As a liberal with lots of liberal friends I am used to seeing all sorts of negative stories about Hillary Clinton in my social media universe with regularity. The question that irks me is why? I can clump the negativity toward Hillary into three main arguments.
1. She is untrustworthy (liar, disingenuous, doesn’t mean what she says, etc...)
2. She isn’t really liberal
3. She is “bought” by Wall Street (or owes them some sort of favors)
I’m a data nerd (worked in analytics in the past), and I have been paying close attention this election cycle so I thought I would unpack these three statements and see what sort of evidence there is for them.
Hillary Clinton is Untrustworthy
To start with, I tried to look for some sort of data to support her honesty or relative lack there-of. I believe it’s important to disregard all unreliable statements based on personal observation such as “she just looks phony”, or “you can tell she is lying”, as it’s been proven time and time again that people cannot tell a liar from someone telling the truth by body language or facial expression with any more accuracy than a coin flip. Let’s start by looking at Politifact, an organization dedicated to fact checking candidates.
As you can see, It’s not exactly obvious from this data which of the candidates is the “honest” one. Clinton has a much higher “true” rating at 26% vs. 16% for Sanders. Sanders however, has more “mostly true” claims. Regardless, I’m not seeing any backup here for a narrative that Clinton is a dishonest politician on the stump. From a data perspective there are a lot of issues with this information. We can’t fact check everything they say, and it’s a selective sample. In addition, the sample size isn’t that big. We only have 58 fact checks for Sanders, and 154 fact checks for Clinton (although it does show a difference in scrutiny paid to each candidates statements). I am willing to guess however, that they have performed more fact checks than many members of this site, or friends on my Facebook feed. Let’s compare the data from Politifact to the entire field of candidates in this infographic put together by the NYTimes.
One thing this graph shows us, is that the democratic primary candidates seem to be head and shoulders above their republican rivals. As I have said, the data has some issues, but this seems to be the best impartial analysis out there, and it does not show that Hillary Clinton is a lair.
Hillary Clinton is not really a liberal
I’ll start with an excellent diary from another DailyKos user Phenry which highlights an analysis of Hillary’s career based on data taken from her record, and analyzed in the method most commonly used by political scientists. The full article is linked below, but in case you don’t want to read it (great read), the main point is that Hillary Clinton was the 11th most liberal senator during her time there.
“As it turns out, with a first-dimension score of -0.391 based upon her entire service in Congress, Hillary Clinton was the 11th most liberal member of the Senate in each of the 107th, 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses. That places her slightly to the left of Pat Leahy (-0.386), Barbara Mikulski (-0.385) and Dick Durbin (-0.385); clearly to the left of Joe Biden (-0.331) and Harry Reid (-0.289); and well to the left of moderate Democrats like Jon Tester (-0.230), Blanche Lincoln (-0.173), and Claire McCaskill (-0.154).”
Now, you could say something along the lines of… “It’s does not matter because they are all so close together anyway, and the entire political system has been pushed to the right”, except the data doesn’t really back that up.
Most liberal Dem 1 Sanders -0.523
11 CLINTON -0.391
Median Dem 33 Biden -0.331
Most conservative Dem 51 B. Nelson -0.035
Most liberal Rep 52 Specter 0.061
Median Rep 76 McConnell 0.409
Most conservative Rep 101 Coburn 0.809
According to the data presented in Phenry’s diary, conservatives are MUCH more conservative than Clinton. It’s not even close. Let’s look at the analysis of her political place compared to Bernie Sanders by ontheissues.org, a site which I think does a great job of accumulating politicians stances on the record. There is a lot of detailed information on each candidates past record, and their stances on current issues. They also supply a graphic at the bottom of each candidates profile which uses their records to place them on a diagram distilling their political views.
As you can see from this diagram, there isn’t a lot of difference between these two candidates “on the issues”.
I’m sure a lot of people will disagree and point out a particular vote. Say Hillary’s vote on the Iraq War, or Bernie’s vote on gun legislation. The issue I have with cherry picking particular votes is that they miss the forest for a tree. No politician is 100% pure ideologically, just like no politician is 100% factual at all times. It is possible to pick out contradictory positions from any politicians record, but that doesn’t really show you where they really lie on the spectrum. It would be like saying Micheal Jordan was not a great basketball player because he had a terrible performance in Game 6 of the 1996 Finals, going 5 for 19, and turning the ball over five times. Yes, it happened, but that is only once moment out of a long career.
Hillary Clinton Owes Wall Street a Favor
I’ll start this off by saying I was unable to find any evidence for Hillary Clinton owing any favors to Wall Street. However, I think there are logical conclusions that can be applied to this line of thinking. Let’s start with what we know. Yes, Hillary Clinton has received a lot of donations from people who work on Wall Street, and has been paid quite a lot of money in speaking fees from Wall Street companies.
Let’s start with the donations. According to OpenSecrets.org, 3.9 percent of her contributions have come from people who work on Wall Street. They note that there has been more money also contributed to SuperPAC’s (raising the total to 7%) but I’m a little skeptical of including that number. First, she cannot control who donates to those SuperPAC’s and if she doesn’t win the nomination, it’s likely that those SuperPAC’s will spend the same money supporting whomever the Democratic nominee is.
Her speaking fees paint a slightly different story. 14 of her 41 talks were to financial institutions, or approx. 25% of her income. I will agree, that 25% is a substantial percentage of her income. I’m not here to argue that money does not influence politics and that the system should not be reformed to eliminate it’s role in electing politicians. I think that is an important step forward for our democracy, and a position I am 100% behind. However, I think making the logical jump from campaign donations and speaking fees to favors owed requires overlooking some big inconsistencies.
1. If Hillary Clinton has indeed been trading favor to Wall Street for donations, then why is her record so consistently liberal despite receiving donations from those same Wall Street companies for her entire career as a Senator? That would require one of two things to be true. Wall Street executives may actually be asking her to promote liberal policies, or she has been playing an incredibly long con where she has been collecting money for decades while advancing a liberal agenda as a cover with the sole purpose of eventually becoming President of the United States and returning those favors. I’m not sure I can imagine either of those scenarios being true.
2. If dollars donated and paid for speaking fees is equivalent to favors owed, what happens when different donors interests collide? Do the Boys and Girls club and Goldman Sachs have the same agenda? 3. If she is in fact in the “pocket” of Wall Street, why would she be advancing a platform that could be argued to be more restrictive than any other candidate on Wall Street? This is a matter of debate of course, but if expert economists cannot agree on whose plan is more restrictive on Wall Street then they are probably both pretty restrictive in their own ways.
Is Hillary Clinton influenced by donations and speaking fees from Wall Street firms? I don’t know. But it does seem clear based on almost a decade of history in the Senate that she was not influenced enough to put her outside of the mainstream Democratic circle when it comes to policy and record.
I don’t know why so many of my liberal friends hate Hillary Clinton, or why they believe her to be such a polar opposite to her primary opponent. As a disclaimer, I support both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I will happily vote for either of them in a general election. I am somewhat perplexed by the narrative that surrounds Hillary, where and how it has taken root and grown to the degree at which it has without much basis in factual information. I hear a lot about the need to hold our media to a higher standard when it comes to the spread of information and narrative, but how we expect them to uphold those standards we seem so willing to abandon them ourselves?