Strong opinions, weakly held

Why I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton

Today I actually get to vote in the Democratic primary. I’ll be voting for Barack Obama.

Let me explain briefly why I’m for Barack. Aside from the fact that his ideas for what we need to do as a country are roughly compatible with my own, it is his philosophy of how to govern that appeals to me. I’ve talked before about the Overton window. The idea is that at any given time, only a certain range of policy options are acceptable to the public. For example, before 9/11, invading Iraq was outside the realm of possibility. After 9/11, the Overton window moved and invading Iraq became acceptable.

A politician has two options. They can restrict their policy proposals to those that are within the Overton window, or they can try to move or expand that window to include the policies they favor. Barack Obama seems committed to communicating directly with the American people to move the Overton window to encompass more progressive values. If he is elected and succeeds in that task, he will change the political landscape in America for a generation. That, in a nutshell, is why I’m voting for him.

Now let me explain why I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton. To be blunt, I feel like that she has run her campaign in such a way as to be unworthy of the Democratic nomination. As the campaign has gone on and on, she has tailored her message further and further to appeal to the basest motives of Americans, and to cash in on sentiments that any decent person should seek to rise above.

In the beginning of her campaign, she ran on a platform of competence and progressive values. When that failed her and she fell behind, she focused more and more on coddling and encouraging the most regressive elements in the Democratic party. To be blunt, there are a lot of people in America who are disinclined to vote for a black man. Hillary Clinton does not encourage them in their bigotry, but of late she has been careful to tailor her message to more strongly appeal to the sorts of people who are already motivated by bigotry.

Last weekend’s display of embarrassing and hypocritical anti-intellectualism was a low moment for her, but was also par for the course for the manner in which her campaign has been run since Obama became the frontrunner. A victory for Hillary Clinton would be a victory for shameless pandering and for all that is small within us. We can do better.


  1. Well stated, Mr. Colburn.

  2. I liked Hillary a lot until she ran her campaign. Then… not so much. I seriously doubt she’ll get the nomination, but of course I’d support her in that event etc etc. But Obama is clearly the better choice.

    I’m optimistic that an Obama presidency could move some things around for the better in a way that hasn’t happened for progressives since perhaps LBJ, especially at this moment where the most prominent policies of the conservatives are failing all at the same time – banking deregulation and laissez-faire in general, environmental policy, foreign policy, and fiscal balance.

  3. Wow, I’ve basically been a Clinton apologist all this time because I felt her husband uniquely understood how to balance economic theory with liberal humanism. (There’s a scene in Primary Colors that captures this, where he lets workers know that he can’t save their jobs, but he can help them get education and training for new jobs.)

    Seems she differs with her husband in all the wrong places.

    Thanks for the link, though the revelation is deeply saddening.

  4. Jacob Davies

    May 6, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Also, unlike Jed Bartlet, Obama wouldn’t need to bring in any ringers to win a late-night game of basketball against a bunch of short, fat desk jockeys.

    OK, this isn’t a major qualification for being president, but then again I don’t get to vote so I can be as irrational as I want.

    More seriously, one of the unfortunate things about the Clinton campaign’s negative tack – not her staying in the race, but the way she’s run lately – is the damage I feel it’s doing to those of us who want to link the current Democratic party to the successes & good times of the Clinton administration. How is Bill Clinton going to sound in November when Obama is the nominee? Sure, he’s entitled to his own opinions, but he’s also the only Democratic President many people can remember being in office. He has an obligation to the party – not to mention principle – to avoid doing severe damage with negative campaigning against someone likely to be the nominee.

    Clinton staying in the race could have actually been good for the party if it weren’t for the negative campaigning, because it focuses attention on the Democratics and completely deprives McCain’s campaign of media attention. It also emphasizes that the Democrats have plenty of excellent candidates and tons of enthusiasm while the Republican candidate is just the least-bad choice of a depressed party.

    Hopefully the negative stuff won’t do too much damage; I think on balance it’s still better for the Clinton/Obama race to be continuing even with the infighting, but it’s getting real close to the time where she needs to drop out to avoid being seen as a desperate, crackpot candidate. And she & her campaign surely need to cut out the attacks on the person they must already know will be the nominee come November… or even if they don’t know it, they have to admit to a 50/50 chance which would be enough reason to stop it. I really hope they get that message soon.

  5. I hate nutshell arguments, but in this case I think it’s appropriate. Here it is, in a nutshell:

    Hillary represents the political old-guard, the established status quo. Obama represents fresh, new ideas and speaks for those who want a change from the old-guard and the political status quo.

    That, in a nutshell, is why I want Obama to win, but if Hillary wins I’ll still vote for her because she’s better than Walking-Death McCain and his likely VP, Condoleeza Rice. The last thing we need is someone from the Bush administration running things for another four years.

