I'm Voting For Hillary Clinton
by Todd Beeton, Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 07:26:13 AM EST
Hillary Clinton had an uphill climb. She started out way at the back of my rankings of presidential preferences, behind Obama (whom I prefered early) and Edwards, but over the course of the past year, she of all the candidates made the case best, in my mind, for why she should be president.
The shift began to happen in early fall after several debates gave me a sense of just what a good candidate she was, which is different than whether she'd be a good president; I just really became more and more impressed with her intelligence, humor and ability to communicate a message in a succinct and accessible way, unlike Democratic nominees of days past. At the same time, I became less and less impressed with Barack Obama's candidacy, which seemed to be flailing a bit. As fall gave way to winter and there was a switch in the fortunes of what would become the two leading campaigns for the Democratic nomination, I realized my admiration for Clinton had developed into a real belief that she would be not only a great nominee but also a phenomenal president.
Over the past few weeks, as the differences between the candidates have sharpened into a choice between two styles of the presidency and as I've seen Clinton and Obama in person several times, that impression has grown even stronger. Who knew I had such a strong belief that the presidency is a job that requires intimate knowledge of the ways Washington works and a hands on approach to not only setting, but pushing through an agenda. I'm much more a Jed Bartlett guy than a Dave guy, which is why through all of the Obama events I've seen, I've been left wondering, OK, sounds great but exactly what will you do as president and how will you do it? Obama wants to lift the country up, make us see ourselves as better than we are, unite the red states and blue states...you've heard it all...but as inspiring as it is, I'm always left wondering what does it mean in real world terms? I need more than a theory of change to cast a ballot for the most important job in the world. Follow me...
As if trying to answer just that question, Ted Kennedy said at a recent rally that Barack Obama is the one to break the deadlock in Washington. Huh? How? If that's the case, why hasn't he done so as senator? What sort of across the aisle magic unity has he manifested over the past 3 years? It plays into this idea that Hillary Clinton is too divisive to be elected, which flies in the face of the reality that she won over the respect of Republican senators in congress and she won over Republican voters in New York; to paraphrase Obama himself, Hillary Clinton is not nearly as divisive as the caricature her opponents paint of her would suggest, yet it certainly behooves the Obama campaign to perpetuate that idea.
In addition, as for what the two candidates will do as president, there are two distinct reasons Hillary Clinton has inspired my vote over Barack Obama. First is that I know she will be a partisan warrior. I'm not ready to give up the fight that they started but that we've been waging over the past several years; I'm not ready to give in to the Broders and Brooks's who insist both parties are equally culpable in the havoc that the Bush administration and a Republican congress has wrought and that unity, in and of itself, is the answer. I've been saying all year that a unity message does not have to be a post-partisan message; you can unite the country by branding the values of the majority of Americans as what they are: Democratic values opposed to the regressive and destructive Republican values that have almost run our country into the ground. While I have no doubt that Barack Obama is a committed Democrat and wants Democrats all over the country to win, I'm disturbed at times by his reluctance to state proudly that he is a Democrat; he has a real opportunity to rebrand the party but he almost perpetuates the idea that it's a dirty word.
The second reason is that I actually believe Hillary Clinton is prepared to take full advantage of the progressive moment we find ourselves in to set a challenging domestic agenda that will not only, as she puts it, "clean up after this Bush," but will also set us on a track for a longterm progressive majority. I know she's seen as a cautious DLC centrist, but what's interesting is that people who claim to be so concerned with moving forward into the future assume Clinton will govern as president with the same instincts that led to some of her worst votes as senator. I actually believe with workable majorities in both houses of congress and with a strong electoral mandate from the country in November, President Hillary Clinton will be a friend and champion of progressive causes. Sure, I fully admit that requires a leap of faith on my part, but she inspires me to take that leap.
Why don't I see Barack Obama as that guy? Perhaps because in his effort to woo more conservative voters he's running to Clinton's right on health care and using right wing language on anything from Social Security to tax cuts. It used to matter to progressives how a candidate talks about issues; it still matters to me. It's not that I think Barack Obama isn't a progressive, certainly his voting record is, but the idea that he would run right to make distinctions from his opponent in a Democratic primary goes against everything we've been fighting for; and how else am I supposed to judge how he'll be as president than by the policies he's offering as a candidate? Whenever Obama does something questionable to progressives, it's fascinating to see the bending over backwards that goes on throughout the blogosphere to justify it. I don't think we should be trying so hard to look for signs that Barack Obama is a friend to the progressive movement even as he boasts about wanting to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Maybe he is sending some complex series of coded messages, which is essentially what some bloggers have argued, but all it does is make me question even more exactly the kind of president he would be. I don't have that same question with Hillary Clinton.
So, for me, a vote for Barack Obama is a leap of faith, one I'm not prepared to take. While Barack Obama certainly has inspired me and I believe him to be a good and honorable man, Hillary Clinton has inspired something far more important for my vote: confidence. I have no doubt that Obama could continue to nurture the movement he's started, perhaps as a VP candidate (yes, Clinton-Obama would be my ideal ticket) or just as a senator/orator; he doesn't need to be president to make the change he says he wants to bring to our nation. As he himself tells us often, it's not about him, it's about us. Right now, after a president who has systematically undermined every aspect of government, I need a president who will focus on making it work again; I believe in the power of government to be a force of positive change in people's lives and I know Barack Obama does as well, but only Hillary Clinton has inspired me to believe that she is the one to fix it and indeed to restore faith in government to usher in a longterm period of progressive -- and competent -- governance. Now that would be quite a change indeed.
I went back and forth on whether I should write this, curious your thoughts. I don't know if it's to my credit or not that I've been accused of being both an Obama booster and an Obama hater but now you know where my vote lies, the truth is out. But quite frankly, I've tried not to use this blog as an outlet of candidate promotion, I've tried to call it as I've seen it, regardless of my vote, so I will continue to write about Barack Obama in a positive light and criticize Clinton when warranted. These are both great candidates, we're lucky to have this choice, as tough as it's been.