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Oles on the Election

Clinton’s Wall Street speeches no surprise, still revealing

By Alexander Betley October 11, 2016

Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.

For those not paying close attention, the Wikileaks release of speech transcripts Hillary Clinton gave to Wall Street may have been overshadowed by Donald Trump’s 2005 lewd video comments. Despite the necessary attention of Trump’s despicable and demeaning comments, the American public would do well to spend some time considering what the release of Clinton’s transcripts means.

New York Times: Linked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at Ease With Wall Street

To be sure, the release of such transcripts during the contentious Democratic Primary would have been a major blow to Clinton’s campaign. It is no surprise, then, that Clinton refused to release these transcripts throughout the primary process. Sanders’ supporters, routinely citing Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street, would have used such transcripts as hard evidence for both their critique of the New York Senator’s support for large financial institutions and her dishonesty.

Due to recent economic history, such evasion is problematic. The above New York Times article mentions Clinton’s self-proclaimed belief in both “public” and “private” views on policy. Such a belief appears immediately contradictory, but is not totally surprising in political terms. Due to political expediency and public pressure, one might hold such convictions. In fact, it’s probably one of the more realistic aspects of democratic politics. Let’s not forget that the term democracy literally means “rule of the people,” not “rule of minority opinion.”

But it’s usage here is slightly more revealing– and should provide sufficient insight into how “private” and “public, or perhaps more appropriately, “personal” and “political,” stances can be misconstrued for something they are not. Clinton’s “wink and back-pat” to the bankers was not really the expression of a “private” belief. It was a political gesture, albeit performed behind closed doors, and it indicates that campaign rhetoric and promises don’t actually matter. When faced with the Sanders’ challenge, it then becomes banker-palatable for Clinton to publicly quip that “no bank is too big to fail, and no executive is too powerful to jail.” Any objective analysis would conclude that this is truly political manipulation par excellence.

But let’s be honest; we knew all about this a long time ago. The fact alone that a former New York Senator gave speeches to Wall Street executives (speeches she refused to release throughout the primary) on the order of $225,000 per speech should have provided ample evidence. Generally speaking, wall street bankers know a good investment when they see one.

Why, then, should this be news at all? Because it only further substantiates the claim of how far American politics are removed from the will of the people. It proves with hard evidence, that with enough money, “rule of minority opinion” can reign.

And it spurs us to remember that in a democracy, despite our personal political persuasions, politicians must be held accountable. Otherwise, you just might end up with two of the most unfavorable candidates in electoral history.

About the Author

Alexander Betley is a St. Olaf Senior from O'Fallon, Missouri majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He is studying abroad this semester in Copenhagen, Denmark.