“I wouldn’t be beholden,” she says. “I wouldn’t trouble.”
“Sho,” Armstid says. “You come on with me.” For the first time the mules move swiftly of their own accord. “Smelling corn,” Armstid says, thinking, ‘But that’s the woman of it. Her own self one of the first ones to cut the ground from under a sister woman, she’ll walk the public country herself without shame because she knows that folks, menfolks, will take care of her. She don’t care nothing about womenfolks. It wasn’t any woman that got her into what she don’t even call trouble. Yes, sir. You just let one of them get married or get into trouble without being married, and right then and there is where she secedes from the woman race and species and spends the balance of her life trying to get joined up with the man race. That’s why they dip snuff and smoke and want to vote.’
Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Glazier Arboretum Park where she often likes to hike in Chappaqua, N.Y.
Adrienne Grunwald for NPR
Ten months after losing the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton is out with a memoir, What Happened. Morning Edition host Rachel Martin talked to Clinton about her book, the election's outcome and how she's carried on. Here's the full transcript of their conversation. The audio on this page is an edited version of the interview that was broadcast on Morning Edition.
Rachel Martin: Hillary Clinton joins us now from her home in Chappaqua, New York. Secretary Clinton, thanks so much for being here.
Thank you so much, Rachel.
How's being home?
It's actually great. It is wonderful being home having time to putter around clean closets spend, you know, long days going for walks, seeing my grandchildren, taking friends out to dinner. So it's not where I wanted to be, but it is a great reminder of what more there is to do in life and what the future can be like.
I'd like to start our conversation about your new memoir by asking you to recount a particular event. This is a campaign event that you did in Mingo County, West Virginia, a town called Williamson. This is coal country, and you had met many voters there weren't happy with you. They were angry over comments that you had made around that time about wanting to "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." So you knew this was going to be a tough appearance and you wrote in the book the following quote: "All I knew for certain was they were angry, they were loud and they hated my guts." Can you just describe what that day felt like to you and what it signified as you moved forward in your campaign?
Well, it was a particularly difficult, even painful day because I had made clear for years, starting back in my 2008 campaign, that I understood what was happening in the changing fortunes of coal, that were largely global market forces, but also a growing recognition of the challenges that climate change posed. And I had given a number of speeches. I had a very well-developed plan to invest money into the area, and then in the midst of explaining that I said a sentence which I would, you know, I regretfully say, was taken out of context, blown up, and really was a rallying cry for people and others who were running the campaign against me to come out and blow this up out of all proportion. Now my campaign said, really, there's no point going to West Virginia because Democrats haven't won it in years. It didn't matter whether you said something or not, a Democratic candidate was not going to win it. But I felt a personal responsibility to the people in that state who had been good to me in the past, and to my husband, and I also wanted to make clear that I was much more than one gaffe, and I had a very strong commitment to helping them, so off I went to Mingo County, and when I got out of the car, when I got to the health center that I was going to be visiting, there was a large, very vocal demonstration against me, and the people were yelling all kinds of insults and attacks. And in the crowd was a man named Blankenship, who had just been convicted — in fact, was on his way to jail — for the negligent deaths of a number of the coal miners that his company employed. So it was a fraught, really incredibly difficult time. I went inside and met with a group of people who were trying to do what I think we should be doing in communities like the ones I was visiting across our country, particularly in rural and small town America. They were trying to make things better. So this health center, which had been strongly supported with federal dollars, was providing better health care with a particular emphasis on the opioid crisis. We sat and talked through what more could be done. And one of the people who was there at the invitation of the health center was a laid-off coal mine employee, and I talked with him and his wife. He was really emotional about what it meant to lose that job. He talked about how hard it was to tell his children. They were getting by on his wife's income from her small business.
He was also angry at you for those comments that you made.
Well, he was. He was angry at me because of the comments, but his anger, his disappointment, his fear was much broader than that. And that's what I was trying to address, and to tell him, "Look, I'm sorry that what I said came across that way and that's not what I at all meant. In fact, I have a record of trying to help areas like this and I have a plan to do just that. But I understand." And we did talk about what it felt like for him, a very proud man, to be unemployed. And I never doubted the hurt and the anger that so many people were feeling around our country, not just in West Virginia, but I thought what my job was to do as a candidate for president was to tell people what I could do for them if they gave me the chance to serve and that's what I tried to do even that day.
