So Which Hillary Clinton Will We Get?

A while ago, I described why I’m hesitant about Clinton as the Democratic nominee:

Let me state right out that Clinton would be a better president than any of the Republicans on offer (though that could be construed as damning with faint praise). But what has frustrated me about being a Democrat since Bill Clinton’s presidency is that rank-and-file Democrats have had to fight like hell against the putative leaders of our party just to prevent things from getting worse…

I doubt Sanders will be the nominee, but a strong Sanders candidacy forces Clinton to lay down some real markers–and given her long history with ‘New Democrats’, I don’t trust her to not sell out the rank-and-file Democrats (just this week, we learned about Clinton’s successful effort to change forms at the State Department from “parent 1 and 2” to “mother” and father” because she was afraid of receiving criticism from Sarah Palin).

…if he [Sanders] did win, we wouldn’t have to defend the core programs of the Democratic Party from its supposed leadership.

Andy O’Hehir makes a similar point (boldface mine):

Which Hillary Clinton will we get, as the presumptive Democratic nominee and as the 45th president of the United States? The humane, reasonable and pragmatic leader who showed up on TV the other night, or the opinion-poll weathervane, foreign policy hawk and shameless Wall Street tool? One Clinton seems to promise a return to effective White House leadership and legislative compromise, with less high-flown rhetoric than the Obama years but greater transparency and more tangible accomplishments. The other suggests a hardened imperial presidency with a friendly female face, where the realm of political reality is defined by neoliberal economics, the Sauron-like reach of the national security state and the global tides of investment capital backed by American military power.

Hillary Clinton’s most formidable opponent on the path to becoming the first female American head of state – a development that will occur embarrassingly late in history, I have to say, after Britain and Germany and Israel and India and Pakistan and Moldova and Senegal, for the love of Christ – is Hillary Clinton. I don’t mean that metaphorically. The monstrous caricature of Hillary Clinton created by her enemies on the right, and to a lesser extent the one created by her enemies on the left, both stand in her way, their bloody fangs bared. So too, and far more significantly, does the reality that has fueled the enduring stereotype that Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted: Her actual record as an endlessly calculating policymaker and political operative whose core ideology has never been clear….

How do we understand the relationship between those two Hillarys, between the A-student analyst and the one who flunks out on actual policy changes that might begin to alter the dark dynamics of money and power in American society? Can we reconcile their areas of overlap and apparent contradiction? Is the first persona a cynical ruse, meant to dupe the gullible Democratic electorate one more time, like Lucy Van Pelt with that football? Does the second persona reflect an understanding that in our disordered nation realpolitik and Machiavellian maneuvering are the only possible ways to get anything done, and the fact that Clinton is too shrewd to make promises she can’t keep?

Too often, commentators (professional or amateur) imagine that a particular politician will be the politician they would like him or her to be, not the one he or she actually is. This isn’t an issue of ‘authenticity’ but trust. And after being burned for over two decades by Democrats who sell out the rank-and-file, I’m not in the mood to take that risk when, overall (though not on every issue), there’s a better alternative.

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5 Responses to So Which Hillary Clinton Will We Get?

  1. Bill slashed welfare, cut taxes for the rich (capital gains), raised taxes for the working class (social security) and started the bank deregulation that resulted in the latest banking/housing crisis. Oh, and he had Hillary hopelessly muddle any attempt to do something about healthcare. I think the reason Republicans hated Bill so much was he left them with nothing to do.

  2. eeeeesobel says:

    You just put into words the feelings I’ve had toward Hillary during this whole campaign. Listening to her talk is great, her ideals are usually pretty progressive, and she knows her stuff, but her track record is rather shady, and her campaign/policies worry so much about pandering to both sides, that neither side ends up happy. I would rather have an unapologetic Bernie, with whom I do not always agree (although I agree more with his platform than Hillary’s), because I know where he stands, and he has voting records and protest attendances to back it all up. Hillary’s past has been about keeping the status quo, even on issues where she’s supposedly the most progressive (I hear a lot of talk about women’s issues but have yet to see her implement changes that affect ALL women). To me, she’s the face of white feminism and neoliberalism – both of which pretend to be progressive and good, but are actually tools to keep the same power structure in place.
    I’m glad Bernie is pushing her to be more progressive on the campaign trail, but I worry that if she wins the nomination and the presidency, we’ll be right back to the war mongering, capitalistic, deeply politically entrenched Hillary that we’ve seen in the past.

  3. VickieFeminist says:

    Your comment eeeeesobel re “white feminism” was exceedingly ignorant. From the get go 1968 on, white feminists have pushed for affordable day care, equal pay for all positions, reproductive health for all women and white feminists have been a MAJOR player against racism in the US.

    While Bill Clinton was dreadful re welfare, HRC has been a strong consistent voice for poor women and their children.

  4. Here’s my problem – yes, there is no doubt that Hillary will provide a “less worse” presidency than the alternative. Nonetheless while we will find ourselves, like Obama, “less worse”, we will still be more worse than before. This is not a vote for a better America, this is a vote for a “less worse” America. This is a vote for a slower walk to the gallows, but still to the gallows.

    It would be delusional to believe that Bernie is likely to do remarkably better, but there is at least some hope, that we will at last take some steps in the other direction. It at least indicates a willingness to not continue to ride the seemingly inexorable vortex to the bottom of the privy.

    We have been on a long march downward since at best Carter, and perhaps LBJ. It would be nice if we could take even a few baby steps in the opposite direction and not just settle for still sucking, but sucking less.

  5. Ruthmarie says:

    I’m going to have to vote for the “Green party” if Hillary is the nominee. The trouble with settling for “less bad” is that this ALLOWS the powers that be to continue to sell out the middle class. The Hillary’s of this world need to be afraid of losing our votes. So unfortunately, we have to be willing to let a republican win the White House in order to change the dynamic.

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