The Tragedy of Hillary Clinton (And Her Generation)
By Charles Ferguson / huffingtonpost.com

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, it is now utterly clear that the Clinton team disastrously misjudged the American electorate. This is not an accident. It derives from the Clintons' gradual evolution from idealists to hardened insiders, America's decline into crony capitalism, and the Democratic establishment's betrayal of its base, over the last forty years. In the most recent debate Hillary tried to pivot, and she might just pull it off, in image though not in reality.

Hillary Clinton started her political life as a reformer in an era when one could still be an ethical insider, and when American banking, politics, and academia had not yet been completely deformed by money. Her life since has been a succession of brutally hard lessons, compromises, and eventually betrayals. Some were her own fault, some were her husband's, while others came from the pressures and incentives generated by the growing corruption of America's establishment over the last generation.

Hillary Clinton's first compromise was her choice of husband. Bill Clinton's brilliance, ambition, charm, and dishonesty showed early, and Hillary made many sacrifices for him - moving to Arkansas, becoming the lone female partner of the Rose law firm -- and joining Walmart's board of directors. She supported her family (Bill Clinton's salary as Arkansas governor was under $40,000), tolerated her husband's tasteless infidelities, and helped plan his ascent to the White House.

The White House was brutal to both of them. They had no money. The Secret Service agents charged with protecting their lives had served Republicans for the previous twelve years; some were openly disdainful, even to the media. The Clintons also made avoidable errors, antagonizing the press and Congress unnecessarily. The first term was rough; the second, horrific. A Republican House of Representatives, a disgusting pig of a Special Prosecutor trolling through their private lives, Monica Lewinsky, impeachment, the Asian financial crisis, Bosnia, failed Mideast peace talks. His legal expenses were huge -- lawsuits by Paula Jones, the Special Prosecutor's investigations, impeachment. When the Clintons left the White House, their net worth was something like negative $10 million.

One must feel enormous sympathy for Mrs. Clinton in these circumstances. However, one must also note several extremely disturbing trends dating from the same period -- trends which have intensified since. The Clinton Administration gave Wall Street everything it wanted, even when there were clear signs of danger. It repealed Glass-Steagall, stopped enforcing laws and regulations, pushed developing nations to open their financial markets to Wall Street, and banned the regulation of derivatives. Huge banking mergers went unchallenged, even when their legality was questionable and their economic benefits even more so. Capital gains taxes were sharply reduced.

Aggressive deregulation and lax enforcement continued even as abuses and crises mounted. Wall Street committed rampant fraud in promoting Internet stocks; nothing was done. The collapse of the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund signaled that derivatives did need to be regulated, but Larry Summers and Robert Rubin arrogantly overruled the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Asian financial crisis signaled clearly that finance was running amok; but the Clinton administration resisted reform.

And then there was money. The Clintons left the White House determined never to be at anyone's mercy ever again. When Hillary Clinton ran for Senate in 2000, she made it clear that her husband's unqualified support was required. Aided by the President, Hillary Clinton raised more money than anyone ever had -- so much that Al Gore's Presidential campaign was infuriated by the diversion of resources, which some feel may have cost Gore the Presidency. In January 2001, Bill Clinton pardoned four criminals in a New York Hasidic enclave whose one thousand residents had voted nearly unanimously for Hillary.

After leaving office, Bill Clinton embraced money-making with a vengeance, making speeches to nearly anyone who would pay. After Hillary left the State Department, she did the same thing. Following the 2008 financial crisis, both Clintons remained remarkably silent about Wall Street deregulation, reregulation, and, especially, about the question of criminal prosecution. When pressed on these matters, Bill Clinton was thoroughly dishonest. Several years ago, I conversed with him about the subject. When I asked about his deregulation of derivatives, he lied beautifully, claiming that he was forced into it against his will. Neither Bill nor Hillary ever called for criminal prosecutions or for breaking up the banks.

The Clintons were accepting reality. American business was becoming concentrated and ultra-powerful, and its money was flooding politics and academia. In banking, defense, telecommunications, drugs, energy, industrial food, and airlines, unchallenged mergers led to consolidation and enormous profits - profits only possible through deregulation and, frequently, criminal behavior. The financial crisis of 2008 was the most spectacular result, but there are many others, including the prices that Americans pay for health care, air travel, and even Internet access.

The Clintons are insiders now, their personal wealth of over $50 million derived nearly entirely from the wealthy and powerful. And it shows. Hillary's gradualism in health care carefully protects health-related industries. Her proposals for financial regulation do not include putting executives in jail, or confiscating the wealth they obtained by theft. Ironically, Bernie Sanders apparently feels that he must tread carefully here, because being fully direct about this issue would require criticizing President Obama. So Mrs. Clinton might just get away with pretending to be the reformer she once was.

But which she isn't anymore. She is imprisoned by the money, politics, husband, supporters, foundation, friends, privileges, and opportunities. It is hard to give up being an insider. The parties aren't as good, you don't fly on private jets, you can't meet absolutely anyone you want, and you don't always win. But America might just be entering a new era of real social and economic upheaval, with demands for reform on a scale not seen since the Depression. And despite all her brilliance and experience, Mrs. Clinton is now on the wrong side. Not nearly as far over on the wrong side as Trump, Cruz, and reactionary Republicans, but on the wrong side nonetheless. And this is, in fact, a real tragedy.

Follow Charles Ferguson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FergusonRepPics

4.7 ·
7
What's Next
Trending Today
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 18,206 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
Daniel Quinn · 10,359 views today · PART ONE A fable to start with Once upon a time life evolved on a certain planet, bringing forth many different social organizations—packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 8,583 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
Lawns Are for Suckers. Plant a Garden - for the Climate!
Nathanael Johnson · 4,741 views today · Ripping out your lawn and planting kale and peppers won’t just lead to great stir-fry — a new study finds it could make major contributions to fighting climate change...
You Should Get Naked More Often. It's Good for You.
Joni Sweet · 3,168 views today · When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping...
Solidarity Is About What You Do - Not Who You Are.
R.L. Stephens · 2,294 views today · I am Black. I capitalize Black and leave white lowercased. Sure, it’s the accepted spelling, but really I do it because it feels good. My family lived in Missouri, but my...
How Native Americans Managed "Wild" Land Long Before Settlers
Sami Grover · 2,261 views today · When European settlers first came to North America, they assumed they were looking at "untouched" nature. Sure, there were native peoples, but history tells us they didn't...
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · 1,941 views today · Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational inquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and...
Bioregional Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Place in Which You Live?
Rua Lupa · 1,607 views today · In the vast emptiness of space there are an unimaginable number of galaxies, each galaxy containing billions upon billions of stars. Looking at one galaxy we find an average...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,409 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 1,351 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Kali Holloway · 965 views today · We begin the damaging process of turning boys into men long before boyhood ends.
Why You Should Take Your Kids Out of School
Ben Hewitt · 879 views today · We don't need no education. At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet...
Why People's Opinions of You Aren't Real
4 min · 712 views today · "You are what you love and not what loves you." - From Charlie Kaufman's film "Adaptation"
How Stress Affects Your Brain
4 min · 689 views today · Stress isn’t always a bad thing; it can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you’re playing a competitive sport or have to speak in public. But when it’s...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 651 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are
Mark Wolynn · 646 views today · The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 613 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
What Is Universal Basic Income?
2 min · 568 views today · What is Universal Basic Income? Everyone's talking about a 'citizen's income' or 'basic income', but what on earth is it?! It sounds like a Utopian dream, but support for a...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 524 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Tragedy of Hillary Clinton (And Her Generation)