And you decided to include that anecdote for a reason. I mean, what did it signify to you? Is that when you started to understand you were missing something important about the country, in that moment?
No, I understood that long before, Rachel, and in the book, what I tried to point out is, I understood there was anger and fear and people were really unhappy because of what had happened in the financial crash. I understood all of that, and I understood that my opponent had been, from the beginning of the primaries, fueling that anger, and providing scapegoats, and a kind of cynical nostalgia that was rooted in saying, basically, you know, all these other people — whether it's African-Americans or Muslims or immigrants or women or whomever — we're going to get it back to the way it was. And that's going to be my gift to you. I understood all of that. What I didn't — and I say this in the book — I didn't really do well is conveying how much I understood of that, conveying how I got the despair and the anger. I talked about it, I talked about it constantly. I talked about jobs. I talked about the despair of people in America, white Americans who were dying at an unbelievable rate because of suicide, opioid abuse, alcoholism, so much that really signifies that despair. I talked about it, but I didn't really convey the emotional resonance that would have maybe made it possible for somebody to say, "Yeah, you know, maybe that one sentence she said was taken out of context because look at what she's done and look at what she says she will do."
So you kept going to policy solutions and you're saying you should have given a more emotional response?
Well, I think a more emotional response, but honest. Not like we're going to bring back coal. Not like we're going to build a wall to keep Mexicans out. Not like that, but more of a connection emotionally first before saying, "I think I've got the best experience, I think I've got the best ideas that will actually make a difference in your life."
Your campaign advisers told you time and again that a significant portion of the American electorate didn't trust you. They polled on that particular question, and that word. Donald Trump used that — he branded you as "Crooked Hillary." Bernie Sanders even picked up on that theme. Why didn't you tackle the trust issue head on?
Well, we thought we did. And I certainly tried to do that. It was somewhat disorienting, I will say, because I came out of the State Department with the highest approval ratings of anybody in national public life. I think 69 percent approval. When we started the campaign we had every reason to believe that we had a path forward that relied on how people felt about me and how they thought about my work over many years. But it's absolutely true that between the consistent pounding on me, first by Bernie Sanders, but more consistently by his supporters, and the theme that Trump stuck with, it really was hard to break out from under that. But as I say in the book, Rachel, despite all of that, I was on the path to winning and I felt great about the three debates. I thought we were on the right to, you know, move toward the end of the campaign. And then unfortunately the Comey letter, aided to great measure by the Russian WikiLeaks, raised all those doubts again. And so even though I won the popular vote, enough people in a few states, with respect to the electoral college, were just raising all these questions. And I saw that, we saw that, we scrambled hard those last 11 days to provide rebuttal and answers and came really close. But, you know, it was difficult.
You mentioned, and you spent time in the book talking about the forces you feel were working against you. You also say sexism was one of them, but you yourself, in the book, acknowledged that a good number of young women didn't vote for you, which is presumably not a sexist choice. They just weren't inspired by your message.
I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I did win the women's vote. I didn't win the vote of white women, but I got more white women votes than Barack Obama did. I think it's much more difficult to unpack all of this, and with respect specifically to young women, I do think that for a lot of young women, gender is just not the motivating force that maybe it will be in the future. But then it wasn't. The same way that being African-American was really motivating and exhilarating for black voters. But as I point out in the book — and I think that chapter I wrote on being a woman in politics really will be of interest to a lot of women and men. I talk about a conversation I had with Sheryl Sandberg, who has really helped to put into perspective a lot of research that supports common experiences. And she said, look, the research is absolutely definitive. The more professionally successful a man is, the more likable he is; the more professionally successful a woman is, the less likable she is. And that when women are serving on behalf of someone else, as I was when I was Secretary of State, for example, they are seen favorably. But when they step into the arena and say, wait a minute I think I could do the job, I would like to have that opportunity, their favorabilities goes down. And Sheryl ended this really sobering conversation by saying that women will have no empathy for you, because they will be under tremendous pressure — and I'm talking principally about white women — they will be under tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for "the girl." And we saw a lot of that during the primaries from Sanders supporters, really quite vile attacks online against women who spoke out for me, as I say, one of my biggest support groups, Pantsuit Nation, literally had to become a private site because there was so much sexism directed their way.
