first published April 14
The stars are aligning for another Clinton – Bush presidential election campaign. I’m not referring to Hillary vs. Jeb (or “Heb” as some are now calling him, since it was revealed he identified himself as Hispanic when registering to vote in 2009). No, I’m thinking ahead to the 2028 campaign, when Chelsea Clinton will be primed to battle George Prescott Bush, Texas Land Commissioner, for the privilege of exercising their family’s timeshare rights to the White House. Chelsea is the inheritor of the Bill & Hillary political franchise, and George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush, nephew of George Walker Bush, grandson of George Herbert Walker Bush, and great-grandson of Senator and Hitler enabler (it’s a long story) Prescott Bush, is the most prominent of the possible Bush dynasty President-electables. Chelsea vs. George P. – I can feel the non-excitement building already!
The grooming process for the 2028 race for the White House is already underway. Chelsea is playing an integral role in her mother’s campaign for president, formally announced this week. Chelsea is now described by insiders (always nameless people when it comes to the Clintons) as a full and equal member in the family business, which has the public philanthropy part through the Clinton Foundation, and the not-so-public part involved in maintaining ties to the high and mighty who have access to a lot of money necessary to run a modern political campaign. It’s this second part that is really important. In 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for reelection, his campaign costs were $196 million. Hillary’s campaign, according to unnamed sources, is expected to raise $2.5 billion in order to reclaim the White House.
How we got from $196 million to over ten times that amount as the price of entry for a White House campaign is very simple – a gradual erosion of the campaign finance laws, culminating in the triumph of Citizens United before the Supreme Court. Now every billionaire can play a role in determining who will inherit the Oval Office – will it be Bush, will it be Clinton, or some placeholder like Obama who can keep the seat warm until the next dynastic generation is able to step into their inheritance. Catering to billionaires, and a few multimillionaires along the way, is how one gets to be president these days. Bill & Hillary understand that completely, which is why Chelsea was sent off to work for a hedge fund when she graduated from college. She didn’t like that work very much, so instead she found a job with the Clinton Foundation and married a hedge fund manager – melding together the two components of the Clinton franchise. Now she has the pretense of working on important economic, social, and political matters, while having direct access through her husband to the people who have the money to actually decide important economic, social, and political matters.
It was Chelsea’s hand, say insiders, which dictated that Hillary would launch her campaign this week not in front of a large crowd, not at some university where students are obligated to attend and cheer, but through social media, the go-to communication facility for people like Hillary who do not feel comfortable pressing the public’s flesh. It was Chelsea who helped identify the basic themes of the Hillary campaign – something about climate change, and something about income inequality. This last point is almost risible. What do the Clintons care about income inequality, other than it polls well with the public? The family is worth over $100 million. Hillary charges at a minimum $100,000 to speak for 45 minutes in front of a group, which limits her speeches to trade groups and corporations. Chelsea was photographed recently decked out in a $7,000 Cartier watch. The three of them travel about in private planes, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful at Davos or at Beverly Hills cocktail parties. Their knowledge of income inequality comes solely from reading about it – no one in their inner circle has any personal experience with poverty or the struggles of maintaining a middle class existence in an America slipping its way into a Third World existence for nearly half its population.
Besides, the presidency is less and less these days about policy. Obama got his signature health care reform through the Congress, but only at the expense of solidifying the ability of insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical companies to extract monopoly profits from everyone in the country needing health care. Other than that, he dutifully enhanced the surveillance state, hounded whistle blowers into prison, kept his Wall Street funders from having to pay any personal price for their criminal behavior, gave a few extra $100 billion every year to the military-industrial complex, and turned two blind eyes to the way in which the war on drugs and the militarization of the police inflicted state-sponsored terrorism on the African-American community. In short, Obama, the agent of hope and change, broadened the status quo.
Why should we expect anything different from the Clintons? Who is going to believe Hillary when she starts making speeches about the need to address income inequality? She’ll be mighty short on details – offering up a proposal to increase the minimum wage, and expand some tax credits for the poor. But she won’t go to the meat of the matter. She won’t have any daring proposals to remove money from politics, and she’ll never discuss the most important tool available to attack dynastic inheritance – the death tax. The Republicans in the House just voted to eliminate the death tax altogether, which is no surprise, since Republicans have abandoned any public pretense that they work for the interests of anyone other than billionaires. But the Democrats have been eerily quiet on the matter, especially since the putative leader of the party, Hillary, is not about to jeopardize Chelsea’s chance to inherit $100 million virtually intact.
Nor should we expect much in the way of policy initiatives out of George P. Bush, who is reportedly advising his father in his presidential campaign, and will work hard to bring in the Hispanic vote for his Dad. Jeb likes to think of himself as Hispanic and closely tied to the Hispanic community, but in Florida when he was governor, the Hispanic community meant Cubans. In the rest of the U.S., Hispanic means Mexican immigrants and their descendants, and increasingly immigrants from Central America. Unlike his father, George P. is the authentic thing. His mother was born in Mexico, and George P. is fluent in Spanish. He mixes Spanish with English easily in his campaign talks, which were very infrequent during his campaign for Land Commissioner because, according to sources close to the family, George P. is dumb as a post. He’s a Sarah Palin type without her intellectual coherence.
Fortunately for George P., by 2028 he won’t need any intellectual coherence. Policy will be set quietly by a club of billionaires and millionaires, acting through their agents in Congress and the administration. The only practical issue George P. and Chelsea will face in their 2028 campaigns will be how to get people to vote. The problem is already going to be acute in the 2016 campaign, especially if it is a Hillary-Jeb matchup. The American public is slowly coming to the conclusion that the comedian George Carlin was right 20 years ago when he said it made no difference whatever whether you voted Democratic or Republican. Real power rests with the wealthy and the corporations who increasingly don’t even bother to hide their power, and who “own this country.”
Nothing could vindicate Carlin’s prediction more than a Hillary-Jeb choice for president in 2016. How discouraging would that be for the American public? At least up to now, the dynastic reality of American politics has been treated as a celebrity event, worthy of interest just as much as the Kardashians are worthy of a TV reality show. But to force the public to vote once again for a Bush or a Clinton as the only possible political leadership a country of 315 million people could produce – that would be pushing everyone’s nose into the cow dung that constitutes national politics. That is the whole point, though isn’t it, to this 2016 campaign? While our noses are sunk into the muck, we should all take a deep breath and learn to appreciate the odor of manure, because it is what is going to be increasingly on the electoral menu from here on out.
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