EDITOR’S NOTE: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy casts a bright light on every fissure within the modern Democratic Party. From domestic policy during the first Clinton presidency to foreign policy under Obama, from the Senate to the West Wing, Clinton has been involved with the most fraught political issues of the last two decades. Her team never ceases to remind the public of her experience, and trumpet the “inevitability” of her presidency. So why can’t we make up our minds about her? Here, seven Nation contributors give it their best shot.
When I contemplate the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, my heart sinks. “Inevitable” though she may be, she’s the wrong woman for the job. Voters just handed the Democrats a resounding defeat at the polls in the 2014 midterm elections, and the reason is clear: it’s the economy, stupid. Voters told pollsters that the economy was their top concern: 70 percent believe the economy is in bad shape, and fully half say they “expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse.”
Their growing discontent is well-founded. Though the economy is improving, 72 percent of Americans believe we’re still in a recession. The bottom 90 percent actually experienced negative income growth during the recent “recovery”; all the gains went to the top 10 percent. The richest 0.1 percent controls a stunning 22 percent of our nation’s wealth. Such dizzying levels of inequality have not been seen in nearly a century.
Frustrated voters are demanding change, but nothing in Hillary Clinton’s history suggests that she is capable of delivering it. Clinton has far more in common with the Rahm Emanuel/Andrew Cuomo wing of the party than with Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown. Not only is she Wall Street’s favorite Democrat, drawing hefty donations from the finance industry, but she has supported many of the destructive neoliberal economic policies that ushered in the crisis, such as financial deregulation and free trade. She spent years on the board of the most viciously anti-labor employer in the country, Walmart, and never once spoke up in favor of unions. She voted for the odious 2001 bankruptcy bill, which made it harder for Americans to shed impossible debt. She not only supported welfare “reform” but advocated tougher work requirements—a position that put her at odds with most Democrats.
And that’s just her domestic policy. Clinton’s neocon-friendly foreign-policy record is even worse—not only her vote in favor of the Iraq War, but her advocacy of drone strikes and her saber rattling over Syria. There are also serious concerns about her executive competence: her leadership in the 1993 healthcare-reform effort and her own 2008 presidential campaign does not exactly inspire confidence.
There is one genuinely fresh and exciting thing about Clinton as a presidential candidate, of course, and that would be her gender. Even a Hillary skeptic like me has to admit that the prospect of the first woman president is pretty freaking awesome. But while President Hillary Clinton would be an important symbolic breakthrough, there is little evidence that she is enthusiastic about enacting the feminist economic policies that women need to jump-start our stalled gender revolution—Clinton doesn’t even support national paid family leave!