For many, many years Hillary Clinton has been in the spotlight on the American political stage. From the beginning she has been scrutinized for her appearance, her ideas, and her character. There is an interesting dichotomy that exists with Hillary Clinton, regarding whether she is a true liberal or a more conservative/centrist Democrat. This tension has fueled many criticisms of her from both sides of the political spectrum – the Bernie Sanders supporters and other liberal lefties who believe shes not progressive enough, and the Conservatives and Republicans who believe she is wildly conservative. Does she actually have conservative ideals, or does Hillary just utilize conservativism in a strategic matter? In addition to that, is it her own fault that she recieves criticism over where her true allegiances lie?
When Bill Clinton first ran for Governor of his home state of Arkansas Hillary was not accepted as the standard political wife. Her ideas were too radical and she was too open/gruff about them. The Hillary that had met and married Bill always seemed liberal, willing to help children in inner cities and being one of a few women pursuing a law degree at a time where misogyny was still a huge issue. When Bill lost, there was some blame placed on Hillary. She didn’t present herself demurely, she didnt act conservatively enough for the Southerners, and she didn’t even want to use her husbands last name (oh the horror!) To try and get the mandate of the constituents Hillary immediately started changing her rhetoric. She dressed more femininely and she embodied more conservative thoughts in her speeches. Bill was able to win the next time he ran for the position, but did Hillary’s changes help achieve this? Or was her change in rhetoric all for naught, somewhat of a betrayal to herself?
Hillary Clinton’s “Womens Rights are Human Rights” speech shows a more liberal contingent in her speaking. Talking in China (an oppressive state) during the 90s about the linkage between human rights and womens rights – ideas that are still not wholly agreed upon – showed courage and pioneership on her behalf. However in her speech she does not acknowledge the struggles of women that can only be discussed when talking about intersectionality. Some will give her the benefit of the doubt – this was the 90s after all – but a well to-do white woman who does not acknowledge the special needs of minority women or lesbian women is not speaking for all women.
On the more conservative side is Hillary Clinton’s speech to an audience at Keene State University in New Hampshire. Being a more rural area one might believe that the usage of Conservative rhetoric would be more beneficial to their cause. In this speech Hillary Clinton advocates stricter rules in education and the implementation of uniforms. She discusses gang violence in an almost xenophobic manner and uses racist rhetoric like the term “Superpredator”. She talks a lot about family and family values, which is a mainstay of Conservative rhetoric. Yet this is 1996, and from Bill’s first term as President it is clear that they are following a liberal streak and are not necessarily conservative.
Election years are interesting because Hillarys conservativism seems to flare up during them. Is she doing this in order to appeal to a broader base? Most people are wont to do that when running for a position on which many people will vote. But isn’t it also important for politicians to believe what they say and discuss what they pursue? This is a concern, because it adds to Hillary Clintons untrustworthiness.
In the early 90s the Democratic party decided to reinvent itself to prepare for the upcoming 1992 election. Hillary and Bill Clinton were an integral part of this modification. Bill being a good-ol’ boy from the South was the perfect person to help the Democratic party, which was making moves to adopt conservative rhetoric in hopes that they could siphon off the southern Democrats and religious voters who moved to support Reagan. Democrats supported the homophobic Dont Ask Dont Tell, utilized Superpredator rhetoric, focused more on the economy (although taxes are not conservative a preoccupation with economic issues is). This is where the discussion of Bill Clinton negatively affecting Hillary’s 2008 presidential bid can be tied in – her attachment to Bill and the Democratic party during this transitory phase marred her liberalism. How could someone claim to be a progressive where they literally decreased the progressivism of their party in the past?
Currently, Hillary makes claims about her positions that don’t usually add up. In her speech at the DNC, dressed in ethereal white (a non-gendered colored pantsuit almost erases any femininity or masculinity from Clinton) Hillary calls herself progressive and liberal. Yet other recent comments claim she is a moderate, or sometimes “a progressive who likes to get stuff done” aka someone who’s not very progressive at all.
Her initiatives as Secretary of State are the most interesting to look at to see her rivaling opinions. The New York Times put out an article detailing Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the situation in Libya (a mess that has since been referred to the ICC), showing that she encouraged US involvement in Libya. Hindsight proves this was a bad idea, but being gung-ho about going to war evidences a hawkish streak. This stands in stark contrast though to Hillary Clintons involvement in peace talks with Iran and Russia (those seem to have failed though). Peace is a decidedly liberal ideal and to pursue it, especially with more repressive regimes, shows her progressive side.
Is it possible for someone to embody both liberalism and conservativism? And if it is, why is it wrong when Hillary Clinton does it? Politicians inherently have to appeal to a wide audience. Popular ideology generally moves towards the liberal side. Is it the case that Hillary Clinton used to be conservative and is becoming more liberal? Evidence would say otherwise, since she was liberal at a very young age and now at an old age still embodies conservative rhetoric. Ultimately Hillary Clinton is an enigma in this regard and theres no true way to tell what she believes because of her belief in public and private positions.