Original by Dmitriy Drobnitskiy published by politconservatism.ru; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
From the moment Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and agreed to join his Cabinet as Secretary of State, political analysts have been continuously assessing her chances to become the 45th US president.
In November 2010 the Democrats began losing control of Congress and Obama suffered his first failures, but Hillary’s popularity, both among the electorate and the political class, continued to grow. She left the administration after the 2012 election as the most highly rated US politician.
The Clinton faction, together with the rest of the party, unconditionally supported the sitting president during these elections, but one cold also sense a certain tension between the left-liberal Democratic wing and the centrists, the so-called New Democrats, who are mainly associating themselves with the former president Clinton and his supporters.
Therefore in 2013-14, Hillary’s possible presidency was considered in terms of a return of the centrists, who were moderate in socio-economic issues and pragmatic (though sometimes that verged on cynicism) on international matters.
However, the Democratic left is not about to give up without a fight.
The most liberal of Democrats who prefer to call themselves Progressives placed their hopes in Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, as well as VP Joe Biden. It was also assumed that Democratic Party’s young voters would express their views.
However, in November 2014 the Democrats suffered a crushing defeat during the mid-term election to Congress and to state governments. Many Democratic governors lost their seats and therefore would not be able to represent the party in 2016.
“Donkey” rising stars also failed. “The Democrats’ lost generation” is how Politico described that unhappy situation. Many of them (such as Michelle Nunn, Allison Grimes, Wendy Davis, Anthony Brown, Mike Michaud) could have at least hoped for a VP spot.
The left has practically no new faces. While attempting to persuade Warren to take part in the presidential campaign and not letting up on criticizing Hillary, the progressives started to think of Plan B.
In December 2014, an activist for the liberal-progressive organization CAF Bill Sher proposed the Left create its own Tea Party modeled after the right-wing grass-roots which in 2010 began to take over the GOP.
Sher’s article had a bold title ” Can the Left create its own Tea Party?” and an even bolder subtitle “After the midterm defeat, the liberal insurgents declare it’s time to stage a coup in the Democratic Party.”
The coup’s motive force, its grass-roots foundation would become the race riots in various US cities and civic organizations that would appear in their wake. From above, the insurgents’ demands would be supported by Warren, with the article rather transparently hinting at her role.
However, as we know, Warren refused to participate in the race, and the Black Lives Matter movement turned out to be not very “ideologically pure” and not endowed with “party discipline.” Instead of creating problems for the Democrat establishment and Hillary, its activists targeted campaign events by the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders.
Sher’s plan had another flaw. Even if it was possible to mobilize the grass-roots progressives unified by something other than racial injustice to seize party power, the movement would not have been able to elect its president to the White House. The Tea Party story illustrates how the right was able to score successes in the 2010 Congressional election, which gave them a bevy of brilliant new leaders, some of whom are now competing for the GOP nomination.
It’s possible for “liberal insurgents” to repeat “tea party” success in 2016, but only in Congress (though even here it seems doubtful). The grass-roots rebellion has no shot at the presidency.
After Warren and Biden declared they will not participate in the race, Hillary had no more serious opponents. Sanders and O’Malley are good sparring partners, perhaps they are making plans for the future, but the likelihood of them winning the nomination is exceedingly small. Barring something unexpected.
By the Fall of 2015 it became clear that the liberal-progressives could triumph even if Hillary did not suffer a primary defeat. Rather the opposite.
The real Plan B was implemented by a group of active liberal congressmen who rallied around Warren with powerful media support.
In a year and a half, the progressives were able to bring over to its side the DNC leadership including its head Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the majority of local party organization. Constant media pressure made conducting any type of discourse other than left-liberal quite impossible.
As a result of that creeping coup, the progressives got their own strong candidate–Hillary Clinton–who was forced to abandon any attempts to move to the center, at least on internal political matters.
The debates have shown that the three Democratic candidates have almost identical positions on social and economic issues.
