“Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she is ‘sorry’ for using a private email server, going further than ever before to express remorse for the controversy that has rocked her campaign.”
Ironically, I decided to support President Obama in 2008 based on the assumption that Hillary Clinton was such a magnet for controversy that if she were to become President she would become so bogged down in defending herself that little would get done. I clearly remembered that Bill Clinton’s Presidency was a string of manufactured scandals that resulted in an actual impeachment and, with the exception of a certain encounter just outside the Oval Office, his wife was often included in the scandal du jour. If Democrats were going to regain the Presidency, it was best to do so with a candidate who represented a fresh start and who was free of scandals.
It did not take long for Republicans to expose the flaw in my reasoning. No sooner had Obama secured the Democratic nomination that the conspiracy machine was deployed without an off switch. Obama was born in Kenya and his grandparents had conspired at his birth to make sure he was eligible for the Presidency by planting his birth announcement in Hawaiian newspapers. He was also a Muslim who at the same time was condemned for being a member of Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ Church. To prove that McCarthyism is not dead, he was also referred to as a socialist, a communist and a Marxist; though used interchangeably, they are different political and economic systems but the subtlety was lost on those leveling the accusations.
Obama’s win only elevated the level of unhelpful, partisan discourse. While he may have campaigned on bringing a post-partisanship era to Washington, his counterparts on the other side of the aisle stated that “the single most important thing [they wanted] to achieve [was] for President Obama to be a one-term president,” vowing to “do everything...to kill...stop…[and] slow down” his agenda.” When he compromised on the stimulus package and abandoned infrastructure repair in favor of the tax cuts the Republicans were pushing, Republicans thanked him by voting against it. When a single payer health plan was sacrificed for a plan that shared many of the same attributes as one pushed by Bob Dole (as an alternative to Hillarycare) that also included “an individual mandate...purchasing pools, standardized benefits, vouchers for the poor to buy insurance, [and] a ban on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition,” the Republicans responded by unanimously withholding their support. In both cases they accused the president of pushing through partisan laws without their input.
Many progressives fault Obama for selling out their values in favor of a bipartisanship that was doomed to rejection. This ignores the reality of the position in which the President found himself as the economy teetered towards catastrophe. The only patriotic and practical thing to do was make sure that a stimulus package was put into effect to save the country from a full-fledged depression. No matter how imperfect Obamacare is, it is certainly better than the healthcare system that was in effect before. After generations of failure, it was certainly a “big f’ing deal.” But now with the economy no longer in freefall and healthcare triaged, it is time to stop conceding to conservatives and start tackling issues crucial to our democracy and that matter to progressives including income inequality and the corporate influence on our elections. To do this we need a candidate who knows how to fight and doesn’t have waste precious time defending herself from personal attacks.
The Clinton email “scandal” broke on March 2, 2015, with a story in the New York Times that said she had “exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business...and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.” Like the Benghazi “scandal” before it, her adversaries were never able to pinpoint an actual wrongdoing, but simply let their accusations evolve as their previous lines of attack died on the vine. It was page right out of Kenneth Starr’s playbook. “Official statements from three separate government agencies” may have cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing, but she still spent months flailing for a way to end the obsession with the story, constantly evolving her strategies until finally settling on a full apology last week.
If this a preview of what a Clinton White House would look like, progressives are in big trouble. Instead of someone who will let the conservatives control the dialog through endless false allegations, we need someone who is willing to put these manufactured scandals to rest and take control of the agenda. Bernie Sanders has made the primary competitive by doing just that. Instead of running from Republican Red Baiting he embraces the designation of a “Democratic Socialist.” Throughout her political career, Clinton has constantly remade her image to appeal to a presently needed constituency, while Sanders has stayed surprisingly consistent throughout his. This is an attribute that is, unfortunately, rare in politics today.