Hillary Clinton was a featured guest at something called the Shared Values Leadership Summit this afternoon, in a conversation with Fortune president and Time chief content officer Alan Murray. Because 2016 never ends, they talked about 2016!
“You may be the only presidential candidate since World War II who’s had to stand up and say, ‘I am a capitalist,’” Murray laughed, presumably because the idea of someone not being a capitalist is an amusing idea to media bigwigs. “And you did! Did it hurt you?”
“Probably,” Clinton responded exasperatedly. “I mean, it’s hard to know, but if you’re in the Iowa caucuses and 41 percent of Democrats are socialists, or self-described socialists, and I’m asked, ‘Are you a capitalist’, and I say ‘Yes, but with appropriate regulation and accountability,’ that probably gets lost in the ‘Oh my God, she’s a capitalist!’”
The GOP published a video of this exchange on its YouTube channel for, uh, I’m not sure what reason exactly. Is it to say that non-candidate Hillary Clinton is insulting Democrats by calling them socialists? Is it to confirm to their base that all Democrats are socialists? Is it just another way for them to keep Hillary in the news as part of their strategy to run against her in the 2018 midterms?
“I support hard work, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial energy,” she told Fortune president Alan Murray at the intimate New York City event. The current system is out of balance, with too much power tipping “toward biggest companies with most influence,” she said. “They’re disrupting our democracy.”
The disruption is evidenced by increasing levels of income inequality, one symptom of which is CEO pay. That some CEOs are paid 200 times more than their median workers is “not okay,” she said, because the entire system of capitalism depends on trust. “Trust holds the democratic market economy and the political system together.” Having such glaring disparities among blue-collar workers and the corner office erodes that trust.
While it’s hard to glean anything super meaningful from a soundbite like this, Clinton’s remarks do indicate that she’s not oblivious to a fact that so many in her party seem to not want to reckon with: the Democratic base is becoming genuinely more left-wing. Not just more liberal, not even progressive, but socialist. She also thinks that capitalism is an arrangement based on trust—it’s not, it’s based on power, and will run amok when neither workers nor the state have an equivalent amount of power—and can be saved with a standard level of liberal regulation alone. Agree to disagree on that one.
Apart from that, however, the exchange suggests that Clinton has come to a point where she’s finally over talking about the 2016 election. On that subject, at least, I’m with her.