So I knew going in that this would be a hurdle for me. But what happened to me with the Comey letter really threw it into stark relief, because I was making progress, as I point out in the book, I was ahead by 26 points in the Philadelphia suburbs, and that was predominantly led by women — Republican and independent women, as well as Democratic women, who had seen me in those debates who were going to really give me the chance to serve. And then after the Comey letter, my momentum was stopped. My numbers dropped, and we were scrambling to try to put it back together, and we ran out of time.
Why would it have ever gotten to the point where something like the Comey letter could have shifted so many opinions? Why was it ever that tenuous? I mean, you say in the book, "American elections are about change, or they're about the future, or some combination thereof." And for many people you are about neither. Did your candidacy have an irreparable flaw from the beginning?
I don't think so. When you win the popular vote by three million votes, and when there were all of these outside forces coming at me right until the very end, I don't think you can say that we didn't have a strong campaign. I'm proud of the campaign we ran. We had an incredible organization. We had more people working on the ground in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
But you could not put together the Obama coalition. You did lose five million people who voted for him who did not vote for you.
I would say two things about that. First, there were certainly people who voted for him who felt like, for whatever combination of reasons — and there's some good research about this — that, you know, they just weren't happy with where things were and they didn't know what they were going to do, and they did not vote for me. That's absolutely the case. But you have to also look at the suppression of voters. The principal objects of voter suppression were African-American voters and young voters. There was a very extensive analysis about what happened in North Carolina recently in The New York Times and there's been a lot written and much information collected about what happened in Wisconsin: 200,000 predominantly black voters being disenfranchised in the greater Milwaukee area. This was the first election, the first presidential election, where the Voting Rights Act that had been severely damaged by the Supreme Court decision in 2013, was fully in effect, and the Republicans wasted no time in doing everything they could to make it hard to vote.
But you won the African-American vote.
But not in the numbers that I needed. And that goes back to your question. If you look at the AP work that was done in Milwaukee, it's quite chilling. The 85 year old woman — she no longer has a photo I.D. She doesn't drive. She comes to vote with her Medicare card, her utility bills, a lot of identification. She's turned away. The Navy veteran who moved from Chicago to Wisconsin, goes to vote, but he still has his Illinois driver's license even though he had registered in Wisconsin — turned away. And I think that's an interesting comparison. The voter suppression in Wisconsin worked. Across the border into Illinois, where they had not done any of this suppression, where they in fact made it easier to vote with same-day voter registration, they were immune to the impact of suppression. And, of course, I won in Illinois, just like I won in neighboring Minnesota. But in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania in particular, as well as North Carolina, there was a concerted effort to suppress the vote. Now, I want to throw this into the future because, you know, the reason I wrote this book was not only to tell people what I believe happened, to explain the best I could, but also to point out some things that we have to as a country take seriously in order to avoid what happened ever happening in the future. And voter suppression is one of those things. Sexism and misogyny — alive and well and working in our politics and our society. But then the Russian role that was played I think is something that everybody, I don't care what political party you are, must take seriously, because they are not going to stop. They were successful, and they're going to keep at everything they can to destabilize and undermine our democracy.
Could another Democrat have beaten Donald Trump?
Oh, I don't think it's useful to speculate, because I was the nominee. I mean, you can say that about George W. Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry...
Although you do spend more than 400 pages going back in time and thinking about what if's.
Oh, I do. But what ifs that I think are realistic to think about because, you know, what if I hadn't made the dumb mistake about e-mails? And it was a dumb mistake, but it was an even dumber scandal. What if the Russians hadn't been literally encouraged by Donald Trump to do even more to disrupt the election? What if the Supreme Court had not reversed the Voting Rights Act, which I was proud to vote for when I was in the Senate, and I still maintain the kind of protections to make sure that no American is disenfranchised?
What if Joe Biden had been the nominee?
Well, he wasn't. And, you know, he ran in '08, and he didn't run in this time. If he wants to run in the future, he can do that. But I think that, as I start off explaining what happened in the book, let's not forget the historical weight here. It's really difficult to succeed a president of your own party who has served two terms. That is a historical fact. So I think it would have been tough for Democrats. I think that the closeness of our election, the hyper partisan attitudes that people have would have made it hard. But I was very proud of the campaign I ran and I think I was on the way to winning. And that didn't happen in the end. And I don't want what happened to me to happen to anybody, Democrat or Republican, going forward.
