The complicated issue of one H.R. Clinton

Posted: October 30, 2016 in democracy, elections, feminism, United States
Tags: , ,

My feelings on Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate are very mixed.

The Positive

On the one hand, as several feminists I respect have pointed out, she is the most overqualified candidate for president in modern history, to a point that she’s comparable with one of the greats such as Thomas Jefferson in that regard, who also came to the Presidency through the State Department. (And of course, women do have to be overqualified to break that last glass ceiling in each country, sadly) She is the candidate, of the two likely to win, who I prefer. She has “waited her turn” for the nomination of the democratic party. She was a good supporter of President Obama, even after her understandably hurt feelings at essentially having the nomination swept away from under her feet by him. (because supporting men they lose out on promotions to is expected of women in the workplace, even when men in the same position are allowed to spit the dummy and have a hissy fit) She has played the system extraordinarily well and by any conventional wisdom, deserves to be the USA’s next president.

Which is of course, precisely the problem, and were she not running against a authoritarian narcissist and loser1, who is a fraudulent libel bully2 and likes to brag about sexual assault of attractive blondes3, but some other kind of populist, she would be practically guaranteed to lose because she has essentially been looking for an endorsement of the political establishment, not the people.

Does the fact that she’s a woman and the USA hasn’t yet had a female president play into this? Of course it does. There are absolutely bros out there voting for Gary Johnson or even Donald Trump (or perhaps writing in for Bernie Sanders, despite the fact that he has endorsed Ms. Clinton) who don’t yet understand, likeย practically the entire rest of the world, that a woman can be a good leader, and what being led by a woman looks like and feels like. (the answer is mainly “good”) I have been a defender of women as Heads of Government before, so I hope I can say this without being accused of disliking the idea of a female president, as I feel that women in particular, and diverse candidates in general, have been long overdue as US Presidents. It should have been a woman’s “turn,” insofar as such a concept should apply to politics, long before Hillary.

Let’s be charitable and not bring up the issue of Hillary’s approval ratings in the negative section, as it’s likely to have been significantly bumped down by pure virtue of her gender, which is not acceptable.

The Negative

That said, is everyone who is being called a Bernie Bro coming to their decision based purely on unconscious sexism? Absolutely not. There are so many legitimate arguments against Clinton as a candidate it’s not funny. She is an establishment candidate running during a populist mood. (which incidentally explains a lot of Trump’s popularity- the fact that the man’s a moron is actually a plus for him with certain voters, as they don’t want someone who sounds like a politician, and they want someone they believe will put the interests of ordinary people first, which Trump at least has passable rhetoric for, if your definition of “ordinary” is restricted to white people) She is the most right-wing candidate (some would argue that, normalising for America’s general rightward lean, she’s a centrist. That may be fair) to succeed in capturing the Democratic nomination since the southern strategy, and yes, I am including her husband in that calculation.

As a President, there is evidence that while she will enthusiastically support certain liberal (as opposed to Left) issues like women’s rights in general and abortion rights in particular, queer rights, (albeit as a follower of public opinion rather than an actual leader) compromise gun reforms, and expanding access to healthcare, but taken overall she’s also pretty dangerous on a policy-based analysis. While she does support higher taxes on the rich to pay for expanding access to education, this was actually a concession to her primary opponent, and not a policy she came up with herself. She opposes sufficient regulation on big banks, corporate accountability, refuses to take a side on the Dakota Access pipeline, an unnecessary relic of fossil fuel infrastructure in an era where all new infrastructure needs to be planning for a carbon-zero future, and that’s all before we start mentioning the things she was for before she was “against” them,ย  like the Keystone XL pipeline, and, thanks to Wikileaks, we have absolute confirmation that she is only pretending to be against the TPPA to score points with voters, and thus cannot be relied upon to prevent its passage into law.

