Saturday, May 14, 2016

Contemporary politics notHistory

Something I've been seeing a lot in discussions about the current election is one form or anther of the statement that Hillary Clinton is a corporate-backed warmonger who would be dangerous for America, both in terms of her economic agenda and as military hawk who would drag the US into unnecessary foreign wars.

I'll start with the "corporate backed." There are two bases given for this claim. The first is that, having accepted money from Goldman Sachs to give speeches, she has been bought and paid for by that corporation. Here is the complete list of paid speeches she gave from 2013 to 2015. There are a lot of them and she made a lot of money. It's a pretty common career move for retired politicians, and yet, somehow, when those ex-politicians are male, they are never called on it. The organizations she gave speeches to included, among others, the American Camping Association, the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, the Commercial Women Real Estate Network, the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, several entertainment companies, the World Affairs Council of Oregon, some health care firms, several Jewish organizations, and only one speech each to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The one that sticks out for me, though, is Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd, LLP, a law firm that specializes in class action lawsuits, including lawsuits against Wall Street firms. Is she in their pocket as well as Wall Street's? Because that would be quite the trick. She made speeches to make money, and it is well documented that a lot of those speaker's fees went right into charitable foundations. That's working to make a difference in the world, not selling your soul

The second basis for the claim that she is "corporate backed" is the amount of money contributed to her campaign by "Wall Street." The origin of most versions of this claim is a compilation by Open Secrets of all of her campaign donations over her entire career. This data has been used to create memes like this one:

There are several significant problems with this data. The first is that it is incomplete. It is supposed to include the organizations with the largest total contributions to all of her campaigns over her entire career, but it's missing some key players. Looking at the FEC filings from her last run for president, in 2008, it turns out that there are a number of union contributions that are significantly larger than anything on this list. For example, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $2.3 million and the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education gave $1.7 million. Others who would bump the Wall Street corporations off that list include, which gave $1.1 million and Planned Parenthood, which gave $1.8 million. So the list is not, in fact, the largest cumulative donors, but a cherry-picked sample that served the purposes of Open Secret. The second problem is that none of these donations came from the actual corporations listed, rather the money came from individuals associated with those corporations. This includes shareholders, employees, and family members of employees. The kid who works in the mailroom's mom counts. So does everyone who happens to have a connection to that sector who benefitted from her work when she was the junior senator from New York, which includes everyone in New York city or state who was affected by 9/11. So do all of the mid-level employees who don't get bonuses, but have high enough salaries that they have investment portfolios and are also well-enough informed to know that the stock market does better under Democratic presidents than it does under Republican ones. The assumption that individuals with ties to corporation will all, in lockstep, support candidates that serve the corporation with no other concerns is a dehumanizing stereotype that has no bearing on the reality of American politics.

As for warmonger, she voted for pretty much the same military actions that her opponent, Bernie Sanders, did with only one exception. That exception? John Kerry and John Edwards both voted the same way on the initial Iraq War resolution. Did anyone call them out as warmongers when they ran for office? It certainly wasn't part of the national discussion; it seems that is it only women who are held to that standard. On the other hand, she also has a strong record of peace-mongering. She brokered the cease-fire between Israel and Gaza, helped negotiate the elimination of chemical weapons from the Syrian conflict, and did most of the work on the Iran agreement (Kerry sealed the deal and is getting all the credit, but he and others involved are on the record that she got it started, got the parties to the table, and got the outlines of the deal set before he took over). While she has supported military action, she has always advocated for making all efforts at diplomacy first and has quite a few runs on the board making the world safer through negotiation.

There are plenty of valid reasons to either support or oppose Hillary Clinton's campaign for president. There are far too many invalid, notHistory ones out there. They need to be stopped.