Friday, February 1, 2008

Democratic Primareez Nutz

It seems like everyone is supporting Borat Obama now. I think he's great, and I'll gladly vote for him in the general election, but despite all the adoration people have for Obama, I'm still pretty sure I'll be pulling my lever for Hillary on Tuesday.

But I'll also be voting for her. Amanda and Ezra both linked to an essay in the Nation, that makes the argument that (roughly) the president has more leeway in setting foreign than domestic policy, so you should support the candidate with the preferable foreign policy, Obama.

I'm sympathetic to that sort of argument, since it's along the lines of my original support for Chris Dodd, but I'm ultimately unconvinced. Obama's early opposition to the Iraq war is admirable, but it came in a context (as a representative of Chicago in the Illinois State Senate) where it carried little political risk. While he has made much of that stance as public opinion on the war has soured, he has not shown the willingness to counteract the broad Democratic Party foreign policy views that let so many Democrats sign off on the war in the US Senate.

And so I would expect him to more or less follow the establishment Democratic opinion. It would be perhaps marginally more humane than Clinton's, but not the radically saner alternative that a Dodd or Kucinich could really get me excited about. Nullus.

On domestic policy, in contrast, I think Clinton is far more credible. She cut her legislative teeth tackling health care before she was even in office. She knows better than to even hint at fucking with Social Security. She will not be an echo of her husband: Bill Clinton came to the presidency with a background as a pro-business Democratic governor, while Hillary will come to it as a solid Democratic legislator with a history of support for traditional Democratic constituencies.

Recent Obama converts make a big deal about how presidents don't get carte blanche in implementing domestic policy. But they do set priorities and wield the bully pulpit. Whether they ended up succeeding (the Assault Weapons Ban, No Child Left Behind) or failing (health care reform, Social Security privatization), nobody can honestly look at the Clinton and Bush presidencies and say that the president's impact on legislation wasn't enormous.

So that's it: whoever is president will doubtlessly continue to fuck up the Middle East, Latin America, East Asia, and Africa. This is what American presidents do. Domestically, Clinton wins on both policy and politics.

Some people also argue that Obama has vision, or is a symbol of a better tomorrow, or will usher in a new era of progressivism or what have you. Whatever. JFK had all that too and he gave us Vietnam. Johnson was an unlikeable asshole who passed the Civil Rights Act and did more for social democracy than anyone since FDR. I'll take tangible results over symbolism any day.

Hillary Clenis for Nominee!


DU said...

This hadn't shown up in my bloglines when I sent that graph. FYI.

AFAICT Hillary's main platform has two planks:

1) "I'm not a Republican." Debatable.

2) "I'll pass health care reform." I don't call mandatory insurance "reform". I call it a giveaway to insurance companies.

So I'm basically just picking the less establishment candidate. Maybe that means he can't get things done, I dunno.

DU said...

I forgot to click the followup thing so this is just a dummy comment. FYI take 2.

Travis said...

Do you read Ezra Klein? If not then I can probably dig something up making the case for health insurance mandates. If you do read him and just aren't persuaded then we'll agree to disagree. Assuming you even want to debate.

Not sure how to respond to the first point, unless you mean regarding foreign policy. In which case, being a Democrat is damning enough, IMHO.