Hillary Clinton: too experienced

I know that a lot of people are planning to vote for Hilary Clinton tomorrow, and I’m still trying to figure out why. One of the main reasons given is that Clinton is “more experienced.”

This is true, to a certain extent. Clinton was probably as close to the White House as you can come without being the president. I’m not sure that experience, however, really sets her up to be a good president. It’s easy to think of the first Clinton as an outstanding president, especially when bracketed by two Bushes. But in practice, Clinton is likely to reinforce the same old patterns expected inside the beltway. Obama has enough experience to know a little bit about how the system gets played, and is not yet expert enough in that system to be invested in seeing it recreated.

Some like Obama, but figure he can run next time around, when he has gained more experience as a senator. Let me be clear here: I think he will be a worse president when he gains more experience in Washington. What is particularly galling is that those who vote for Clinton will, if she is elected, bemoan in two years that politics is corrupt and ineffective, even when they argued that experience in that corrupt and ineffective system was what they valued.

Some suggest that Clinton will be particularly effective on “women’s issues.” I don’t agree that, for example, abortion or equal rights are “women’s issues”; I think they are social issues. What we do know is that Clinton’s experience doesn’t give us much to go on when it comes to how effective she will be on women’s issues. I understand the urge to vote for a candidate because she is a woman–it is well past time we had a woman president–but I would rather see the best candidate as president regardless of that person’s gender.

Some say that Clinton is more “electable” in a general election than Obama, since she is more centrist. I honestly don’t know where this trope came from. The far right hates Hillary Clinton, and the center dislikes her. McCain, despite more recent missteps, has developed a much broader appeal, a patina of genuineness that Clinton still only aspires to. That impression of genuine openness is very important to a broader American electorate–few are going to take the time to see through the maneuvering and posturing of a Clinton campaign to recognize a deeper passion for good governance. They want someone who doesn’t take time to get used to, someone who is inspiring when you first meet him, and who has the passion to lead. While I think Clinton is well-meaning, she seems willing to do whatever necessary to win people to her position, and I don’t think that is good for the nation.

The last time we elected a Democratic candidate on the basis of “electability,” we chose Kerry. I think Democratic voters are poor judges of how those with different ideological leanings will vote. So, don’t vote strategically, vote for the candidate who best represents a change in Washington, a move away from dynasty, a move toward a new America. Tomorrow is your chance to stop complaining and make a change. It is your chance to put your vote where your mouth has been. If you are sick of the business as usual in Washington, as practiced by both Republicans and Democrats, be confident that others are equally sick of it, and vote for the best candidate. Vote for Obama.

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2 Comments

  1. MelanieL
    Posted 2/4/2008 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I can’t agree with your argument, Barack Obama is inexperienced and it will matter. You urge voters to move away from dynastic politics, but Sen Obama has married himself to the Kennedy dynasty without a shred of conscience, so there’s no change there really.

    But, it’s the notion that things will change that really bothers me, because in the cold light of day, Obama will have no choice but to sit at the table with all the vested interests, and if he wants to get the business done, the first thing he’ll have to do is learn the greatest political skill of all, and that is compromise. Each and every time he does, a little bit of the shine will dim and sooner rather than later, a generation of voters who believed the dream, will become as disaffected with politics as the generation before them. I don’t doubt Obama’s sincerity or desire, it’s a shame that it isn’t tempered with experience. I don’t claim that he would set out with anything other than the best intentions, but he would be forced to sit at a table where the other players have comfortable seats, big stakes and have honed the rules they play by.

    Sorry, but I believe that rhetoric won’t get the job done. After Bush, we need a safe pair of hands, experience and substance. Obama is appealing to our emotions, but it’s nothing more concrete than that – do we really want a President who peddles hope over policy? This is the biggest, toughest job in the world, I think the post holder should have more to offer than the endorsements of the ancient regime and hope.

    Please vote for Hillary Clinton.

  2. alex
    Posted 2/4/2008 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Melanie.

    Obviously politics requires a certain degree of compromise, the question is one of degree. So far, Clinton hasn’t given me any reason to believe that she is willing to really fight for anything other than her own career. I agree: there is a good chance Obama will see his policies stymied by a Washington stultified by politics-as-a-vocation. But that hardly seems like a good reason to vote someone in who is steeped in that culture.

    Do we really want a President who peddles hope over policy?

    It took me a second to figure out which candidate you meant here. Unfortunately, it is really hard to know what Clinton might accomplish in four years beyond her own survival. Rhetoric need not be empty simply because it is rhetoric. Clinton seems all too willing to say whatever it takes to be elected, without much hope of any real change.

    Are you suggesting that we pick someone who peddles policy over hope?

    In the end, I think Clinton will continue to do good work as a senator, and working in the senate requires compromise to an extraordinary extent. As a leader, you need to know when compromise is unacceptable. I don’t know where Clinton is unwilling to compromise, and that concerns me.

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