The Populist Hillary Clinton Meets the Elitist Hillary Clinton: Guess Who Wins?

Hillary at Chipotle: See? She's just like us!

Hillary at Chipotle: See? She’s just like us!

Andy Kroll

(Editor’s Note: Andy wrote this as an introduction to Nomi Prins’ article at TomDispatch.com on Hillary’s banking and Wall Street connections.  Used with the kind permission of TomDispatch.com.)

She eats at Chipotle. (Order: chicken burrito bowl.) She travels by van. (Model: A Chevy Express Explorer Limited SE nicknamed the “Scooby” van.) She barely figures in her own presidential campaign announcement video. (Entrance timing: A minute and a half into the two-minute clip.) Her campaign staff is so cheap they don’t have business cards, they commute by Bolt Bus, and they aren’t even equipped with real phones.

This is the “new” Hillary Clinton in the early days of her 2016 presidential bid. Absent — for now — are the swagger, the grand pronouncements, the packed gymnasiums and auditoriums, and the claques of well-paid consultants falling over each other to advise and guide her that we saw in Clinton’s last presidential bid. This time around, Clinton is casting herself in a new role: as the humble and understated people’s candidate. She cares about “everyday Iowans” and “everyday Granite Staters.” She really does! Her carefully staged events with those “everyday” Americans at small-town coffee shops and local businesses give her the chance to “share ideas to tackle today’s problems and demonstrate her commitment to earning their votes.”

This effort to recast Clinton as a folksy, down-to-earth, woman of we-the-people is, however, about to collide with the reality of American politics in the money-crazed, post-Citizens United era. Winning the White House in 2016 will cost somewhere between $1 billion and $3 billion — money raised by the candidate’s own campaign and outside groups like super PACs and dark-money nonprofits. And this in an election where it’s already estimated that the overall money may hit $10 billion. Jeb Bush, arguably the most formidable candidate in the GOP field, is on his way to raising $100 million in just the first few months of 2015, a year and a half before the actual election. The prospect of being drastically outgunned by Bush has prodded Clinton to speed up her fundraising schedule and hit the donor circles in New York City and Washington in settings that couldn’t be more removed from the local Chipotle. “I need to get out there earlier,” Politico quoted her telling one of her aides.

In the coming months, whatever hours Clinton spends introducing herself to voters in small-town America, she will spend hundreds more raising money in four-star hotels and multimillion-dollar homes in Hollywood and San Francisco, New York and Boston, Washington and Miami. She will court wealthy liberals across the land and urge them to collectively give tens of millions of dollars to her campaign. The question underlying this inevitable mad dash for cash isn’t “Can Hillary Clinton raise the funds?” The Clintons are practiced buckrakers.

The question is: “Can Clinton claim to stand for ‘everyday Americans,’ while hauling in huge sums of cash from the very wealthiest of us?”

This much cannot be disputed: Clinton’s connections to the financiers and bankers of this country — and this country’s campaigns — run deep, as Nomi Prins, former Wall Street exec and author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power (just out in paperback), writes in today’s dispatch. As she documents in her book, the Clintons have longstanding ties to the mightiest banks on Wall Street. Those alliances will prove vital as Hillary tries to keep up in the “money primary” of the 2016 campaign. But as she tries to appeal to working and middle class people, you can expect her opponents to use Clinton’s Wall Street connections against her. And it’s reasonable to ask: Who counts more to such a candidate, the person you met over that chicken burrito bowl or the Citigroup partner you met over crudités and caviar?

Andy Kroll, a writer based in Washington, DC, is an associate editor at TomDispatch and a reporter at Mother Jones magazine. His writing has appeared at The Detroit News, The Nation, CNN.com, Salon, and The Wall Street Journal, among other places.

9 thoughts on “The Populist Hillary Clinton Meets the Elitist Hillary Clinton: Guess Who Wins?

  1. Ah yes. The woman of the ‘people’. She is in northern California today, not meeting with Joe Doe but flitting from mansion to mansion for ‘private’ fund raising events with the likes of the head of E Bay, etc. No coffee shop stops on this trip. Just feeding at the pig sty.

    • We need to send one of our intrepid Contrary Perspective reporters to collar her with the bigwigs. Which one of our outspoken reporters is nearest to the scene?

