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November 17, 2007

Criticizing Clinton The Left Way

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

It's hard to see how being attacked from the left by Edwards and Obama will hurt Hillary Clinton in a general election. Whether they criticize her as a corporate centrist for NAFTA or as a hawk for Lieberman-Kyl, they're actually helping Clinton get where she's been trying to go for the last several years -- away from her reputation as a particularly liberal Democrat. While left-wing positions are a good thing to have in our times, even from an electability perspective, you have to forcefully defend them to make them work for you. That's not what we'd ever see in a Clinton general election campaign, especially on war issues. We're just going to see Hillary triangulate her way to the center, and we should cheer Edwards and Obama for trying to push her public image there.

November 17, 2007 | Permalink


Except that being a fair trader isn't a "liberal" position ... it polls off the charts. It would be "better" for Clinton if Chris Dodd accused her of being insufficiently committed to the separation of church and state, or Bill Richardson attacked her for not supporting medical marijuana.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 17, 2007 8:43:19 PM

Exactly. Wanting to end the war, do something about climate change, AND being against the sell-out trade deals in favor of fair trade are no longer "lefty" positions. Neither is UHC.

Any writer who writes of these issues as being on the "left" is woefully behind the times and bordering on irrelevancy. Some people are perpetually stuck like it's ten years ago.

Posted by: BoyBlue | Nov 17, 2007 9:00:51 PM

I think you guys are misinterpreting the post a bit. Neil says that "left-wing positions are a good thing to have ... from an electability perspective." What he's saying is that coming out of Hillary's mouth, they wouldn't be that electorally useful, because she doesn't really believe in them and it would show.

It's not so much about which specific issues she gets hit on from the left; if the narrative coming out of the primaries is that Hillary won as a centrist Democrat, fending off multiple challengers from her left, that will be helpful for the kind of campaign that Hillary is obviously planning to run.

That same narrative might not be helpful for Edwards or Obama, who are supposed to be about strident, passionate reform. Hillary has obviously decided that she's not taking that approach, and with good reason, because it's not who she is. So it's in her interest to have E & O smacking her like a pinata for being such a centrist, because that's exactly the image she wants out there.

Posted by: Jason C. | Nov 17, 2007 11:47:11 PM

First of all, where Hillary is going is the right, not the center. Staying in Iraq is a right wing position, not a centrist one. Standing against single payer in any circumstnace is a right wing position, not a centrist one. So is denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Second, the problem isn't that she will campaign to the right, it is that she will govern there. We don't need another conservative in power. We need a liberal. Thus, Obama's and Edwards' attacks are only useful if they result in Hillary losing the nomination and going back to the Senate.

Posted by: Dilan Esper | Nov 18, 2007 5:56:28 AM

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 18, 2007 8:30:42 AM

"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."

DLC Collective/Clinton collective

Posted by: akaison | Nov 18, 2007 10:21:12 AM

Hillary isn't going to the right. She's from the right. She's been a right winger her entire life, and the fact that she's less right-wing than most Republicans doesn't change that fact. Every 'left wing' position she's taken, she will betray us on just like her husband did.

I really doubt all of these very transparent attempts to make Clinton more palatable, or to prevent us from criticizing her, are going to have any real effect. If you're worried that we're not going to vote for her (and some of us won't), then that's what the party gets for nominating the most conservative person running. You can't very well expect us to overlook the fact that Hillary isn't good on ANY of the issues we care about, even though she may be good on some of the issues OTHER leftists care about.

Another thing, nothing the bloggers have to say about Hillary really have much credibility. It's painfully obvious to some of us that no matter who you may favor in the primary, you've all gone well out of your way not to voice (or give voice to) arguments that might hurt Hillary in the general. Even when these attacks are made by other Primary campaigns. Even when these attacks are true, and Hillary's campaign has acted in ways well beyond acceptable for a democratic institution. I don't know if that choice was made consciously or not, but it was clearly made.

