The trail of money around Hillary and Bill Clinton and their foundation continues to attract lots of comment and not a few efforts to prove that money changed hands in return for specific acts by Hilary as Secretary of State. Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (NY: Harper 2015) is just one example of a tsunami of comment, pro and con, of course.1
To be sure American politics present and past is filled with examples of politicians filling their pockets with cash in return for “favors” – I live in a state, New York, whose legislature appears to be a prime and unending example of this phenomenon. Certainly where we can prevent this kind of corruption we should. Just as we should end the revolving door between the Congress and Senate in Washington and the K Street lobbying industry. This has become so egregious that winning an election to the House or Senate is actually just a prelude to the big payoff on K Street on retirement.
What distresses me about the current ruckus about Hillary is that in the search for the smoking gun of corruption, the hand in the cookie jar, we are missing a far more serious systemic corruption. The fact of the matter is that all of our national candidates live in an environment that shuts them off from all but the wealthiest 1% of Americans. To be a player at the national level requires that a candidate spend most of their time seeking the support of the rich. They fly around in the private jets of the rich. They attend cocktail and dinner parties with the rich. They play golf with the rich, go to the beach, skiing, concerts, really all of their social lives are taken up with the rich. Our money centered political system forces this behavior on them. This means that in order to even get into the game candidates must suck up to the rich, must not say things that might upset the rich, they must listen to the rich and all of the hangers on of the rich.
Inevitably this leads to a political discourse that starts with the world view of the rich and varies very little from the narrative the rich want to hear. Lawrence Lessig provides a wonderful description of the impact of all this money in his 2013 TED Talk about Lesterland. In brief we will not have a democracy that reflects the needs and aspirations of citizens as long as entry to politics is controlled by the Lesters and even the terms and scope of discussion is controlled by them.
- read a review in the New York Review of Books by Michael Tomasky http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jun/25/hillary-our-future/ [↩]