Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hillary: Democrats’ Death Wish


Copyright © 2007 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Things aren’t looking too good for the national Republican Party these days. Their President, George W. Bush, has the lowest approval ratings of anyone in the White House since Richard Nixon in the depths of the Watergate scandal. Not only did they lose control of both houses of Congress in last November’s election, so far the Democrats have raised more money for the 2008 Congressional races than the Republicans have — which hardly ever happens — and a lot of Republicans are heading out the door and dropping out of potentially difficult re-election bids.

But fear not, my Republican readers. Following their usual lemming-like self-destructive streak, the Democrats are about to do something so moronic, so stupid, so insane, it will allow your party not only to keep the presidency but to take back the House of Representatives and very possibly the Senate as well. The Democratic Party is about to nominate Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

On a superficial level, Hillary Clinton might seem like a genuinely strong Presidential nominee. She heads an organization that has already fought and won two Presidential campaigns. She’s been a public figure for so long and has had so much mud slung at her by America’s rabid Right already it’s hard to think of any additional skeletons in her closet that can be used against her for a Swift Boat-like attack. She would, if elected, be America’s first woman President, and her last name is associated in the minds of many Democratic primary voters with a halcyon time, a brief, shining, possibility-filled moment between the end of the Cold War and the start of the “War on Terror.”

All these positives will be enough to allow Hillary to make mincemeat of Barack Obama (a former flavor-of-the-month whose sell-by date has long since passed), John Edwards and the other pygmies deigning to challenge her for the Democratic nomination. The problem is they are totally overshadowed by her negatives. Hillary has the power to force her way to the nomination, but there’s no way she can actually be elected. Here’s why.

First of all, Hillary Clinton is in fact the most conservative candidate running for the Democratic nomination for President — but she has the reputation as the farthest Left candidate. She’s proven her conservative credentials again and again, not only by voting for the resolution authorizing the Bush administration’s illegal and immoral war against Iraq but by refusing to back-track from that vote (as Edwards has at least tried to do) and insisting that the U.S. military presence in Iraq will continue past the Bush administration. She’s also proposed a considerably more reactionary health-care plan than the already dreadful one she came up with in 1994. Its centerpiece is a requirement that everyone in the U.S. pay a tax to the health insurance companies for coverage — a proposal championed by Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney and wisely opposed by organized labor.

Nominating Hillary Clinton will make the 2008 election a repeat of 1968, in which both major parties said a big fuck-you to the majority of voters who opposed that generation’s pointless war in Viet Nam (also started by a megalomaniac President from Texas). The Republicans nominated the pro-war Richard Nixon, the Democrats nominated the pro-war Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace ran as a third-party candidate on an even more hawkish program than his major-party rivals, and the Peace and Freedom Party — which was supposed to provide an outlet for an anti-war protest vote — nominated a Black Panther who was too young to be President, a convicted felon and a raging sexist.

The progressive community dithered in the general election — and Nixon and Wallace got 57 percent of the vote between them and established the Right-wing coalition that has won six of the nine Presidential elections since. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee in 2008 the progressive community will probably support her on the theory that anybody, even a pro-war, pro-job-killing “free trade” agreements Democrat would be better than the Republican — but they’ll do so desultorily, much in the zombie-like way they turned out for John Kerry, not really enthusiastic but dutifully voting for him just because he wasn’t George W. Bush.

At the same time, Hillary’s image — carefully cultivated by the radical-Right media and the giant conspiracy formed during her husband’s Presidency to destroy both of them — is so far Left that nominating her will at once piss away virtually all of the independent vote to the Republican. The combination of Hillary’s Left-wing reputation and Right-wing reality — especially on issues like NAFTA and other so-called “free-trade” agreements that have crippled much of middle America economically — will run the “NASCAR dads” and white working-class men whose votes helped give the Democrats control of Congress in 2006 straight back to their normal “values”-driven home in the Republican party. The Democrats’ win in 2006 was based on two issues: ending the war in Iraq and getting rid of corruption in government. A pro-war Senator whose husband sold nights in the Lincoln Bedroom for $50,000 when he was President will have zero credibility on both.

What’s more, any hopes that the Republican coalition might splinter in 2008 if their nominee is Rudolph Giuliani — reliably conservative on “terror,” Iraq and domestic crime but considered shaky by the radical Right on abortion and Queer rights — will evaporate if Hillary is the Democratic nominee. Those “Christian” Republicans who are saying they could never support Giuliani because he’s even modestly pro-choice on abortion, and are hinting darkly at a third-party bid if he’s the Republican nominee, will be galvanized back into the fold if the alternative is Mrs. Clinton. They’ve been conditioned to hate her so much that her nomination will energize the Republican party even more than Bush’s re-election campaign did in 2004 — and not only will the Republican running against her sweep to an easy victory, the burden of another Clinton at the top of the ticket will sink House Democrats in marginal districts across the country and hand the House (and probably the Senate as well) back to the Republicans on the proverbial silver platter.

