Running Down That Hill

I haven't poked into politics here recently, but that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention.  The Democratic race is actually shaping up to be just that--a race--rather than the inevitable preliminary to the coronation of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention this summer.  Personally, I'm all for it.  The primaries should be all about the party working through what it stands for, and if there's only one candidate, there's little discussion of which policies to support.  That's one reason I'm happy to see Obama starting to catch a little attention--the cover of TIME, lots of online profiles, etc.  I'm not sure he's my guy, but that's how I'm leaning. 

Some may argue that Obama's underprepared, having served only one term in the Illinois Senate and part of another in Washington, but I see several arguments against that.  First, a famous President from Illinois--tall guy, beard, lots of split rails--had even less experience than Obama, having served exactly one term as a Congressman when he made his run, but he ended up as one of our more successful executives.  Second, if you look at the credentials of the guy we've had running the country for the last seven years--former governor, former CEO, former Texas Air National Guard officer--it becomes clear that experience is not the most important characteristic of a good President.  Also, considering HRC's own experience--one Senate term--it's arguable that she has less direct experience in governing than Obama does.  Mind you, she does have eight years of observing the workings of the presidency from up close, but I'm not sure that's necessarily better than doing the work of an actual legislator.

Either way, I'm happy that the Dems have several fiercely intelligent candidates who strike me as entirely capable of running the executive branch competently.  If Hill is the nominee, I'll pull the lever for her, but I can't say she excites me much.  Part of my lack of enthusiasm is her calculated attempt to stave off criticism from the right; I do not believe she has any real interest in banning flag-burning, but she co-sponsored a bill to outlaw it; I don't believe she really thinks the war in Iraq is a good idea, but she has supported it since the original vote to authorize force.  I don't see these votes as anything but an attempt to defuse criticism that she's a commie pinko who's soft on national defense.  The main thing they've done, however, is demonstrate to her theoretical supporters on the left and in the middle that she doesn't actually support their principles when they come up for a vote.  Moreover, they're not doing a thing to calm down the right-wing nutjobs, whose criticism of Hillary is starting to make their criticism of Bill look like the gentle chastisement Ward used to give to the Beaver.

There are also a number of petty things her campaign has been doing--planting questions in the audience at campaign events, criticizing Obama for wanting to be president back in elementary school, etc.--that make me shake my head and feel as though she's learned nothing from the past fifteen years of scorched-earth politics.  It makes her look less like a leader and more like a hyper-ambitious Tracy Flick making Machiavellian moves to win the student council presidency in Election.  (A terrific movie for you Reese Witherspoon/Matthew Broderick fans, by the way.)  The very way in which she pursues the office makes her look unfit for it.

I do not believe what P.J. O'Rourke said during his visit to Woodberry a few months back--that there's not a man in America who will vote for Hillary because she reminds them all of their first wife.  For one thing, unlike many successful GOP columnists (and candidates, for that matter), many of us like our first wives just fine, and not a few are still married to them.  Unfortunately, Hillary doesn't remind me of mine that much.  (The brains, sure, the occasional glimpse of steely cruel streak, fine, but HRC just isn't cute.)

My main objection to Hillary, though, is that I'm really, really tired of divisiveness in American politics, and I don't see her election leading to anything but more of the same.  The partisan sniping that I grew up with was so mild compared with today's rabid attacks that it was often hard to tell which party was doing what.  Moreover, things actually got done.  After I started paying attention in the late 60s, I saw our nation do such things as go to the moon, end the Vietnam War, create the Endangered Species Act, and help eliminate smallpox.  Nowadays everything the government does seems to be a triumphant prevention of something else: "Ha! We kept the opposition from defunding school lunches/spending tax dollars on pork/educating children about sex!"  The only actual accomplishments I can recall in the last few decades are tax cuts for people with money and wars against militaries without power.

Forgive me if I don't see the election of yet another divisive figure from a family that's already held the White House as a good break with this trend.  If Hillary wins, it will mean a Bush or a Clinton has occupied the Oval Office since 1988.  The voters who go the polls for the first time in 2008 will not be able to recall a day when one of those two houses wasn't in charge.  Many of them will not have been alive at such a time.

Frankly, I think it's time they had a chance to live in a different America. Lord knows I'd like that chance myself.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on December 16, 2007 9:25 AM.

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