Late last week, Politico reported that Clinton operatives have initiated efforts to “peel off establishment Republicans who might otherwise grudgingly support Trump,” demonstrating their eagerness to win over big money donors previously wedded to the conservative establishment.
Specifically, Clinton supporters have been targeting the donor base of Jeb Bush, whose main super PAC raised a striking $121 million, much of it before the race for the Republican nomination began to heat up. We know how that ended.
But the Clinton camp sees opportunity lying in the rubble of the former Florida governor’s failed campaign.
Indeed, Jeb Bush, along his father and brother, have vowed not to back the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Assuming no third party candidate emerges to soak up the fundraising dollars of former Bush backers, Clinton is positioning herself as the deserving recipient.
In doing so, her campaign is signaling to Republican donors that, as Ben White puts it, Hillary “represents your values better than Trump.”
This is a striking admission — one that comes in the midst of an ongoing contest with an opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has questioned Clinton’s commitment to progressive causes and has criticized her for caving under the temptations of corporate cash.
Rhetorically, Clinton has agreed with the notion that money is corrupting. So much so, in fact, that in 2008 she attacked then-Senator Obama for his reliance on money from employees of oil companies. But she has also argued, sometimes in the same breath, that she is above the laws of political gravity.
Characterizing critiques of her affluent sources of campaign funds as attacks on her integrity, Clinton has managed to have it both ways: She says she supports campaign finance reform, but while the rules remain lax, she remains eager to take advantage of them.
But she is not content to rely on her own corporate backers; she wants supporters of so-called “moderate” Republicans, as well.
So, after a campaign season in which she shifted leftward on several issues to counter the message of her more progressive opponent, Clinton is pivoting back to the center — and perhaps further rightward.
The instructive point here, though, is not that Clinton would profess to share the values of Republican donors in order to garner their support. Rather, it is that she really does share their values.
In other words, it was Clinton’s attempt to attract the support of the younger, more progressive wing of the Democratic base that represented a diversion from her natural position on the political spectrum. Now that she has a substantial lead over her opponent, she is returning home, politically speaking, and attempting to reap the rewards.
On various issues, as many commentators have observed, Clinton is well to the right of much of the mainstream Democratic Party — which is, itself, far to the right of the Democratic tradition represented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Over the years has lobbied for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, helped sell fracking to the world, advocated welfare reform, spoken out in favor of her husband’s crime bill, and raised funds from the same sources tapped by conservative Republicans.
Clinton is also a veritable hawk who seems, as Kevin Drum has observed, to not have learned anything from America’s most recent interventions in the Middle East, from Iraq to Libya. It comes as no surprise, then, that she shamelessly touts the support of Henry Kissinger, Jack Keane, and other figures in America’s interventionist foreign policy establishment.
She embodies what scholars like Thomas Ferguson and public figures like Ralph Nader have warned of for years: The right turn of the Democratic Party.
Nader once remarked that the “only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock.” And this was long before the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which completed the corporate takeover of both political parties.
Now, while political divisions appear, on the surface, to be peaking, both parties are remarkably similar on the most consequential issues, from aggression in the realm of foreign policy to neoliberalism in the realm of economics.
The so-called New Democrats, who rose to prominence during the presidency of Bill Clinton, are no longer new. They are the
standard-bearers of a party that has capitulated to the Republican agenda on welfare, taxes, trade, and Wall Street deregulation.
In reaching out to Republican donors and appealing to their common ideological core, the campaign of Hillary Clinton is doing out in the open what Democrats have been doing behind closed doors for years.
“Democrats,” argues T.A. Frank in Vanity Fair, “are becoming the party of the 1 percent.”
With the rise of Hillary Clinton, “are becoming” will soon make the transition to “have become.” Clinton’s flippant dismissal of those who question her commitment to the causes championed by Bernie Sanders — specifically, substantial reform of both Wall Street and the campaign finance system — is compelling evidence for this conclusion. But more telling is the fact that the Democratic Party has fallen in line, deploying the feeble justification that Clinton, despite her startling flaws, will “get things done.”
But as we have seen, “getting things done” more often than not means favoring an agenda that places the interests of major corporations above those of working people, war over peace, and environmental destruction over environmental justice.
“The problem with Hillary Clinton,” observes Naomi Klein, “isn’t just her corporate cash. It’s her corporate worldview.”
The same can be said of her allies in the Democratic Party, who long ago abandoned any pretense of representing working Americans.
Why else would the patrons of ultra-conservatism, when faced with the prospect of a disruptive Trump presidency, find it so easy to shift their allegiances to the party next door?