Ever since the 2012 election results were certified, the conventional wisdom has been that Hillary Clinton is all but guaranteed a coronation in the 2016 primaries. She has racked up a series of endorsements from prominent Democrats. As early as July 2013, an MSNBC article referred to her as the “presumptive nominee,” a term generally reserved for the Democratic candidate who has clinched the majority of party delegates. Although her support has slipped slightly in the past month, she still holds a commanding, and arguably prohibitive, lead in polling of Democratic primary candidates, with 88 percent of self-described “solid liberals” pledging support for her. It is possible that this high degree of support may result more from the perception that she is inevitable rather than from widespread substantive agreement with many of her policies, because upon close examination, there is a litany of positions she’s taken that many on the left would find highly problematic.
1. Foreign Policy
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was reportedly one of the most hawkish members of President Obama’s cabinet, pushing for the 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan and US intervention in Libya. She has also been a vocal proponent of the same drone war that has led to the deaths of 2,400 civilians. In her recent memoir, Hard Choices, she bragged about having presided over the imposition of “crippling sanctions” on the Iranian economy during her tenure as secretary of state. These crippling sanctions are a form of collective punishment and have benefited the wealthy only, while making life miserable for everyone else. In an interview with Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in August 2014, she further outlined her views on Iran, staking out a maximalist position on Iranian nuclear enrichment, which effectively opens the door to military intervention. She also suggested that the United States should have done more to intervene in Syria, by, in her words, creating a “credible fighting force,” while the lack of said force led to the rise of ISIS. In addition, she vociferously defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the assault on Gaza. Not surprisingly, her bellicose rhetoric has received praise from neocon luminary Robert Kagan. Senator Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq war, a vote for which it took her more than a decade to express regret, was clearly not a temporary lapse in judgment.
Her recent foray into vague populist rhetoric notwithstanding, Clinton has long nurtured close ties to the financial sector. Over the course of her political career, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup have been among her top political donors, in addition to giving heavily to the Clinton Foundation. In October 2013, Clinton received $400,000 to speak at two Goldman Sachs events and delivered what was described as a “reassuring message” to the assembled bankers. In all likelihood, a second Clinton administration would involve the appointment of industry insiders to regulatory posts in the perpetually revolving door between Wall Street and the federal government. It’s understandable then that her friends on Wall Street would be quick to shrug off her halfhearted attempt to shore up her left flank as anything but substantive. Nobody who was genuinely concerned with economic inequity would be hobnobbing with some of the same economic institutions whose reckless financial schemes helped engineer the 2008 economic collapse.
Hillary Clinton has a long history of being willing to serve the interests of large corporations. In 1976, while serving as legal counsel for the Rose Law Firm, she represented several Arkansas utilities companies that sued the state after a ballot initiative (sponsored by conservative boogeyman Acorn) passed that decreased utilities rates on Little Rock residents and increased them on businesses. In defending the utilities conglomerates, she argued that the initiative amounted to an unconstitutional seizure of property. The judge ruled in these companies’ favor.
As Grist magazine reported, during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton took an active role in promoting hydrofracking worldwide through the Global Shale Gas Initiative. Clinton’s State Department, and in some cases she personally, lobbied on behalf of companies like Chevron intent on expanding the practice, particularly in countries like Bulgaria and Romania where there was widespread public skepticism. This lobbying was met with mixed success, as Chevron eventually pulled out of Bulgaria due to a moratorium, while Romania’s moratorium was repealed following US lobbying. Since stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton has continued to express support for the practice, which she outlined in a September 2014 speech to the National Clean Energy Summit. She has also remained disturbingly silent on the issue of the Keystone XL pipeline.
4. Civil Liberties
If you have been outraged by the Obama administration’s abysmal record on civil liberties – from its continuation of NSA spying, rampant secrecy and overzealous prosecution of whistleblowers – and would like to see a change in the post 9/11 status quo, then Hillary Clinton is the last candidate you should expect change from. In the Senate, she voted for the Patriot Act as well as its subsequent reauthorization. In an appearance in April 2014 at the University of Connecticut, she defended NSA surveillance and chastised whistleblower Edward Snowden, accusing him of supporting terrorism.
5. Culture Wars
Clinton has a long history of cynical pandering on hot button social and culture war issues. As a senator, she frequently co-sponsored legislation that would make many on the left cringe. In 2005, she joined a bipartisan group of senators in signing onto the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which, according to the ACLU, would effectively have legalized discrimination. Later that same year, she introduced a bill that would have made flag burning a felony.
In addition, she has an extensive history of anti-video game demagoguery, something that wouldn’t exactly endear her to younger voters. In July 2005, she called upon the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over the “hot coffee mod” – a sexually explicit mini-game within GTA. This led to the game’s rating being changed to Adults Only until Rockstar Games removed it from shelves. In November 2005, she introduced legislation that would have banned the sale of games rated M for mature to anybody under the age of 17. Two years later, she again introduced similar legislation in the middle of her first presidential bid.
It’s also worthwhile to note that many secular Americans would find some of the company she keeps disturbing. Beginning in 1993, Clinton was a member of “The Fellowship,” a clandestine and influential evangelical group, which has recruited many prominent figures in business and politics and holds meetings in gender-segregated “cells.”
If you agree with these positions, then by all means, Hillary Rodham Clinton is your candidate. If, however, you want a more peaceful foreign policy at a time in which an entire younger generation of Americans have never known anything other than a state of permanent undeclared war, or if you would prefer to see Wall Street and NSA spying reined in, then you should find a better candidate to support. If we don’t address these vitally important issues now and Hillary does become the nominee following a no contest primary, then to get a change in the status quo, we will have to wait until 2020, if she loses (in which case we’d face the terrifying possibility of an ultra-reactionary Republican Party in control of the White House and both houses of Congress), or 2024, if she wins. Neither of these options bodes well for the future of the Democratic Party or the country.
If, as progressives, we simply allow ourselves to fall in line behind a Democratic establishment that smugly mocks us, then we will forever be marginalized and beholden to a political system in which the Overton window is permanently slanted to the right.