So if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she’ll power up the Republican base and depress the Democratic one. Those are reasons enough not to want to see her power her way to the nomination, but there are others. Plenty of voters with no particular ideological axes to grind will cast ballots against her simply to keep the presidency from becoming like the movie Groundhog Day, a seemingly endless succession of Clintons replacing Bushes replacing Clintons replacing Bushes.

Then there’s the woman factor. I’d love to see a woman President. But not this one. I’d want to see America’s first female head of state be someone who worked her way up through the ranks and got to the top of the political heap on her own, not following the “traditional” path of riding her husband’s coattails. In other words — though I have my problems with her politics as well — President Nancy Pelosi would turn me on a lot more than President Hillary Clinton.

If Hillary Clinton really gave a damn about the country and not just her own political power (and salvaging her husband’s legacy), she’d immediately withdraw from the Democratic Presidential race and give the party the chance to nominate someone who’s actually electable. But she won’t. Her fundraising ability, her husband’s organization and the Clintons’ reputation for intimidating their political adversaries in either party will give her the clout to run her steamroller over the rest of the Democratic field — and set up the Democratic party for a crushing defeat in an election they ought by all rights to be able to win.

Queer Rights: No ENDA in Sight

The hollowness of what passes for “inclusion” in the mainstream Lesbian and Gay leadership of the Queer community has rarely been so dramatically revealed as in the current flap over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). It began when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and openly Gay Congressmember Barney Frank literally stabbed our community in the back when they decided they didn’t have enough votes to pass a version of ENDA that would protect Transgender people from job discrimination, and unilaterally withdrew it in favor of a version that only covered sexual orientation, not gender identity.

To their credit, a coalition of 30 nationwide Queer-rights organizations saw this for the craven opportunism it was and formed a coalition called United ENDA to demand that Congress pass an inclusive version. To their eternal discredit, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the group that endorsed Republican former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato in 2002 over his successful challenger, Chuck Schumer, on the ground that D’Amato was mildly less anti-Queer than the rest of his party — refused to join United ENDA and bought into the Pelosi-Frank betrayal.

The amputated ENDA passed the House Education and Labor Committee October 17 by a vote of 27 to 21, with four Republicans supplying votes for a Trans-free ENDA after four Democrats, including Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Linda Sanchez of Orange County, courageously refused to go along with the betrayal of the Trans community and voted against the bill. As a compromise, Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin — the House’s only Lesbian and the only Queer Congressmember who won their first election after they came out — was allowed to introduce a floor amendment to add gender identity back into the truncated ENDA, but Trans advocates in United ENDA questioned this strategy because they’re worried that if the Baldwin amendment doesn’t get at least 200 House votes, it will weaken chances for a Trans-inclusive ENDA in a future Congress.

Admittedly, there’s a certain degree of historical precedent for protecting sexual orientation first and gender identity later. The cities of San Francisco and San Diego both passed bans on employment discrimination against Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals first and then added protection for Transgender people later. So did the California legislature. Indeed, in many of those cases the initial bill based on sexual orientation passed only after a hard-fought political battle — while the gender identity add-on was surprisingly noncontroversial when it came up later.

But those were cases in which the votes for a sexual-orientation protection law actually existed. That’s not the case with ENDA this year. Lobbyists concede the votes probably aren’t there to pass even a Trans-free ENDA in the Senate — and even if they were, President Bush would veto it. Getting ENDA through the House this year isn’t about actually enacting it; it’s about the Democratic party racking up brownie points with the Queer community and keeping the flow of big-money donations from wealthy Queers. With the overall approval raring of Congress hovering between 14 and 26 percent — lower even than President Bush’s — largely because the Democratic Congress has been an abject failure on the two issues that elected it, the war in Iraq and the culture of corruption within Congress itself, the Democrats will need all the help they can get to maintain their razor-thin Congressional majority next year.

What’s more, the two-stage process that passed California’s version of ENDA took place long before we started loudly proclaiming ourselves the “LGBT” community, that unlovely set of initials we’ve offered in place of any real inclusion. The fact that an openly Gay Congressmember and America’s largest Queer organization were so blithely willing to abandon the T’s in favor of the L’s, G’s and maybe the B’s to get one house of Congress to pass a bill that isn’t about to become law anyway says volumes about how hypocritical this “LGBT” stuff is and how Transgender people remain second-class citizens within the so-called “LGBT community” as well as third-class citizens within the nation as a whole.