  6. Thanks for the info about the Overton Window. Now I know why no one I support receives more than 10% of the vote. 🙁

  7. So I guess you are o.k. with Obama’s strong support for faith-based initiatives? You can see that is the case from documents on his on site, e.g. http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal/

  8. Faith based initiatives is kind of a loaded term. There are some I’d probably favor and others I’d probably be against. That said, there are any number of specific policy positions where I don’t agree with Barack Obama, and I suspect that if he’s elected, there are any number of things he’ll do that will frustrate or disappoint me. That still doesn’t change the fact that I prefer him to the competition.

  9. Thanks for your reply.

    I understand that one’s only choice is to pick the person one views to be the lesser of evils.

    I was specifically referring to Obama’s support for providing federal funding to faith-based programs. I feel that this violates the separation of church and state. I’m concerned that Obama is more of a fundamentalist than he is letting on and I’m very sensitive to this issue.

    As far as the Rev. Wright situation, Obama was probably blindsided and it doesn’t concern me much one way or the other.

  10. Dear SusieQ, What specific “faith based initiatives” does Obama support? I realize it’s not your job to winnow this information out for me, but if you did I’d appreciate it.

    Dear Rafe, Your points seem sound to me. And while I wouldn’t support Hillary, of course I would have also voted for for her against McCain. Now it looks like I can vote for Obama, who, while still a politician is a brilliant person who could just surprise us (hopefully in a good way).


  11. Given the age of several of the Supreme Court justices, I will be voting for the Democratic nominee regardless of who it is. Plus I disagree with McCain on just about every important issue.

  12. Dear Joely, the best answer to your question is for you to read Obama’s article that I linked to in my first post above. It’s worth reading in any case and actually says a number of things I agree with as well as a number I don’t.

    It needs a close read since like anything written by a good politician, there are a number of statements along the lines of “lots of people feel strongly about x” written in such a way that it could seem to be supporting whichever side you happen to be on.

  13. how do you feel about Obama now that he says he will keep 60,000 troops in Iraq, supported Scalia’s opinion on the individual ‘s right to bear arms, wants to expand “faith based” initiatives, said that his statement that he would unilaterally pull out of NAFTA was political rhetoric, attacked the Supreme Court decison that at least began to put some limits on Capital Punishment….etc.

    Barrack has done what you claim Hillary did. Are the scales off your eyes yet or are you still drinking the Kool Aid? Vote Green Third Party. Barrack is every bit of the pandering politician that you saw Hillary to be.

    Actually, we probably still need to vote for Barrack because of the Supreme Court Appointments. At least he hasn’t pandered on the choice issue yet.

  14. I noticed you asked about Barrack and faith-based initiatives. You probably already heard, but here is an excerpt and link.

    “Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, criticized Obama’s proposed expansion of a program he said has undermined civil rights and civil liberties.

    “I am disappointed that any presidential candidate would want to continue a failed policy of the Bush administration,” he said. “It ought to be shut down, not continued.”

    … “Obama also talked bluntly about the genesis of his Christian faith in his work as a community organizer in Chicago, and its importance to him now.

    “In time, I came to see faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I went out and did the Lord’s work,” he said.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-07-01-obama-faith_N.htm

  15. Let’s see:

    • We’ll have to see on Iraq. I’m for ending the war in Iraq.
    • I’m in disagreement with him on faith-based initiatives.
    • Agree that it would be foolish to pull out of NAFTA, and knew at the time that his anti-free trade talk was mostly political rhetoric.
    • Disagree with him vehemently on capital punishment.

    I could list a bunch of other things I disagree with him on as well, so I don’t think there are any scales or that there were any scales in the first place. The only candidate for public office who I’d agree with everything on is me, and I don’t even agree with myself of six months ago on everything or myself of 10 years ago on many things.

    I think Obama will be a fine President, and I think he can win. I think if he wins he’ll consistently frustrate me every day he’s in office. What can I say, I have low expectations.

  16. Thanks for the frank response.

    I agree that we won’t find a candidate that matches us on all the issues. It seems to be turning out that he will be a Clintonian style president (one who is willing to compromise on basic beliefs in order to hold office). A little ironic that the candidate that you rejected, Hillary, is exactly what Barack has become.

    But I always liked Hillary, so if I turned on Barack for being like her, then I would be the one who would have illustrated irony.

    Barack may be a fine president (definitely better than McCain), but he won’t be the new style of president so many had hoped for. (I have to hold my hands back to keep from typing “I told you so.”)

    Hillary is now out of the race except for campaigning for Barack, so the Hillary supporters (of which I was one) need to stop fighting these old battles and realize that Barack is the best man left standing.

    I could write quite a convincing argument that Hillary was the better candidate, but that is crying over spilled milk. Time to mop it up and support the only guy who can stop the Republican led descent. That’s what Hillary is telling people to do.

    I still have some bitterness over the defeat — sorry if I went over the top. Barack is the man. However, if you live in a state that is clearly going to go Republican, a vote for the Green Party wouldn’t be a bad move.

  17. Here’s what Roger Simon said about Obama today:

    I don’t know if he will or not, but I do know that he has made a key decision: He has decided to run as a candidate for president and not as the leader of a movement.

    I think it’s a trenchant observation. I don’t know how much we can surmise about how he will govern from that.

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