Progressive Hillary

The suggestion is in the air — again — that no sane progressive would support Hillary Clinton for president. The implication seems to be that feminists who do support Hillary have a special burden of proof to meet. Of course, I could point out that some white male progressives who consider themselves voices for the downtrodden are sympathetic to the white male progressive candidate who considers himself a voice for the downtrodden. So is it any huge surprise that some lifelong feminists happen to be sympathetic to the candidate who is a lifelong feminist? Is that really "unfortunate," as Brian Beutler writes? Are my issues as a feminist voter less important than any other voter’s issues?

I agree that it’s important to substantively lay out exactly why Clinton is qualified. I don’t think she’s the leading feminist candidate because she’s a woman. I think she’s the leading feminist candidate because she has always worked her ass off on feminist issues. Hillary is:

A leader on ensuring pay-equity. 75 cents on the dollar for the same work. Still.

A voice for women veterans at a time when sexual assault in the military is climbing.

An advocate for 9/11 emergency workers suffering from not-so-mysterious health problems.

The woman who fought for universal health care 14 years ago. A creator of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The winner of a year-long post law school fellowship to study children in our health care system.

Completely unforgiving in forcing the FDA’s hand to make Plan B available over the counter. Thank god. I mean, I’ve used this drug. This affects my life.

An experienced diplomat who visited 86 nations during her husband’s presidential term, and who declared in China, "Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated. Even in the late twentieth century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict. Women and children make up a large majority of the world’s refugees. When women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse."

A founder of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women.

A long-time student of progressive social change, writing about Saul Alinksky when Barack Obama was still in elementary school.

An editor of the Yale Review of Law and Social Policy.

A person who shunned highly-paid corporate law internships to work with the Children’s Defense Fund and then Sen. Walter Modale‘s subcommittee on migrant workers.

This woman has done so much that I literally could spend all day writing this post. But I hope this is enough for now to feel like I can stop defending the point that yes, I’m a committed liberal and yes, I am seriously considering voting for Hillary Clinton.

8 thoughts on “Progressive Hillary

  1. Steven

    My question on TAPPED wasn’t meant as an accusation against feminist Clinton supporters, but rather as an open question: If a large number of progressives support her, I simply want to know why. Same goes for Edwards and Obama supporters, except that in those cases (esp. Edwards supporters), people are often quick to lay out very precise reasons for their support. That was my biggest complaint about Garance Franke-Ruta’s debate with Matt Yglesias and Sam Rosenfeld in TAP: Although she was given the forum to defend Sen. Clinton, she really didn’t address the issues Yglesias and Rosenfeld thought made Clinton a bad choice. The two sides more or less argued past one another.

    Clinton seems good on everything you typed up in the post. However, I wonder how Obama and Edwards compare. Clinton may very well do better, but I’ve never heard anyone actually explain that. I also have concerns how well Clinton does on healthcare, the war in Iraq, and other issues. And there, I’m not sure she’s quite so progressive. I really don’t think she compares at all, for example, to Edwards’ integration of reproductive health into his universal healthcare plan (Clinton on healthcare 14 years ago isn’t necessarily the same as Clinton today). Likewise with poverty relief. Same with Obama’s foreign policy views: Clinton is undoubtedly more hawkish than the other frontrunners, and after the war in Iraq, that concerns me.

    This doesn’t mean Hillary Clinton isn’t the most feminist candidate, the most progressive candidate, etc. It just means it isn’t fair to assume without explaining why. And that’s what I was (and am) looking for: An explanation. There is no special burden of proof, except in so far that many who are leery of Clinton’s candidacy feel her supporters are very slow to defend her on policy issues like you just did above.

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  2. Dana

    Good points, Steven. I’d say there’s a difference between having a good voting record on an issue and making in a centerpiece of your public life. That’s what HRC has done with feminist issues that I respect so much and that Obama and Edwards haven’t (although Edwards has been putting in a good faith effort to make those issues central during this campaign, and Obama’s talk on work-family is highly encouraging).

    On health care, people worry that because of her past failure, HRC will have too much of an incremental approach. And indeed, it’s somewhat frustrating that she’s said it would take until her second term to provide truly universal health care. But the way I read that is that her approach will be to introduce smaller bills (a pharma bill, an S-CHIP bill, an expansion of Medicaid/Medicare bill) that she hopes, in total, will add up to health care reform. Whether this will lead to a substantively different policy outcome than what Obama or Edwards suggests presenting to Congress all at once, I’m not enough of a health care wonk to predict. But it seems to make sense that Hillary would want to avoid another chance for back-lashers to reject health care reform outright and enter into another decade of do-nothingness.

