Welcome to my first installment of #TheoryThursday, where you ask me to talk about a politics subject and hopefully my ramblings are more informative than opinionated! Today's topic is from @longwalkdownlyndale, who wants to know, "Hillary Clinton: yea or nay?" Yes this isn't exactly theory, and yes in my hypothetical stateless classless utopia we would ban talking about elections more than three months away, but I will not give a cop-out answer. (I'll still give an answer just as quasi-informed as any pundit, but that's what you're reading this for.) I may be an Evil Marxist but I am also a registered Democrat - I see voting as a chance to exercise minuscule power more than a symbolic act of endorsing "the system," but that's another topic - so I ought to at least confront the idea of Hillary Clinton, Presidential Candidate for 2016.
I have this gut intuition that Hillary is Democratic liberalism. Her father came from a coal mining town, served in WWII, then started a business, planting his family firmly in the upper middle class (I'm refraining from saying "petit bourgeois"). She grew up in the Chicago suburbs in a split-partisan household, became more firmly left in college, went to Yale, had a career as a lawyer while her husband climbed the political ladder then, after he went as high as you can, she stepped out of his shadow and now seems poised to echo his political run. She's the most famous (and therefore archetypal) wife who forgave her husband, woman who can have both career and a family, "self-made" (i.e. started third rung from the top) middle class white American woman. Like her husband, she straddles the line of not-conservative-but-not-too-liberal. A story arc as comforting as it is inevitable. But what about politics?
Politically, the nicest thing I can say about Hillary Clinton is that she's left of most Republicans. As Senator she voted for the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF, the 2002 Iraq AUMF and the PATRIOT Act. She unsuccessfully pushed to amend the latter when it was up for renewal and voted against the Surge in 2007, which I can only read as calculated campaign moves. As Secretary of State she embodied the liberal incarnation of American imperialism, supporting Libyan intervention (which has turned out swimmingly) and arming Syrian rebels in 2011 (which we can only presume would have gone even better). She's responsible for publicizing, if not concocting, the absurd idea that America must defend gay rights around the world, nevermind the fact that we still treat LGBTQ(IA) people as second class citizens in far more ways than just marriage inequality. (For more on why this is bad, see any critique of humanitarian intervention.) And, well, I don't even want to wade into this topic right now:
In a nutshell: she's a core part of the Democratic establishment that is caught up in the party's arms race rightward to appear more and more "moderate" in the face of an increasingly inane (and vocal) conservative movement. In a sense, her politics are almost indistinguishable from this establishment. If you're happy with the Democrats as they are, not as you want them to be, if Obama delivered all you'd hoped for, Vote Hillary!
I can't. I just can't. In 2008 I thought I'd voted for an up-and-coming outsider who would bring back actual progressivism - no more of this liberal crap - to the Democratic party. I got Obama, the power-savvy politician so obsessed with bipartisanship he can't even get around to closing Gitmo. In 2012 I reluctantly crawled to the polls to support someone who was obviously a jaded insider, replaying the mantra that Romney would "build the pipeline himself," that Obama was at least trying to fix the abuses created by the Bush wars, that environmental collapse outweighs drone strikes. Half a year later Glenn Greenwald spills Snowden's secret all over the Guardian floor. Fuck it. I can't. The "establishment" will swallow anyone who tries to "fix" it, because it isn't broken. Because it works. Just not the way I, or anyone more than mildly to the left, want. I don't really want to know what'll happen when the epitome of the machine gets two terms to let it run at full throttle, with the confidence of an insider who's been First Ladying and Senating and Secretarying of State.
At the end of the day, unless there's a credible threat that the Democrat's left-progressive base won't vote for them, the Democratic establishment will keep "moderating" to the right. If you want another LBJ or FDR, you have to pull the party to the left, not pull the left to the party. I'll vote for Liz Warren - though she'll follow the same trajectory as Barack - or somebody in the primaries, probably Green in the election. Hillary? No.