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Hillary Clinton is a Progressive

Some people have called Hillary Clinton a Republican in Democrat’s clothing, but does that claim pass scrutiny? One of the arguments for this was that she was actually a Republican for part of the 60’s, but that was mostly before she was even old enough to vote. If there is some rule that once a Republican, always a Republican, then I guess Elizabeth Warren (whom I love) can’t be a progressive Democrat, as she was registered with to GOP as late as 1996.

But what about Clinton’s policies, you ask? Well, Jonathan Cohn ran the numbers and well, yes, compared to Bernie Sanders, Clinton is to his right. The problem with this argument is that pretty much every Democrat (and every Republican) in office is to the right of Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, according to DW-NOMINATE scores, when Clinton was a member of Congress, she was the 11th most liberal member of the Senate.

And what about her current priorities? Those are pretty progressive too. Like raising the minimum wage, phasing out fossil fuels, twelve weeks of family leave for new mothers and fathers, making a college education possible without taking out loans, and higher taxes on the wealthy. In some cases, her positions are to the left of Sanders, such as gun violence, abortion, and (in some ways) immigration.

Yes, Sanders is definitely to the left of Clinton, but he is so far to the left he didn’t even call himself a Democrat until he decided to run for president. If you compare Clinton to any other Democrat who ran for the nomination this election, including Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley she is far more progressive.



  1. Robert Brown wrote:

    This presumes that if she ever said something was a policy of hers that it’s taken for granted. She hasn’t been a strong advocate for phasing out fossil fuels, and while some of the policies she supports are in fact progressive, her voting record shows horrible judgement that is decidedly not progressive when it really counts.

    I’m not that excited about a minimum wage hike if we’re just going to turn around and get embroiled in another elective war and incarcerate a ridiculous number of black men while we’re at it. For example.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  2. James wrote:

    Clinton’s liberal / progressive bona fides rest predominantly on the “relative”.

    For those of us who take a longer term and / or more internationally balanced perspective, and who remember what conservatism was before it lost it’s collective mind, pledging unyielding fealty to extremist ideologies, she fits that conservative glass slipper much more comfortably.

    Her opponent, on the other hand, is a reminder to us of how many of our principles the Democratic party has abandoned.

    I count myself as an independent for the same reasons as Bernie Sanders has. I have never been extreme or highly ideological – in fact an avowed centrist for most of my life. Nevertheless, there are core principles that I hold steadfastly, which I would dearly love to see re-embraced by the Democratic party.

    At this point in time, only Bernie Sanders represents the opportunity to broaden the Democrats base by reaching out to principled, pragmatic centrists and leftists on whom the political scale has moved violently rightward.

    Those who celebrate the possibility of our first female president as an achievement in itself would do well to understand the lessons of Margaret Thatcher.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  3. redjon wrote:

    Bill Clinton was also a Centrist, and my memory is that the actual “presidency” part of his presidency was on balance pretty good. One thing genuine Centrists like Bill (and certainly Hillary) tend to do much better than extremists is govern.

    Hillary is hated. Sanders is mocked. Trump is praised or at worst tolerated. The situation is not good.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Ralph wrote:

    Yeah, what James just said!

    The “problem” with Bernie as I see it is, given the situation we’re presently ensconced within, it’s hard to see a viable path to, for example, single payer healthcare. (Or as someone from outback Vermont might say, “you can’t get there from here”.) So we’ll likely have to cobble something more sustainable together through ACA tinkering.

    Whether Hillary can achieve that, or will even strive to, is debatable. The other wild card with her is the relative hawkishness, but next to Trump she appears positively dovish!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Robert Brown, Clinton’s only “voting record” is from when she was in the Senate, and during that time her voting record was progressive. If you want to claim that her voting record was “horrible” you need to back it up with some actual facts. And if you are going to chastise Hillary for Bill Clinton’s crime bill, you should also remember that Bernie Sanders voted for that bill. It was wildly popular at the time (with both Democrats and Republicans), and Hillary has apologized for how it ended up incarcerating way too many blacks.

    James, I don’t totally disagree with you, but there are two points you made that bother me.

