James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Should conservatives have supported Hillary?

April 6, 2010

My friend Bruce Bartlett over at the Capital Gains and Games blog asks whether conservatives should have supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race:

I wrote a couple of columns in 2007 telling conservatives that they really should consider lending some support to Clinton if they believed, as I did, that Obama was much more liberal than her and that whoever won the Democratic primary would probably win the general election (see here and here). … So would conservatives have been better off following my advice and helping Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic nomination, rather than futilely wasting their efforts on McCain, Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates who could not win and were considered far from ideal from a conservative point of view anyway? … I think the evidence suggests that Hillary Clinton could have won the Democratic nomination with just a little bit more support, and probably would be governing significantly more conservatively than Obama. For one thing, given her disastrous experience with health care reform in 1993-1994, it’s reasonable to assume that she would have stayed away from that issue at all costs.

Me:  Bruce derives most of his evidence from the idea that Hillary’s centrism has seriously influenced the direction of Obama’s foreign policy. Now I certainly have no reason to believe Hillary wouldn’t have pushed hard on healthcare reform. She certainly spent a lot of time and resources creating a detailed plan during the campaign and then promoting it.

As for economic policy more generally, you couldn’t produce a more centrist Democratic economic team than the one Obama has assembled: Summers, Romer, Goolsbee, Geithner. No actual Republicans (probably not) but no one that “progressives” have much fondness for either. As for actual policy, Hillary would likely have favored a big stimulus plan and major healthcare reform. Would she have been tougher on the banks? Coming out of the pro-Wall Street Clinton presidency and her time as NY senator, I doubt it.

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