She was the wrong nominee. Her primary opponent, while an elderly white man, would also have been the most left-wing Democratic nominee for President in modern history, and the first Jewish nominee, (and thereby also the first nominee that didn’t openly claim to be Christian) so his nomination would also have been historic, even if it pushed back the first female nominee. Bernie Sanders polled significantly better head-to-head with Trump at the time when he was all-but-nominated as the Republican candidate, and Bernie and Clinton were the only Democrats in the race, at which time it’s likely that opinion around the nominees had solidified to a point that head-to-head polling was reasonable. (At the time, Clinton was losing head-to-head against Trump, precisely because she needed Sanders’ supporters to get her over the line) His policies were objectively better for America: extending Medicare to everyone, a more universal education program, a dovish foreign policy, and real restraint for the US’ billionaire class and their servants on Wall Street.

And on top of that, there’s evidence that, unlike in the general election, (where voter fraud appears to be on Trump’s side) the contest was unfairly stacked against Bernie Sanders. The Democratic campaign was supporting her behind the scenes during the primary, because Bernie Sanders wasn’t an establishment democrat, despite his pledge to support the party and its nominee even if he lost, a pledge he didn’t have to make. They colluded with Debbie Wassermann-Shulz to put primary debates on at obscure times and to run as few as possible, going so far as to back out on the last debate after they had been pressured into running more. They manipulated primary procedure to disadvantage his campaign in Nevada. They illegally colluded with SuperPACs, despite Hillary’s supposed opposition to the Citizens United decision. They took advantage of voter suppression in several primary states in order to win. And there is evidence from our friends at Wikileaks to suggest that Hillary’s campaign did so enthusiastically.

Which of course, brings us to the issue of Wikileaks, and that the Clinton campaign’s defense against their allegations is itself problematic. Firstly, let me say that if any of the actual content of the leaks were incorrect, there would be sufficient proof for her campaign to come out with documentary evidence outright saying so. That they have not done so is a classic “non-denial denial,” ie. implied evidence of absence. Secondly, let me say that leaking documents is not a “cyber attack.” It is either espionage or data breach. Cyber attacks fall under “sabotage,” a charge much too serious to apply to some documents that have been copied and released publicly without permission. (which, by the by, is basically the definition of whistle-blowing once you add in “public interest,” which the fact that Ms. Clinton is a Presidential candidate clearly does) Now, the Clinton campaign have instead pivoted their defense to the provenance of the leak, which they contest (with no information provided to the public to prove so, even though there is reasonable circumstantial evidence available in the data itself) that they are a result of Russian espionage. So what? What does that matter if the leaks are true and of public import? (Nobody has yet provided any reasonable argument that anything Wikileaks has ever published has been false, fyi, so it’s actually a pretty reliable source)

Ms. Clinton has given paid speeches to Wall Street in which she has claimed it is acceptable to have both a private position and a public position, and despite her protestations, she was clearly talking about double-talk to the electorate when you read the leaked transcripts. That said, the upside of that particular speech is that if you look into it carefully, her admission about being out-of-touch with working class Americans is actually genuine, and something she really should be saying on the campaign trail- “I used to be one of you, and just because I’ve risen above that now doesn’t mean I won’t continue trying to advocate for the working class” is simultaneously honest, genuine, and good policy. Hillary is not good at letting us look at the genuine parts of her that make her a good candidate, and they’re there, look at how positively received her defense of abortion rights was, for instance.

But back to her campaign’s defense about Wikileaks, this brings us to the issue of how hawkish Ms. Clinton is on foreign policy, and why that’s a problem with tensions so high with Russia. She is openly accusing them of manipulating the election in her country without concrete evidence, (to which she is lucky the extent of the response has been to humorously request to observe the election in certain non-critical states) she is openly trying to increase tensions by calling for a no-fly zone in Syria when the only people bombing it are aligned with Russia, and she supports encroaching on Russian territory so far by admitting new members into NATO that the metaphorical equivalent would be Russia having bases along the Canadian and Mexican borders with the USA, despite the fact that the Allies promised after German reunification4 that NATO would go no further east than Germany.

The fact is that, regardless of the sexism against her, Ms. Clinton is an over-scripted establishment candidate, appealing to the rich and trying to steal establishment Republicans away from Mr. Trump in an election environment where there is a real hunger for a populist candidate that understands that working class (no, not middle class, I mean working class) people are suffering, that the US is tired of political corruption and political dynasties, (of which Ms. Clinton is now part, in campaigning for the Presidency after her husband had won) and that they want someone who will not only provide them proven leadership and sound policy, but will attack the people who are economically bleeding them dry. The former Secretary of State isn’t that person, although of course, despite the perceptions of the rust belt and certain authoritarians, neither is Mr. Trump.