    On Iraq, Hillary’s been far from my favorite politician for a long time. But I believe that the next Democratic president will, as ALL candidates have explicitly promised, work quickly to redeploy our combat troops. Hillary has sponosred legislation to do so–now–in the Senate. There are unanswered questions: Does Hillary support leaving a large residual force on the ground in Iraq? I believe that would be a bad idea. I’m not convinced John Edwards has very different foreign policy instincts, though, and Obama has not been specific on this point.

    I’d also add that Hillary faces a very tough crowd, as the first serious female presidential candidate, when it comes to national security. People do see her as tough, and they need to continue seeing her that way. At a forum in Iowa several months ago, an older man asked her how he could be confident she’d be able, as a woman, to stand up to “bad guys.” So I’m admittedly cutting her some slack on not being an outspoken antiwar voice.

    Now I’ll just emphasize that I remain undecided. Barack Obama is very appealing. John Edwards is, I think, a great human being who would be a voice for morality in the White House (but I don’t think he will take the nomination). The reason I defend HRC voiciferously in the blogosphere is b/c at least in the media world I work in, not many people do. Garance Franke-Ruta is one exception, and I appreciate her work on the topic.

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  3. Matthew Yglesias

    It’s not that Clinton hasn’t been “an outspoken antiwar voice” — she’s been a pro-war voice, consistently to the right of the average Democrat on national security issues. And not, I think, especially because of the politics, but because her views on national security are to the right of the average Democrats’, largely reflecting the views of the members of the Clinton administration foreign policy figures she’s closest to — Albright, Holbrooke, and Ross with a touch of the less hawkish Berger thrown in for seasoning.

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  4. Matt Zeitlin

    I think it should be noted that the first, eighth, ninth and tenth points that support how progressive Hillary is can all be said about Obama, especially the community organizing in Chicago. Sure, Hillary studied and wrote about it while Obama was still in diapers, but he actually became a community organizer in Chicago. I think Clinton was on the Wal-Mart Board at the same time…

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  5. m

    Thanks so much for this piece. There is so much disinformation out there about Hillary, it’s depressing. I was against the war from the start, but that doesn’t stop me from supporting Hillary. Her life long, outspoken advocacy for women and children(you don’t mention her plan for expanding FMLA, it’s a good one) are a huge part of my support for her candidacy. Obama’s foreign policy sounds quite hawkish, so he doesn’t really score any extra points for me on that note.

    Ah, Matt, let’s not get in a pissing match about who was on what Board when someone else was organizing. Hillary has taken her own path toward advocacy but I value it. Further, Deval Patrick is a progressive. I’m hoping he runs for President someday, but he was general counsel for Texaco and sat on the Board at Coke. He was also (gasp!) a Clinton appointee, does that disqualify him as a progressive? Not for me.

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  6. Neil the Ethical Werewolf

    There’s a better case here for voting for Hillary on feminist grounds than I thought I’d be able to find.

    That said, let me add to the discussion of why Hillary’s two-term plan for universal health care is so bad. The Senate calendar is set up to turbocharge our chances of getting serious progressive legislation passed in the next presidential term. We’ve got 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats up for election in 2008, and a 19R-15D split in 2010. With so many more GOP seats at risk, a 60-seat majority in 2011 isn’t completely unthinkable, and we should probably expect to be somewhere in the upper 50s. Then in 2012, we get to the 24D-9R election and probably lose a lot of our majority.

    So the next presidential term is key, and I’m not a big fan of two-term strategies.

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  7. expatjourno

    It’s not “75 cents on the dollar for the same work.” Most of the difference between what men earn and what women earn is accounted for by the fact that men and women are concentrated in different industries. The 75 cents figure is the average full-time woman’s wage divided by the average full-time man’s wage. It compares women who have chosen to be pre-school teachers to men who have chosen to be investment bankers, for example.

    Other very big factors include years of seniority, hours worked and whether the a person negotiates his or her first salary out of college or takes what’s first offered. There was a study on this a few months ago that came up with the same number and concluded that only one-fourth of the difference couldn’t be accounted for by these factors and was therefore caused by gender discrimination.

    Does a good preschool teacher make a bigger contribution to society than a good investment banker? You bet! Is the fact that investment bankers get paid more than preschool teachers evidence of gender discrimination? I think not. It’s a case of a society with badly misplaced priorities.

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