Clinton as President: The Stale Half-a-Loaf

The positive case for supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination is not that she is clearly more electable. Sanders has been doing better against all Republicans in matchups for some time. It is true the GOP will red-bait Sanders and reduce his chances to win in November, but that effort might well ultimately fail. The Cold War is over and polls show he is personally the most likeable of all candidates. This matters to many independent voters and tends to undercut claims that he is the second coming of Lenin.

Moreover, Clinton will also be the subject of vicious attacks, some of which will be new, e.g., any damaging information found to make the Clinton Foundation look like the headquarters of the Bavarian Illuminati or, more realistically, an enterprise in which wealthy contributors to the Foundation, some of whom have dubious financial or political records, received special favors from Clinton when she was Secretary of State, or would if she became President.

Instead, the primary argument her supporters cite is her superior experience and knowledge of the nuts and bolts of policies and how to get them through Congress. Clinton is conversant in the minutiae of more domestic and foreign policy issues than Sanders, but this is a less powerful argument than it might appear. Clinton's domestic policy wonkiness is only relevant if, as President, she could actually implement her domestic agenda.

The Democrats have an excellent chance to win back the Senate, though unlikely a super-majority sufficient to override a filibuster. More significantly, they have only a very slim chance to win back the House. Thus, Clinton's domestic agenda, and Sanders', should he win, will almost surely never be enacted. The claim that more of hers will be passed, because it is more moderate, ignores the fate of President Obama, who is to the right of her on domestic policy. In his second term, Republicans blocked everything he tried to achieve that was even moderately progressive. Eventually he gave up. Republicans just needed to have control of one legislative chamber to veto his proposals. Clinton can utilize executive orders, as Obama ultimately resorted to, but that's it. Sanders could do the same, but the scope of executive orders are limited. In regard to economic policies, they cover federal purchasing policies and 3 million federal employees. Nothing to sneeze at, but hardly transformative,

It's true that Clinton will be the first woman President. That has undoubted symbolic value and will be a source of pride and encouragement to women. A solid majority of women voting in Democratic primaries support her, however, a Clinton administration is no more likely, in itself, to affect women in general than Obama's being the first black President fundamentally changed black lives.

Younger women, in particular, seem to be supporting Sanders, probably because the pervasive sexism that affected the lives of older women is not perceived to be nearly as characteristic of their own. Moreover, like Obama vis-a-vis blacks, Clinton might believe she has to bend over backwards not to appear to be prioritizing legislation specifically targeting women's unique needs. But, even if that were not true, or she refused to trim her sails, Republican obstructionism would block her initiatives.

Those intending to vote for Clinton over Sanders, therefore, have to face the reality that they will primarily be getting half-a-loaf: her foreign policy, the one area in which presidential power is largely unchecked by Congress. But doesn't Clinton have superior experience in that area? No doubt this is true, but her foreign policy inclinations would be Republican-lite. She admires and even vacations with unindicted co-conspirator Henry Kissinger and those whose mindset is comparable--support friendly dictators, not popular movements against them; undercut democratically elected leaders who are to the left--as in Honduras; propose corporate friendly trade policies. The foreign leaders Clinton has known and embraced, like Egypt's Mubarak, have often been hated by their own people.

Jimmy Carter has recently said he admired John Kerry's tenure as Secretary of State, but Clinton "took very little action" to bring about world peace. Her full embrace of the Netanyahu government's relentless territorial expansion at the expense of the Palestinians is no different from the mainstream Republican position, perhaps to the right of Donald Trump, who says he will at least pretend to be neutral in that conflict.

Ironically, American Jews have supported a two-state policy and overwhelmingly supported President Obama when he criticized Netanyahu's extremism. But, Clinton is more interested in the views of American Jews who are willing to raise millions for her campaign: staunch Netanyahu supporters, such as billionaire Haim Saban. Her recent speech to AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the powerful lobby that supports Netanyahu, opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and raises millions of dollars to support candidates who endorse right-wing Israeli positions, barely paid lip service to Palestinians. More than any other issue, America's unwillingness to distance itself from Israeli policies has undermined claims to be champions of human rights and given additional convincing ammunition in the propaganda war the: U.S. does not think Muslim lives matter.

Sanders' foreign policy views contrast sharply with Clinton's. His chances of winning the nomination, at this point, appear very slim, but not hopeless. Clinton or Sanders should win in November, but it would be a pyrrhic victory for progressives if Clinton triumphs, yet in the one area presidents have great power she will not significantly depart from mainstream Republican ideology. Americans will be getting the stale half-a-loaf.