Obama vs. Clinton: Neither Experience nor Change Will Overcome Politics as Usual

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By Nomi Prins // Dateline: February 15, 2008 // Originally published by THE WIP [Women’s International Perspective]

DEPENDING ON THE MEASURE of ‘liberalness’ used to evaluate past voting records, there is next to no difference between Clinton and Obama. In fact, with all her emphasis on ‘experience’ and his on ‘change,’ their voting patterns are almost identical. Both follow the party line, 97.1% of the time for Clinton, 96.5% for Obama – which doesn’t particularly highlight unique experience nor change.

ONE of the things Clinton had going against her from the moment she decided to run for President (back in 2000 or at Wellesley, depending how you look at it) was the view that she was too much of a political machine. That’s still true; winning one of the two main parties’ nominations is not for the faint of heart or shallow of wallet. But, we sell Obama’s talents short by not recognizing his own political acumen.

So, does the mere rhetoric of change trump the reality of past behavior? And is unity amongst political views – ‘no red states or blue states, just the United States’ – really a philosophy that will provide the majority of Americans (not the middle class, but the non-wealthy class) a more secure domestic future? Will that philosophy be able to drive more legislation and assure that funds are spent on equalizing citizens? What is needed is to lower the cost and expand the availability of necessities like health care, education, gas and energy, a home that the banking system isn’t stealing, and financial stability from birth through retirement.

Hillary on the stump. Like Obama, she’s a consummate campaigner, and she can think on her feet, something the current White House occupant has yet to try. But the real question is, what good is all that “preparation” and intelligence if not put at the service of real change? Who owns Hillary Clinton?

Yes, I am inspired by the fact that Clinton is a woman and Obama is black, and that stereotypically, their campaigns sets a new historical precedent. Maybe that’s what’s bugging me. Contrary to all the outward appearances of their being different, it is my belief that neither candidate will effect massive changes in the government-corporate alliance and its effect on the growing wealth and opportunity gap in America. Not with experience or hope.

Drilling down into the economy tab on Obama’s website reveals a troubling quote that seems to run counter to not just his past voting record, but the idea that he can or would, if elected President, wrestle away corporate domination over issues like tax breaks, unionization, environmental impact and jobs creation. (For example, even if one gave a US headquartered firm a tax incentive to keep American jobs here, it would simply not be enough to offset the reduced expense the same firm would have for outsourcing labor).


Why have the corporate media—the system’s front ideological gatekeepers—embraced Obama so effusively? When was the last time the American media went gaga about an authentic tribune of the people? (Granted, we don’t see too many of those in American politics.)

“I believe that America’s free market has been the engine of America’s great progress. …We are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other’s success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.” – Barack Obama, New York, NY, September 17, 2007

True, he said this in New York, and New York is where most of his (and Clinton’s) top contributors reside. Still, factory workers came in fourth in his list. In light of this kind of emphasis, the rise of ‘Obamacans’ is not suprising. But it is worrying. It would be less worrying had Obama showed up to more votes. But, with all his stress on change, he has missed 38% of Senatorial roll call votes, compared to Clinton’s 26%.

Obviously, Clinton has become dogged by her own rigidity, one that doesn’t translate well in rallies or personal connections. Declaring, “I’m so ready!” with a far weaker level of dramatic emphasis than Obama on a bad day, is not what anyone wants to hear. Spending any time whatsoever making excuses for her losing streak is not helpful either. Continuing to focus on issues, demand debates and to ignore tactical conversations is a net benefit to the country, no matter what the election outcome. If I was Clinton, I’d fire her speech writers immediately.

Actions speak louder than words. In early January, Obama told a packed gymnasium at Dartmouth College that “under an Obama presidency, America will be able to leave behind the era of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and wiretaps without warrants.”

But, a month later, when the very bill that would expand government powers to tap into our personal communication and immunize telecoms who were involved (and receiving a tidy share of contracted funds in the process) was overwhelmingly passed (68-29), he wasn’t there. He was out campaigning. So was Clinton.

Meanwhile, following the money gives an indication of real policy bend. The top five corporate donors (with the money coming either from the PACs, employees or owners, and their immediate families) to Hillary Clinton are (in amount order) DLA Piper, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Lehman Brothers. It’s pretty much the same for Obama – give or take a few banks: Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, National Amusements, Inc., and JP Morgan Chase.

Obama supports a 36% cap in credit card interest rates as being consumer helpful. That’s extortionist, given that credit card companies fund themselves in the single digits. He wants mortgage paperwork to be more transparent, but isn’t at all focused on how speculative trading in mortage product could be curtailed to eliminate the risks that kill the market, and lose homeowners their homes. That attacks the people that pay for him. And Clinton.

The media, and most Democrats, tend to underestimate Obama’s prowess as a politician, while condemning Clinton for hers. Both are formidable in the political acumen department. Being a consummate orator in today’s rock star world makes you a good politician, just as being an adept politician means embracing your inner rock star, even winning a Grammy. Yet, momentum and bandwagons aside, it’s the least adept politician who has the best shot at changing the country. Politics as usual produces policies as usual.

About the Author

Nomi Prins is a journalist and Senior Fellow at Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization. She is the author of Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of America and Jacked: How “Conservatives” are Picking your Pocket (whether you voted for them or not). Other People’s Money, a devastating exposé into corporate corruption, political collusion and Wall Street deception was chosen as a Best Book of 2004 by The Economist, Barron’s and The Library Journal.
Before becoming a journalist, Nomi worked on Wall Street. She has appeared internationally on BBC World and BBC Radio and nationally in the U.S. on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, CSPAN, Bloomberg TV and other TV stations. She has been featured on dozens of radio shows across the U.S. including CNN Radio, Marketplace Radio, Air America, NPR, WNYC-AM and regional Pacifica stations. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Fortune, Mother Jones, The Guardian UK, The Nation.com, The American Prospect, Frank151, The Left Business Observer, LaVanguardia, Against the Current and other publications.
One comment on “Obama vs. Clinton: Neither Experience nor Change Will Overcome Politics as Usual
  1. Ms Prins is an astute observer of American politics and her observations about the candidates should be widely read. I was not aware of Obama’s complete capitulation to the finance boys, that explains his enormous popularity on the Street. Thanks for a great insight into the actual ugly gears of this bloodsucking machine…

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