Naturally, the socialist Sanders is continuing to regale the public with his “un-American” statements on the welfare state on the Northern European model, on free higher education for everyone, or establishing a single-payer health care system, but his statements are perceived as exotic, and having no effect apart from livening up the intra-party discourse.
All the candidates agree that taxes on top earners should be raised, minimum wage increased, Obamacare preserved with some modifications, equal pay for men and women guaranteed by law, gun control increased, sexual minority rights protected, etc.
Hillary and her primary rivals turned out to be left of Obama on some issues. All the Democratic candidates are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Obama considers his salient achievement. Elizabeth Warren is also against the TPP.
The left believes the new free trade zone will harm job creation in the US, will undermine US workers’ competitiveness, and increase inequality.
Even when it comes to introducing harsher regulations on Wall Street, there is a certain unity of views. O’Malley likes to criticize Hillary for supporting her husband who facilitated financial market deregulation and allowed ordinary banks to engage in investment banking while investment banks were allowed to issue loans. Sanders also points out Hillary’s close ties to Wall Street notables.
That criticism is only partly justified.
No candidate has a genuine plan on how to separate lending and investment activities by banks without incurring serious consequences for the economy. Hillary is also not against greater Wall Street regulation and even breaking up big banks (which is something Sanders and O’Malley insist on).
The differences lie in the details.
While Sanders views bank consolidation a “vital economic matter,” Hillary is prepared to allow it “under certain circumstances.”
And even though New York times recently insistently advised Hillary not to forget her husband’s (whose support will be important for her during the election campaign) centrist economic course, the paper had to acknowledge that:
“Even though Mr. Clinton’s presidency is associated with one of the healthiest sets of economic conditions in the country’s recent history, his business-oriented pragmatism and adherence to free markets does not resonate with the sentiment of the Democrats who will vote during the primaries. These voters are too concerned with inequality and are not in awe of free trade zones.”
Well, if the primary voter Democrats will be mainly liberal-centrists, then the left will control party organizations in individual states.
Liberal media are continuing to pump up politically active Democratic voters and dictate the frontrunner an agenda which is far from “genuine Clinton.” Here’s what The Week columnist James Pethokoukis writes concerning that issue:
“Should it really mar the Bill Clinton presidency that inequality rose even though almost every demographic group saw large and steady income gains? Of course not. But try telling that to the Democratic Party’s fervently progressive base.”
Moreover, today there are almost no pro-Democratic think tanks which could advise Hillary to take up “business-oriented pragmatism.”
For example, the Brookings Institution which was a pillar of support for Clintonism, has gone to the left in recent years. Moreover, it turns out it is in awe of Elizabeth Warren, which the US public realized when the liberal senator criticized the well-known economist Robert Litan for the opinion he rendered for Brookings on the Department of Labor legislative initiatives. Warren sent an angry letter to Brookings and requested that Litan be checked for conflict of interest. The next day (naturally, without a serious investigation), the economist was fired on orders by none other than Strobe Talbott.
The only matter on which Brookings is in agreement with Obama rather than Warren is TPP. But it’s not 100% support. Its leadership underscores the importance of TPP, but with two qualifications: the world is not ready for China to join, and the rights of workers must be protected by local laws.
The main “advocate” for TPP in the US is the US Trade Representative Michael Froman who worked in the Clinton administration as an economic advisor and Treasury Department official. Naturally, he participated in assessing NAFTA, which was signed by Bill Clinton. This faithful clintonista did not convince Hillary on the TPP matter, and secondly , attempting to reduce Democratic public’s fears concerning the new agreement, he came up with a characteristic argument: TPP is not NAFTA.
In other words, the time continuum has broken…
* * *
So, even if the next US president will be named Clinton, it does not mean a “New Clinton Era.” Hillary is different from Bill of the 1992-2000 vintage on every major domestic issue.
