Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Case Against Hillary Clinton

I've got another post coming up later about Senator Clinton-- after I which I plan to return to my silence on her, save any actual news-- but first I wanted to clarify the reasons why I have been so critical of her as a presidential candidate.

I see her brand of politics as corrosive (the Democratic mirror version of GOP/Rove politics) and cannot stand the thought of 4-8 years of the Clinton saga continuing to loom over American politics like an (unintentional) sideshow. As cliche as this sounds by now, it's time for a change. And while she does have many great ideas and policies-- like her husband did-- few of them will ever get accomplished because this brand of politics, as we've seen, is not conducive to getting any results. She may be as bright as her husband, but she lacks his political skills. And no, I don't think it's sexist to say so, any more than it's age-ist to say that McCain is a fool who can't tell his ass from his elbow. The Clintons at this point in their career represent so much that is wrong with politics... their corrupted ideals, the search for power for the sake of power, their addiction to spin and truthiness, etc.

Let me use three specific examples to explain where I am coming from here.

#1- Hillary the superior general election candidate. One of Clinton's big rationales now for her fight (being made vigorously by both Clintons every chance they get) is that she is a better candidate for the general election than Obama. Let's ignore that a) polls show both of them can easily defeat McCain, b) that argument got John Kerry the 2004 nomination, which ended pretty badly, and finally c) this type of subjective opinion isn't a rationale for overturning the decision of primary voters. What I find important here is how unwilling she has been to show us this.

As I am sure Sen. Clinton knows by now, the general election candidate she is fighting to face is John McCain, conservative maverick and media darling. And yet rather than proving her general election chops by taking him on at campaign events, she was not only siding with him on issues like the gas tax holiday (more on that later) and reinforcing GOP talking points (elitist, etc), but more importantly focusing her fire on her own party's candidate and leaders. Had she, in late February (when she suffered her worst losses), began taking on McCain on the stump (as Obama had then) and let voters judge which candidate went toe-to-toe with him better, then maybe this would be an honest argument. But she didn't, and she hasn't. She has-- with rare exceptions (ie. defending Obama on the 'appeasement' charge)-- largely ignored the GOP/McCain front of this election.

Moreover, if she insists on taking the fight to the late August convention (which I am skeptical she ultimately will), that would mean the Democrats couldn't begin the general election in full force until after Labor Day, putting them seriously behind the Republicans, who have been in general election mode for months now. The point is that if she believes she is the better candidate for the general election, she has a weird way of showing it.

#2- The Clintons will stab progressives in the back every chance they get. The Clinton supporters insist Obama is not a true progressive and will choose faux-bipartisanship over progressive fights as President. We have no way of knowing this yet (though his list of Senate accomplishments is meatier than any of his detractors will admit), but we have a way of knowing whether the Clintons will do the same... their record of doing so.

There are a few illustrative examples of that, not the least of which is Sen. Clinton's vote for the Iraq war, which she cast (as did many others) so she could appear tough in that immediate post-9/11 pro-war haze. Then there was the healthcare battle of '93 and '94, which was lost not just because of GOP attacks and special interest meddling (though that shouldn't be understated here), but because the Clintons lost public support by doing everything in secret, one of their worst vices. And now Clinton is the Senate's largest recipient of cash from the health industry lobbies, which may well explain why her health-care plan is one big Christmas gift to the insurance industry, rather than a fight for real universal healthcare. And then there was the Clintons selling out gays with the Defense of Marriage Act, and Don't Ask Don't Tell. Then there was recently Clinton's campaign staffers ranting about Obama being a liberal and elitist. Etc.

But the most recent and illustrative example is the aforementioned gas tax holiday. Stolen from John McCain, and hyped big time heading into the Indiana primary (and not mentioned since, how odd), Hillary's gas tax holiday proved that there is no position or policy that she won't betray for political expediency. One issue that Clinton discussed often in her speeches and in debates was energy independence and her position that creating 'green collar jobs' would not only accomplish that goal, but also boost the economy as well. It was an admirable position that I was happy to see Obama shared. But then, faced with a possible Indiana loss, she embraced the gas tax holiday, which not only would be environmentally and economically regressive, but was also dismissed by every economist on record (liberal and conservative) as a pander. She sold out her own energy policy-- and the progressive position on the issue-- for a delegate split in that one state and the chance to give another victory speech. Think long and hard about what that says.

#3- The issue of racism in the campaign. Let's leave aside the issue of whether the Clintons have engaged in subtle or overt race-baiting during the campaign. What I focus on here is the argument that the Clintons have been making, that Obama simply can't win over "hard-working Americans, white Americans" (though, as has been pointed out, that problem only exists in the Appalachian mountain states), and thus cannot be given the nomination.

Now, it's not at all inaccurate that there are a lot of racist people living in America (shocking, I know), and that a disturbing number of these people are registered Democrats (or 'Reagan Democrats' as they used to be known). But the idea that the Democratic party-- the party of the civil rights movement-- should, rather than fighting this racism in our country, instead reward it by giving the nomination to the runner-up just because she is white and popular in West Virginia is a pretty horrifying position to hold. And yet, that is where Hillary Clinton now finds herself.

I could go on and on (as if I haven't already), but these three points are the ones that come most strongly to mind. I look forward to the end of this primary (whenever that may be) when I will no longer have to write posts like this.


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