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