14 October 2007

Rethinking Hillary Clinton

A little over a year ago I argued that Hillary Clinton should not be President, and for most of this year I've considered Rudy Giuliani to be the best choice. I don't hold that view any more. Here's why.

What I want from the President (and from the government in general) is to defend and expand personal freedom in domestic policy while also taking a tough stance -- including willingness to use military force when necessary -- against external enemies. In a nutshell: to defend the free society against both the Christian fundamentalist threat within and the Islamic imperialist threat from overseas. Given the ideological views represented by each of the two main parties, this creates a dilemma. Most Democrats could be counted on to support Roe vs. Wade, restore separation of church and state, repeal restrictions on stem-cell research, encourage equal rights for homosexuals, and so forth, but their firmness against the Islamic threat is far more questionable. With most Republicans, the problem is the other way round.

In Giuliani, a popular Republican with liberal views on many social issues, I thought I'd found an answer. But it has become increasingly clear that we couldn't count on him, as President, to do anything concrete to ensure that Roe vs. Wade is upheld (Supreme Court appointments are the only way a President can really influence abortion policy, so it does us no good to have a pro-choice President if his appointments don't reflect that view). Recently he has "seemed receptive" to a more actively-hostile stance. Abortion is not only a high-profile issue but also a good "litmus test" for revealing how a politician is likely to act on other social issues; if Giuliani is willing to appease the Christian Right on abortion policy, it's legitimate to suspect that he might do the same on stem cells, gay rights, et cetera.

If Giuliani has moved away from the political center and toward his party's base, Clinton has been moving in the opposite direction on foreign policy for some time, especially the crucial Iran issue. She is easily the most hawkish and least internationalist of the major Democratic Presidential candidates -- a position reflected in the fact that she is now almost as much demonized on the far left as on the far right.

It's commonly said that Clinton (along with her husband) is too ruthless and Machiavellian. But these are not necessarily bad traits in a President. The President needs to deal with people like Putin and Ahmadinejad and the Beijing thugocracy. Those guys don’t play nice.

Isn't the problem of illegal immigration an argument against voting Democratic? I don't think so. It would be hard for any Democrat -- or anyone at all -- to be worse on that issue than Bush, who fought tooth and nail to pass the amnesty bill back in June. What defeated that bill was a mass popular uprising, not the Republican party as such. For the foreseeable future, regardless of which party is in charge, the struggle to uphold an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration is going to be waged by the broad mass of the people against the pro-amnesty elite which dominates both parties.

Finally, what about the point I made last year, that Democratic control of the Presidency and Congress would completely shut conservatives out of power, and that this would be as unhealthy in a polarized country as the total shut-out of liberals in 2000-2006?

I think, now, that this is the lesser of two evils. The Republican party is so strongly wedded to the anti-freedom and anti-science Christian Right, and is also so dangerously mired in reality-denial, that in its present incarnation it is simply not fit to exercise power in any area. There are sane, secular Republicans, many of them. Giuliani is certainly one. But they need to take back control of the party from the fundamentalists and re-anchor it in the real world. If a crushing electoral defeat in 2008 spurs them to take on that fight at last, the result will be to restore conservatism to a form that a rational person can support, and revitalize the two-party system. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton as President is our best option.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chell said...

Too bad there can't just be a reasonable and strong third party candidate.

14 October, 2007 13:23  

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