Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, November 7th, 2010.

Why I Still Think I Was Right to Support Obama Over Clinton

Obama Administration

Dana Milbank writes about why (he thinks) the Democratic Party would be in better shape today if Hillary Clinton were president:

Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children’s coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions. That would have left millions uninsured, but it also would have left Democrats in a stronger political position and given them more strength to focus on job creation and other matters, such as immigration and energy.

In his Friday column, Paul Krugman demolished the argument that President Obama should have “focused” on jobs instead of health care. It’s not as if Obama was ignoring the issue of economic stimulus while he “focused” on health care. His administration did get an economic stimulus package through Congress. The problem was that Obama took what seemed to be the politically cautious course and allowed the stimulus to be watered down to please Blue Dogs and Republicans. And, as a result, it didn’t do enough stimulatin’.

“Mr. Obama’s problem wasn’t lack of focus; it was lack of audacity,” Krugman writes.

It was a mistake to let the health care reform wars drag on as long as they did, and the blame for that can be spread around. But I fail to see how a complete sellout (as opposed to a significant watering down) of a major campaign pledge would have made progressive voters feel less disappointed.

Do we know for certain that a President Clinton would have put forth a more audacious stimulus plan after having kicked health care reform completely under the bus? I’m not seeing any arguments that persuade me she would have. Her (and Bill’s) entire governing modus operandi has always been to bow to special interests and settle for tweaks for the people.

To be fair, Bill Clinton presided over the sweetest economy in at least 20 years, partly because he stood up to Republicans on taxes. Credit where credit is due. But other than that, more often than not, he settled for tweaks.

Part of Milbank’s argument is that in the 2008 primary Hillary Clinton had more support than did Obama from low-income white voters, a group that abandoned Dems in the mid-terms. But as Steve M. points out, Hillary Clinton’s reign as blue-collar queen was a passing phenomenon:

Yes, we know that Hillary Clinton became the Queen of the Working Class for a few months in 2008. But how did that happen? It happened in large part because she began seeking out white voters driven by racial animus only when the delegate math showed clearly (to everyone but her) that she’d been beaten. Her efforts were reinforced by propaganda from Republicans and GOP operatives who wanted to divide the Democratic Party and possibly produce a divided convention — all of a sudden they were full of praise for her.

Now, can we discuss what they would have been saying about her if she’d genuinely had a chance to win the nomination as the primaries moved into Appalachian states, or if she’d already handily defeated Obama, or if he’d never run? She wouldn’t be the working-class queen. She’d be the Alinsky-addled anti-war radical of vintage-1992 propaganda.

See also Zandar.

I’ve seen several commentaries that pointed out that many younger people who voted in 2008 stayed home in 2010. The reason, I dare say, is that the Dems hadn’t done enough to show them that it matters who controls Congress. They rallied in 2008 for big, progressive change, and they didn’t get it. I don’t blame them for feeling let down. But I fear they’re about to learn that there are worse things than feeling let down.

The sad thing is that President Obama has delivered on more progressive achievements than any Dem president since Lyndon Johnson. That there seems little to show for it at this point in his presidency says a lot about the lack of progressive achievements since Lyndon Johnson. But I see no evidence whatsoever that Hillary Clinton would have saved the day.

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