One of the frustrations of being a ‘rational’ progressive is watching people you largely agree with be completely wrongheaded in the way they pursue progressive goals.
I am a bang for the buck kind of guy. Human capital is limited, so I like to see progressives devote energy and resources where they can do the most good instead of getting distracted by trivialities, passing concerns, and the emotional issue of the day.
Why spend all of our outrage on a pipeline project (Keystone) that is already 75% complete, and will arguably provide safer and cleaner transport of oil than rail cars ever will? That is not advocacy for Keystone XL, instead it is a desire to see progressives not allow themselves to be distracted by trivialities. Far more important than the construction of one pipeline are appertaining issues like federal and state use of eminent domain and indigenous rights. The average lifespan of an oil pipeline is 33 years. Today we are still abusing indigenous peoples and their lands, and eminent domain is a concept that is woven into our founding documents.
We should be concerned about water pipe in Flint, Detroit, New York, and Boston before we get up in arms about oil pipe in Nebraska.
Along these lines, there is one criticism of Secretary Clinton that I see with regularity and find particularly troubling – Clinton’s ‘corporate ties’ mean she is bought and paid for, and that she will certainly sell out the progressive agenda the second she is elected. Some have made similar accusations and charges against President Obama.
Before getting to the flawed premise of this charge, I just want to point out the absurdity of accusing someone with decades of advocacy on record of not being true to the cause. I also want to point out how similarly absurd attacks against Al Gore (decades of environmental advocacy, accused of pretending to get elected) led directly to George W. Bush.
But to the point: one of Clinton’s greatest assets, and probably the greatest reason I will be voting for her, is because of her corporate connections.
As a former first lady, a Senator from New York, the Secretary of State, and a member of the founding family of the Clinton Foundation, which led to the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and the Clinton Climate Initiative among others, Hillary Clinton has brought together Corporations and governments around the world to contribute money and other resources, making direct and significant impacts in people’s lives.
Lost in a sea of rhetoric, it is easy for most of us to forget or never see the depth and breadth of the efforts of some of the most significant figures in our society. Michael Jordan and Pete Rose are just as likely to be thought of in combination with shoes and gambling as they are for the contributions to their sports. John F. Kennedy is more likely to be remembered in relation to Marilyn Monroe than he is for the creation of the Peace Corps (created by executive order, by the way).
Similarly, the same can be said for President Obama and his ‘corporate ties’. President Obama could not get most of his agenda through Congress. He had to turn to corporations to get assistance making progress on health care, education, and green energy. Trillions of dollars. Without ‘corporations’, progressive issues would have gone next to nowhere the last eight years.
One of the first steps to getting any sort of health care reform passed was cooperation from the industry. The first few months in office, Obama got health industry groups to agree to cut costs. Bernie wants to take private corporations out of health care and has proposed a 1.8 trillion dollar plan that will likely produce savings for the American public. President Obama worked with corporations and got them to pledge 2 trillion in savings through cooperation, not confrontation.
Bernie, among others, has been critical of the Paris Agreement on climate change, saying it doesn’t go far enough. This criticism can generously be called a joke. Getting 188 countries to agree on anything is a significant achievement. No agreement will go far enough until we live in sustainable societies on a healthy planet. But what should be recognized is that the first step to getting any agreement at all was the cooperation of over 80 major corporations. While the Republican Congress not only refused to act on the climate and actually tried to sabotage any international efforts made by the President, the President got over 160 billion dollars in commitments from private corporations to help in the fight against climate change.
While a Republican Congress denied every effort of the President to make important domestic policy investments, even shutting down the government to prevent any spending at all, the President turned to private corporations to do everything possible for the nation’s students. In 2011 he obtained 100 million to reduce drop-out rates and close the achievement gap between ethnic groups. In 2014 he obtained 2.75 billion to improve technology and provide goods and services to the nation’s schools. In 2015 he obtained 240 million for his “Educate to Innovate” campaign to help students in STEM programs.
All this from evil corporations. And this is only a partial list. Many efforts likely never even made it to the news editor’s office, let alone trash can.
Here’s the thing: Clinton is even better connected than Obama.
We are not going to overwhelm the Republicans anytime soon. Even with majorities in Congress, we saw during the fight for the ACA how difficult it is to make anything happen. Progressives desperately need those corporate ties to continue moving our agenda forward with or without the cooperation of wingnut ideologues.
And it’s not just Republicans that are an obstacle. Often it is government itself. Corporations own their money. They can do what they want with it. The same can not be said for governments. A law has to be written for a government to spend money. A law has to be written for a government to borrow money. Because it is our money, not the government’s. That is why you so often hear of federal and state governments declaring national disasters and states of emergency. Because without those, in the event of a crisis if the money is not already allocated, you must write and pass legislation before you can do a single thing to help a single person.
Look at Flint. If you read the governor’s emails it is clear that helping people in places like Flint and Detroit quickly becomes a discussion about the flow of money. Private corporations are much more equipped to make moves and create vehicles to move money quickly and efficiently.
Yes there needs to be changes to corporate law, but global corporate connections are a progressive’s best chance at making a significant and immediate impact in people’s lives in the current political climate. Clinton has those connections, and that is why she is in the best position of anyone I have ever seen to make progress on a progressive agenda.