Tuesday, October 18, 2016

President Hillary Clinton: progressives prepare to "trust but verify"

"Trust but verify" is my favorite quote from St. Reagan. And the only one I use with approval. It was his argument for arms control deals with the Soviet Union, an argument directed against the opponents of such a deal.

For progressives who are serious about pressing the incoming President Clinton to stick to her more progressive promises and to back away from her more war-oriented policies, something like "trust but verify" will have to be the position in practice. The theoretical/ideological formulations may vary.

Charlie Pierce reminds us that the political context of 2016 is more favorable to progressive policies than when the first President Clinton took office in 2003, and even more favorable than that for Obama in 2009 (Esquire Politics Blog 11/17/2016):

... this is not 1992, and she's likely going to be elected with a majority of the popular vote, and not with a plurality, which put her husband's presidency in a defensive crouch almost from Inauguration Day, a majority that he even failed to achieve in 1996, when he was running against Bob Dole, who was the closest thing to an Honorary Nominee as we've ever had. Not alienating moderates and conservatives ought not to be an exclusive priority. She will have more of a popular mandate than he did, so her priorities should be different. Not alienating the progressive wing of her party should be at the top of the list as well.

It's no secret that HRC is not my first choice to be the next president. My opinion of the first Clinton presidency has changed enough in the intervening 20 years to make me dubious of a second. (This also is why I didn't vote for her in 2008.) Even absent the hacked e-mails in which her presidential campaign has been exposed as a presidential campaign—Breaking!—she still impresses me as too quick on the trigger as regards war and peace, too cozy by half with discredited centers of political and financial power, and a half-step too slick on issues like trade and environmental protection. ...

There is now an active, powerful progressive counterweight both within the Congress in Washington and within the party in the country. Triangulation on certain issues will not be possible. If HRC wins, she will have won on more of a platform than the [Omaha] World-Herald thinks she has. She will not win simply because the Republicans have nominated a maniac, although there will be spinning to that effect almost immediately after the race has been called.

She will have won because people like Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown and, most of all, Bernie Sanders, worked for several years to create a force that broke up the coronation and pushed her off easy positions and in the direction that HRC's most earnest admirers insist she wanted to go all along. (Remember that, all during the first Clinton presidency, it was something of an article of faith that HRC was a leading liberal voice within the administration.) Should she renege on TPP, for example, or the Keystone XL pipeline, there will be hell to pay in and out of Congress, and there will be a political price to pay that her husband never had to consider. If there isn't, then that's on the people who should force her to pay it, not on her as president. [my emphasis]
It's obvious than in order to achieve that, the left inside and outside the Democratic Party will have to actually fight the new President Clinton if she proposes bad policies. We can't afford to reflexively cheer for everything she proposes or pretend that when she defends bad policies that's it nevertheless the proverbial best of all possible worlds.

Micah Uetricht writes in Jacobin (In the Bag 10/17/2016) that's since it's now a near certainty that Hillary will be elected, there now reason for progressives to refrain from criticizing her shortcomings on the grounds that doing so may help elect Trump. This is "an opportunity to those whose support of Clinton was always qualified," he writes:

They can stop focusing on how terrifying a potential Trump presidency would be and begin to focus more honestly on how terrible Clinton’s track record has been and likely will continue to be at home and around the world. Every liberal and progressive who has held back on criticizing Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street, or the disturbing revelations of the content of her speeches to Goldman Sachs, or her incredibly destructive foreign policy past from Libya to Honduras and her all-but-assured hawkish foreign policy future, or her role in pushing welfare reform, or her palling around with ghoulish war criminals like Henry Kissinger, and her pride at winning the endorsements of neoconservatives whose hands are dripping with blood like John Negroponte.
Tomorrow's third and final Clinton-Trump debate si supposed to focus on economic issues. This will be one to watch to see if Hillary sticks to the progressive positions she's defended during the campaign, or instead winks and nods to neoliberal market-fundamentalist orthodoxy.

Dean Baker warns that the framing of of the debate itself is already a neoliberal one (The Old Debt and Entitlement Charade Truthout 10/17/2016):

The establishment is trying to pull a big one over on the public yet again. One of the designated topics for the last presidential debate goes under the heading, "debt and entitlements." This should have people upset for several reasons.

The first is simply the use of the term "entitlements." While this has a clear meaning to policy wonks, it is likely that most viewers won't immediately know that "entitlements" means the Social Security and Medicare their parents receive. It's a lot easier for politicians to talk about cutting wasteful "entitlements" than taking away seniors' Social Security and Medicare.

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