Hillary Clinton – A Force for Change or More of the Same?

Hillary Clinton announced on Sunday what everybody knew had been coming for months: she would be standing as a presidential candidate for the democrats. As many political commentators are crowing, this was more of a coronation than anything else, for there is simply nobody else with the clout within the party that would appear to be running. Neither does there appear to be any dangerous outsiders joining the race; there will be no Obama-esque figure to thwart Clinton this time. Considering that Clinton will almost certainly be the democrat candidate that ends up driving their push for another stint in the white house, it’s worth exploring the highs and lows of the career of a woman who may end up as the head of state of our most prominent ally.

The Good

  • Following the US’ first black president with its first female president would be a clear sign of progress in contrast to much of the socially regressive rhetoric of the Republicans. Moreover, her policies do show a focus on gender-related issues, and she has been an active campaigner for women’s rights since the 90s
  • Clinton previously campaigned for health reform when her husband was in office, so it is hoped would continue to tackle the shambolic US health system
  • Has promised action to redress unfair elements of US society, such as increasing the minimum wage (the federal minimum is just $7.25/£4.93 an hour, although many states pay higher)
  • Favours achievable targets relating to gun control, such as outlawing assault weapons
  • Back in 2001, she called for the abolition of the electoral collage frequently criticized for being undemocratic, with Clinton instead favouring a president elected entirely based on the popular vote
  • Is committed to combating climate change, unlike many of her Republican opponents – Clinton is committed to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol committing nations to reduce their emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
  • Has urged more financial and military aid be sent to Ukraine

The Bad

  • Hillary Clinton is far closer to Israel than her predecessor, who has become increasingly infuriated with Israel’s diplomatic blunders and recent denouncement of the Iranian nuclear deal. Clinton would represent a move towards closer ties to Israel, and thus provide further protection for continued Israeli injustices – she herself supported the creation of the Western Bank Barrier
  • Voted in favour of the 2001 USA patriot act, and has also remarked that human rights are secondary to national security
  • Previously showed a lukewarm approach towards gay marriage, only conclusively “coming out” (hurhurhur) in support of gay marriage in 2013 (sadly coming out in support of gay marriage is the closest you’ll get to a presidential candidate coming out in this generation of US politics)
  • Criticized Obama in 2008 for supporting Iranian negotiations, only to later voice support for the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal
  • Voted in favour of the Iraq war only to later criticize US involvement
  • Formerly supported the Cuban embargo
  • Weak track record as secretary of state, particularly in her “new slate” approach to Russia that the Republicans have gleefully jumped upon in light of events in Eastern Europe
  • Criticized Edward Snowden as a traitor and terrorist, but nevertheless sees no hypocrisy in winning cheap points by making vague statements about how NSA surveillance made people feel “betrayed”

The Ugly

  • Famously refused to concede defeat to Obama when this was obvious to all by invoking memories of Robert Kennedy’s assassination
  • Signed an act making flag burning illegal
  • Blasted Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games as “a major threat to morality,” despite all research into this area showing no link between violence and playing violent video games
  • Was embroiled in a scandal earlier in the year due to her usage of a private email account whilst Secretary of State to withhold documents from the State Department

Conclusion

Hillary Clinton would definitely be preferable to some of the frankly dangerous candidates the Republicans are fielding, however she herself is much more of a moderate than she is a reformer.

That’s not to say that she is not genuinely committed to some level of reform. Conversely, she appears ready to tackle some of the most pressing issues that the US people are facing – a low minimum wage, stalling progress in the fight for women’s right, a health system that doesn’t work for the people, and an inability amongst the political elite to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

However, how radical are many of her “reformist” notions?  Her policies on gun control, whilst having the advantage of being realistic, don’t actually propose anything as radical as real, effective management of the distribution of firearms. A federal minimum wage of $7.25 demands reform. Whilst many of her other past attitudes, such as in ratifying the Kyoto protocol and reforming the US health system, are admirable, they are also hardly a radical departure from fairly standard democratic principles and policies, nor a departure from those of the current president.

Moreover, Clinton has shown a lack of integrity on important issues that simply cannot be ignored: She has contradicted herself on the Iranian nuclear deal, on same-sex marriage, on the Iraq War. Her attitude towards creating a fairer American society is at odds with her defence of one of the world’s greatest injustices in the annexation and segregation of the Palestinian people.

Outside of these inconsistencies in policy and outside of her sometimes borderline-Machiavellian pragmatism, Clinton has spoken consistently in favour of measures that range from regressive to just downright bizarre. Be it her unclear position on the surveillance of the NSA, her unfounded scaremongering on the societal effect of violent video games, or her chest-thumping jingoism on flag burning, all of these oddities reveal a figure who still overall speaks in the language of the current US political class.

Despite this, she would still be my preferred choice for US president when the competition features the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Based on the current crop of hopefuls, she undeniably is the best hope of any kind of real progress – but that is faint praise indeed.

Conor Dunwoody


Sources (I’ve only linked to the more obscure points I’ve raised)

On potential for Obama to be assassinated – http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyharnden/3659451/Hillary_Clinton_Maybe_Barack_Obama_will_be_assassinated/

Support for Western Bank barrier – http://www.haaretz.com/news/sen-clinton-i-support-w-bank-fence-pa-must-fight-terrorism-1.173922

On the abolition of the electoral collage – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hillary-calls-for-end-to-electoral-college/

On Ukranian aid – http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/hillary-clinton-ukraine-aid-military-financial-114462.html

On Violent Video Games – http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/news290305clinton

On Edward Snowden and the NSA – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/25/hillary-clinton-people-betrayed-nsa-surveillance-edward-snowden

On Flag Burning – http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/washington/28hillary.html

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