Clinton: A Dilemna
Trigger warning to the easily distracted by bright shiny objects: this is one of those think out loud and think as I go posts. So stay with me, cause I’ll be going all over the map.
One of the byproducts of the excruciatingly slow news week that is EichFest ’14! is that I’m turning my attention to 2016 far earlier than I wanted. Specifically, I’m finding myself thinking about Hillary Rodham Clinton — who pretty much everyone who’s anyone knows is a set-in-stone lock for the Dem’s POTUS nod. (That pretty much everyone who’s anyone knew she was a set-in-stone lock in 2008 seems not to deter the absolute level of confidence.) I’m finding this makes me somewhat uncomfortable.
Now, I realize that I’m very much alone in this. Liberal, neo-liberal, leftist, what have you (I really need to get Saul to make me a program one of these days), I don’t think there’s a left-of-center pundit or blogger out there that isn’t giddy at the thought of an HRC White House. Conservatives hate her to her core, of course, but theses days they hate anyone with a D in front of their name to the core so that doesn’t really mean as much as it used to. Besides, attempted distancing by the GOP elite aside, the Republican Party is still a machine that runs primarily on animosity and so a Clinton nomination would be a heady outrage/ratings elixir indeed.
That might well make me the lone dissenter to the Clinton Juggernaut. I bring this up — here, out loud and in public — to ask your help in helping me parse out if my dissention is a product of wisdom or contrarianism. Consider this, then, not a call to be judge, jury and executioner to HRC, but rather to my own muddled political thinking. Because embedded in my doubts about Clinton is the question of who is more dangerous for a healthy liberal democracy to hand great power — the “true believer”, or the power-hungry?
In a land where the true sovereign is oft half-asleep on the couch watching American Idol, which regent is more likely to deliver us to Evil– the moral absolutist, or the absolute amoral?
As you will see, I go back and forth.
My Brain’s Case Against HRC:
Basically, I don’t trust her.
This has not always been the case. I was a pretty ardent fanboy when she was put in charge of nationalizing healthcare in the early 1990s. Actually, come to think of it, even before that: When she publically bristled at the demands of the Washington Press Corps to engage in the traditional home-made cookie recipe competition that all potential first-ladies are subjected to, I wanted to cheer. (And so, I suspect, did every other wife of a career politician.)
Even the travesty that was the Monica Lewinsky scandal didn’t tarnish her in my eyes. Mind you, I was pretty angry about the scandal. Regular readers know that working with companies on sexual harassment issues is one of those things I do professionally, and the left’s open support of Bill’s egregious transgressions was one of the last straws in my already frayed relationship with the Democratic Party. As a guy who has some experience in these matter, I can tell you that it’s bad enough for a JFK-type to use power to surround himself with gorgeous and famous models, starlets and celebrities in hope of getting a smarmy and illegal “job perk.” It’s quite another matter to have a man with tremendous power and charisma targeting not the most attractive, successful women, but rather those with self-esteem and mental health issues.
The collective savaging of the women who were Bill Clinton’s victims led to my permanent disillusionment with a number of writers of whom I had been fond, including Steinem, Faludi and Friedman. But I never held Clinton responsible for her part. Her attacks were too easily explained by my mind’s picture of human being in pain, herself a victim of her husband’s predations.
As time has gone on, however, my sense of Clinton’s amorality has taken seed and grown, especially over the past seven years. Liberals are quite right to recognize “birtherism” as a cynical and despicable ploy to stoke racist fears of African Americans among whites fo their own gain; they seem not to remember that the strategy was one first deployed on the national stage by Clinton’s own team during her first attempt to become the most powerful woman on Earth.
Likewise, there is her stance on the rights of the GLBT community. I know that it is fashionable these days to describe her varied and ever-shifting positions as “an evolution,” but it is hard for me not to notice how seamlessly that “evolution” aligns with her immediate audience, polls, and electoral goals. (Readers are welcome to make their own determination be reviewing her history here.) And yeah, sure, on the one hand she did eventually follow Barack Obama in coming out and declaring herself fully in favor of SSM. On the other hand, she did so a full year after Obama, conveniently (or coincidentally, depending on your POV) after witnessing the positive shake out for her colleagues who came out before the 2012 general election.
The sense I get from liberal pundits is that now, given the change to ascend to the pinnacle power, of course she’ll look out after the rights of GBLTs — as well as other disenfranchised minorities — because who she is presenting herself as today is clearly the real HRC. Personally, I can’t see how this is anything but wishful thinking. Since she may well be the next President, I very much hope everyone else is right. But I’m pretty sure they’re wrong.
My Brain’s Case For HRC:
Basically, what are my other options?
I assume that even in the unlikely event the GOP doesn’t take the Senate this November, conservatives will see enough positive signs in the midterms to convince them that what Americans really want is the crazy dialed up to eleven again. It’s quite possible that a pragmatic in the mold of Dole or Romney will get the nod for 2016, but right now my money’s on one of the true believers: Paul, Cruz, Santorum, Huckabee, someone like that. Someone that can let the base know they’ll repeal Obamacare, work to dismantle public education, do something about all the Muslims and Mexicans cluttering the place up, and make us a Christians-first/only nation like the Founders intended — but still come up with a nice Frank-Lutz-y catchphrase like “compassionate conservative” they hope will appeal to the center.
And therein lies my brain’s dilemma — which, again, has less to do with HRC than it does my internal debate over what to choose when faced with such a lesser-of-two-weebles political quandary. As you may have already guessed, my Huckabee vs. Rove Test was an attempt to begin to scratch at this question.
For the sake of argument, let’s take GBLT rights.
I have no doubt that a Mike Huckabee White House would be no friend to GLBT rights. At the most, though, I see a Mike Huckabee dragging his feet on administrative issues — for example, having the justice department ignore state governors who instruct their legislatures ignore SCOTUS rulings. (Not that that isn’t a really big “at most” — I don’t want to minimize the negative effects of people by such actions.) I can even see him doing this knowing it will cost him reelection. He is, after all, a true believer. On the other hand, I have no doubt that Mike Huckabee is a deeply moral man, even if those morals are different from mine. So I can only see him going so far curbing the rights of the disenfranchised.
I believe a Clinton administration is infinitely more likely to advance GLBT rights, as well as the rights of women and disenfranchised minorities — provided the tide remains the as is. Were public opinion on gays and lesbians will reverse course, however, I have little doubt that Hilary would absolutely ago much further to the side of repressive than Huckabee were she to decide that she needed to in order to be reelected.
And if the public reversal on gays seems too alterative-universe, consider instead the rights of transgendered. That, I believe, is a battle we’re only just beginning to wage: public opinion for people who are transgendered lags far, far behind. When it comes to those brothers and sisters, I certainly assume that Huckabee would slow progress regardless of circumstance or public temperature of the issue. In many realistic circumstances, however, I can very well picture HRC doing real under-bus-tossing damage (and taking much of the left with her) in order to stand front and center at that second inaugural. In other words, I have little doubt Huckabee would try to slow progress even at the expense of his job; I have little doubt Hillary would be willing to take as many steps backward as she thought it would take to keep hers.
Of course, your views of each may very.
But for me, it creates a very real dilemma as to whom I most trust with political power: the person unlikely to do the right thing, or the one most likely to do the right thing but who is also the most likely to do the most evil thing.
Like I said, this is about something more than HRC.