much she argues otherwise, is a centrist. She may objectively see issues with the current campaign finance system, but she benefits hugely from it, so she has no real desire to shatter the status quo and restructure the system.
She is inextricably intertwined with corporate and special interests—her top 10 donors total over $2.9 million from Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup Inc. These are the same corporations she claims she will try to dismantle? There is no chance; they have invested millions in her as a politician so she will cater to their interests.
This was exceedingly evident when Clinton had the audacity to claim her votes have been pure and untainted from the influence of donations: “You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.”
This is one of the biggest lies she has ever peddled. There are numerous examples, but this story from Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2004 exemplifies the way special interests influence Clinton:
As a First Lady, she urged President Bill Clinton to veto a bankruptcy bill pushed by credit card companies attempting to tighten bankruptcy law—legislation that would have hurt many individuals. A few years later as a Senator, she received donations from the consumer credit products industry and when voting on essentially the same bankruptcy bill, she voted in favor. As Warren put it, “she has taken money from the groups, and she worries about them like a constituent.”
As much as Clinton may want to make it seem that corporate interest have influenced her votes, they unequivocally have, and most likely will continue to do so.
Clinton faced a question during Wednesday’s Town Hall concerning these groups in which she became completely flustered. When asked why she accepted $675,000 to speak at Goldman Sachs, she could only say, “Well, that’s what they offered.”
Moderator Chuck Todd brought up the issue again during the debate, asking specifically, “Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches. In full disclosure, would you release all of them?”
Clinton’s evasive, noncommittal response? “I will look into it.”
This, more than anything, proves she does not care that she receives millions from Wall Street. She does not desire transparency because she does not want to lose her donors. As one Twitter user pointed out, “Goldman Sachs lobbyist was sitting with the [Hillary Clinton] camp at the #DemDebate, no wonder she was so awkwarddddd [sic].”
Subtle comments Clinton made, such as “I think it's a broader target list than just Wall Street,” demonstrate that she is not a progressive invested in breaking up the banks or policing Wall Street because they have already spent years investing in her as a politician.
If she becomes President, they will finally be able to reap the rewards.
Banner Image Credit: Reuters