Are you saying Donald Trump in some ways was unbeatable? Because it is so difficult to undercut the momentum, people seeking change, want to change parties after eight years. People didn't see you as the change candidate, they would have likely not seen any Democrat as the change candidate, and he had the upper hand.
Well, he dispatched about 16 Republican opponents who had been governors and senators and successful business people — that showed that he was really plugged in to a certain part of the electorate. And he started his campaign with a vile attack on Mexicans, calling them rapists and criminals, and he never stopped, and he was rewarded. Time and time again he was rewarded, Rachel, by the press, which saw this reality TV show going on. It was just irresistible. You know, show the empty podium, let's really build it up. He calls for violence at his rallies, pays very little price for it, he insults every kind of person, just about, that we can imagine, and particularly with vicious comments about women, political as well as press figures. So he got away with it, because he did have a kind of attraction to people. He called it "not being politically correct" but in fact it was rude, it was, you know, discriminatory, it was bigoted, it was prejudiced, and yet it fed into part of the electorate that just wanted to have a primal scream. They didn't like what was going on. They wanted something different. They weren't interested in what you could actually do, because clearly Trump hasn't done very much that he said he would do. But they really responded to his racial and ethnic and sexist appeals.
Did you consider recalibrating your campaign, I mean especially as you watched him dispense with all these primary candidates?
We did. We did. And I really thought I was providing a contrast that would attract enough voters to win. And let me make two points about that. By all accounts I won every debate. I mean, even the after-action reviews were very positive. I thought that would really matter. And it was clear he didn't know what he was talking about, he had really nothing to say. He just kind of fumed and carried on. That would have been enough any other time. But it wasn't this time because my path toward November was being disrupted with Russians, and, you know, the emails once again in the news. But when we got ready for the general election, I had three different very smart groups work independently, and I asked them, "So what should be the theme of our general election?" and they each, amazingly, came up with the same slogan: "Stronger together." Because what they argued, and what I believed, was that America does better when we're working together, when we're helping each other, when we're aiming toward a future of opportunity where we have broad-based economic growth that includes everybody and, where, yes, we stand up for human rights and civil rights. So I was thrilled that all three of those individual groups of thinkers came up with that. In this climate where we were running against people who would say or do anything, and "Lock her up" was the chant of the year, it was hard to break through on that. But I and my campaign worked tirelessly to convey the message, to convey what was behind that message. And look, I say in the book, I think I would have been a really good president. I think I would have been a president that would have been working for all Americans, not just for those who voted for me. And that's what is missing right now, among many other things in this White House.
I want to ask you about something you write at the very beginning of this book. You talk about needing to learn lessons from the 2008 campaign to apply to the campaign in 2016. And you write this: that unlike in 2008, you were, "determined to run like an underdog and avoid any whiff of entitlement." So you were aware that that was kind of around you in 2008. But there is and was this whole wing of the Democratic Party, many of whom ended up supporting Bernie Sanders, who believe that that is exactly how you ran in 2016 — as a person who, yes, had paid their dues, had done the work and had prepared, and that somehow you believed it was your turn to be president.
Well, I just totally reject that. As you probably would have expected me to say. I find this criticism from Sanders supporters to be so off base. He's not even a Democrat. That's not a slam on him. He says it himself. He didn't support Democrats. He's not supporting Democrats now. I know a lot of Democrats. I've been working on behalf of Democrats, to be elected, to be re-elected, for decades. And so yes, I was familiar to broad parts of the electorate, and I'm proud of that. And I did well across the country. I won by four million votes. That's a landslide. I won, really, by March and April. But he just kept going, and he and his followers' attacks on me kept getting more and more personal, despite him asking me not to attack him personally. And, you know, I really regret that. But now he's got a chance to prove that he's something other than a spoiler. And that is to help other Democrats. And I don't know if he will or not, but I'm hoping he will.
Did you underestimate the way that your familiarity with the American public could negatively impact your campaign?
Well, I thought it was pretty revolutionary that I was the first woman to have a realistic chance of becoming president. So I don't know how any woman who is not familiar to people, since we have so many hurdles to overcome, could have even been in that position that I found myself. So if I won, you know, I would have been seen as a genius, my campaign would have been as perfect. I understand all of that. But I'm not writing this book, I'm not talking to you about it because I'm somehow aggrieved. I don't feel that at all. I very much am still proud as I can be that I had the chance to run, that I got to be the nominee, but I am really worried about the country. I am worried about its direction. I'm worried about what I see as a mean-spirited agenda coming out of this White House. And my concerns as a former Secretary of State about what's going on around the world. So I have a platform. I won more votes than anybody in American history for president besides President Obama. And I'm going to keep talking and trying to raise the questions that I hope Americans will take seriously and that I hope the press will take seriously, because we've got a lot of choppy water ahead of us.
