Of course, under the circumstances, Hillary Clinton must be elected President, but what can she be trusted to do? I will argue that there is a lot to worry about here, but first, some things she can be trusted to do. First, she will appoint Justices who will transform the Supreme Court from a dream of the Federalist Society to a moderately liberal court that respects equality, principles of criminal justice, and fairness in elections. Second, she will on most issues act like a Democratic President. Third, e-mail carelessness to the contrary, her brilliance, experience and judgment will make her a reliable anchor in foreign policy and national security (though many of us prefer she were less hawkish). Fourth, she will block Donald Trump from ever becoming President of the United States.
But there is much to worry about and not because she is more likely to issue false statements or shift positions than most politicians (though she is too slow to admit mistakes and has tried to brazen her way through). My main concern is that, according to Thomas Frank, Hillary Clinton was Bill Clinton’s main political advisor, and Bill Clinton campaigned as a progressive, but governed in a regressive way. Yes, he secured the earned income tax credit, and he tried hard for health care, but he stuck it to labor with NAFTA, set up a recession with the repeal of Glass Steagall (while currying the favor of bankers), endorsed a punitive crime bill, a bill that explicitly set far higher penalties for crack cocaine despite its disproportionate impact on African Americans. And, with explicit support from Hillary Clinton, not to mention Al Gore (over the objections of Robert Reich and even Robert Rubin), he changed welfare as we know it by throwing tens of thousands of women and dependent children off welfare. The party that cared about the poor and working people became the party that cared about professionals and people with money to contribute. Bill Clinton claimed to be a new Democrat. It was new; but it had nothing to recommend it.
Will Hillary Clinton follow the lead of Bill Clinton (and many others) by governing in way that is different from the carefully negotiated platform? One basis for concern is that she apparently would like to be a two term President. Unless her polling negatives drop, there is good reason to believe that she would lose to any likely Republican nominee. Crazy, as the Republicans are, they are not likely to nominate anyone as unhinged as Donald Trump. I think it likely that Hillary Clinton is not immune from the belief that a policy which makes it more likely for her to be reelected is the right policy to be pursued. Thankfully, however, there is good reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will govern in general accord with the Party platform. Although that platform repudiates the policies of Bill Clinton, those policies are not good politics today if they ever were before, and the voters’ anger over inequality is not likely to disappear over the coming years. Failure to follow the policies of the Democratic Party platform may curry favor with big business, but it will be a prescription for electoral failure.