Monday, May 09, 2005

Hillary Clinton. Centrist?

According to center-left commentator Peter Beinart, Hillary Clinton is a true centrist. She isn’t “moving to the center” in preparation of a 2008 presidential bid, she’s always been in the center.

The Yellow Line has noted before that Hillary has so often been labeled a far-left liberal that it will be a very tough task to convince a majority of voters that she’s actually a centrist. And, as Beinart rightly notes, the Republicans are going to say that she lacks conviction, that she will say anything to get elected—which is pretty much the exact strategy the used against Kerry. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

But let’s step back for a second. Let’s pretend Hillary isn’t this polarizing figure, that we haven’t been told 10,000 times that she’s a liberal poster child.

First, she was in fact a supporter of Barry Goldwater in high school and the president of Young Republicans at Wellesley College. That hardly sounds like the radical youth you’d expect from someone considered to be one of America’s leading liberals.

And, as covered in a 2004 Village Voice story, Hillary Clinton has been much more centrist than the people of New York expected or would even tolerate from a Senator with less star power. Indeed, her voting record is much more like Joe Lieberman’s than Ted Kennedy’s. She supported the Iraq War and the $87 billion. She has tirelessly supported Israeli interests. She was one of the only Democrats who stood with Bush on his opposition to the ICC. And she has regularly received true praise from Republican colleagues.

In fact, if she weren’t Hillary Clinton, it’s quite likely her record would be too-conservative for her to win the Democratic nomination. Just look what happened to Joe Lieberman.

But that’s the problem. It’s not just conservatives that think Hillary is a true-blue liberal, a lot of Democrats also believe her to be a devoted standard-bearer for the left. In the end, it will take an extraordinary campaign if Hillary is going to define herself, rather than be defined by others.

Her moderate credentials might be more extensive and genuine than many have given her credit for, but centrists will have to think long and hard before throwing their support behind such a polarizing figure.

7 Comments:

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous jeff said...

It's interesting that you identify support for Israel as an apparently conservative or centrist cause. Liberals have been strong supporters of Israel since Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize the new states existence. It's also interesting that by implication you think that New Yorkers would not support her efforts on behalf of Israel. This characterization is interesting considering the traditional role of New York City as a center for Jewish population in the US (prior to WWII NYC had the largest Jewish population of any city in the world other than Warsaw), and the fact that New Yorks other Senator is Jewish.

 
At 10:35 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

You are right that it should be no surprise that a senator from New York supports Israel. What is the surprise is that support for Israel really isn't a liberal cause anymore. Yes, many true Democrats are still staunch supporters, but many grassroots liberals see our support for Israel as a liability and, in the extremes, morally wrong given the strife of the Palestinians. In that regard, strong support for Israel is now more the province of Centrists and neo-conservatives.

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Jami said...

My take on this is that people are smart enough to re-think Hillary Clinton. I hope I'm right.

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true the Republicans will attempt to paint Hillary as a tax and spend Liberal. They trot that dog out at every election. I think that this time the bumper sticker, sound bite crowd won't be electing our next president. I continue to believe that the American people won't be fooled by the Karl Rove brain washing again. Hillary is an intelligent, articulate and experienced person and I believe she is up for the challenge. So be ready for Clinton in 2008

 
At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While making every attempt to appear as a political centrist, Hillary Clinton is - and always will be - identified as a liberal or ultra-liberal. Her new found political moderation is carefully crafted in an attempt to provide Hillary with more appeal to the sixty plus percent of the voters who identify themselves political moderates.
I would encourage Mrs. Clinton to stop all attempts to label her as a moderate, and instead campaign on her long-standing record as a liberal candidate. To switch political identification at this point will only suggest a strong insincerity and admit to voters that her politics will work against her in future elections. Rather than attempt to convince voters that she is a political centrist, Mrs. Clinton should instead tell voters how her liberal stand is beneficial to the country and better than those offered by opposition candidates.

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Emeka said...

Hillary Clinton is definitely a centrist maybe slightly conservative. She has deep conservative roots as her parents were conservatives and she was once president of th Young Republicans. I doubt if she would win the election though as Americans will never elect a woman. Period

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Emeka said...

Hillary Clinton is definitely a centrist maybe slightly conservative. She has deep conservative roots as her parents were conservatives and she was once president of th Young Republicans. I doubt if she would win the election though as Americans will never elect a woman. Period

 

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