Although you say you still want a role in shaping the Democratic Party of the future, you're still going to talk about the issues you find to be important, but there are some Democrats out there saying they don't want you to do that. That writing this book is opening old wounds, re-litigating a past and it doesn't help move the party forward. Have you reconciled that, that people might not want you around as the party steps forward?
Well, they don't have to buy my book, and they can turn off the radio when they hear me talking. I'm not going anywhere. I have the experience, I have the insight, I have the scars that I think give me not only the right, but the responsibility to speak out. And 2018 is going to be incredibly momentous. We have a chance I won 24 congressional districts that have a Republican member of Congress sitting in them. And I think that gives us some idea that maybe, if we are really focused we have a chance to pick up seats, maybe take back the House. We've got to defend the Democratic senators. I have a lot of ideas about how best to do that. And a lot of people are already calling asking for my help and my support. I've started a new organization called Onward Together, which is, you know, funding and lifting up some of the grassroots groups that have started around the country. I'll be supporting candidates. So there will always be the naysayers. I understand that and most of them as you might notice are anonymous, but that's fine. But I'm responding to a very large outpouring of people who want to know what I have to say, who are excited that I'm not going to be, you know, slipping away into the background, but going to stay front and center, doing what I can to try to speak out on behalf of this country that I love, and just want to do everything I can to make sure it's strong going forward.
Hillary Clinton's new memoir is out today. It is calledWhat Happened.Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for your time.
This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.
Dimension of the Attack
No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.
There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.
But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.
Sources of the Attack
The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.
The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism, come from perfectly respectable elements of society; from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.
Moreover, much of the media — for varying motives and in varying degrees — either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.
One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.
The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.
Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.
Tone of the Attack
This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:
William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:
“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”
The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses:
“Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”
Although New Leftists spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.
A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:
“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system... (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”
A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that:
“Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”
A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a forward to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned:
“It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”
Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:
“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer .... He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue-chip business.”
A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.
The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. These are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits”for the benefit of business..** As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”
It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.”
The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy, is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.
The Apathy and Default of Business
What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?
The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.
In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.
But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.
A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?” Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business, Columnist St. John said:
“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.”
Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators:
“College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”
One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshaled against those who would destroy it.
Responsibility of Business Executives
What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.
The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.
The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more that an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.
A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter — on the broadest front — the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.
Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce
But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.
Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.
The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chamber of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.
It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.
The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.
Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult o identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.
Social science faculties (the political scientists, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservative or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.
This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has bad an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said:
“Because they were taught that way.”
Or, as noted by columnist Steward Alsop, writing about his alma mater:
“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men ... who despise the American political and economic system.”
As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely; (i) with the news media, especially television: (ii) in government as “staffers” and consultants at various levels, (iii) in elective politics, (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.
Many do enter the enterprise system — in businesses and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system, often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.
If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility.
Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.
What Can Be Done About the Campus
The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:
Staff of Scholars
The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.
Staff of Speakers
There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.
In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.
Evaluation of Textbooks
The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.
The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism, and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.
We have seen the civil rights movement insist on rewriting many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.
If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.
Equal Time on the Campus
The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.
Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.
It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers. This undoubtedly would be true unless that Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views. Indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.
The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.
Balancing of Faculties
Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.
The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.
This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America and most productive of all societies.
Graduate Schools of Business
The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.
Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.
While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.
What Can Be Done About the Public?
Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:
The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.12 Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.
This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.
Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.
Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.
The Scholarly Journals
It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.
Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.
There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Readers Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s Saturday Review, New York, etc.) and to the various professional journals.
Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets
The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.
Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.
If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.
The Neglected Political Arena
In the final analysis, the payoff — short of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.
It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.
Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”
Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”
Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.
The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.
But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.
As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.
Neglected Opportunity in the Courts
American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.
Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.
The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business expense, has not been inconsequential.
This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.
As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.
Neglected Stockholder Power
The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provide jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.
The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.
Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.
The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?
A More Aggressive Attitude
Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.
As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.
Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.
While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.
There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.
Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.
It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.
The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.