Harder Choices : Hillary Clinton's Candidacy by Imre Bártfai

Harder Choices : Hillary Clinton's Candidacy by Imre Bártfai



By Imre Bártfai

So, Hillary R. Clinton will run for presidential office. Surprised we are not, Yoda would say.

However, this challenge –no matter how boringly it started- will yet surely bring lots of excitement for everyone, not to speak about obvious long run consequences in global politics.

Hillary may be the strongest candidate if we look at her Democratic supporter base, her high visibility and possible found-raising capability.[1] It is unlikely that Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders could defeat her in the race for popularity and funds[2], although many hard-core Democrats would rather see one of these, more populist, more leftist senators running for presidency. True, Hillary does not seem to possess the charisma of Obama or the progressive zeal of either Sanders or Warren. She has powers of her own though: stability, strong character, endurance, and popularity both as herself and as a Clinton. (Dynasty they might be or not, belonging to such an illustrious family enhances one’s visibility in politics.)

Let us not forget: Hillary survived her husband’s Lewinsky-affair, or rather, its aftermath. And the marriage survived as well, which might not be the best from personal point of view, but suits politics definitely. (Recently there weren't much unmarried American presidents.) She cooperated effectively with Obama, even though he defeated her in the Democratic preliminary, and their relationship started as rather cold. She is not only a good team player, but achieved scores in a single play as well.  A certain progressive zeal also cannot be denied from a person who organized Bill Clinton’s failed but ambitious healthcare reform in 1993. Hillary might otherwise be not a hardcore social reformer, lacking the anti-Wall Street rhetoric of Warren, or the strong populist progressiveness of Sanders, which reminds me of the often forgotten progressive tradition of American politics. An attempt by her to switch to progressive, and populist talk sounded a bit forced, and backfired. [3]

Hillary is rather a member of ’the establishment’. However, she recognizes key problems, and being a very mobile, energetic person, if she will travel as much to talk with people as she did when she was secretary of state, she might dispel the ’elitist Hillary’-myth. Time will tell whether she can find common ground with most of the common people, who might desire that great change which Obama promised but did not deliver so spectacularly as many people hoped for. Her rather low-key nature might even be an advantage with people who are tired of big rhetoric.

Hillary, as the first woman who could be elected as an American president, has also the capability to attract masses of female voters, even though some feminists are not sure about she being the next feminist icon.[4] (Nor could she be as a politician...) She isn't enough hard-core in climate change matters too, according to Ryan Koronowski.[5] In immigration questions Clinton tries to move closer to the current Democratic opinion. I would consider her to be a careful centrist in most things. „Don’t vote for anyone who says he or she would never compromise”.-said she[6], and regarding the nature of politics, she is probably right.

This is the very same problem because of which most democratic societies suffer: people want change, radical progress, but then follow the established rules, (i.e.,voting for well know figures, taking propaganda at face value etc.) and the status quo remains. People who consider Hillary to much under the influence of Wall street should wait before reading Marco Rubio about the absolute power of free market, and the plight, that is ObamaCare, according to him.

Republicans will attack Hillary as a member of Clinton-dynasty, as an incompetent foreign policy-maker, and if everything else fails, as a socialist money-waster. But knowing that the Democratic party has a strong 'war-machine’, that may not be the real problem for her. And even if the first two shots hit her, the last one is very unlikely. If for no other reason, still to defeat a Tea Party –appeasing, unlikable Republican candidate the Democrats will presumably join Hillary in the end anyway. It seems now that either Jeb Bush or National Review-favorite Marco Rubio would challenge Hillary. We will see more about the chances when we will know more about the main issues of the coming election, whether they will be safety, or economy, or immigration.

The enormous US debt and social inequality are most prominent problems of US today.  How can one raise wages without facing accusations of being a socialist? How can one create a lasting economic upward course and fiscal stability and at the same time welfare? Will technological and social change help or endanger employment and stability? Is ’Obamacare’ a lasting and sustainable achievement? Can be there be a peace between business interests and common people? Will American politics become even more partisan and disconnected from the populace?

As if these questions would be not enough, global issues endanger the vision of an evolving and democratic world, where progress is steady, and one can hope freedom from want and fear, and freedom of worship and speech.[7] In the questions of foreign policy Hillary may inherit a sack of angry cats. The Obama- administration tried to conduct an idealistic, less hawkish policy, which in time brought great results, but some spectacular failures as well. Some of the results are of unquestionable worth (opening for Cuba) some are yet undecided (nuclear negotiations with Iran.) Even in the ages old Palestinian-crisis Obama begun to push for a more pro-Palestinian policy, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved by militant measures. (And the creation of a Palestinian state long existed in the foreign policy -vision of Democrats.) However, in Iraq the horrors of the postmodern terrorist-gangster organisation ISIS (or Daesh) again showed that American policy failed to make order after unsettling the power balance and political stability in the region. (Even though that ’stability’ was dismal.)

In Lybia the destruction of Gaddafi’s rule has been supported by US bombings, but the results proved to be dissatisfying, just as in case of Egypt. The Arab spring brought hope for democracy, but delivered sectarianism, religious intolerance, more blood and less tranquility in these countries. This seriously discouraged idealism in foreign policy. In Syria, the US expressed a strong conviction about the unsustainable of the brutal Assad-regime, but the rebels could not defeat Assad, and since Syria is also an enemy of ISIS not everybody would like to see the dictator unseated.

It is also hard to come to terms with the fact, that the US-ally Turkey has a great hostility against those very Kurds who fight the hardest against ISIS. (Some of them are even communist guerrillas.) Putin’s invasion of Ukraine after the fall of Yanukovich-government and the harsh conflict of interests and power spheres in Eastern Europe was not caused by the USA, but still Hillary must deal with it. (Putin will be less active presumably for a time due to the economic situation of Russia.) With the TTIP-treaty looming over European Union countries (at least in many people’s vision) anti-Americanism, generated mostly by leftist parties will be again a threat for US-EU relations. 

It was allegedly the foreign policy of Obama ’not to do stupid things’. Now this slogan will not suffice anymore, and a strategic decision will be required regarding how much Wilsonian optimism and Kissinger-like realism America can allow herself in foreign policy. (Especially in the Middle-East.)Hillary was a solid contributor to a stable American foreign policy, but post fest-um it is evident that sometimes she miscalculated the effects of foreign policy actions. She favors ’smart power’ a combination of power pressure and a culturally and socially relevant persuasion.

Some dangers are new, but most of them have deep and ancient roots. Democracy is never a lonely business: it must be defended both outside and inside to keep it alive. The first task will be a long struggle: to utterly defeat Islamist radicalism. And meanwhile turning forward Time’s wheel from this New Gilded Age, the second, simultaneous task.

The real question of Hillary Clinton will be whether she can be a person American democracy and the world needs right now. If someone would ask what are the greatest problems today, „it’s the world itself, stupid” could one reply with the familiar "Clintonian" slogan.





REFERENCES:


[1]Her campaign is predicted to raise 1 billion $” (Economist, April 11-17th Issue.)
[2]Polls show 87 procent of Democrats would support her. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/13/hillary-clinton-poll_n_7058088.html
[3] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/why-wall-street-loves-hillary-112782.html#.VTTcNCHtlBc
[4] http://inthesetimes.com/article/17830/hillary_clinton_presidential_race
[5] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/11/3645951/hillary-clinton-democratic-field-climate-change/
[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWFMqUDy1gw
[7] I consciously use here Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four freedom principle which I consider to be the defining ideal of progressivist democracy.
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