One of my favorite commentators on Middle East issues, MJ Rosenberg, has offered some ruminations on the future of American politics that accord fairly closely up to a point with my own evolving views. In an earlier post (11/21/13) I argued that today’s radically reactionary Republican Party constitutes a practically insuperable obstacle to decent, much less progressive, governance in these United States:
Accordingly, the single most effective thing that progressives can do to alter American politics for the better is…to do what we can to ensure that the Republicans become a hopelessly dwindling minority at all levels of government.
Rosenberg, raising the awful scenario of a Republican in the White House, sees it as imperative that the Democrats win big in 2016, not only to hold on to the presidency but to obtain lopsided majorities in Congress. Rosenberg believes that the presidential candidate mostly likely to lead such a Democratic sweep is Hilary Clinton. So, he concludes, even though he would prefer a Democratic candidate further to the left than Clinton,
the [Republican reactionary] threat…is so great that progressives cannot afford to wait until a progressive dream candidate comes along but should go with Hillary Clinton who, at this point looks like our strongest candidate.
Here I think MJ goes a bit too far. Yes, if Hillary wins the nomination in 2016, I agree that progressives shouldn’t hesitate for a moment to support her. But that doesn’t mean that Hillary should be freed prematurely from challenges from her left. The wonderful Bernie Sanders is talking about running for the nomination, and I would be delighted to support his quixotic crusade. Absent pressure from the left, I wouldn’t expect a second Clinton administration to do anything very serious in the way of further financial reform or reining in our bloated “defense” budget or departing from neo-liberal orthodoxy on international trade and investment. A vigorous intra-party debate provoked by a Sanders (or other) candidacy for the nomination might just be able to push Hilary into taking more clearly progressive positions on some of these issues.
So, my diffidence toward Hillary is tempered by my enthusiasm at the prospect of really crushing the right in 2016. But it’s much too soon to jump on any Clinton bandwagon.