Friday, 30 November 2007

Paul Loeb's Latest on Hillary

As much as I typically enjoy expounding on Presidential politics, I've been rather mute of late, feeling rather ambiguous about my own preferences. Kucinich continues to represent for me the most honest voice defending the values most important to me, but I'm enough of a realist to see that 1) he won't win, & 2) if he could, those forces in opposition to his vision would succeed in thwarting his efforts. Obama possesses an oratorical gift, a uniting vision, and fine intellect, but has failed to capture my imagination as I hoped he might, and has been disappointing in a few particulars. Edwards says a lot of the right things, but I don't fully trust him. Dodd and Biden are both smart and either would stand head and shoulders above the disaster currently occupying the White House, but neither is going to gain the traction to get there. Richardson maybe has an outside shot, and would make a good President, but I really think he's already looking to be the VP choice. Then there's Hillary. Competent and with a lot of connections, I can try to talk myself into thinking she won't be so bad, and at least will likely make many excellent appointments. But I cannot deny the palpable disappointment I feel that she will likely be the Democratic nominee. Hence I will simply publish here Paul Loeb's latest article:

Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Disappointment
by Paul Rogat Loeb

When Democrats worry about Hillary Clinton's electability, they focus on her reenergizing a depressed Republican base while demoralizing core Democratic activists, particularly those outraged about the war, and consequently losing the election. But there's a further danger if Hillary's nominated--that she will win but then split the Democratic Party.

We forget that this happened with her husband Bill, because compared to Bush, he's looking awfully good. Much of Hillary's support may be nostalgia for when America's president seemed to engage reality instead of disdaining it. But remember that over the course of Clinton's presidency, the Democrats lost 6 Senate seats, 46 Congressional seats, and 9 governorships. This political bleeding began when Monica Lewinsky was still an Oregon college senior. Given Hillary's protracted support of the Iraq war, her embrace of neoconservative rhetoric on Iran, and her coziness with powerful corporate interests, she could create a similar backlash once in office, dividing and depressing the Democratic base and reversing the party's newfound momentum.

Think about 1994. Pundits credited major Republican victories to angry white men, Hillary's failed healthcare plan, and Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." But the defeat was equally rooted in a massive withdrawal of volunteer support among Democratic activists who felt politically betrayed. Nothing fostered this sense more than Bill Clinton's going to the mat to push the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Angered by a sense that he was subordinating all other priorities to corporate profits, and by his cavalier attitude toward the hollowing out of America's industrial base, labor, environmental and social-justice activists nationwide withdrew their energy from Democratic campaigns. This helped swing the election, much as the continued extension of these policies (particularly around dropping trade barriers with China) led just enough Democratic leaning voters in 2000 to help elect George Bush by staying home or voting for Ralph Nader.

No place saw a more dramatic political shift than my home state of Washington. In November 1992, Democratic activists volunteered by the thousands, hoping to end the Reagan-Bush era. On Election Day, I joined five other volunteers to help get out the vote in a swing district 20 miles south of Seattle. Volunteers had a similar presence in every major Democratic or competitive district in the state. The effort helped Clinton to carry the state and Democrats to capture eight out of nine House seats.

But by 1994 grass-roots Democratic campaigners mostly stayed home, disgruntled. In Washington State, there were barely enough people to distribute literature and make phone calls in Seattle's most liberal neighborhoods, let alone in swing suburban districts. Republicans won seven of our nine congressional races, and reelected a Senator known for baiting environmentalists.

The same was true nationwide. I spent that campaign season traveling to promote a book on campus activism, staying with friends long involved with progressive causes. Everywhere I went, critical races would go to the Republicans by the narrowest of margins. Yet my friends and their friends seemed strangely detached, so disgusted with Democratic politics that they no longer wanted anything to do with it. Surveys found that had voters who stayed home voted, they would have reversed the election outcome. Even a modest volunteer effort might have prevented the Republican sweep.

To prevail in close races, Democrats need enthusiastic volunteer involvement. This happened in 1992, and then again in 2006. If Hillary is the nominee, she's likely to significantly damp this involvement, especially among anti-war activists, many of whom are currently saying her candidacy would lead them to sit out the election entirely. She'll also draw out the political right in a way that will make it far harder for down-ticket Democrats in states like Kentucky and Virginia where the party has recently been winning. In a recent Pew poll, she had both higher unfavorable and lower favorable ratings than either Obama or Edwards. A July Fox poll (of citizens, not Fox viewers), 29% of voters (including 27% of Independents and 5% of Democrats) said they would "never vote for her under any circumstances," compared to just 6% overall saying the same about Obama, and less than 1% about Edwards. And a November 26 Zogby poll, (albeit one using some new methodologies) now shows her trailing the major Republican candidates, while Edwards and Obama defeat them. So she might not win at all, despite Bush's disastrous reign.

