Break Up Banks, End Racism and Sexism?

In These Times, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Break Up Banks, End Racism and Sexism?


On February 13, ABC reporter Liz Kreutz tweeted a snippet of a Hillary Clinton speech and promptly sent the Internet into a frenzy of debate:

Clinton: "If we broke up the big banks tomorrow.. ..would that end racism? Would that end sexism?" "No!" crowd yells out

NBC later supplied a lengthier version:

"Not everything is about an economic theory, right?" Clinton said, kicking off a long, interactive riff with the crowd at a union hall this afternoon.

"If we broke up the big banks tomorrow-and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will-would that end racism?"

"No!" the audience yelled back.

Clinton continued to list scenarios, asking: "Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?"

To discuss the quote and its context, In These Times invited Moe Tkacik, a former Wall Street Journal writer and the author of an essay in the forthcoming collection False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton-, and Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Salon on politics, feminism and culture, and in November 2015 wrote a column titled, "Lets get excited about Hillary Clinton: She's not a savior-but she is exactly what we need."

MOE: When I saw this quote on Twitter, I just stared for a few minutes, as if into the abyss or at a really gross zit under a magnifying glass. I didn't want to know the "context" because the statement itself defecated all over the very idea of context.

Obviously, no one ever promised a piece of legislation would "end" hate and injustice. Anyone even notionally sincere about battling the prejudices and cognitive dissonances that oligarchs and overlords have forever promulgated to divide and conquer humanity understands that "racism" and "sexism" are not forces you can arrest with a pen.

Then there are the banks, the biggest and rottenest of which have been with us for more than two centuries. To want to see them curtailed is to have absorbed more than enough history to understand that such things don't happen "tomorrow."

When I finally caved and read the full speech, I found a veritable orgy of straw men, each catering to some crucial segment of the Democratic coalition. It wasn't just racism and sexism that would persist in a landscape of smaller banks, according to Hillary Clinton. "Gerrymandering and redistricting" would also persist, as would discrimination against immigrants and gays.

Something about the line just screamed "Bill." Not shit-eating-grin President Bill Clinton at the height of his virility/virulence, but the Clinton of today who is occasionally given to weirdly bitter rants that are simultaneously nonsensical and illuminating, like a warped decoder ring for understanding how the Democratic Party could maintain its monopoly on self-righteous rhetoric while selling short the New Deal and Great Society constituencies that got out the vote all those years: Just remind Democratic voters that Republicans want to outlaw affirmative action and abortion and quarantine everyone diagnosed with AIDS.

The thing is, we were never dumb enough to sign on to this gutted, soulless, leveraged-buyout version of the Democratic platform. Bill Clinton eked out a White House win with only 43 percent of the popular vote. His triumphant job performance as president is a fiction in which Democrats have been inculcated because his surrogates have so effectively marginalized anyone who dares acknowledge history.

But when the going gets tough, as it conspicuously has, Hillary (like Obama in 2009, alas) falls back on what worked for Bill, the old New Dem coalition strategy: getting the black community leaders and abortion lobby to get out the vote, the bank lobby to pay for the ad buys, and the eternal GOP majority to prevent anything from transpiring that might alienate the bank lobbyists.

Today, as in 1992, this strategy only works by sacrificing a thing that Hillary now maligns as eggheaded "economic theory" but what Sanders supporters see as coherence. …

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