Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Hillary Our Nixon? Some Reflections on New Hampshire 2008

As an aging boomer, I came of political age during the political career of Richard M. Nixon. Nixon suffered from political scandal early in his career but became Eisenhower’s VP during the 1950s. He suffered political setbacks in the early 1960s (losing the presidential election of 1960 and the California gubernatorial election of 1962). He made a remarkable comeback, beginning in the late 1960s, by winning elections to the Presidency twice (1968 and 1972). Nixon was not an appealing person, due to his stiff manner, and enigmatic and somewhat paranoid personality.

Nevertheless, he was a masterful party politician and there was something about him personally that attracted the core Republican base of his time. Perhaps it was because he was a self made man who could articulate the Horatio Alger myth that Republicans hold so dear. As a candidate, he ran for nomination and election as a conservative but governed from the center. Both his domestic and foreign policies were centrist to moderately liberal. Nixon’s last years in office were marred by political scandal, namely “Watergate,” that led to an attempt to impeach him and his eventual resignation.

I find the parallels between Richard Nixon and Hillary Clinton numerous. Like him, she is uncharismatic with a personality that puts off many Americans but is very effective in intra-party politics. She played a VP like role in Bill Clinton’s administrations and, along with him, experienced numerous political ups and downs, particularly associated with various scandals. The Clintons also were involved in an impeachment imbroglio. On a political level, Hillary is very popular among traditional segments of the rank and file of her party’s base. She especially embodies ideals that are important among Democratic Party women of a certain age, those who are strongly pro choice and mobilized by women’s identity politics and issues. Like Nixon, she campaigns in a way that is ideologically in tune with her base (in her case as a “liberal”) but all indications are that she will govern with moderate to moderately conservative domestic and foreign policies. Why do I say this? She and Bill Clinton have a long history of association with the Democratic Leadership Council, which represents the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. As President, Bill Clinton partnered with Republicans and Democratic neo-liberals on many issues, bringing us pro globalization type (NAFTA) policies. He also introduced “welfare reform” that utilized a Republican framework and concepts. Bill Clinton seemed more interested in maximizing his own political position, as opposed to building support for the Democratic Party as a progressive force in American society. In the international arena, both Bill and Hillary have supported the Republican “war on terror,” including the invasion of Iraq.

The parallels that I see between Richard Nixon and Hillary Clinton are among the many reasons why I support Barack Obama over Hillary. The relevant parallels for Obama are ones with Robert Kennedy, a genuine progressive who could bridge racial and class gaps among the American people. An Obama administration would not be a “restoration” with a rerun of similar policies and personnel from the 1990s, but something more genuinely liberal and better. Granted, Hillary Clinton would be an improvement over Republican rule, but, if you’re a progressive, an Obama presidency promises so much more. -----John D


Blogger John D. said...

Of course. Bill and Hillary are conservative Democrats or Republican Lights.

I too prefer my Democrats to be liberal.

We still all agree that George W. Bush could be replaced by ANY Democrat and do better for most of us.

But why settle for a little change when what America really needs is a transformational change. It's my belief that America needs that right now. The world needs that right now.

Very interesting observations, John D.

3:48 AM  

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