At the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful rebuke to her critics.
Criticisms of Hillary stem from the surging popularity of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, considered far more progressive than Clinton, a ‘Draft Biden’ movement that is calling on the current Vice President to get into the race, and the lingering controversy over her use of a private email account while Secretary of State.
Hillary’s performance on October 13th in Las Vegas should calm the waters of her campaign in the short term. However, it is worth taking a moment to consider the benefits of Hillary entering the White House in January 2017, particularly against her foremost rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Guardian of Obamacare
One of the most basic benefits of having Hillary enter the White House is that she will be able to protect Barack Obama’s most important legacy: the Affordable Care Act.
With many Republicans chomping at the bit to tear Obamacare to pieces, simply placing a Democrat in the Oval Office will protect the legislation from immediate attack and continue to enrol Americans into health insurance.
So, ‘Why does it have to be Hillary?’. Well, simply put, judging on the best information available at present, Hillary Clinton offers the Democratic Party the best chance to beat any of the Republican candidates.
Protecting the Affordable Care Act should not be taken lightly, nor for granted. There are many who detest the law, both in high politics and the grassroots. Right now, in late 2015, Hillary Clinton looks like the best guardian for President Obama’s key domestic achievement.
A steady hand in international affairs
Bernie Sanders’ rise has been impressive, but the Senator from Vermont has a notable lack of foreign policy credibility.
The next president must understand the complexities of contemporary foreign policy given the very serious problems around the world. He or she will inherit a world order that demands intelligent use of American power in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, as well as a real acknowledgement of the geopolitical implications of an economic superpower in China and a militarily punchy Russia.
Sanders’ problem is not only one of inexperience: it is of oversimplification. As a populist to his core, he has a tendency to bring many international issues back to American workers and families, and a refusal to contemplate use of force in certain situations.
Yet the next resident must comprehend the wider international consequences of retrenchment. President Obama has taken a steady line on foreign policy, often using what appears to be the bare minimum American commitment to demonstrate an interest in Middle Eastern affairs. The practise of American power in the post-Iraq years demands delicacy and fair judgement.
Clinton has already has considerable experience, personal clout, and deeper understanding of international affairs, and would be a far safer pair of hands in the White House than her rivals given the turbulence of world affairs.
Dealing with Congress
In the early years of Obama’s presidency he frequently clashed with congressional Republicans, largely because of his pushing through Obamacare into law. This divide between Congress and the Executive branch of government has only widened since then, with Republicans gaining control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that the ‘Freedom Caucus’, or ‘Hell No Party’, has burrowed within the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The Freedom Caucus is a group of around 40 representatives that are hardline, often Tea Party, conservatives that oppose virtually any federal government action.
This means that congressional Republicans are pulled to the right. There is a good chance that the Republicans will remain in power in the House of Representatives in 2016, and in order to find areas of common ground to work together a Democratic president must be able to appeal to the responsible, governing Republicans.
This ain’t Bernie: the democratic socialist from Vermont would whip up a panic in conservative America. The Freedom Caucus would likely grow in number, and practical conservatives would be pressured to block any initiative sponsored by the White House.
Hillary is a safer option than Sanders, no doubt about that. But in this case, when Congress may very well remain in Republican hands, this might mean a better chance to tackle real problems in America. Going to far with Bernie risks Congress recoiling into a non-cooperative war footing.
Widening the Democratic Party
Bernie Sanders’ deepens the party, preaching to a bedrock of left wingers in New England and coastal cities. Hillary, on the other hand, widens the party.
Sanders’ enjoys touting his ability to galvanise large, energetic crowds at his speeches. In particular, Sanders’ is reaching out to a young demographic who matured during the era of Bill Clinton,when democratic politics focused on the economy, not the people directly. For these Americans, having someone talk about democratic socialism in the national arena is exciting.
Unfortunately, Sanders’ politics are massively polarising. For every graduate inspired by the idea of reigning in corporate excess there is a conservative family baulking at the prospect of anyone who self describes as any form of socialist running for president.
In the recent Las Vegas debate, Sanders’ argued that people needed to be educated about what democratic socialism really means, and stated that he was primarily opposed to ‘casino capitalism’ practised on Wall Street. Sadly, given the extreme conservatism popular across parts of America, an immediate change of perceptions is a pipe dream.
Added to which, relying on young voters to sustain a politician is rarely a strategy for success: they are fickle, do not reliably turn out for elections, and change their political views as they get jobs and mortgages.
By occupying the centre ground, Hillary is able to present herself as a responsible and confident candidate, whilst also championing moderately liberal ideals and policies. At a time when the Republicans are being pulled apart by competing gravitational forces of ideology, Hillary Clinton has the national popularity and experience to step into office and bring the country together in a way no other current candidate could hope for.
Taking on gun control
It is not likely that significant gun control laws will be passed in the next four, or even eight years, without some structural changes to the NRA and its political donations.
However, if there is to be a movement to introduce more common-sense, practical measures to limit civilian deaths by gun violence, Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to push for reform.
Bernie Sanders’ record on gun control came under fire at Las Vegas, but is understandably grounded in his constituency politics: Vermont is a state with a popular hunting demographic, and it would be political suicide for Sanders’ to take a stand against gun ownership.
Hillary, on the other hand, has staked a firmer position on the matter and positioned herself as the natural successor to President Obama when it comes to seeking a solution to consistently high levels of gun violence.
That said, the likelihood of any such legislation most likely relies on the Democrats taking back both the Senate and House of Representatives, and even then it would be a struggle.