Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There is no reason to believe that Hillary has moved to the left

It may be unfair to single Bouie out here, since he is merely repeating what has become internet consensus: Hillary Clinton, after years of occupying the party's center-to-center-right, has suddenly reversed much of her agenda.

But Bouie should know better, just as all Democrats should know better. Clinton may very well have changed her campaign rhetoric, at least for the moment, while it's important for her to pre-empt as much opposition from the left as possible. But it doesn't follow at all that she will actually govern to the left, and in fact there's significant reason to assume that she won't govern that way.

One major reason is that the Congressional stalemate provides significant political cover for any liberal candidate who fails to deliver on her promises. Clinton can posture about immigration, criminal justice, inequality, and anything else she likes, knowing full well that any liberal bill she proposes to Congress will be dead on arrival.

A second major reason is that Obama's 2008 campaign taught her a hard lesson about the expectations of the modern electorate. Clinton in many ways ran a more honest campaign than Obama, a point that clearly exasperated her by the end; she refused to pander to the party's liberal base, and it cost her dearly. Obama, meanwhile, understood that he could win by telling party activists what they wanted to hear, even if he had no intention of pursuing that agenda.

But the third and most important reason to doubt Clinton's posturing is also the most obvious: her record, and the record of an allies. Whenever she has had any kind of power, as the First Lady, as a Senator, and as a Secretary of State, she has wielded it like a centrist neoliberal. Her husband, her advisors, and her patrons have always done the same.

For me, these points are more than decisive; but at the very least, they should incline liberals to view her new progressive rhetoric with some minimal degree of skepticism.