Hillary Clinton is very recognizable around the world. Clinton has had a long career in public service and has many accomplishments to be proud of. She was a leader in the passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was federal legislation that expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children. Additionally, she was the driving force behind the sanctions against Iran that brought them to the table to negotiate what eventually became the multinational Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement. Hillary Clinton became the first First Lady to be elected to the Senate where she served two terms, and when she was appointed as Secretary of State she became the first First Lady to hold a position in the United States Cabinet. Clinton is currently running for president and is considered to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But really, who is she? Many have the belief that she is a strong liberal, a progressive even, and she consistently fights with conviction for what she believes is right. However, the question must be posed: What does Hillary Clinton believe in?
At the first Democratic debate Anderson Cooper challenged Clinton about her positions and perceived political expediency:
ANDERSON COOPER: Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it.
Will you say anything to get elected?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, actually, I have been very consistent. Over the course of my entire life, I have always fought for the same values and principles, but, like most human beings — including those of us who run for office — I do absorb new information. I do look at what’s happening in the world.
You know, take the trade deal. I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans…
ANDERSON COOPER: Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you’d, quote, “take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values.” Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, “being kind of moderate and center.” Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?
CLINTON: No. I think that, like most people that I know, I have a range of views, but they are rooted in my values and my experience. And I don’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment…
One thing I will acknowledge is that Hillary Clinton displayed some very nifty side-stepping maneuvers reminiscent of Barry Sanders evading tacklers in his own backfield. Most people watching probably didn’t catch the obvious contradiction. In her response she stated that she considers herself a progressive, but a month earlier she referred to herself as a moderate.
Back in 2002, Hillary Clinton sat down for an interview with Chris Matthews at the University of Albany. Matthews asked her directly if the state of New York should recognize gay marriage. Clinton pointedly said, “No.” She would go on to say that she believed in civil unions but suggested marriage should be only reserved for heterosexual couples. On July 13, 2004, Hillary Clinton stood on the Senate floor and delivered a speech, again, explaining her disapproval of gay marriage. These statements are in stark contrast to her views beginning in 2013, when she came out in support of marriage equality. People can change their viewpoints for a variety of reasons and it’s possible that Clinton did modify her position based on some form of enlightenment. The problem is Clinton’s own words touting her consistency in fighting for the same values for her entire life. Her notion is simply not true.
Another topic where she has been notably inconsistent is her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. There has been a substantial amount of controversy surrounding the details of the agreement regarding America’s sovereignty, prescription drug prices, jobs, etc. In October of 2015, Clinton declared that with what she knew so far of the TPP that she could not support it. She had taken a position that appeared to put her in line with progressive thinking, but were her words meaningful or merely just talk? There are many who believe the stances she has taken on marriage equality, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the TPP, and other issues is the direct result of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. It is true that Clinton has lagged behind Sanders on these issues and there is the perception that she leads from behind. This does not, however, indicate that Clinton is disingenuous when speaking on matters. It may not be a good look but Clinton is within her rights to reserve judgment until she knows for sure how she feels. Nevertheless, in the case of the TPP the scrutiny comes from her history of supporting the agreement on numerous occasions.
In at least 45 separate public appearances Hillary Clinton has spoken in favor of the TPP. In her time as Secretary of State, Clinton raved about the benefits the TPP would provide and never went on record questioning the deal. In Australia on November 15, 2012, Clinton referred to the TPP as the “gold standard in trade agreements.” Two days later in Singapore, Clinton remarked:
The so-called TPP will lower barriers, raise standards, and drive long-term growth across the region. It will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and establish strong protections for workers and the environment. Better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others too often in the past excluded from the formal economy will help build Asia’s middle class and rebalance the global economy.
Recently, the full text of the TPP was released and it is expected to be voted on by Congress in about 90 days. One of the more troublesome revelations in this agreement is the ability foreign corporations have to sue American federal, state, and local governments for passing an increase to the minimum wage or any other laws that may damage their future profits. This is the deal that Hillary Clinton praised around the world many, many times. When Clinton voiced her displeasure with the agreement it didn’t sound like a resounding opposition to it, so one must ask: How does Hillary Clinton really feel about the TPP? It’s important to note that at the time of her opposing comments the full text of the TPP was not released. How could she speak so glowingly about the agreement so frequently and then oppose it without the details being published?
The above issues are unquestionably of great importance, but there is, perhaps, no greater issue than that of campaign finance and the corruption surrounding it. In the landmark case, Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that individuals, corporations, and unions could spend unlimited sums of money to campaign for or against political candidates through the use of Super PACs. Many have opined that this decision has resulted in legal bribery and exacerbated the reality of our representatives being bought by corporations and special interest groups. Hillary Clinton has raised awareness to the corruption involved with campaign finance, and has even gone so far as to assert that any Supreme Court nominee of hers would have to state their intention to overturn the Citizens United decision. Clinton’s official website under the section “Campaign finance reform” reads:
- Overturn Citizens United. Hillary will appoint Supreme Court justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections. She’ll push for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in order to restore the role of everyday voters in elections.
Clinton has clearly made campaign finance reform a central issue to her campaign. Unfortunately, her words do not tell the whole story. Hillary Clinton has been taking advantage of the Citizens United decision by having multiple Super PACs raising and spending large amounts of money to get her elected. If it sounds like hypocrisy, well, that’s because it is. It stands to reason that if you are firmly against anything, yet participate in what you are against, you are a hypocrite. Most people have heard of parents that say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, those parents are hypocrites. The difference between those parents and Hillary Clinton is that political matters play a huge role in all of our lives. Whether we are engaged in politics or otherwise disinterested in the process, the people that are elected to represent us should be working in our best interests. The perception that Super PACs are destroying our democracy is an opinion held by Hillary Clinton, so why would she involve herself in this rigged game? Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin had this to say:
Republicans are promising to spend record amounts and are even outsourcing many campaign activities to outside groups in their efforts to tear down Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has made campaign finance reform a top priority, but cannot afford to unilaterally disarm as we work to get her elected to make the changes our country needs. This means supporting Priorities Action USA in the manner allowed by law.
In judging that statement, it sounds like a cop out. It is weak sauce. It doesn’t project strength and conviction for her held principles. By contrast, Senator Bernie Sanders has campaigned against Citizens United and is not accepting any donations from Super PACs. Hillary Clinton wants us to believe that our democracy has been stolen, politicians are being bought, and our representatives do not work for us. What, then, does it say about her to be involved in the same corrupt process?
Hillary Clinton is undeniably very ambitious and committed to becoming President of the United States of America. It should be expected that any candidate running for president has had success in their careers, and Clinton certainly possesses that badge of honor. However, a candidate’s record alone does not and should not qualify them to hold the highest office. There is reasonable concern regarding what kind of president she will be. Does she actually hold these progressive positions she has adopted or is it just lip service proposed to secure the nomination? Indeed, Hillary Clinton has considerable support in her bid for the presidency, but do her advocates blindly follow her message? Although you cannot guarantee how a candidate will govern, evaluating their ideology can serve as a blueprint for their future in office. In assessing Hillary Clinton’s ideology the dilemma presents itself: Who is Hillary Clinton?