A Cynic's Case for 'Heartless Hillary' as a Strong Leader

In a speech given to the NRA a couple weeks ago, Donald Trump rechristened his all-but-inevitable general election opponent as "Heartless Hillary." This striking epithet encapsulates the wide array of criticisms that the presumptive Democratic nominee has endured from both parties over the last three decades for her perceived dearth of morality and authenticity. Hillary Clinton's political persona, as a recent NRSC web video concisely articulated, is defined by "fake accents, fake laughs, and fake concerns." However, even if these accusations were true, her selfishness wouldn't necessarily result in poor leadership at the presidential level. On the contrary, it could serve as the fuel for a highly successful administration.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the worst about Mrs. Clinton's motives. We'll ignore her impactful career in public service and forgive the deep sexism pervasive in the majority of charges against her intentions. In this exercise, Mrs. Clinton is interested solely in attaining power, money, and the Machiavellian conception of glory. If this caricature candidate were to win the election in November and ascend to the presidency, common sense dictates that she would abandon her campaign promises and instead adopt a corrupt agenda, completely forsaking the needs of the country. Chaos would ensue, and Her Highness Hillary would reveal her final form as (gasp!) a lesbian with a vicious vendetta against the middle-class.

Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, this scenario would never unfold. In this case, seemingly contrary to logic, now-President Clinton would serve her own selfish interest best by governing well and in a manner worth celebrating, in spite of any malice she internally harbors. This statement holds true because of an important modern-day manifestation of the classical notion of glory: the presidential legacy, a force to which every occupant of the White House is subject. All presidents want to be remembered favorably. This desire for a distinguished legacy informs the president's actions and, at least from the perspective of the cynical, sheds light on the reasoning behind them. In order to secure a renowned place in history, the president must have a positive impact on the country, exemplifying strong leadership qualities in the process. Therefore, even if she is solely concerned with her own self-interest, Mrs. Clinton would have every incentive to govern to her best ability and help as many people as possible.

To address those who are concerned about Mrs. Clinton's history of flip-flopping, the president's selfish desire for a favorable legacy would also motivate President Clinton to fulfill her campaign promises. It is well-documented that politicians, once elected to office, seek to accomplish the proposals that prompted voters to support them. When elected officials contradict earlier promises, especially in highly visible positions, the resulting damage can end careers and tarnish legacies. For example, among my college-aged peers, George H.W. Bush's presidency is defined by the Persian Gulf War and his infamous "no new taxes" blunder -- that's about it. The repudiation of one pledge was enough to ruin his reputation, and that is what he is still remembered for today. Contemporary politicians have learned from such calamities and will avoid similar mistakes at all costs. Therefore, fears that Mrs. Clinton will walk back her more liberal policy stances if elected are largely unfounded, a fact that should ease Sanders supporters.

In conclusion, Mrs. Clinton the candidate and President Clinton will likely not differ much from one another (although hopefully the latter won't feel compelled to whip/nae-nae). If you agree with the proposals Mrs. Clinton has espoused on the campaign trail, you shouldn't feel guilty supporting her. However, if that's not the case, your opposition should be based in policy opinions, not judgements on her true intentions. Of course, when a campaign is based on offending people and recklessness, that's an entirely separate cause for concern...