Hillary v. Obama: Past v. Future
- Bob FertikWant to meet our members? Click 'Join' above!
Going to YearlyKos reminds me how much it matters to see candidates in the flesh - not just watch them on TV or read about them in the blogs.
While Kucinich, Edwards, Richardson and Dodd were all excellent, the polling is remarkably stable with Hillary in the high 30's and Obama in the low 20's.
So I went to both of their caucuses to get a stronger feel for them as candidates, and came away with a strong sense that Hillary is the past while Obama is the future.
I don't mean that in a personal way. Hillary is older than Obama but she doesn't look the least bit old or tired - she's in the prime of her life and is running for President with tremendous energy and optimism.
But Hillary has scars from her nearly 30 years in public life, both in Arkansas and Washington DC, and they limit her vision for what can be accomplished as President.
During her caucus, a man from San Franciso asked Hillary whether she would reverse four of the worst bills enacted while Bill was President: Welfare "reform," Defense of Marriage Act, NAFTA, and the Telecommunications Act.
Hillary's answer was stuck firmly in the 1990s. She said welfare "reform" did more good than harm but the promised support for educational help was gutted by the Republican Congress. (Surprise!) She said DOMA was a decent firewall against a Federal Marriage Constitutional Amendment that would have been worse. She said NAFTA is ok but needs to be tweaked. And she confessed she knew little about the Telecommunications Act.
Taken together, those were remarkable answers. They tell me that if Hillary becomes President, she simply will not aim for major changes; instead she will stick to her husband's policies, only she'll try to get slightly "better" deals with Republicans than Bill was ever able to get.
Bill Clinton kept the U.S. generally prosperous and at peace for eight years - which is infinitely more than anyone can say about Bush. But can anyone name a single progressive legislative achievement from the Clinton years? Hillary's health care failure in 1994 demoralized the Democratic base, which stayed home while Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh mobilized the nations' "angry white men" and elected a Republican Congress for the first time in 40 years. For the next 6 years, the Republican Congress set the legislative agenda while Bill Clinton struggled to remain "relevant." He limited spending on social programs and left office with a projected surplus of $5 trillion - which Bush immediately spent on a tax giveaway to the rich.
Hillary's health care plan failed because it was an enormously complex deal designed to placate every special interest in the health care industry - especially the insurance companies. When McJoan asked Hillary what lessons she learned from the 1994 debacle, she said she needed a deal that included even more special interests.
The interests of the insurance companies are completely at odds with the interests of patients, because they get rich by denying medical care and letting sick people die.
We won't solve our medical crisis by letting the insurance companies set the parameters of a revised system. Hillary tried that in 1994 and it failed miserably because the insurance companies didn't want any restrictions on their profits and unleashed "Harry and Louise" TV ads to turn the public against Hillary's plan.
The only way to solve our crisis is by cutting insurance companies out of the system altogether. But that concept is simply too radical for Hillary. The key lesson she learned from the 90's is the need to placate corporations, not fight them.
Both Edwards and Kucinich make this point forcefully in the debates, but Hillary doesn't respond.
On health care, Obama's short-term policy isn't much different from Hillary's. But he recognizes "single payer" should be the long-term goal. In fact he cites Canada as an example of a health care system that went from private to single-payer in two stages.
And that's a typical approach for Obama. He understands clearly what's wrong with our current policies, he understands what the right solution would be, and he looks for practical ways to get from here to there.
Obama understands that any changes he proposes will encounter stiff resistance, so he may have to proceed in smaller steps. But he wants bigger changes and he will keep at it in the hopes of achieving them.
Of course Kucinich and Edwards are the most determined advocates of change, and it would be great if they moved up in the polls. But if Hillary and Obama make it to the final round, it's hard to make the case that Hillary will move the progressive agenda any farther than her husband did - which wasn't far at all.