Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president revolves around two fundamental messages—she is a tireless “fighter for the middle class” and has the experience necessary to lead the country in a dangerous world. Clinton does indeed have a long record in government, and it is one of unrelenting hostility to workers and the poor.
The Clinton machine was born in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978 and Hillary Clinton became the state’s first lady. She took an active role in politics, and served as the head of the state’s education taskforce that in 1983 pushed one of the first pro-corporate “reform” agendas that has developed into a full-fledged privatization drive today. The Hillary-led commission’s work led to the implementation of standardized testing and anti-union teacher evaluations.
In addition to first lady of Arkansas, among Clinton’s first high-profile positions was a spot on Wal-Mart’s board of directors from 1986 to 1992. The company, one of the largest in the world, is notorious for its low wages, discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, and fanatical opposition to union organizing.
While she pushed the company to hire women as top-level executives, a hollow approach to equality that leaves behind the overwhelming majority of poor and working women, she never spoke out on workers’ rights. John E. Tate, Clinton’s colleague on the Wal-Mart board for four years, has gone on record recalling that “She was not an outspoken person on labor…”
The Clintons were the leaders of the ascendant right wing of the Democratic Party, who sought to distance themselves from the party’s New Deal/Great Society past and embraced the neo-liberal consensus that was being adopted by the ruling class on a global level. When they reached the White House, their attacks on the working class only intensified.
During his 1992 presidential run, Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it.” As he proceeded to do just that once in office, Hillary Clinton was a vocal supporter, campaigning to build public support for the “reform” with hateful and divisive rhetoric.
Her statements seethed with contempt for the poor. “I’ve advocated tying the welfare payment to certain behavior about being a good parent,” Clinton said in 1997, “You couldn’t get your welfare check if your child wasn’t immunized. You couldn’t get your welfare check if you didn’t participate in a parenting program. You couldn’t get your check if you didn’t show up for student-teacher conferences.”
She stuck by her anti-poor caricatures as a Senator, remarking in 2002 that those kicked off welfare when it was gutted by the Clinton administration were now, “no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive.”
These attacks on social services led to deep suffering on the part of the most oppressed sectors of the working class. Working class women, especially mothers, were most severely affected as programs virtually disappeared and funding was slashed.
Facing a surging opponent to her left in Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rhetoric has shifted vastly over the last several months. Still, she cannot bring herself to even give lip service to one of the most important demands being raised by working people across the country: a $15 an hour minimum wage.
While she has supported $15 in some local circumstances, Clinton’s official position remains to ask workers to settle for less—$12 an hour. Far from a progressive champion, she lags behind the people’s movements and urges them to moderate their demands.
More and more people are seeing through Clinton’s false narrative every day, and looking to a whole new system—socialism. Through the growing movement against poverty and inequality, poor and working people can not only win back their lost rights, but seize power from the billionaire class.