JAC: The title above and sentiments below are those of Greg alone, and do not represent the Official Views of This Website™ nor of Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus), who has repeatedly said that although he (PCC[E]) already voted for Hillary, he is not one of her more enthusiastic supporters. With that disclaimer, I present the views of Professor Mayer, adding the note that you’re encouraged to either agree or disagree in the comments.
by Greg Mayer
Hillary Clinton will be a good president. In some ways she will be a transformative president. As the first woman president, she will lead the United States into the company of many other liberal democracies–the UK, Germany, Australia, and others–in having a female head of government. This will have a major impact in helping to enlarge our views of what it is possible for women to do. I think this will be most important for the younger generations, for they will grow up without the blinkers of never having lived with such a high level female leader. Rather, they will see such a leader as a normal and unexceptional state of affairs. I don’t want to overstate the immediate effect of her election–while Obama’s election has had many salutary effects, it has not by any means led to the end of racism–but it will be of real value.
She will also, soon after taking office, appoint a Supreme Court Justice, which will lead to the Court not having a conservative majority for the first time in decades. (Unless, of course, the lame duck Senate confirms Merrick Garland, in which case Obama gets the honor. Some Republicans are hinting at a four or eight year filibuster to prevent any Court vacancy from being filled, but I think this is a bridge too far, even for today’s Republican party.)
But apart from these two areas she is unlikely to have a transformative effect, primarily because it is unlikely that the Democrats will gain control of the House, and it is highly unlikely that a Republican House would ever vote for anything that she proposed. Achieving a Democratic Senate is within reach, and worth striving for for “advice and consent” reasons. But any achievement that requires legislation will elude her. But she will prevent a Republican Congress from doing bad things–and given the number of bad things a Republican Congress is apt to want to do, that is no small good.
In those areas which are more fully in the control of the president, I would trust her to do more or less the right thing, essentially continuing what Obama has tried to do. The most important of these areas is foreign policy, where, having been Obama’s secretary of state, she can be expected to follow the same broad lines of policy. This is critical. The greatest excursion in American foreign policy since World War II was the utterly disastrous policy of Bush 2. His policy– recklessly aggressive, proudly unilateral, dismissive of our oldest and deepest alliances– was a startling repudiation of decades of consistent policy. (Reagan, despite his many shortcomings, was still following the basic policy laid out by Truman in the 1940s, and followed by all subsequent presidents.) It was also a startling repudiation of his own father’s, Bush 1’s, successful adaptation of post WW II policy into a post Cold War policy. Clinton followed Bush 1’s policies– a key element of which was broad, multilateral consensus-building (see the list of countries contributing to the First Gulf War). One of Obama’s greatest achievements has been to return to the Bush 1/Clinton foreign policy.
When Hillary ran for president in 2008, I did not support her, and eventually supported Obama, because I thought that she could only exacerbate the “Clinton derangement syndrome” that had afflicted the Republican party from 1992 to 2000– the insane refusal to accept that Bill Clinton had been elected president, leading to a bizarre range of crazy conspiracy theories. The “Whitewater scandal” was one of the less crazy of these accusations, but just as baseless, which included the claim that the Clintons were murderers.
It turned out, though, that I was wrong–“Clinton derangement syndrome” was not limited to the Clintons. The full force of the syndrome hit Obama as soon as he took office: he wasn’t a citizen, he was a Muslim, he was a terrorist sympathizer, he hated America. The Republicans weren’t deranged by the Clintons– they were just deranged. This derangement was expressed most self-damningly by the current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, shortly after Obama took office, said that Republicans’ job was to stop everything Obama wanted, so as to insure that he would be only a one-term president. It is this continuing derangement that has prevented Obama (many of whose policies are pretty much those of the Republican party ca. 1992) from being as transformative as the euphoria following his 2008 election seemed to promise. And this continuing derangement will limit what Hillary can do as well.
But in voting for a woman who will be a good, and in some ways transformative, president, but not perhaps a great president, we must look at the alternative. And in Donald Trump, the Republican party’s slyly racist, economically delusional, and proudly jingoist chickens have come home to roost in spades. His failings are legion. Here are three: he proposes religious tests, says he will order the American military to commit war crimes (e.g., deliberately killing the families of enemy combatants), and derides our most important alliances a protection racket. He is so dangerously unqualified– at the very best a more vicious Berlusconi, but likely much worse– that, just as Germans would later ask themselves what they did in the elections of 1932, Americans will have to ask themselves what they did in the election of 2016.
As you can tell from the verb tense I have used to describe Hillary’s election, I am confident of her victory– I am not a “nervous Nellie”. But as good people, we cannot do nothing. As David Leonhardt wrote yesterday about Hillary’s impending victory, “So breathe deeply. And do what you can do between now and Tuesday.”