You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way The Wind Blows
Hillary Clinton is a politician’s politician. One can imagine her sitting down to breakfast at a small cafe and consulting the appropriate polls before deciding on white, multigrain, or rye toast. While hilarious for the late-night crowd this type of leadership by expediency is looked upon with a sort of frightened amusement by the discerning voter. Is Hillary disingenuous, an opportunist, or just confused? Perhaps all of the above. Below we examine 7 times in which Hillary has played the role of weatherman and shown us which way the wind blows.
#1: Progressive vs. Moderate
During the current election campaign Hillary has appeared perplexed as to her own political ideology. On one hand she does not want to be outdone by her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders, a progressive among progressives, while on the other she must come to terms with her neoconservative military record and longstanding position as a great political friend to Wall Street. Days apart she provided us with two deliciously contradictory self definitions.
“I take a back seat to no one, when you look at my record, in standing up and fighting for progressive values”
“I get accused of being kind of a moderate and center…. I plead guilty”
So she is a progressive and a moderate? Unfortunately for the coherence of Hillary Clinton, those are two different things.
#2: Gay Marriage and LGBT Rights
1990’s– Was First Lady during the Bill Clinton administration, which passed such anti-gay legislation as ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act
2000– While running for Senate says she would have supported Defense of Marriage Act
2000-Bill on Hillary- she “experienced discomfort around gay people who were kind of acting out”
2001– Poll on public support for gay marriage — 57% against, 35% for
2004– Gives a speech in the Senate saying “I believe that marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”
2004– Poll on public support for gay marriage — 60% against, 31% for
2008– Runs for President the first time while opposing gay marriage
2009– Poll on public support for gay marriage — 54% against, 37% for
2010– Is reportedly furious about changing the “mother, father” designations on passport application forms to “parent 1, parent 2”. States she “could live with letting people in non-traditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father”
2011– Poll on public support for gay marriage — 46% against, 46% for
2013– Poll on public support for gay marriage — 43% against, 50% for
2013– Comes out in support of marriage equality
Clinton supporters are fond of saying that Hillary did not flip-flop on this issue but rather she ‘evolved’. Perhaps this is true, perhaps she did leave behind her distaste for “gay people who were acting out” and her fury over the changing of the codification of the ‘traditional’ family. It is then an incredible piece of coincidence that her ‘evolution’ happened to take place in the exact year when public opinion finally shifted in favor of gay marriage for the first time. When challenged on why this evolution took so long she responded-
“I’m proud of people who have been on the front lines of advocacy but in 1993 that was not the case. Not that many people supported gay marriage in the 90’s”
Interesting she should put it that way. Her opponent Bernie Sanders, as Mayor of Burlington, supported the city’s first pride parade in 1983, then later signed legislation banning housing discrimination against the LGBT community. As a Congressman in the 1990’s he fought against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and, most specifically, the Defense of Marriage Act. So while Hillary comes late to the party and wants to act like she threw it, at least some people were on the “front lines of advocacy”.
#3: Iraq War
2002– During a speech in the Senate after voting for the Iraq war says “It is with conviction that I support this resolution. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war”
2002– Poll on public support for Iraq war — 52% for, 42% against
2007– While running for President says on Iraq “our President rushed us into war”
2007– Poll on public support for Iraq war — 34% for, 65% against
Obviously many people, both politicians and ‘regular’ Americans, made a mistake they would later concede in supporting the Iraq war. But there is a level of tragic comedy in seeing both of Hillary’s quotes back to back, her use of the same language to say two completely contradictory things. Interestingly one of the few Senators who did vote against the Iraq war before it became popularly viewed as a catastrophe was one Bernie Sanders.
#4: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
1996– As First Lady says “I think everybody is in favor of free and fair trade. I think NAFTA is proving its worth”
2002– Poll on public opinion of NAFTA — 48% saw America as “winner”, 37% “loser”
2004– As a Senator states “NAFTA has been good for New York and Americans”
2005– Poll on public opinion of NAFTA — 43% saw America as “winner”, 47% “loser”
2007– While running for President states “NAFTA was a mistake”
In what appears as a recurring theme for Hillary across multiple issues, she repeatedly spoke publicly in favor of NAFTA while it enjoyed relative popularity before speaking against it shortly after it became unpopular.
#5: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
From 2010-2013 as Secretary of State Hillary advocated no less than 45 times in favor of the TPP all around the world. She called it “the gold standard in trade agreements”. However late in 2015 she changed her opinion and began opposing it, a curious reversal for someone who had essentially been the American face of the TPP on the international stage. Likely she realized that in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination she could use the support of labor unions who, like her opponent Bernie Sanders had from the very beginning, opposed the TPP, seeing it as a potential killer of American jobs.
#6: Keystone Pipeline
As Secretary of State Hillary professed that she was “inclined” to approve the Keystone pipeline, reasoning “We’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the gulf, or dirty oil from Canada”. For the first half of 2015, as the clear-cut front runner in the Democratic primary, she refused to respond to cries from liberal Democrats asking her to articulate her position on the project. However as her opponent Bernie Sanders, himself an opponent of Keystone from the very beginning, chased and eventually caught her in the polls she was forced to enunciate her position. At that point she revealed her position had changed, and she now opposed Keystone. Much like in the case of the TPP Hillary saw no reason to oppose the project until she started bleeding votes from liberal Democrats to a much more progressive opponent.
2003– As a Senator says “I am adamantly against illegal immigrants”
2006– Votes for the Secure Fence Act, devised to allow for the construction of a 700 mile fence along the US-Mexico border
2007– Expresses she is against providing drivers licences for undocumented people
2014-During a town hall meeting is asked about what she would do with children from Central America who are coming across the US-Mexico border. In her response, after saying she would send them home, she states – “Just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay”
2015– States that she supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Also expresses support for state policies which would allow drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants
For over a decade Hillary was “against illegal immigrants”, favoring building walls and sending people back where they came from (sounding conspicuously similar to a current Republican candidate). Then in 2015, as she embarked on another attempt to become President, she engaged in a dramatic reversal. So what changed? Likely Hillary recognized that Hispanics are the fastest growing ‘minority’ in the United States, already making up approximately 17% of the population, and that their disproportionate numbers in swing states such as Florida, Arizona, and Colorado (among others) make their votes crucial. She also likely looked at her potential competition in her quest for the White House. People like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are Hispanic themselves, or Jeb Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish and is married to a Mexican woman. Not to mention Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, who has long championed an extremely progressive immigration policy. One wonders if one year of opportunistic progressive lip service can really undo a decade of aggressive rhetoric.
The Bottom Line
Ideological evolution is an important part of a political career, not to mention the progression of society as a whole. But the problem that Hillary Clinton has is that she has changed positions on seemingly every major issue which has arisen in her career, often in an embarrassingly transparent pursuit of votes. If Hillary becomes the Democratic nominee will she, no longer required to satisfy liberal Democrats, change her position on the TPP or Keystone back to support? Would a ‘President Hillary Clinton’, if confronted with growing conflict with Iran, “rush us into war”? Faced with the hateful xenophobia of some Republicans towards immigrants and refugees will Hillary follow the progressive position she has embraced over the last year, or return to her hardline approach of the previous decade?
A large part of leadership is to hold, express, and fight for your convictions and beliefs. Simply put, Hillary has only one guiding principle, that is to get elected, and in that she represents the very heart of what is wrong with politics.