Bill signed the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Hillary is actively in favor of sexual minority rights and same-sex marriages.
Bill signed NAFTA. Hillary is against TPP.
Bill facilitated Wall Street deregulation and reducing corporate taxes, Hillary promises to raise taxes and to hold financial institutions accountable.
Bill once said “The era of big government is over.” Hillary is in favor of expanding the role of the state in the social and economic sphere.
Democrats’ move to the center which seemed unavoidable even a year and a half ago is now considered impossible. Here’s what Pethokoukis has to say:
“Democrats often say the modern GOP has lurched so far right that a time-traveling Ronald Reagan couldn’t win the party’s presidential nomination today. What Democrats fail to say is this: ’90s-era Bill Clinton would have an equally difficult challenge if he could somehow run for a third term today.”
The Left has not simply surrendered to the “good old Clintons'” mercy, they took over the Democratic Party together with its presidential favorite.
That takeover removed the need for an open confrontation with Hillary and other Democratic establishment figures, but at the same time deprived them of ability to influence Hillary’s foreign policies (assuming she wins the election).
Moreover, Hillary’s very consent to adhere to the progressive agenda on social and economic matters was likely exchanged for full freedom on international matters.
Unlike Bill Clinton’s party, this will not be a party line but Hillary’s personal line.
As Obama’s presidency has shown, Congress can do little to oppose international moves by the White House, except on matter of tiny details. The opposition-controlled Congress invited Netanyahu behind Obama’s back, thus helping him win elections in Israel but did not succeed in preventing the US-Iranian detente.
In Hillary’s case, the situation is made more interesting by her close ties to international lobbies, especially Saudi.
Already today Hillary’s international rhetoric differs little from GOP “hawks”, and once she becomes president she will use every opportunity to demonstrate her “decisiveness” and “firmness” to prove to herself and the whole world that she is no worse than her husband, that a woman can be a Commander in Chief (and a good one!) and that her defeat in 2008 has not kneecapped her. Hopefully she won’t exact revenge for all the insults she has suffered!
In the event of a victory, Hillary will be a more leftist president than Barack Obama (though not going as far as Sanders’ socialism) and, I’m afraid, she will be an even more unpredictable and aggressive international player than John McCain would have been.
In short, not very Clinton-like…
J.Hawk’s Comment: There is little doubt Hillary will be an extremely aggressive and warlike president who will likely lead to the destabilization of even more parts of the world than Barack Obama did. In that respect she is not all that different from her husband who bombed Yugoslavia/Serbia twice, launched airstrikes against Iraq, and conducted a variety of other military operations, and whose Secretary of State was Madeline Albright. However, there is little evidence the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party has her or the party under control.
Let’s not forget that in 2008 it was Barack Obama who campaigned to the left of Clinton and who got the “liberal progressive” vote, in part by attacking Hillary on her husband’s pro-big finance record and in party by opposing the George W. Bush’s wars. Obama even promised to re-negotiate NAFTA once elected, something he has not even attempted to do once in office. He could do that because the liberal progressive faction of the party seems to exist only for propaganda purposes and for appealing to the “bleeding heart” section of the party by making the party’s designated candidate appear like something he (or she) really is not–a leftist in the FDR/LBJ mold. Once Obama became president and started to drift to the right, the “progressives” showed their true colors when they continued to support him on both his domestic and international initiatives even after he broke nearly all of his campaign promises (there’s hardly any criticism of Obama’s drone assassinations or regime change agenda from within the Democratic Party, for example). Should Hillary be elected, she will most likely agree to the TPP and continue Obama’s aggressive international policies without having to worry about the “progressives”.
Finally, should Hillary become president, she will have a GOP-dominated Congress to contend with which means none of the promises she makes on the campaign trail will have any hope of ever becoming a reality. Barring a US economic miracle in the US in 2016, Hillary’s win would not be accompanied by a Democratic retaking of Congress.