If the Democratic presidential primary were held today in your state, whom would you support? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.
The stakes could not be higher. The treacherous reign of Bush-Cheney has seriously weakened our democracy. To the “war on terror” we have been asked to sacrifice fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, a newly conservative Supreme Court majority ruthlessly guts longstanding state obligations to protect equal rights and expand opportunity. Abroad, the good will America briefly enjoyed after 9/11 has been squandered by Bush’s cowboy diplomacy.
Democrats must win in 2008. We must take back the White House with a candidate who adheres to core progressive principles but is also able to build coalitions and sustain majorities across ideological and partisan divides–first to win and then to govern successfully.
Hillary Clinton is that candidate. She is intelligent, energetic and disciplined. She has shown herself to be warm and likable. She has turned an interminable campaign into an asset through effective campaigning and six stellar debate performances. She stumbled momentarily in the seventh round under withering personal attack by six angry men. Next time out, she will definitely need those flashy boxing gloves her AFSCME endorsers provided afterward.
But she will prevail, just as she did in her Senate races, the second of which she won with an astonishing 67 percent of the vote, taking thirty-seven of the forty-one “red” counties in New York that George W. Bush carried two years earlier. Indeed, she may be the most electable of the Democrats–and not because she “stands for nothing,” as the chattering classes often allege. Rather, Clinton wonkishly acknowledges the complexity of issues and modestly admits to not having all the answers. She has learned to respect people with whom she disagrees and to succeed within a system that requires compromise. She works hard and exudes competence and integrity. Ordinary voters, and especially independent women whose swing votes will determine the outcome of this election, find this a relief. They are tired of overweening ego and bluster in politics. These women, along with disenchanted Republicans and many others who have never voted before but are registering in large numbers this time, will provide the margin of her victory.
But what of Clinton’s core convictions? A common canard, often repeated in these pages, is that she’s not a true progressive. But actions speak louder than words. Her voting record measures up well on scorecards compiled by the major-labor unions, the ACLU, Americans for Democratic Action, Planned Parenthood and other progressive organizations.
Indeed, Clinton has been an outspoken advocate for raising the minimum wage. Though a longtime supporter of free trade, she endorses policies that enforce stronger labor and environmental standards abroad, and she voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Her green energy agenda, partially financed by taking away tax breaks for oil companies, will create thousands of jobs. With nearly half the labor force now women, she is leading efforts to achieve pay equity. Influential as First Lady in passing the Family and Medical Leave Act, she now proposes paid leave and greater workplace flexibility. She supports universal preschool education. Pushing tax fairness, she announced early on that she would crack down on loopholes for Wall Street fund managers.
Universal healthcare is, of course, her signature issue. Her plan ends Bush-era tax breaks to the very rich in order to expand Congress’s own healthcare plan to cover the country’s nearly 50 million uninsured, while leaving in place private options for those content with what they already have. Her proposal builds in important regulations on private insurers–capping administrative costs and prohibiting cherry-picking on the basis of pre-existing conditions, genetic testing or other forms of discrimination. As First Lady, she lobbied intensely for S-CHIP, which provides health coverage to children in poor working families. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she fashioned a bipartisan consensus to expand health coverage to uninsured veterans and their families.
Understandably sensitive to concerns about security, Clinton argues nonetheless that we can be safe and free. She led Democrats in the fight to restore habeas corpus rights to Guantánamo detainees held under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Cajoling votes on both sides of the aisle, she came within several votes of beating back last year’s legislation, winning praise from the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Clinton deserves special praise for her impassioned opposition to Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito and to Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey. She’s inventively exposed the Bush Administration’s assault on scientific integrity in evaluating stem cells, abstinence-only sex education, emergency contraception and abortion. By placing a hold on confirmation of the President’s FDA appointee, she was able to gain over-the-counter access for the morning-after pill.
Some progressives cannot forgive her Iraq War vote, no matter how forcefully she now condemns the futility of the American effort and calls for a responsible withdrawal of our troops. Today we need to concentrate on how to exit Iraq and engage the UN in restoring order to the country. We need to address the Herculean task of returning professionalism and integrity to our own battered diplomatic and intelligence agencies and to our military. Clinton has the experience and stature to lead in the diplomatic talks she endorses with states like Iran and North Korea. She will restore our once-proud leadership in global efforts to alleviate poverty, promote health and sustain the environment. Recent clamor over a nonbinding resolution on Iran–which most Democrats supported and Barack Obama did not even vote on–should be understood as little more than disingenuous political theater.
And one more thing. I am supporting Hillary Clinton because I think she is the best candidate for this job, but I shamelessly want her to win because she is a woman. Obama tells me to get over my baby boomer fixations, but I look at the Supreme Court today, and I say not yet. I came of age in the 1960s and have spent a lifetime advancing women’s rights and opportunities. Nothing will give me more confidence that those efforts are secure than to have Hillary Clinton choose my next Justice.
Other Essays in This Series
John Nichols for Joseph Biden
Katherine S. Newman for John Edwards
Bruce Shapiro for Christopher Dodd
Richard Kim for Mike Gravel
Gore Vidal for Dennis Kucinich
Michael Eric Dyson for Barack Obama
Rocky Anderson for Bill Richardson