Posted by: Soullite | Nov 18, 2007 10:25:25 AM

" I don't know if that choice was made consciously or not, but it was clearly made."

I am not a leftist. I call myself an angry middle class populist moderate if we are going to label things. I don't think what you see on the blogs are intentional. I think its an outflow of what I now realize are conflicting ideas that the blogs advocated back in 2004 and onwards until last year that I followed, but didn't fully understand how they conflict until now.

One of those mandates is that the Democrats are better than the GOP so per se the goal is to get a Democrat elected. ANother is the 'people powered' blog stuff was really about pushing the blogs into the Democratic mainstream.

The conflict doesn't happen with battles between the GOP and the Democrats, because on that level I agree. The problem occurs with the party internally.

There is not a real mechanism yet for understanding the nature of how to fight internally without pretending like we are all basically on the same page, when in in fact we aren't.

Mix that with the behavioral side of this- bloggers wanting to make aliving, some of these people are their friends, wanting to fit into the establishment (even as they say they are anti establishment) , the use of wedge issues designed to push the buttons of Democrats (ie the gender issue was for a while smartly used for this purpose and even now you can't get some to admit that they can even be manipulated on these issues) etc and you get what you are seeing without it being coordinated or needing to be.

Indeed, even the desire to push blogs into the Democratic mainstream ignores how this then creates a push back on blogs to be more conforming. What you could say two years ago when no one cared what you thoughts changes because now you wonder whehter you are going a bit too far with your new set of connections, and may be do not want to piss them off. You self edit. etc

Posted by: akaison | Nov 18, 2007 11:25:20 AM

So it's in her interest to have E & O smacking her like a pinata for being such a centrist, because that's exactly the image she wants out there.

Precisely. The point is, should she win the nomination, Hillary Clinton will obviously be running against a Republican opponent who is politically to her right. And this Republican, whoever he may be -- will be trying to tack leftwards (toward the center) in the general election, to gain as many moderate/centrist/liberal voters as possible (barring a third party challenge from the right, Rudy McRomney will presumably already have conservative votes locked up). This is American presidential campaigning 101.

So, in an effort to attract centrist votes, the eventual GOP nominee will almost certainly accuse his Democratic opponent of being an Evil Lefty Socialist. They always do this.

Thus, the Democratic barbs aimed at Hillary at the present time for being an Evil Centrist Righty will help inoculate her from the inevitable accusations of Communistic Moonbatism she'll be getting from the GOP attack machine during the general election. Heck, the Republicans have already begun this line of attack.

I'm admittedly a fan of Senator Clinton, but I could gladly live with a president Obama or Edwards as well (or a President Richardson or Dodd, for that matter). I must say, though, that the "causing Andrew Sullivan's head to explode" angle alone is enough of an incentive to want to see Hillary take the oath in January of 2009.

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 18, 2007 12:19:34 PM

"he point is, should she win the nomination, Hillary Clinton will obviously be running against a Republican opponent who is politically to her right. "

THis again is hubris. It depends on who is the GOP nominee. If it is Huckabee, for example, then its very much clear that Clinton on some economic issues could run to the right of Huckabee due to his economic populism rhectoric. One example, which I need to do more research on, is free trade. If Huckabee means what he says, then he could easily run to the left of Clinton on this issue. It's hubris to assume that we will have an idealogical clear and easy time of it. Huckabee, who if you can't tell, concerns me, is right now growing a lot in IA. There is a lot more dynamism to the GOP race this year than the inflexible thinking I see coming from Democrats. This dynamism means you can't count someone like Huckabee out. That's the danger of your assumption. That clinton is a good choice because the GOP will make it a cake walk is implicit in nearly every thing at base I read about clinton here and on other A list blogs.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 18, 2007 1:03:39 PM

It's hubris to assume that we will have an idealogical clear and easy time of it.

