Hillary Clinton: Master Schemer or Garden Variety Pol?

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Jonathan Allen recycles a familiar refrain today:

There’s a term for the way Hillary Clinton has handled policy in the early stages of her campaign: Clintonian. That is, on the issues that most divide the Democratic base from its centrist wing, she refuses to box herself into a position.

….It’s true that Clinton has rolled out a string of positions that please constituencies on the left, from support for LGBT rights and voting rights to repudiating the results of her husband’s 1994 anti-crime law and vowing to enhance President Obama’s executive action on immigration. These are important issues, perhaps more important than the exact level of a wage increase that surely won’t be $15 an hour as long as Republicans control either the House or 41 seats in the Senate. But Clinton has been very selective about how she’s courted her party’s progressive base, speaking as much to identity politics as to actual policy. On some of the more controversial policy questions, she’s taking a pass.

I’ll concede right up front that Hillary Clinton has been in the national eye for more than 20 years, and maybe that means we should expect more from her. But I gotta ask: Is there now, or has there been in the past, any other candidate who has been so routinely disparaged for not having positions on every single topic seven months before the first primary? Correct me if I’m wrong, but every candidate rolls out positions over time during presidential contests. And they all do it the same way: based on a combination of (a) their own genuine beliefs, (b) interest group pressure, (c) internal polling and focus groups, and (d) weeks or months of research and discussion among their advisors and messaging staff.

Everyone who’s serious about running for president does this, and it’s been this way for decades. This is simply not something that’s unique to either Bill or Hillary Clinton.

So….what’s up with the press corps pushing this narrative so assiduously? Are they just so stuck on the tired old “triangulation” metaphor that they can’t escape from it? Do they genuinely think Hillary is slower about taking positions than other candidates? Do they think those positions are routinely fuzzier than those from other candidates? Are they stuck in the 90s and convinced that all Clintons are connivers and liars? Or what?

I don’t understand this. In terms of campaigning and political positioning, Hillary strikes me as a pretty garden variety candidate. Am I wrong?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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