Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is it cynical to support Hillary in the primary?

Yesterday, I wrote why I am - begrudgingly - leaning toward Hillary over Bernie in the primary. A Facebook friend admonishes me:

We throw around this label "hawk" without much thought for what it means - it's a vaguely distasteful moniker. What kind of body count do you imagine is tied to Clinton's particular "foreign policy experience"? How much suffering? And to what end? Whose ends?  
You usually write as a sort of demonstration of the conscience of the center-left. But in this piece you devolve into the sort of nervous gamesmanship that has for decades undermined progress on issues you obviously care about. 
The suggestion - and lots of Bernie fans are making it - is that Hillary essentially disqualified herself with support for the Iraq War. I'm ... sympathetic to that argument. And I'm even sympathetic to the "nervous gamesmanship" allegation my friend lobs at me.

But I don't think nervous gamesmanship is necessarily a bad thing. A Trump Supreme Court pick really would be an awful thing, one that might not be undone for a generation.

So maybe I'm wrong, but I do think a central question of the campaign is this: Would the primary task of a Democratic president be to defend some gains that have been made over the last eight years, and defend against a Republican agenda? Or is there a chance to go on offense, as it were, and create progress on issues I care about?

If I think we're on offense, I'm more likely to go with Bernie. But I think Dems will be on defense. Perhaps there's a path to Dems regaining control of Congress this election, but I don't see it. And without Congress, a president's agenda will be a limited thing. That's not a dynamic made for Bernie.

On the other hand: Hillary's hawkishness really is a problem for me, and not an abstract one. The Iraq War was avoidable foolishness, the worst foreign policy mistake of my lifetime, and the rest of my lifetime is going to be spent witnessing the fallout from that. It's why I was an enthusiastic Obama cheerleader in '08.

I'm not enthusiastic about Hillary. But on occasion, it can be wise to vote your fears. This seems like one of them.

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