08 April 2016

The Rather Unimpressive Case For Hillary Clinton

I am a progressive. I like Hillary Clinton and I do not feel remotely conflicted. The qualities she’s exhibited over her long career—practicality, resilience, the ability to use the system to improve the lives of the least powerful within it, the ability, above all, to survive—are not just admirable. They’re exactly what progressives need if we are to carry the White House.
From here.

Unlike the author of this thoughtful piece, I am deeply conflicted about Hillary Clinton. I expect more of a prospective President than a mere ability to survive.  There is virtually nothing in the piece to tell us what all of her supposed virtues have actually accomplished, and there is nothing in this piece that convincingly makes the case that Clinton would be more likely to win a general election race against Trump or Cruz.

Consider this from the article:
So here comes my full-throated case for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.... [four paragraphs urging Progressives not to fall victim to gender biases follow, and then a paragraph explaining that Republicans hated her because she was considered too far left to be in politics in the early 90s, something I don't recall anyone actually saying at the time].... 
a candidate defined by her caution and her frustrating selfcontradictions, seemingly torn between challenging the power structure and gaining enough credibility within that power structure to survive....

When I hear claims about Hillary Clinton, the money-grubbing shill for Wall Street who thinks just like a Republican, I don’t recognize the woman who once snapped at her husband for not fighting hard enough for universal healthcare, telling him, “You weren’t elected to do Wall Street economics.” Similarly, I see no shifty dishonesty in the Hillary Clinton who, in 2005, pushed for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Bush administration’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina, and who today is the woman making the administrative negligence in Flint, Mich., central to her campaign.

Similarly, the Hillary Clinton who traveled to Beijing in 1995 against the wishes of her husband’s administration to declare that “women’s rights are human rights” is entirely recognizable as the Secretary of State who helped to create the Office of Global Women’s Issues and declared that “the United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on every continent.” In short, this is the same Hillary Clinton who is today stressing equal pay for women as a racial justice issue, given that the women who are most penalized by the pay gap are black women and Latinas.

And the Hillary Clinton who is “Republican lite,” “more like Reagan than FDR” and “to the right of Nixon” does not seem remotely the same Clinton whose votes aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 93 percent of the time during the two years they overlapped in the Senate....

[The author then apologizes at length for Clinton's support for the Iraq War in 2002 which Clinton also recognizes in hindsight was a bad call, concluding:] 
So, yes. There are problems with her record, and I recognize them.... 
I want to talk about the woman who has survived 25 years of misogynist hatred and GOP attacks, and came out unbroken and unbowed.... 
It doesn’t hurt that she was the first candidate to advocate overturning the Hyde Amendment on the campaign trail, or that she has been vocal and insistent on equal pay and reproductive rights, or that she has responded to pressure for her campaign to demonstrate a serious commitment to racial justice by reaching out to women affected by police brutality and giving lengthy public statements about the need for white people to recognize their own privilege and take part in resisting and ending racism.
This is all you've got? Where's the beef?

If this is the most full-throated endorsement a progressive can give her, save us all. Enduring twenty-five years of Republicans not liking you isn't exactly an unusual trait for a high profile Democratic party politician, or some unbearable burden.

Does the author really believe that the main reason that we don't have equal pay for women, policy brutality, and racism is that the President doesn't spent enough time empathizing with victims and chiding people who are sexist and racist?

I expect a politician to not just identify problems, but to offer up credible solutions to them, and I have yet to hear those solutions from Hillary Clinton. A full throated supported of Hillary Clinton ought to be able to tell me what credible solutions she has to these issues if they are the hallmark reasons to back her for President.

I'm pretty sure that there aren't many Democratic politicians with experience holding statewide elected office or a cabinet position or Vice-Presidential experience or a background as a top general (as all Presidents to date have had) who support the Hyde Amendment or oppose reproductive rights or support police brutality. Pretty much any two Democrats in the U.S. Senate are going to have votes aligned 93% or more of the time, which means that pretty much any Democratic U.S. Senator isn't going to be absolutely awful.

But, on the whole Hillary Clinton has spent almost her entire political career worried about being too liberal and moderating her positions as a result. She started out as a Republican and transitioned. While this author conjures the image of a hippie in suit, my earliest recollections of her are as a ruthless big law firm law partner protecting the interests of wealthy clients and big businesses, while trying her best not to be entirely evil.

Certainly, I will vote for her in a heartbeat if she wins the Democratic party nomination, which she in all likelihood will do.  A Hillary Clinton Presidency will be profoundly better than four years of President Trump or President Cruz.

But, she epitomizes the politics of triangulation instead of principle, and has backed a lot of bad policies as a result, just as her husband did when he was President (particularly on issues like crime and welfare reform).  The case has been made exhaustively that her moderation and willingness to compromise is necessary for her to accomplish great things, and I really and truly would like to believe that this is correct, but I'm hard pressed to see any evidence that it is true in her case.

I think the Republican smears directed at her, Benghazi and the e-mail "scandal", are total bullshit, even though they could present stumbling blocks for her campaign. I think her successful campaign to have the U.S. intervene in Libya was the right call even in 20-20 hindsight.

But, I don't agree with those who think that the many months of polling showing that Bernie Sanders would do better in a general election against a Republican candidate are wrong. There is more to electability than blinding running towards the perceived "political center".

The weak favorability polling she has isn't just because she is a female politician, some of it is just her personality. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elizabeth Warren, and Olympia Snowe have all managed to hold powerful national offices without coming across so negatively. Ultimately, likability isn't what is most important in a President. But, I'm simply not excited about her very conventional and old school campaign and see few strong positive reasons to like her as a candidate (in contrast to negative reasons to prefer her to the alternatives).

She is a candidate who doesn't come across as having much of a positive vision for this nation. I'm not saying that she doesn't have one, but I certainly couldn't articulate for you what it was. She is not out there advocating major policy changes of pretty much any variety that I can discern. To vote for her is to embrace a decision that involves knowing that I will be deeply disappointed with a significant minority of her decisions again and again and again.  Issues like the TPP trade deal. Issues like marijuana legalization. Issues like tax policy and business regulation. She absolutely comes across as beholden to too many monied interests.

She will nominate decent people to be federal judges. Her policy choices will pass muster as at least the lowest common denominator of Democratic policy sensibilities. But, she doesn't offer a progressive voter much of a specific version of progress to hope for.

CNN reveals, however, that Hillary Clinton has at least one policy that I agree with:
Clinton herself pledged in January to "get to the bottom" of whether rumors of U.S. contact with extraterrestrial life were true.

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