In Summary

Hillary Clinton may be the most qualified candidate in modern US political history. She may be the best shot at the first woman to become US president, and the hardest campaigner among the major parties. But she was neither the best candidate in her primary, (that was, objectively, Bernie Sanders) nor is she the best female candidate in the race. It is, of course, fortunate for her that she’s fighting against perhaps the most unqualified man to ever become a major party nominee. (I will count Ronald Reagan as more qualified because at least he had charisma)

I hope we look back at the US election and see it as the missed opportunity for a Sanders Presidency. I hope we don’t end up with a resumption of the cold war between the US and Russia, despite indications that Hillary Clinton’s provocation of Russia are above the level that occured in the original Cold War. I hope I’m wrong about not being able to trust Hillary’s will-I-won’t-I opposition to the TPPA. I hope I’m proven wrong and that she works with Mr. Sanders in fostering the new progressive caucus within the Democratic Party. I hope I’m wrong about my pessimism that she’ll fight climate change adequately. I hope I genuinely get to celebrate the US joining the rest of the civilised world in electing a woman, instead of bemoaning that on the issues she’s the worst female candidate we possibly could have gotten. But I’m not optimistic yet.

1 The money Donald still has is most likely the remnants of his inheritance, and he has gone bankrupt not 4 times, as Ms. Clinton claimed, but six times. I think the term “loser” applies, as it’s difficult not to make money with assistance like Mr. Trump received.

2 Donald Trump has never won a libel case, but has filed several in order to intimidate people and chill their free speech rights.

3 Seriously, what kind of locker rooms are Republicans hanging out in? With the proviso that I hate gyms and thus try to avoid locker rooms where possible, (ie. the last couple years) I’ve never been in a locker room where it’s cool to brag about sexual assault, nor have I even even thought that even joking about sexual assault is acceptable. Generally, if discussion of sex is brought up, (which it hasn’t been since I was literally still in school, because secure men don’t feel as much need to brag about sexual exploits, thereby dramatically reducing the probably of such discussions occurring in a locker room) you want to brag that you’re so shit-hot that people are throwing themselves at you, which like any acceptable type of sexual connection, implies consent! Also, I hate to be a pedant, but I would bet a large sum of money that there was no locker room on that bus.

4 If you’re also a Millenial, and if you don’t have a solid grasp on recent European history, you may not be aware that between WW2 and the end of the cold war, Germany had been partitioned into a soviet occupation zone on the east and an allied occupation zone in the west, eventually transitioning into the equally-occupied-but-somewhat-friendlier-sounding east German “German Democratic Republic,” and a “German Federal Republic” in the west. There’s some great historical tidbits in this story that you should really do some research into, including the fact that it gave rise to the first applause of the line “I am a jelly doughnut” or “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which due to a slight grammatical error is what JFK actually said, even though everyone totally got and excused the fact that he was trying to say “I’m a Berliner,” which would have been “Ich bin Berliner.” You can of course tell that I have studied German from this particular footnote. The history of German reunification5 is particularly relevant to this US Presidential election, because it points out the futility of walls, and how inevitably they’re more successful in keeping your own people in than in keeping other people out.

5 To grossly oversimplify, East Germany suffered an economic collapse due to running a command economy, which is essentially almost everything bad that people associate with “communism,” (and we can remove the “almost” if we add persecution of religion and literal class warfare where the rich are forcibly impoverished or killed in retribution to the list. Compare and contrast with China, which arguably runs a form of market economy socialism) West Germany had its economy stimulated through a huge post-war infrastructure program called the Marshall Plan that turned it into an economic powerhouse and made further war unnecessary, and the soviets had to erect a wall around West Berlin to keep people in, as West Berlin was in the middle of East Germany but still the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. Many people were killed trying to make their way over and under the wall, as the guards had orders to shoot people approaching outside of the authorised checkpoints. In the end the soviets had to concede that the wall wasn’t practical, and once it came down West Germany essentially bribed their neighbours with a gift of West German money, (to be fair, it was intended as economic relief, not simple bribery) making reunification all but inevitable. Building a wall is literally the kind of thing authoritarians and tinpot dictators do, and it’s sad that the debate in the US has degenerated to the level where the “good” candidate supports limited fencing and armed border patrols, and the insane one wants a complete concrete partition with a country full of more productive workers than his. At least the soviets only tried to wall in half a city.

