We’ve mentioned before that you can’t understand Obama’s education policy without understanding that, in some areas, the Obama Administration is the political wing of the Pritzker family (who are a Chicago-based real estate and hotel-owning family). This has affected both education policy, in both advocacy for education reform and social impact bonds*, and the Department of Commerce. And now it seems the Pritzkers are expanding their franchise to the Clintons–and it’s a perfect case study in clientelism (boldface mine):
The Flint WaterWorks initiative, a program that will help provide young people with jobs to assist those impacted by the water crisis, was announced on Sunday by Flint mayor Karen Weaver and former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.
A story from the Detroit Free Press revealed that the project was created through a $500,000 donation from J.B. and M.K. Pritzker, who are among the top donors to outside groups that support the former Secretary of State….
Although Bernie Sanders won Michigan in a historic upset, Clinton was victorious in Genesee County, where Flint is located.
I believe that the Clintons and the Pritzkers both think they did the right thing: some people in Flint got jobs, and the Pritzkers, in part due to long-standing enmity with the Trump family, really do want to stop Trump and believe Clinton is the best chance to do so (the House of Trump versus the House of Pritzker). So what’s wrong with doing well by doing good?
The problem is that the Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain, have had long-standing conflicts with labor: when workers in Boston fought for a living wage, Hyatt fired them and replaced them with lower-paid outsourced workers.
So what do you think the odds are that Clinton will fight for a living wage? Yes, if pigs fly and Congress presents her with one on its own accord, she will probably sign it (though I wouldn’t put it past her to water it down). But she’s not going to lead on this issue. If she pushes for a minimum wage increase, it’s not going to be a living wage.
Now, this isn’t corruption. The Pritzkers aren’t buying Clinton shiny new things. But just as Clinton bashes Sanders for his gun control stance (which is a legitimate thing to do), and then allows one of her top fundraisers to be the lobbyists who shot down the very same gun control legislation in 2013, this is a textbook case of clientelism. Here’s what I mean by clientelism:
And here’s the point I want to introduce to the discussion:
While not guilty of corruption in the explicit sense of quid pro quo, Clinton not only participates in, but actively cultivates patron-client relationships with Wall Street. In the clientelism that Clinton embraces and defends, she claims the American public to be the sole beneficiary via her representation, but she refuses to acknowledge how Wall St. benefits. And yet, in a patron-client system, both the patron and the client always benefit. Always. That is how it works. In this case: Clinton gets resources to run for office, while Wall Street gets the guarantee that the candidate they gave so much money in one place (e.g., a speech) will tacitly if not explicitly support their views of economic reality in another place (e.g., The White House). It is a long term strategy for both.
…Secretary Clinton, for all the good work that she has done, has built a career on the belief that she can control these patron-client relationships to benefit the powerless. Yet, she has done so by entering into reciprocal relationships with the powerful–who gain no advantage by legislation that helps the powerless…
But the problem that must be overcome in the Democratic Party for progressive goals to advance is clientelism–a patron-client system whereby elected Democrats and big money cultivate each other for mutual benefit.
And if ever there was a Presidential candidate who represented that system of clientism–it’s the current front runner of the Democratic Party. As hard as it is to see and to name this, whatever good she has achieved on various fronts–and she has achieved a great deal–it is all tainted at this point by her investment for so long in big money clientelism.
This isn’t pragmatism, taking headcounts and realizing you don’t have the numbers. This is co-optation. Once again, the ‘economic left‘, which is to say, the poor, lower-middle class and middle class, won’t have a seat at the Democratic Party high table. If we’re lucky, we’ll get some scraps tossed under the table.
We need to do better than this. We can.