The point isn’t that the massive amounts of money corporations have donated to Hillary directly influenced her votes.
You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.
— Hillary Clinton
Out and out bribery — I don’t know how often that happens, and it’s hard to prove since obviously neither party wants it known. But that’s only one form of corruption.
Suppose you’re a legislator considering introducing a bill that you know Wall St. wouldn’t like. You know that if you do, an opponent will be found to run against you and lavished with donations. You may lose your seat. So you don’t introduce the legislation, or you water it down and insert loopholes. There are lots of ways the powerful can get what they want and make your life difficult. And it’s legal.
If the system is corrupt, what does it mean to be well adapted to it? In a corrupt system, what does it mean to say that you are able to “get things done”? I don’t think that Clinton proudly claiming never to have taken a bribe is going to be an adequate defense. Not taking a bribe is a pretty low bar! The more important question involves the manner in which Clinton has adapted and thrived in a context where corruption is endemic. Is “hey, that’s how the system works, everyone is doing it” a valid defense? Not when it’s the system that is being attacked!
The fact that Hillary has been the recipient of such largess from these corporations over which she had the power to enact regulatory legislation indicates that, at the very least, their interests are aligned. Goldman Sachs was not paying her to tell them they were con artists who should be jailed!
In fact, if you currently have political or economic power in virtually any capacity your interests are aligned. It’s what makes you part of the establishment. Conformity to the existing power structure is rewarded and non-conformity is punished.
That means many are complicit — they’ve gone along to get along. That’s not necessarily an immoral choice. Sometimes a system is too pervasive and powerful, and it’s advantageous to adapt to it instead of trying to destroy it to create something better. One can make that argument. However, I think, I hope, that the nation now realizes that the system is the problem, and that the establishment is incapable of making the changes that we desperately need to enact. The people currently in power are not going to change if the change entails them not being in power.
Clinton and Sanders represent this difference vividly. Clinton would not challenge the current distribution of power and wealth. She made that clear in the South Carolina debate. She would reinforce the meagre gains made by President Obama, and attempt some incremental changes that are deemed “realistic” and “achievable” given the current structure of power. Sanders, on the other hand, would take on the system. Not by himself, of course. It simply won’t happen without a whole lot of people getting behind him.
For many people the system is so pervasive it’s invisible. It functionally is their reality. For them, it is inconceivable that we would prosecute and jail Wall St. fraudsters, or institute a tax on speculation. Or jettison the entire health insurance industry in one fell swoop. Or pull the plug on the fossil fuel industry. Those things are impossibly unrealistic in the current plutocracy. But they are possible in a democracy, which is the vision that is resonating with voters in this election.
When Bernie says he’s a democratic socialist some people freak out about the “socialist” part. But maybe the most powerful part of that is actually “democratic.”