Maybe so, but I for one don't think "we will have an ideologically clear and easy time of it." I think the Democratic nominee will be the favorite, but it's certainly possible we could have yet another extremely close and bitter election -- especially if the economy has improved in a year's time (I think the odds of an improved economy are diminishing by the minute, mind you, but one can never say never; amongst the various possibilities out there is a revived manufacturing sector -- with concomitant employment gains -- and a temporary respite in energy prices as production spikes in response to higher prices). My point is, I'm not taking anything for granted, and I want the Democrats to put up the strongest possible candidate. I've tended to be of the opinion that this likely means John Edwards, but I must say his tepid pre-primary campaigning leads me to question this assumption. At any rate, I think the Democratic big three each have pluses and minuses in terms of electability. I know Senator Clinton's negatives are high, for instance. But I also like her toughness, her ruthlessness, and, yes, her and her husband's ability to peel away centrist and moderate voters from the GOP coalition. I also think not enough attention has been paid to the role her gender could well play in energizing and expanding the base. So, no, I'm not counting on an easy time of it in 2008. But I like our chances with Hillary at the top of the ticket.

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 18, 2007 1:31:02 PM


I maybe wrong, but I think your response to my post was to change the subject from left-right analysis to well, whatever you were arguing int he last post.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 18, 2007 1:42:48 PM

I maybe wrong, but I think your response to my post was to change the subject from left-right analysis to well, whatever you were arguing int he last post.

akaison: I'll make it real simple: There is no way any GOP nominee runs to Hillary Clinton's left, even in the small likelihood that Huckabee (who apparently mutters the occasional populist bromide) is who the GOP puts up. Indeed, today we learn that the former governor appeared on Faux news to lambaste Fred Thompson for insufficient zeal in the anti-abortion cause. You're as entitled to dislike Clinton or her politics as I am to like them. But you're not entitled to your own private political spectrum.

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 18, 2007 3:52:17 PM

Thanks for clearing that up. It's clear you don' know what the hell you are talking bout but were trying to cover that up with along winded response before.

Running to the left doesn't mean he will actually be on the left- it means he will effectively occupy economic issues on which the Democrats should be stronger because follks like you think "there is no way we can lose. Let's be honest- thats what all your jibber jabber is really about. You assume that Clinton's stand on say Peru doesn't matter because "the Democrats will win." ' I've given one example- trade- where clearly a smart GOP candidate can in fact retool the GOP message to capture the base while appealing to economic populism. There are others. What's certain again from this conversation is your hubris in the set of assumptions that drip from your comments.

bonus round- here's an ad regarding why this guy is good, and we are going to let all of your cw screw our chance at the presidency


Posted by: akaison | Nov 18, 2007 7:10:54 PM

Akai, while I understand what you're saying, that is pretty much what corruption is.

Jasper, I don't care if the Republicans nominate someone to the right of Hillary. Hillary is too far right for me to vote for under any circumstances. What you are talking about is called TRIANGULATION, and it decimated the party in the 90's. The result of this was called the Green Party, also known as The Reason Al Gore isn't president. If we had had their people voting for our candidates in either 2000 or 2004 elections, George Bush wouldn't be President.

Honestly, it's fucking shocking that Bloggers don't realize that not everyone puts partisanship above ideology. I'm not going to vote for someone just for having a 'D' next to their name. I'm not going to vote for someone who makes other members of this coalition happy if that person does not also make me happy. Hillary Clinton is fine if you only REALLY care about abortion and gay rights. She is not fine if you're against the Iraq war, or if you're an economic populist. We will not gain anything by refusing to make demands, which we can not do if the party elite know that they can count on our support regardless or what they do. You are primarily making an emotional argument against Republicans. You are not make a reasoned argument for Democrats.