    First of all, I haven’t heard anyone in here say that we should elect Clinton just because she is a woman. And you sure as hell didn’t hear anyone in here saying we should have elected Sarah Palin because she is female. Why are you using a line right out of Trump’s playbook? Are you saying that because England elected a female PM, we shouldn’t make the same mistake? I lived in England during the time that Thatcher was PM, and I can tell you that Clinton not even slightly like Thatcher. There have been more than 70 female prime ministers and presidents in the world, why are you singling out Thatcher for comparison to Clinton?

    Especially if it is Clinton, electing our first female president would be an achievement worth celebrating. But being female alone is not a good enough reason to vote for anybody.

    I also disagree with your statement that the Democratic Party “abandoned” their liberal principles. In the 70s, the Democrats nominated George McGovern, who was in many ways similar to Sanders (McGovern opposed the Vietnam War from the beginning, etc.). But in the general election, McGovern received only 17 electoral votes (to Nixon/Agnew’s 520), and lost the popular vote by a larger margin than any other presidential candidate in history. More recently, when Bill Clinton (with lots of help from Hillary) fought hard for a single-payer health care system, the next election started the “Republican Revolution” and resulted in the Democrats losing both the House and the Senate for the first time since the early 50s. And after Obama got the ACA passed, at the next midterms the Democrats were again trounced at the polls, losing control of Congress. Is your idea of a good Democratic party one that loses every election?

    Yes, the political spectrum has moved to the right, but this wasn’t because Democrats abandoned progressive principles. They were voted out of office.

    Finally, I don’t know how this post became a Clinton vs Sanders discussion, but I think that today’s primary in West Virginia will be interesting. Sanders is predicted to win, probably by a big margin. Why? Because Clinton came out strongly against coal (remember, coal is one of the worst fossil fuels), saying “We are going to put a lot of coal miners out of business”, while Sanders has refused to say anything against coal. As the economy of West Virginia is almost completely dependent on coal, will the reason Sanders wins some delegates today be because he “abandoned” his progressive principles?

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  6. Diogenes wrote:

    Seems like this is a post to refute a claim that being ‘right of sanders’ is not necessarily republican and also a list of her progressive policies.

    What do you think her least progressive policies are?

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Diogenes, I’m not sure that question is meaningful. I guess it depends on which policies you count as progressive. We just had someone say they don’t care about Clinton’s current support for raising the minimum wage, because way back during Bill Clinton’s administration she supported the enactment of a “law and order” bill.

    Actually, the minimum wage law is a good example. Sanders supports raising it to $15 an hour nationwide, while Clinton supports raising it to $12 an hour in most places but $15 an hour in areas where the cost of living is high. Both are pretty darn progressive positions, but Sanders clearly wants to raise it more than Clinton does. So I guess Sanders is more progressive than Clinton, right?

    Same thing with college education. Sanders wants to make it free for everyone. Clinton’s proposal makes it dependent on your ability to pay, as long as you can pay the tuition at a public university without incurring any loans. Again, Sanders’s proposal is “more progressive”, but mainly in degree.

    Here’s a comparison that I find useful — — it is from November 2015, which is before Clinton started being pushed to the left by Sanders, so it probably gives a pretty accurate portrait of her priorities.

    Most differences between Clinton and Sanders are matters of degree, but there are a few exceptions. Both want to reform Wall Street, but Sanders wants to break up financial institutions, while Clinton wants to do things like instituting a “risk fee” for making high-risk loans and taxing high-frequency trading. On this one, I lean toward Sanders’s position, but I think it will be difficult to achieve politically. I like what Clinton is proposing, but it is less aggressive than what Sanders is proposing. But you asked me to name a policy where Clinton is less progressive.