  1. Some clarifications for those viewing the whole post that I forgot to use as footnotes:

    * I’m not implying that a lack of outright defense of the allegations from Wikileaks proves that necessarily there is no defense. That would be a logical fallacy. I am implying that if we assume that Hillary’s campaign is competent, then we can assume that they will not tell a lie that could later be proven to be a lie, and they will not fail to use an obvious defense of their candidate that is true. Assuming those two things, we should have seen an outright defense against the Wikileaks revelations if such a defense actually existed. It’s always possible her campaign is incompetent, but I doubt that’s the case, as the Wikileaks revelations actually reveal a campaign that better has its pulse on the electorate than the campaign manager or the candidate.

    * Yes, Jill Stein is an objectively better candidate than Hillary Clinton. No, she’s not anti-vaccine. Yes, she hasn’t precisely decided on how she would fund a government bailout of student debt, but then again, neither have Democrats or Republicans figured out the funding when they go to war, so people who object to that fact can bite me. If politics were about voting for the party or candidate with the best policies, this would be a race between two women, and Jill Stein would be crushing it.

    * This isn’t even an exhaustive list of my criticisms of Hillary Clinton.

  2. carlalouise89 says:

    Reblogged this on Coalition of the Brave.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I’m not an American, but the entire campaign has been terrifying and depressing. I have never personally understood how Bernie Sanders did not get in. Whoever is elected for the next President, is going to be “Leader of the Free World”, so it is terrifying to the rest of the world.

    • I’m not American either, I’m just a big political nerd. I’m from NZ, and I follow US and UK politics reasonably closely. Australia doesn’t have a party-primary system because like us, you run a Parliamentary system of government.

      To draw a comparison of what Bernie ended up trying to do, it would be like a Labour-aligned independent who was eminently qualified but had little media coverage before, suddenly joining the Labour party to contest the leadership after a Prime Minister resigned to draw attention to the law changes they wanted to make. And then to everyone’s surprise, including their own, they almost unseated the presumptive heir to the leadership, and dramatically pulled Labour back to the Left, signing up a ton of young party members, and they’re viewed as a national figure in politics now. Sanders is in many ways analogous to what went on with Jeremy Corbyn in the UK or David Cunliffe in NZ, although David Cunliffe was elected by the Party members, but overthrown after his heavily centrist party caucus essentially threw the election to get rid of him, and wasn’t as far to the left as Sanders or Corbyn. The UK Labour caucus tried to do the same thing with Jeremy Corbyn but he succeeded in refusing to resign and essentially took the matter to a leadership contest and won again, staying Leader of the Opposition, so they each had slightly slightly different outcomes. The internet, among other factors, is leading a huge sea change in national elections, driving more populist outcomes that demand candidates more strongly appeal to working-class voters who (generally) want left-wing policy, although they’ll maybe settle for some racist blame-shifting if the Left isn’t careful. I could draw an analogy for how primary voting works using the Australian states, but it’s kinda irrelevant to telling the actual story.

      Bernie lost for at least four reasons. As I point out above, the Democratic Party establishment was backing Clinton to win the primary, and tilted things in her favour, because they want to favour “serious” candidates over non-serious ones. (ie. they want to exclude minority points of view within their own party, because before this primary, being “serious” generally meant you appealed to educated urban middle-class voters of various ethnicities, so basically everyone was proposing small variations on the same policy platform)

      The second relevant factor is essentially that the states vote on a schedule rather than all on the same day for primaries, so he got a chance to pull off some big wins in small states where it’s basically all about ground games and people actually got to hear his ideas directly, which then gave him a bunch of free media as the only other candidate with a chance of winning the primary. This is what people hoped would win it for him, however it wasn’t strong enough overall due to the fourth reason I’ll get to soon.

