This is a follow-up to my December note, “Alright, I’ve had Enough of Him, the Fun’s Over, #Dump Trump”. For the record, I’m supporting the Johnson/Weld ticket and the Libertarian party this fall. (#GovGary)
As the most boringly-monotone public speaker since Dan Quayle, and the most elusive interview subject since probably ‘Silent’ Cal Coolidge, Clinton is a throw-back to pre-media savvy candidates of another era. And yet, there she is at the top of the Democrat ticket.
I remain baffled by the Clinton candidacy. I’ve struggled to explain to people how my opposition is not rooted in ‘misogyny’, but rather comes from a place of deep concern about our country’s future. I hope by putting this down in writing, I can clarify my opinion and maybe sway a few minds.
I met Hillary Rodham Clinton (as she was called then), just once. It was on the campaign trail in 1992 ahead of the Michigan primary. Bill Clinton’s opponents were already waning. I think Paul Tsongas had dropped out or was on the verge of it, and Jerry Brown’s campaign was seriously flagging. She was touring Michigan, as the then-first lady of Arkansas with former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard and his wife. I believe they spoke at an elementary school in suburban Saginaw.
I remember a couple of things about the event. One was that the ‘briefing’ reporters receive before such matters talked up the first lady’s credentials to speak on education matters. She and her husband were pushing a ‘two-for-one’ philosophy at the time, kind of a co-presidency. That she was ‘a smart, educated person who, if the cards had fallen in a different direction, would be a candidate for office herself instead of the first lady of the state of Arkansas. So she’d chosen a career of ‘advocacy’ instead, largely around children’s issues.’ That was the narrative.
I remember one other thing strongly about the visit. There were no or very few questions permitted. She toured the school, gave a speech afterward, and then was hustled out to her next appearance.
Advocacy vs. Public Policy:
Now being an advocate for something is a great calling. You can educate people, raise money and help individuals or groups meet goals. But it differs in one very important way than being a candidate for office: You don’t have to put your ideas on the line for a vote of your constituents.
I believe Clinton’s avoidance of (or distain for) public scrutiny of her ideas most clearly surfaced not in the recent email-server scandal, but in the first term of her husband’s presidency. While placed in charge of crafting a universal health care system, she ‘advocated’ for a plan. The only problem was that as public official, working on policy that could have become law and effected EVERYONE in America, she was under an obligation to conduct that process in the public light with the public and media having free and fair access to the process.
In fact, when sued, she won the right to keep the process secret based on an argument that she had no obligation to hold public hearings (see details). This is not democracy (or even republicanism). It’s autocracy expressed by the statement of: ‘I know what’s good for you and how dare you question my motives. Shut up and take your medicine.’
A skeptical Congress lead by a Democratically-controlled Senate eventually defeated the measure. This penchant for secrecy and disdain for the public’s input on policy matters has been a hallmark of her career. Once her ideas were put up for a vote, they were savaged and defeated.
After her husband’s term of office, it became clear that NOW, Clinton would become a candidate for public office. In political circles, the state of New York is known for having one ‘celebrity’ senate seat for someone who is either looking for higher office or who becomes a national figure. Bobby Kennedy took that seat, despite spending most of his life in either Massachusetts or Washington DC, on his way to a run at the White House. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was another example of that fine tradition. Clinton, born in Illinois, having lived most of her adult life in Arkansas and Washington DC, moved into the state to make the run.
When Clinton settled into the campaign, she was aided by a Democratic party that ‘cleared the decks’ for her (assuring no serious opposition). This would become a hallmark of her career as a presidential candidate in 2008 and again this year, Democratic party elders lined up large numbers of ‘superdelegates’ to create an atmosphere of inevitability behind her campaign. The historic candidacy of Barak Obama in 2008 was able to break that backroom deal. However, the life-long political outsider Bernie Sanders couldn’t pull the same rabbit out of the hat this time around. See the recent (and supposedly neutral) DNC insider email leaks about how far the party was willing to go to keep him out of the nomination.
My point is that without a ‘thumb on the scale’, Clinton would likely have never been elected to anything. There were far more qualified women who would have made better candidates for the Democratic Party in either election. Consider Senators Diane Feinstein or Barbara Mikulski or former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, with decades of elective-office experience as three examples.
Sticking to the Public Arena:
I’ve avoided getting into areas like discussing Clinton’s personal life. Opinions range wildly on that matter, and frankly, unless she’s committing a crime, I don’t really care. What disappoints me most in this year’s election cycle is that when the so-called Democratic party had the chance to embrace an exciting candidate who energized their base, they instead opted for a re-tread from the 1990’s who needed a helping-hand at every step along the way to make it to the finish-line and the party’s nomination.