Hillary’s “Unfavorables:” Is She Paying for the Shortcomings of Bill and Barack

I have an idea about why Hillary Clinton’s “unfavorables” are so high, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders. I have heard more than I care to about the “civil war” within the Democratic Party between Hillary and Bernie supporters.  Liberal talk radio is filled with unconditional condemnation of Ms. Clinton by people who take the “Bernie or bust” position. Perhaps not too surprisingly, these critics include Millenials, Gen-Xers, and a few Baby Boomers. I have heard vociferous rejection of Clinton by women as well as men.

We have come to accept without question the fact that Hillary Clinton is viewed with such disfavor by the voting public in general and by certain Democrats in particular. But, this acceptance should be questioned. What has she done that generates such unrelenting condemnation? Is she being made the scapegoat for the failings of the men who preceded her as Democratic presidents?

The Jewish scriptures include a humorous and insightful episode. The god has appointed Adam, the first human, with the assistance of his wife Chava, to supervise the game preserve where he has placed all of the living creatures. At the end of Adam’s first day on the job, the god arrives, looking to find Adam, who it turns out has broken the only rule that the god has imposed. In his defense, Adam claims that his infraction wasn’t his fault; it was “the woman whom you gave to be with me.” Thus, Adam manages to blame his wife and his god.

There is a tendency in many societies, including our own, to blame women for the failings of society in general and of men in particular. Women need to dress “modestly” in order to prevent men from sexually assaulting them. It’s Mom’s fault that Billy can’t do his math homework.  Men have affairs because their wives are sexually unsatisfying or emotionally distant.

It’s my opinion that the Hillary Clinton is the victim of misplaced anger at and disappointment with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Ms. Clinton is criticized for not being a real “progressive.” She is accused of being too close to “Wall Street.” She is supposedly too “hawkish” because of her vote (with 76 other Senators, 28 of them Democrats) authorizing the invasion of Iraq. She is held accountable for the harsh federal sentencing policies put in place by her husband and supported by most of the Congress, including the Black Caucus (with reservations).

The fact is that neither of the two Democratic presidents before her was a “progressive.” Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party into a bad imitation of the Republicans. He welcomed the corporate elites into the Democratic inner circle. He was a genuine friend of notable establishment Blacks, while helping to shred the safety net needed to hold Black families together when the tech bubble that generated his vaunted budget surplus went bust. He cynically chose to keep hands off the genocide in Rwanda while raining hell from the skies over Zagreb.

And America paid dearly for his arrogance. His sexual appetites opened him to the legal sanctions he had avoided despite the years-long probing of his finances. His anticipation of the growing power and expanding reach of radical Islam came to nothing. His efforts to blunt Al-Qaeda were dismissed as a “wag the dog” ploy. He was tried before the Senate for lying about sex with an intern. Yet, after his impeachment his popularity rebounded.

Bill Clinton used his charm to play the public like a saxophone.  And even now he is admired, venerated really, by supporters who may not actually know why he deserves their adulation. But Bill was handsome whereas Hillary was plain. Bill was cool while Hillary was drab. Bill was charismatic, but Hillary was matter of fact. It might surprise her critics to find that Hillary was, in fact, more liberal than her husband.

Barack Obama is also not a “real progressive.” By his own admission his economic policies are those of a 1980s “moderate Republican.” Mr. Obama was elected by voters who projected onto him their hopes for change and their beliefs that a new progressive era was dawning with his inauguration. However, as President he dismissed his ready army of activists with a pat on the head and instead installed as advisors and cabinet members “Clintonistas” and Wall Street insiders.

He saved the economy by continuing Bush’s policy of bank bailouts without giving corporate criminals any reason to fear prosecution for their theft of billions of dollars and their destruction of the incomes, savings, and home ownership of thousands of Americans. His bailout of General Motors was far more equitable in the benefits it provided to both the rich and to the working class. Probably the greatest accomplishment of the Obama presidency is the Affordable Care Act. But this was accomplished through major concessions to the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies.

It is certainly the case that Black Americans have not seen appreciable improvement in their circumstances under Mr. Obama, as Black unemployment continues to be twice the stated national rate, incomes continue to lag behind those of whites, and the opportunity for wealth formation has declined rather than improved.

Unlike the Clinton presidency, the Obama administration has faced little opposition to military action. After a brief stirring of opposition, drone warfare has faded from the headlines and continues as a commonplace tool of warfare. After drawing down US troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration has slowly but steadily begun to reinsert forces into these two regions, as well as overseeing a buildup of forces in Syria. In fact, it’s anyone’s guess as to how extensively the US is involved militarily in conflicts worldwide.

Nonetheless, despite some liberal criticism of his policies, President Obama generally enjoys the support of Democrats. The blatant disrespect shown him by Republican politicians and the victories that he has obtained despite consistent Republican congressional opposition has defined him as a heroic president. His support of LGBT rights, his restraint of DOJ action against states where cannabis has been legalized, his advocacy for non-violent criminals in federal prisons, and his support for the labor rights of federally contracted workers have justly earned him the admiration of liberals. But his failure to go after corporate criminals, his aggressive military policy, his refusal to address the needs of Black communities, and his frequent invitations to Republicans to negotiate away elements of the social safety net justify criticism by these same liberal Democrats.

Hillary Clinton is the recipient of relentless criticism. The vast right-wing conspiracy was real and it continues today. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Republicans continue to hound her with baseless accusations. But the vitriol poured on her by some “progressive” Democrats should challenge our comprehension.

I agree that “progressive” or liberal Democrats have been let down and are understandably disappointed. But the proper objects of their hurt feelings are Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But these men seem to have the power to charm the political-reality-challenged progressive purists with their eloquence and their triumphs over adversity.

In the mean while Hillary Clinton must daily cast off the role of villain that has been projected on her by some of those who have the most to lose if she is not elected President.


2 Comments on “Hillary’s “Unfavorables:” Is She Paying for the Shortcomings of Bill and Barack”

  1. Ana King says:

    I see the Hillary bashing as less of a “blame the woman” position and more of a response by those members of the Democratic party who fervently support the candidate [and agenda of] Bernie Sanders.


    • wsettles says:

      I do see that. But the demonizing of Hillary is what interests me. Her “faults” are those of the two Democratic men who preceded her, but one would believe that she alone possesses them. Even now Obama is praised as a progressive. He’s not.


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