      The third reason is that Bernie’s initial appeal was largely to young voters, independents, and white voters. The clintons were trusted advocates for minority ethnicities, who largely determine the southern states, who mostly vote at the same time in a big bloc called “super tuesday.” Hillary performed very well on Super Tuesday and got a big lead that essentially made the contest hers to lose, even though a lot of Bernie Sanders’ record is objectively better on racial justice, and he demonstrated a lot more willingness to listen and bring real policies that addressed their concerns, he just wasn’t good enough at speaking the right language, being an elderly jew from Vermont, as opposed to Clinton whose husband used to be governor of a southern state.

      The last relevant factor is that Clinton did very well in big states where the media game is more relevant than the ground game, and Bernie’s fundraising style of relying on small donations that drove up enthusiasm and belief in him as a genuine statesman as opposed to an establishment politican didn’t have as much effect. This is ultimately what clinched it for Clinton, and is probably one of many very good arguments for why primaries are a bad indicator of a candidate’s potential for success in US elections, and it makes a lot more sense to vote nationally among party members to determine a leader.

  4. Ariel Lynn says:

    Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders’s campaign wasn’t entirely foiled by the DNC. Too many centrist & far-right-wing (nutjobs) exist here to accept anyone as progressive as Mr. Sanders. His embrace of the term “socialist” became an issue. Concerns over his abilities to win support from the government establishment became an issue. (I feel necessary to note: I voted for Mr. Sanders in the primary election.)

    Don’t get me wrong – I think what Schultz did was awful. However, to my knowledge (& I followed the hub-bub pretty closely too), there’s no connection between Clinton/her campaign & Schultz’s actions.

    Mrs. Clinton’s hiring of Schultz after the debacle became public looked really bad on her part. It was covered, briefly, on a Sirius talk radio show that Schultz only agreed to step down with promises of a job.

    I also read that speech with regards to a “public opinion & a private opinion.” If there’s a politician who doesn’t hold that to be true, I’ll eat my hat (only caveat being, I must be allowed ketchup).

    Mr. Kaine, Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, holds the private opinion that abortion is morally wrong. However, his public opinion is that women must have full control of their reproductive rights. Isn’t that the same exact thing?

    I do agree with a lot that you have to say. I think you phrased it eloquently & I don’t want my first comment on your page to sound wholly argumentative. That being said, I’m very much open to polite disagreements & debate. In all, I hope I didn’t offend & apologize if I did.

    • No, no offense, you’re being completely reasonable. ๐Ÿ™‚ That said, I do disagree with a couple things you’re saying.

      All the evidence we have suggests that Bernie’s socialist message was a more robust way to combat Donald Trump’s message, and that Hillary’s campaign has been plagued by scandal. Trump’s message has been most effective in swaying swing voters when his message intersects with the sort of things that Bernie was saying, and who do you think is going to have more credibility with the average voter in delivering that message- a fraudster billionaire or someone who has spent decades fighting for the working class? While polling suggests that the US public doesn’t like terms like socialism, they are actually overwhelmingly for policies that could be described that way- key progressive policies consistently poll above 70% levels of support, and neither of the current candidates are doing anything that has anywhere near that level of support.

      There are many politicians who believe that you should only have one position, and it should stay the same in public and in private. Not many live in the US, (although there absolutely are some, even on the national level- I would be highly surprised if you found Sanders having changed his position in private, and I imagine the third-party candidates believe similarly. You’ll certainly find state-level politicians who believe that politicians should have integrity. The issue generally comes from integration with the national-level democratic and republican parties, which have essentially legalised corruption) but overseas (edit: just to clarify, I am actually including american countries in this statement, it’s just habit for New Zealanders to say “overseas” when we mean “in other countries,” because we’re an island country) most left-wing parties believe that you shouldn’t say anything in private that you don’t want to become public, in fact I can probably find you a quote from the leader of one of our two largest parties at the time saying those exact words, as we had an incident where our right-wing party got recorded in private saying things that contradicted their public policies.