    Another example is what to do about the group known as ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh, etc. Clinton thinks we should be involved in fighting ISIS, while Sanders is against any foreign involvement, and that fighting ISIS should be left to other countries in the region (which I assume includes Israel). I’m not sure whether being completely noninterventionist is a progressive position or not. But the problem here is that a clear, wide majority of Americans think we are not doing enough to fight ISIS. In this area, I am definitely a pragmatist. I think Bush’s war in Iraq was insanely stupid of us and pretty much was the cause of the rise of ISIS. I also think Obama’s current actions against ISIS are mostly working to contain and reduce the threat from ISIS. Clinton wants to continue those actions, while Sanders just wants us to withdraw completely. While I wish we hadn’t intervened in the first place, I think it is too late to just completely withdraw (“we broke it, we own it”). So in this case, while some people will consider Sanders more progressive, I think his position would be a mistake. Our noninterventionist position during the rise of fascism in Europe help lead to WWII and the deaths of millions of people. So with regards to ISIS, Clinton is “more hawkish” than Sanders, but I think in the long run, given the situation, Sanders’s position is more dangerous.

    Does that answer your question?

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink
  8. ThatGuy wrote:

    I think the areas that concern me most regarding Clinton can be set aside from her overall record, which I’d agree tilts left, especially these days. For her past foot-dragging on issues of LGBT rights, for example, she can now be thoroughly forgiven because she holds the (in my opinion) correct view of it now. Ditto on crime, which you (IK) are right to point out Sanders being on the wrong side of as well.

    My concerns are her tendencies to intervene where we shouldn’t be. Her Iraq vote, obviously, stands out. But even more recently with her “better to be caught trying” attitude regarding Libya is extremely concerning, because “trying” seems to often involve bombing the tar out of these places without much plan for the future. Her one recent example of restraint, in Egypt prior to Mubarak’s ouster, was somewhat marred by the fact that she considered that particular despot to be a friend.

    On the domestic front, I can’t trust her to work hard enough against wealth inequality. Her ties to banks are obvious (please release the speeches), but there’s also a friendliness with the corporate world at large that is concerning. Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She was for it until liberal polls were against it, and she followed. Ditto her comment on coal that you (again IK) are quoting. Once she realized she’d have to go to WV and face the music, she said this:

    “What I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” she said. “What I was saying is that the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs. That’s what I meant to say.”

    Far from the anti-carbon crusader because she either a) didn’t mean it since she now calls it a “misstatement”; or b) didn’t mean it hard enough to stick to it when challenged.

    We could and should easily point out that Sanders is, in fact, very anti-fossil fuel. He calls for a ban on fracking, Clinton does not. He openly recognized that his environmental policies will put miners out of work, so he proposes investment in communities that will be hit by this. This is him not being as tone-deaf as Clinton, not being less green.

    He also isn’t as starkly isolationist as you suggest. I haven’t seen him saying that he’s against any foreign engagement anywhere. He simply doesn’t think the US needs to be doing the lion’s share of the work. I think Clinton would agree that a region which fosters extremism (Saudi Arabia, Qatar (she’ll agree here after Libya), Iran, etc.) needs to do more to counter it when it runs amok. On defeating ISIS (which he lists as a major goal of a Sanders administration, by the way), Sanders says:

    “What we do, as King Abdullah of Jordan has told us, is we work to put together a very effective coalition of Muslim nations who lead the effort on the ground, supported by the United States, the U.K., France, and other major powers in the air and through training.”

    So he is completely fine, apparently, with air support and training efforts, which is only slightly scaled back from what’s going on now, where I see dangerous mission-creep with our putting boots on the ground. Mission-creep, such as what we saw in Libya

    TL;DR, Clinton’s reputation as a less-than-steadfast progressive on certain issues has very, very recent examples.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ok, so we agree that Sanders is to the left of Clinton on most issues (with a few exceptions). Didn’t I say that in the original post?

    The original post was arguing against the idea that Clinton is really a Republican, which is patently hilarious. Did any Republican presidential candidate want to raise the minimum wage? Did most of them want to bomb the Middle East until the sand glowed? Are any of them for gay marriage? Would any of them appoint a Supreme Court justice who wouldn’t make me ill?

    Does anyone disagree with my point?

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  10. ThatGuy wrote:

    Sure, she’s left of the right-wing nuts who ran for the GOP nomination. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. It’s just that being left of those loonies isn’t terribly difficult, and her… malleability… on some issues is concerning. Who knows what other statements will be walked back as out-of-context-misstatements as she transitions to the general election. Do I think she’ll go from green to drill baby, drill? Of course not. But Clinton could very easily go from green to not-green-enough at a pretty critical time.

    Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink