An Open Letter To Hillary Clinton
First of all, there is much to admire about you. You have always done superlatively in studies and in politics, even at an early age. Although your marrage to Bill Clinton has been a tremendous boost to your future, you certainly earned accolades on your own and added to his. And you continue to do so. You were a good Senator and (despite all the criticism leveled at you) a good Secretary of State.
So now you are running for President, as you have since 2008. And, right now, your main opposition (other than the mishmash of Republicans) is Senator Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders is quite different from you. His career has been principally local in Vermont, a small rural state. His chief resource is that he keeps fighting and doesn't seem to know how to quit. But he has turned an independent way of seeking office into four terms as Burlington's mayor, 16 years in the House of Representatives, and now nearly 10 years in the Senate. And he calls himself a social democrat, which is highly unusual in our conservative country.
My thinking about you, your history and your ideals, while very positive prior to a few years ago, has turned more and more negative. I don't think I'm alone in that.
Now, I'll make no bones about it. I am very much in favor of Bernie Sanders, because of my own family's political history and my own way of thinking about our country. Yet my thinking about you, your history and your ideals, while very positive prior to a few years ago, has turned more and more negative. I don't think I'm alone in that.
Why was I positive? Despite your early history as a Republican, during the years in which Bill was President you worked strongly for causes that I admired. In particular, you strove to have a single-payer health system and worked hard to make it a reality. To me, that was a really big indicator of your way of thinking at the time, and my memory of that made me positive about you for many years.
I was also very strong for you in the past because you are a woman, and you would be our first woman president. I have always seen that as a major step forward for our country, and I was confident that you would do a good job and would get things done.
But in 2008, when faced with having to choose between you and Barack Obama, I chose him. After years of George W. Bush, I felt that we needed a big change of direction (unfortunately, I still feel that, because Barack did not achieve the change he promised and–with the TPP and other measures–appears to have become a corporatist and very centerist in his politics).
If Elizabeth Warren were in the race, I am sure that I would go for her, because she is very smart, knows economics, and could achieve changes to our internal policies. She showed that when she got the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established. And she would be the first woman President and would advance the sort of program that Bernie Sanders is proposing. But she has decided not to run.
You, on the other hand, have changed significantly since the days that you tried to get single payer healthcare for us. Most importantly to my way of thinking is the importance that money has been in your life. You said that you and Bill left the White House “dead broke”—a comment that you now regret. And for good reason, because it shows your thinking. You and he really weren't dead broke, and you clearly were far from that when you made the comment. But most clearly it shows your orientation towards money and the power that it can achieve. In the fifteen months ending in March 2015, you earned $11 million just from giving speeches, and Bill earned $14 million from speeches during the same period. Since the sources of all that money were powerful corporations, one can safely say that you are in the pocket of the corporations. (Bernie Sanders' top dollar speech recently was $850 for talking on the Bill Maher program.) Bernie tends to donate his speech money to charity.
No one really knows what money you have, been but reportedly it is $21.5 million, and that's not counting what Bill has. Bernie Sanders, who has been in Congress since 1990, has a net worth of less than $500,000. He hasn't exactly been on the take.
The fact that one candidate is wealthy and the other not should not be decisive, but in this case it is. If you really were “dead broke” when you and Bill left the White House in 1991, and yet you personally have $21.5 million, that's an after-tax earning of well over $1 million a year, assuming some personal expenses and a lot of saving. Earning that sort of money makes you beholden to someone, and your personal desire to maintain your money position and power means that you are going to be heavily influenced in your decision-making. Bernie Sanders, however, has apparently never gotten much personal money from his political decisions, and at age 73 the pattern is not likely to change.
So far as policies and politics are concerned, if the money issue were there, I might agree that you were similar. But once you put the money factor in, I have a hard time trusting you. And trust is a major part of deciding who you want for President. A lot of us trusted Barack Obama and thought that he really was going to institute change. For awhile, in the early days of his presidency, it seemed that this might happen. But slowly we have realized the reality: he is just another one like you. He has, in many ways, sold out to the monied interests. He will have a cushy life, admiration, and kudos. But the change that he promised will not have happened, and in the end we are really no better off by much. Yes, we have Obamacare, but that was not a single-payer system, and it has its own corporatist flaws.
Will Bernie Sanders sell us down the river? I doubt it. He has a long history, and nothing in it anywhere shows an orientation towards personal gain. At this point in our own country's history, that counts for a lot. So I'm for Bernie.
Michael T. Hertz