      As to there being no connection between Shultz’s actions and the Clinton campaign, this is an interesting standard of proof that applies to US politicians. This is what we in New Zealand would term “the appearance of corruption,” and it is regarded as potential a firing offense for ministers and a huge scandal for Prime Ministers if it is handled incorrectly, (as Sec State, Hillary was the equivalent of a minister, and as a presidential candidate, she’s the equivalent of a Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition) and at the very least would plague any minister who gets away with it with bad media unless they take immediate corrective action. That a presidential candidate can do this and actually plausibly say “but you can’t prove it was my people who were corrupt” seems ridiculous to those of us who are familiar with democratic values- you don’t deal with people who are engaging in unethical behaviour, and you don’t accept them having done it in the past. If Clinton supports democracy and opposes corruption, she should have demanded Shultz resign in shame, fired anyone whose job it was to prevent this sort of thing happening, and of course, she should have demanded more debates in the first place. This is the same weird defense they’ve run on her pay-for-play scandal with the Clinton foundation, and I’m astounded that there aren’t more people out there saying “so what if we can’t prove you were corrupt? You needed to make sure it didn’t look like corruption in the first place.”

      • Ariel Lynn says:

        I’m glad that I came across as reasonable. I know – from reading your post – that we weren’t going to agree on some things. However, I didn’t want, as I said, my first message to be thoroughly unpleasant.

        I’ll leave it up to subsequent messages to show how unpleasant I am. LMFAO ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Unfortunately, the message “socialist” poisoned a lot of the voting public here. The polls you mention often refuse to use the word specifically to avoid the gut reactions people have. I had reservations about Mr. Sanders ability to overcome that (& the fact that he’s Jewish; Americans are real jerks when it comes to Judaism or any non-Christian religion), but I voted for him because of his message.

        I appreciate that he pushed Mrs. Clinton further left. I hope that, if she’s elected, she keeps her campaign promises. Unfortunately, I can’t be sure of politicians enacting any thing they say on the campaign trail. I believe even Mr. Sanders would have had trouble keeping every word if he’d been elected.

        The system America has in place prevents Presidents – especially those unpopular with the opposition forces, which currently hold majority rule in the House & Senate – from putting some of their best policies into practice. Often they have to keep some issues private, even saying the opposite in public.

        Sometimes it’s about public safety/morale, other times it is that the private opinions aren’t held by the majority of the American public. Examples that spring to mind are the Cuban missile crisis & same-sex marriage, respectively.

        I agree – local politicians are more inclined to honesty. They also have their own struggles, including lack of recognition on a public stage & lower turn-out for voters. They have to make themselves well known for their policies (or their slip-ups) to get people out to vote & re-elect them.

        I also agree that national-level politics have some major issues. Freakin’ lobbyists & that awful Supreme Court ruling saying campaign contributions are a form of free speech(!!) are not helping the public at large. That’s not to say that local government is free from corruption (I live in a state on the East Coast with a governor who is a corrupt, loud-mouthed, bully & 2 of his top aides are on trial for their actions – that should give you enough hints to figure it out ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

        Fixing them is a monumental task. Far too much for a single person, especially when he/she’s dealing with partisan politics.

        I see your point about the appearance of corruption. The issue as I see it is that Ms. Schultz couldn’t be ousted in disgrace (despite wholly deserving it). She had the right to maintain her position, barring some ridiculous, drawn-out process, until after the DNC. I’m not sure what the party would have to do to get her out without offering her a cushy job. I also agree that it doesn’t pass the smell test… but I can’t make a definitive link to Mrs. Clinton.

        Also, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. has a rigid 2-party system in place. It’s possible, after this year, some 3rd party candidates will have a better chance.

        But, as for right now, America’s options are a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, nuclear weapon-obsessed, privileged white man (who’s facing racketeering/RICO charges in November & a civil case regarding the rape of a 13-year-old girl in December), or a woman who sent some emails on a private server (all of her other “scandals” have been investigated to death with no illegal activity).

        I’m curious – what makes Dr. Stein your preference? I’ve read up on her policies, & I can see the upside of her as a candidate. However, I see the downside as well.

        My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I wanted to give your comment the attention it deserved & I was on candy duty for the kiddos on Halloween. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. […] The complicated issue of one H.R. Clinton […]

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