In 1964, Hillary Rodham (later Clinton) campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater thought America should bomb Vietnam more, and he opposed the civil rights act which outlawed discrimination because it didn’t take into account ‘the essential differences between men’ -- meaning that differences between white and black people are not the result of history but of “essentials”.
Hillary said, back then when she was 17, that she wanted to be ‘a mind conservative and a heart liberal’, and she moved on from Goldwater after he was thrashed by Democrat Lyndon Johnson in the ’64 election. By 1968 she was supporting anti-war Democrats, but simultaneously working on billionaire Nelson Rockefeller’s campaign for the Republican nomination.
So, 50 years ago, was she agile, or unprincipled? This remains the question hanging over her character today, as she struggles in the polls to keep just a point or two ahead of seriously dangerous Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Clinton is a very dedicated and determined politician – and she does have some principles: she has consistently supported protecting women and children from poverty and violence inflicted on them by men (including husbands and fathers), but not so much the women and children of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and other countries she has sanctioned invading, or Saudi Arabia, a men-only dictatorship she believes she cannot confront because they have so much oil money and so many partnerships with mega-wealthy Americans. Agile or unprincipled?
As this year’s presidential campaign has progressed (unravelled?) Hillary has ramped up her challenges to Wall St and Big Corporates in general, and promoted more people-friendly federal policies on environment, health-care, privacy, and more. Is this tilt the result of principle or the fact that Bernie Sanders is winning more states than she is with his old-school social programs – proving especially popular with young voters she’ll need in order to win the big prize in November?
Michelle Goldberg pointed out recently in Slate re Hillary’s change of heart that ‘before she was excoriated as a sellout corporatist, she was excoriated as a feminist radical. She was widely seen as being to her husband’s left, in a way that threatened his political viability. [Then] she would overcorrect, trying to convince a skeptical mainstream press that she was a sensible centrist.
‘Since the ’90s … the Democrats have moved left. The result, for Clinton, is that she’s now struggling to convince voters that she is the person she was once widely assumed to be.’
And even as she feels this touch of the Bern, she stands by her hard-line pro-establishment positions such as rejection of secret-busters like Assange and Snowden, or boycotters of Israel or fossil-fuel companies -- in a tone of voice that is as fervently flag-waving as, say, George Bush’s, or Tony Abbott’s.
Here’s a clue to Hillary’s mix of apparent principle, pragmatism, and immense self-belief, which is rarely raised in the US media because it concerns religion – specifically christianity.
Since the 1930s, a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship (or "the Family") has run a conservative Bible study and prayer circle composed of a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's annual National Prayer Breakfast. The Family’s operations were somewhat exposed in 2007 by a writer named Jeff Sharlet, who joined the group under cover.
For a good portion of her 25 years in Washington Clinton has been an active participant in The Fellowship, which, according to Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce in Mother Jones, believes that ‘the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.’
The Fellowship has inspired members in Congress to increase U.S. support for a dumpload of dictators including the Duvaliers in Haiti, Park in South Korea, Suharto of Indonesia, and other military madmen and crooked bankers.
The Fellowship, Joyce and Sharlet argue, ‘convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.’ They identify several social justice initiatives which Clinton sought to rewrite in terms of conservative morality, but the broader issue is the extent to which Hillary believes she as a politician is chosen by God – and the USA as a country is too.
Most pollies at the highest level of power in Washington believe in American exceptionalism, meaning the country is exceptionally good and also exempt from rules like ‘don’t kill people in order to save them’. Obama spent a fair amount of his presidency killing thousands of bad guys (as defined by military and intelligence boffins) with drones, so he didn’t have to kill millions with troops and bombs. In America’s political lingo, people who argue for a kill-‘em-efficiently approach and who serve Big Corporate interests, are called neo-conservatives. Here in Australian the commentariat calls them neo-liberals. What’s most disturbing about Hillary is that she has gathered around her a flock of these people to help her make the world a better place when she’s president. She prefers to be known as a ‘liberal interventionist,’ but even Vice President Joe Biden reckons Clinton is an ‘interventionist’ — all too inclined to believe that ‘we just have to do something when bad people do bad things.’
If only she could always let loose her inner self, as she did in 1999 when she described her husband, then-Philanderer-in-Chief Bill, as "a hard dog to keep on the porch".