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April 27, 2015


We used to have an expression that “Talk’s cheap.” The expression was used in situations where candidates talked a good game but after they were elected did not live up to their pre-election claims and promises, for instance, to help the poor or the rich – as the case may have been. As a lifelong member of the Democratic Party but a pragmatist first and foremost, I must if reluctantly conclude from the evidence that the Republican Party’s candidates have been marginally more honest about keeping their campaign promises than my party’s candidates.

Of course, I didn’t and don’t agree with their campaign promises in re helping the rich, pandering to anti-choice sign-wavers and beating up on labor and the poor et al., but I must say they talked about it openly before elections and have (albeit disastrously) kept their promises when elected with tax cuts for their Wall Street patrons, resistance to increases in the minimum wage, cuts in social services for the poor and unemployed and other such policy atrocities.

This essay is for the most part not about substantive positions taken by the two parties but rather is designed to take a hard look at how Democratic and Republican candidates “keep their word,” i.e., whether talk is in fact cheap because when they get into power they either ignore or delay implementation of what they promised when asking the gentry to vote for them. I offer as evidence Bill Clinton’s lukewarm support of labor and his “triangulation” strategy that pitted Republicans against Democrats while he positioned himself above the fray free to move between one position or another with DLC if not popular support. Did he “keep his word” to us Democrats on substantive matters or did he seek and find political cover for his centrism?

I also offer Barack Obama’s current insistence on passing a trade treaty (the TPP) which we citizens know nothing about and are precluded from learning its terms until it is a “done deal” via fast track and an up or down (no amendment) vote of the Congress. It’s not as though we are involved in publicizing some big diplomatic or military program which is in need of secrecy lest our enemies (real or imagined) get wind of our plans and have time to react; it’s only a trade treaty which sets out (presumably) the usual labor and intellectual property protections, currency fluctuations by design, dumping, tariff rules etc., and since we as citizens are going to be living under the conditions it imposes, it seems to me that we should at least know its terms before it is approved. Our experiences with trade treaties to date have been great for the rich and investment class that rules Wall Street but an unmitigated disaster for most Americans.

If the proposed trade treaty is all so great as its exponents (including the president) tell us it is on Sunday morning’s TV propaganda talk shows and in press conferences, then why delay telling us the good news? Let’s hear it! Given ordinary Americans’ catastrophic experiences with other trade treaties, one would think these drum-beaters for the trade pact would be anxious to impart the details of this wonderful agreement soon to be passed and signed, but even though members of Congress may view the proposed pact as it now stands, they are subject to a gag order and cannot tell us what they learned from reading its terms just yet. Why not?

What’s with the big secrecy deal? Since when in a representative democracy (unless we are talking about atomic bombs or diplomatic coups) is a mere trade treaty’s terms off-limits for discussion between the people and their representatives? What are the pro-traders and their corporate patrons worried about, that there may be some objection to some of the proposed treaty’s terms? What’s wrong with making such objections known and straightening out the language of such a proposed agreement before it is or isn’t signed? What’s going on? Why are we denied information (other than what lobbyists and politicians spoon out to us) about details of a trade treaty that so greatly affect each and every one of us in our everyday lives? Why?

So is talk cheap with Hillary? Will she say all the right things when currying favor for our vote and then ignore or delay their implementation if she is our candidate and is elected? Will she, as she should, demand the return of Glass-Steagall to finally rein in Wall Street traders? Will she reduce the size of the big banks so that they are not “too big to fail?” Will she increase the ridiculously low taxes paid by the rich and close tax loopholes in order to finance investment in  schools and our crumbling infrastructure? Will she actively and openly work to reverse Citizens United; oppose trade pacts like TPP that (so far as we know) promote corporate earnings but not American jobs; advocate for labor so that working Americans have the bargaining power to secure their fair share of the gains from our economy’s growth? How can we the voters know?

To be blunt, and given that talk is indeed cheap, is Hillary ready to publicly commit to the above and other Democratic initiatives and promise as well to implement them when elected without delay? If so, I will go door to door with her message and so would many other Democrats who not only seek change for the better but want a president with a bold message such as the ones delivered by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his fifth cousin Republican Theodore Roosevelt in their day that changed the history of America and its people for the better.

Robert Reich correctly sums up what she should do as a Democrat and the likely outcome if she follows his advice: “If she talks about what’s really going on and what must be done about it, she can arouse the Democratic base as well as millions of Independents and even Republicans who have concluded, with reason, that the game is rigged against them.” He rightly states further that: “The question is not her values and ideals. It’s her willingness to be bold and to fight, at a time when average working people need a president who will fight for them more than they’ve needed such a president in living memory.” He concludes that: “This is a defining moment for Democrats, and for America. It is also a defining moment for Hillary Clinton.”

He is right. The fundamental question (since talk’s cheap) is this: Is Hillary a Democrat – a real Democrat – both before and after she is elected, no ifs, ands or buts?  We’ll see.    GERALD    E

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