Hillary After Jefferson Jackson

Hard ChoicesBeginning with the first debate on Oct. 13, it has been a fast and wild ride for Democrats.

Hillary Clinton held her lead in the polls, and Bernie Sanders appears to have reached a ceiling of support. Vice president Joe Biden won’t enter the race for president. Webb and Chafee bowed out. The Benghazi hearing turned to Clinton’s advantage due mostly to the Republican bubble combined with the fact that most viewers understand the political nature of the investigation. As I write, 6,000 ticket holders are ready to grace the HyVee Hall in Des Moines on Saturday to hear speeches and have some fun before the real work of organizing the caucuses begins with the end of year holidays.

What about Hillary Clinton?

I re-read my reasons for supporting Hillary, and find no need to switch. At the same time, some intertwined questions give progressives pause. Is she too close to Wall Street? How will she handle international trade and its relationship with the environment, labor and working Americans?

As the Democratic choice is reduced to one between Clinton and Sanders, the contrasts between them are what matters most.

Bernie Sanders has called for breaking up the big banks like he is beating a drum. In May he introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate “to break up the nation’s biggest banks in order to safeguard the economy and prevent another costly taxpayer bailout,” according to his campaign web site.

“No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world economy into crisis,” Sanders said. “If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”

Clinton doesn’t go that far. Instead she supports reforms that would close loopholes in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill and strengthen enforcement against financial wrongdoing. Read the details of the plan here.

The difference is this. In order for Sanders to break up the big banks, he needs the cooperation of the Congress. For that to happen, the “political revolution” mentioned in his every speech must happen first, along with correction of Republican gerrymandering after the 2010 census. That’s a tall order for the Sanders agenda and if he has truly hit the ceiling of support, less likely to happen.

When we consider Clinton’s plan for reform, it has its challenges as well. Both President Obama and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon lobbied the Congress to reinstate banned federal subsidies for derivatives trading in Dodd-Frank. The plan Clinton announced would repeal these perquisites, returning to the original intent of Dodd-Frank. She too will need the support of the Congress to make that happen.

Skeptics point to Clinton’s treasure trove of campaign donations from Wall Street and question whether she will actually execute the reforms she proposed. Clinton pointed out that as a U.S. Senator she represented Wall Street in the Congress, literally, so the point is well taken. This question is less about her relationship with Wall Street and more about whether or not the electorate will engage in the general election and bring needed change to our government regarding Wall Street and across the board.

Both Sanders and Clinton oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership, based on what is known about the recent agreement (which has not been finalized). Progressives fear TPP will be another step toward globalization with consequences for the environment, labor and the way of life for many Americans.

The impact of globalization has been devastating in the U.S. as large businesses got larger and manufacturing moved to countries with lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulation. Because of wage stagnation, middle class people have been compelled to purchase low cost goods produced in other countries, thus encouraging a cycle that isn’t in our best interests. Patterns set during the post-World War Two era were broken up with harsh consequences for workers and their families.

Bernie Sanders has voted against trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA and the TPP. He has also voted yes on withdrawing from the World Trade Organization. Hillary Clinton shares her husband’s legacy which includes NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. These entities epitomize the hopes for increased trade with globalization. They also brought along environmental degradation and substantial changes in the U.S. workforce experience.

Between Sanders and Clinton, who has the better policy?

The answer seems less than clear. There is little agreement and less understanding among members of the electorate about the relationship between trade, globalization, environmental degradation and labor. There are no simple answers when people want simplicity in a complex world.

What we know is the interests of Wall Street align, for the most part, with interests in globalization. We are back to the basic difference between Sanders and Clinton in implementing change during a potential administration. Sanders calls for a revolution, and Clinton does not. Sanders assumes down ticket wins to support his positions will happen as a corollary to his “revolution.” Clinton takes the world as it is and intends to improve it.

Given Hillary Clinton’s long involvement in globalization as a path to economic prosperity, one asks whether her views have changed since her husband’s administration and how. She repeatedly said she is not planning for Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s third term, but rather her own first term.

Answers have not been forthcoming. Globalization has been indirectly referred to in this campaign. There is no trade section on Clinton’s campaign website and the issue is much deeper than her skepticism about the TPP.

These issues matter, and remain at the core of the differences between Sanders and Clinton. Globalization is also at the core of concern about jobs, the environment, and a U.S. middle class lifestyle that has been under assault beginning with the Reagan administration.

Going into the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner, Clinton looks to be the nominee more than she did when she entered the race. It is up to progressives to look past the horse race and press her on these issues.

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