Posted by: Soullite | Nov 19, 2007 7:54:21 AM

The question in my mind is, will Hillary govern (she will most likely win) as a neocon like Bill Clinton or as some sort of pro-war Democrat like LBJ. I assume for example that she, like Bill, will not stop the war on drugs. Therefore I feel compelled to work against her. I must realistically assume she will win.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 19, 2007 11:44:17 AM

BTW IMO the Republicans have such a slim chance of winning the election, that the democratic Primary is the election and the conservatives are willing. Hillary may fool the conservatives and govern from the left but the non-religious conservatives seem to like and support her. Their assumption seems to be that she will govern conservatively as Bill Clinton did. For most matters you need congress to change things but the war on drugs can be greatly reduces with no congressional support as Jimmy Carter did.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 19, 2007 11:59:34 AM

BTW No Democrats seem to be talking about the war on drugs (Ron Paul on the republican side) so it is hard to tell what they would do but it seems to me Hillary would maintain the current level of action on drugs. The war on drugs and the militarism of Bill Clinton were very disappointing to me and other libertarians in his presidency. I cannot tell you why but it seems to me that Obama might let the war on drugs atrophy.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 19, 2007 12:06:59 PM

Akaison, Soullite, Floccina:

Are you saying that you would rather lose the general election to a republican than vote for Hillary in the primary? This because of your ideology?

Floccina, do you think that the republicans have such a slim chance of winning, even Dennis Kucinich could beat them?

Jasper: I too want to see Andrew Sullivan's head explode.

Posted by: MonaL | Nov 19, 2007 1:48:45 PM

MonaL, I don't know why you're having such a hard time with this. I am not an innately partisan person. I do not get any sense of personal satisfaction out of having a Democrat win an election. I only care that they win when they will enact policies I agree with. Lets just break this down:

I believe that Hillary is, at her heart, a hawk. I believe she will not end the war, or even draw down troops in any significant way. I believe Hillary is pro-free trade and anti-worker. I do not believe Hillary will surrender any of the extra constitutional powers claimed by Bush and Cheney. Those are the issues that matter most to me. Call it ideology, or personal convictions, whatever. That's what I care about.

Now, I'd like abortion to stay legal. I think gay people should be granted all rights given to all other citizens, However, I do not care enough about those issues to outweigh just how bad I think Hillary is on the above issues. While she may be slightly better than Republicans on some of them, it isn't enough to matter.

Given the things I've just said, how is it difficult to understand? It's not that I'll want Hillary to lose, it's that I will no longer care.

Posted by: Soullite | Nov 19, 2007 4:38:46 PM

MonaL: On some levels, it seems the only thing that makes up your ideology is a desire to see Democrats win. While I'm sure you think such loyalty is admirable, it is not. It shows everything that I dislike about the modern Democratic party: A complete lack of any convictions, and a desire to win for winnings sake.

Posted by: Soullite | Nov 19, 2007 4:42:56 PM

I don't know what Floccina's party affiliation is, but I'm not sure that he/she is a Democrat.

Even on war issues, Soullite, I'm pretty sure that Hillary is way better than Giuliani. Because Giuliani is completely insane.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 19, 2007 8:58:37 PM

I don't even know anymore. I know Guiliani is completely insane. But given that I'm pretty much convinced that HRC is evil, I'm not sure if there would be a functional difference between the two. I keep hearing her say that she'll end the war if elected, but I also know her surrogates have told every wise old man of washington that we'll still be in Iraq at the end of her second term. I'd imagine she's being more honest with them than us. I don't know that Hillary won't start a war with Iran, if not out of insanity then out of ideology and due to the influence of her political allies.

Though I'd be willing to rethink my my refusal to vote for Hillary if it looked like Guiliani might actually win, I doubt he'll even be their nominee. My opposition to Guiliani has more to do with my belief that he is unhinged enough to do something insane like declare martial law, or start shooting dissidents. I don't truly see a functional difference between Guiliani starting an insane war with Syria, or Clinton starting an insane war with Iran. I just don't trust that she wouldn't.

Posted by: Soullite | Nov 20, 2007 2:05:17 AM

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