I deeply admire and respect Hillary Clinton. I think she is a great intellect with great fortitude. I think she was a strong secretary of state and a hardworking and effective senator. But I have come to a difficult realization: I don’t want Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. I hope she does not run, she is not the right person for this moment.
Back in 2008, when all my peers were jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon, I backed Clinton. The country was reeling from a disastrous eight years under President George W. Bush. We were desperate for competence after his incompetence; for respect for government after his disdain. We needed, in my view, a capable hand. She was well positioned to manage the end of two wars and to regain the international respect that had been lost during the Bush presidency. Clinton was a fantastic fit for that moment but that moment has passed.
Now, we are in a moment of existential crisis as a country. As we recover slowly from the Great Recession, we’ve discovered that we don’t much like what we see. Only 28% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction. Some 67% are dissatisfied with the wealth distribution in this country. And as corporate profits soar to new heights, working folks get the shaft sharing in virtually none of the gains of the recovery. In fact, 95% of the income gains over the recovery years have gone to the top 1% of income earners.
It is clear now that we have two economies: one for a thin slice of educated elite and one for everyone else. That is the moment we are in now. So I ask you, does Hillary Clinton sound to you like the right person for this moment?
In a time when corporations have hijacked our politics enabling them to reap all the profit without feeling any compunction to do right by their workers, is someone who sat on the rabidly anti-union board of Walmart for six years the right person to restore worker’s rights?
In a time when we are still reeling from a global financial disaster brought on by foolhardy bank deregulation, is someone who recently took $400,000 to give two speeches at Goldman Sachs the person we need to wrest control of the asylum back from the banking inmates?
Keep in mind that at those paid speeches, Clinton wasn’t giving tough love to these masters of the universe. On the contrary, she said that “the banker-bashing…was unproductive and indeed foolish.” Of course, it was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who did much of the deregulating that got us into trouble including ending the Glass-Steagall prohibitions on mixing traditional banking with speculative investment banking.
More to the point though, in a time when we badly need to be inspired, rallied, and made to believe that America can once again be true to the American dream, we desperately need someone who is mission driven. We need someone who is clearly passionate, who is living and breathing and feeling in their bones the plight of the worker and the middle class, and who is unafraid to stand up to the Wall Street titans. That person is not Hillary Clinton. It is Elizabeth Warren.
Warren is, for good reason, the public official most feared by Wall Street. Since coming to the Senate, she has aggressively questioned banking regulators on why Wall Street banks were not being vigorously prosecuted. She’s argued for expanding Social Security, for increasing the minimum wage, for using the infrastructure of the post office to provide basic banking services to the poor. Most recently, she pressed the Obama administration to nominate more judges who come from a background in public interest work rather than from big corporations. She’s been fearless, determined, and relentlessly true to her roots as an advocate for the middle and working classes.
Some argue that Warren is too liberal to get elected. To me, this analysis is both shallow and cowardly. The causes that Warren champions from consumer protections to expanding Social Security to increasing the minimum wage are quite popular. I would be proud to back Warren in a battle over the real future of the middle class, the working class, and the American Dream. I would be delighted to have that argument any day. And if I believed that Clinton was ready for that fight, I’d be all in.
I just don’t think that’s where Clinton’s heart is though. I think she is safe, careful, constantly evaluating her positions, drawn to the center, wherever that happens to be at the time. To be clear, I would back Clinton with all my heart against any Republican, and I would even support her over most Democrats. But she is much less than ideal.
Despite all her talents, Clinton is not the woman to address the deep inequality, corporate political capture, and middle class rot afflicting our country. So although I deeply admire and respect Secretary Clinton, I must say: Don’t run Hillary. Don’t run.