  2. Ultimately the only argument for voting for the Dem Presidential candidate in 2016 will be: “Well, (s)he’s the only thing standing between the Oval Office and the batshit-crazy GOP candidate!!” Yes, the “lesser evil” argument. I have reached the point in my disgust with this system that I have rejected that argument once and for all.

  3. “She eats at Chipotle. (Order: chicken burrito bowl.)”

    Yeah, sure. And Deputy Dubya Bush personally served a turkey to the troops in Iraq, too.

    “She travels by van. (Model: A Chevy Express Explorer Limited SE nicknamed the “Scooby” van.)”

    Yeah, sure. And Deputy Dubya Bush flew his very own “fighter jet” onto the deck of an American aircraft carrier, too. Take that Leni Riefenstahl and Tom Cruise! Not everyone can pull off a combination Triumph of the Will and Top Gun propaganda photo op like that. Of course, like Deputy Dubya’s plastic turkey for the troops, his “Mission Accomplished” stunt became “Mission Creep Unravelling” in no time at all, rendering his phoney juvenile “warrior” image-mongering infamous as unintentional self-mockery. Unadorned reality has a way of doing that to pompous pretenders.

    My Hoosier/Okie, Depression Era parents used to tell us kids: “Never believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” A few years ago, I mentioned that wise aphorism to a professor of Buddhist studies who updated it for me. “Nowadays with Photoshop, you can’t believe anything you see, either.” I told him that I knew what he meant and mentioned one of Deputy Dubya’s photo ops in front of “the troops” which, on closer inspection, revealed the same three soldiers copied several times each to achieve a larger — and hopefully more impressive — number of “adoring” military onlookers. You-Know-Her’s image-mongering team has a long way to go if they think they can pull off any phoney political imagery that Michael Deaver and Karl Rove haven’t already exploited to the maximum for Ronald Reagan and Deputy Dubya Bush. The trick lies in the timing. The visual lie doesn’t have to last long, just a little longer than the short-term memory capacity of the average American. The movie Memento comes to mind here.

    Speaking of You-Know-Her and the whole “New Nixon” image makeover thing, I saw a “Crosstalk” segment on Russia Today called “Pretend Politics” wherein one of the guest commentators — Stephen Yates: CEO of DC International Advisory and Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party — said of You-Know-Her’s “populist” photo ops: “She hasn’t even driven her own car since the mid-nineteen-nineties” and “She went into a Chipotle restaurant and didn’t even get food.” The feral Republicans have already got You-Know-Her’s number, and they haven’t even begun to get vicious yet.

    At any rate, the corporate media will decide the “narrative” for the upcoming rat race and You-Know-Her will find that she has nothing whatsoever to say about that. And whichever right-wing (D) or further-right-wing (R) puppet wins the election, the corporate CEOs who bankrolled him or her will get what they want. As the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say: “On any given day, whatever happens in the United States happens because someone with money wants it to happen.” Not exactly the latest-breaking news.

    • My father, born in 1917 and a survivor of the Great Depression, taught me the exact same saying: “Never believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.” Cynical? Not at all. My dad may not have graduated from high school, but he did graduate from the school of hard knocks. He knew about life, and he sure as hell knew a phony when he saw one. Clinton is a phony.

      • The corporate media will rejoice in the billions of dollars spent flogging the usual “horse race” narrative, even if we, the people, can clearly see only rats running in it.

  4. Hey guys. Just remember this. With Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels from the left and her stealing Elizabeth Warren’s talking points Hillary will tack to the left and will ultimately come to ” Hope and Change” as a “hail Mary”. This, and her money will buy her the nomination. The article above is almost a recommendation for her as the only Dem who can raise the millions needed to beat the Republicans.

    All of those poor misguided “liberal” Dem regulars who are terrified of the puppets running for the Republicans will again vote “the lesser evil” as they did with Obama in the last election. Those of us who see no lesser evil in this race between Hillary and another puppet should instead do our level best to let friends and those whose lives we touch know that evil is evil and it is best to look elsewhere for the good. Winning, in this stage of our country’s decline, isn’t everything. Seeking good and spreading awareness will win this long term battle to return our country to a the semblance of democracy we once had.

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