Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The meaning of Hillary

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Edward posted on Andrew Sullivan's response to David Brooks on Hillary Clinton earlier today. His impassioned conclusion: STOP HILLARY NOW!

Here are my thoughts, intended as an update to Edward's post but now a post on their own:

For blogospheric reaction to Sullivan's excellent post, and the David Brooks love-in-with-Hillary, bash-the-Netroots, up-with-the-"center" column to which he was responding, see Memeorandum. In particular, see the ever-acute Steve Benen: "I wonder if Brooks has actually heard Clinton’s stump speech, or caught any of her appearances on the Sunday morning shows a few days ago, or taken a look at her voting record this year. Clinton isn't stiff-arming the netroots; she’s delivering on most of what the movement wants to hear."

I would (will?) support her in the general election, but Hillary isn't my Democratic pick. I prefer Edwards and Obama (and, yes, of course, Gore). She's too much like her husband, too much of a triangulator, too cozy with the right, too much about personal ambition and naked self-interest, not committed enough to the liberal, progressive values that lie at the heart of the Democratic Party and my own political philosophy.


And yet I think Steve is right. Although Hillary is a lot like Bill, 2007 isn't 1991. The Netroots are a force in the Democratic Party and genuinely progressive values more mainstream than ever before. As Matt Yglesias, quoted by Steve, puts it: "'The left' has only been empowered to a pretty minor degree, but the 'centrist' wing of the party is... way further left on the merits than where it was in the late 1990s or the early years of the twentieth century. That, in turn, is largely a reflection of a renewed vibrancy on the left that's both pressured elected officials and expanded the boundaries of conversation. When the centrist strand in Democratic thinking came to represent school uniforms, promises to balance the budget each and every year of the Gore administration, and backing the invasion of Iraq that was one thing. If, instead, we're going to get universal health care, action to halt global warming, and diplomatic engagement with rival powers in the Middle East, that's a very different thing."

There is -- and I have -- a legitimate, credible concern that Hillary would, in some important respects, be too much like Bush, but Hillary would not be like Bush at all on most of the truly important issues: global warming; health care; Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East generally; the war on terror; taxes and pro-corporate spending; social issues like abortion and stem-cell research; and many others. As well, she is smart enough to understand just how profoundly important the Netroots are, just how central progressive values are to her party, as well as to the country as a whole. She would not (and politically could not) abandon them in order to implement some neo-DLC agenda, some delusional Brooksian centrism that appeals to the less bloodthirsty elements of the GOP.

Hillary isn't my pick, but -- and I may differ with some of my co-bloggers on this -- she wouldn't be that bad. In fact, on some of the issues that matter most to us, her apparent ability to unite her party behind her and to reach out to moderate Republicans -- whatever moderates are left -- could end up working to her, and our, benefit.

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Update: From John Dickerson at Slate -- "How To Stop Hillary: Six Strategies For Her Democratic Rivals."

Hillary is well ahead in the polls, but she's "not invincible". Her rivals may soon go on the attack -- much more of an attack than they've mounted so far.

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