But even if she does, she is then strongly likely to fracture the party with her stands. She talks of staying in Iraq for counterterrorism operations, which could easily become indistinguishable from the present war. She backed the recent Kyl-Lieberman vote on Iran that Senator James Webb called "Cheney's fondest pipe dream." She supported at least one regressive version of the bankruptcy bill and the extension of Bush's tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. If her contributors are any guide, like those she courted in a $1,000-a-plate dinner for homeland security contractors, she's likely to cave to corporate interests so much in her economic policies that those increasingly squeezed by America's growing divides will backlash in ways that they're long been primed to by Republican rhetoric about "liberal elitists." And if Democrats do then begin to challenge her, the relative unity created by the Bush polities will quickly erode.

Because the Republican candidates would bring us more of the same ghastly policies we've seen from Bush and Cheney, I'd vote for Hillary if she became the nominee. But I'd do so with a very heavy heart, and a recognition that we'll have to push her to do the right thing on issue after issue, and won't always prevail. We still have a chance to select strong alternatives like Edwards (who I'm supporting) or Obama. And with Republican polling numbers in the toilet, this election gives Democrats an opportunity to seriously shift our national course that we may not have again for years. It would be a tragedy if they settled for the candidate most likely to shatter the momentum of this shift when it's barely begun..

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See To receive his articles directly email with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles

1 comment:

Brian Keith O'Hara said...

I remember hearing Arthur Schlesinger, Pierre Salinger and Ted Sorensen being interviewed on PBS sometime in the 1970's. The question posed was what makes a Great President? I remember they agreed that you have to have the courage to make the tough calls. I may be wrong, but I think that it was Ted who quoted General Patton: "There are three things that you can do in life: Lead, Follow or Get The Hell Out of My Way."
They argued that JFK in the Cuban Missle Crisis, Truman and A-bomb and FDR's resolute defense of Lend Lease were prime examples of the kind of leadership that a successful President needs to possess. Leaders Lead and take responsibility for the results.
But it was the rest of the conversation, which comes to mind this election year. You have to listen to good advice, even if you don't follow it, it may lead you to the right answer. I think in the first stages of the Cuban Missle Crisis, the advice President Kennedy got was Limited to War or Acceptance(because we had missles in Turkey on the Russian border).
Since the chances of things getting out of control were high, like August 1914, President didn't want to precipitate a World War. JFK chose to act slowly and deliberately, maintaining a secret open channel using ABC Reporter John Scali and Soviet Ambassador Antonin Dobrynin who were friends. He knew Dobrynin would relay everything directly to Kruschev, unedited.
Because JFK chose not to rush into war as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Maxwell Taylor and former CIA Chief Allen Dulles(whom Kennedy had fired because of The Bay of Pigs), he was able to deal with each step of the crisis thoughtfully and deliberately. Only escalating the crisis incrementally, because he knew Kruschev was under enormous pressure from his hardliners too.
Of course this allowed him to use a blockcade, which he overtly and openly implemented on the suggestion of Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General and Dean Rusk Secretary of State.
While quietly through Scali/Dobrynin, he offered to remove the out of date Atlas Missles in Turkey.
2008 Election
It is just such a stark contrast to the Neocon Warmachine of George W. Bush, who never listens to anyone and knows he is always right; too Democratic Leaders who think too much and compromise everything including their principles.
Dennis Kucinich and Christopher Dodd are the only two leaders in the US confronting issues and not compromising their souls. Dennis Kucinich is absolutely right, Vice President Cheney has to be Impeached, for a million reasons, but one in particular bothers me most. He and Carl Rove with help of Attorney General Gonzales Politicized the Department of Justice. They were specifically behind the plan to fire honest US Attorney's and replace them with persecutors like Leura Canary who was behind stealing the 2002 Alabama Governor's Election; she then helped framed Democratic Governor Don Siegelman with the help of Bush Appointee and Republican Hack, Federal Judge Mark Fuller.
Kucinich is right, for that alone he should be Impeached. Disclosing Valery Plame's secret status as a CIA agent would be my second count. Republican President George H. W. Bush said anyone involed with "outing" her should be executed. I don't believe in the death penalty, so I settle on Impeachment for Cheney since he orchestrated both acts of criminal conduct.
Hillary Clinton is silent and as far as I know so is John Edwards(who is probably closer to me politically: I am a populist). I just read that Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler has joined us and now has a petition with almost 100,000 signatures on it(including mine).
Which brings me to Chris Dodd who is, against the Democratic Leadership's opposition refusing to allow a grant of immunity to Telecoms included in the New FISA Law. These companies have violated US law to aid Bush in his War against Freedom. If these companies aren't held accountable, I guarantee that Neocons and Republicans will take more Freedom next time. We stop them here.

Benjamin Franklin: The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.

Kucinich, Dodd and Wexler offer hope, but none has impressed on the last part of that PBS Shows discussion. Greatness isn't limited to what the President does, it is what the President inspire us to do for ourselves. I remember the hope: The Peace Corp, Head Start.
An Inspirational Leader like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King.
I haven't seen that in anyone yet. In fact, the last time I saw it was at the 1984 Democratic Convention when Mario Cuomo spoke. I remember hearing his words and the strains of Aaron Copelands "Fanfare for the Common Man" from that convention.
If we can only capture that again.
Maybe, just maybe...