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November 12, 2007
Clinton’s a Socialist? Ask Some Real Ones
A year before the election (yes, last Monday marked T-minus 12 months
before Decision '08), the Republican presidential candidates have all
but stopped running against one another, and started running against
Hillary Clinton. And they all seem to have agreed on a general theme for
stopping the frontrunner – calling her a socialist.
The Hillary-as-a-socialist meme is certainly nothing new, but it has had
a surprising currency. A Google search of "Hillary Clinton” and
“socialist" returns more than 1.1 million results, and it’s rare to hear
any discussion of the 2008 campaign from either right-wing talk radio,
or from the Republican candidates themselves, without the talking point
that Hillary “must be stopped,” because she’s on the verge of bringing
“socialism,” if not “communism,” to our government.
The problem with this reasoning: Hillary's not a socialist, has never
been a socialist and likely never will be a socialist. And no one who
actually is a socialist would ever call Hillary one. Calling her that is
like calling Barack Obama a Muslim – no matter how many times these
statements are repeated.
Aside from a general desire to push fear-mongering on the GOP base, the
Hillary-is-a-socialist charge seems based on two general origins: the
failed health care plan she pushed between 1993 and 1994, which of
course is “socialized medicine,” and a general sense that she’ll “raise
taxes on the rich” by pushing “class warfare policies.” But neither of
these things, even if they were 100 percent true, would make Sen.
Clinton anything even resembling a socialist.
Mrs. Clinton’s original plan for health care, which of course never came
close to passage, was based around a mandate to employers to provide
health insurance for their employees – a system absolutely nothing close
to the systems of Canada or any European country.
Meanwhile, her current proposal is a market-based proposal – including
the ability of participants to stay in their current plans – which is
much farther away from her 1993 plan than those proposed by opponents
John Edwards and Barack Obama. In fact, Clinton’s 2007 plan has
considerably less in common with the socialist-leaning health care
systems in Scandinavia than with the system put into place in
Massachusetts . . . by Mitt Romney, the governor-turned-candidate who
earlier this year compared Sen. Clinton to Karl Marx. And even Clinton’s
current plan, if passed, would likely be watered down by congressional
As for fiscal policy, Clinton has proposed no tax increases save for a
repeal of some of the Bush tax cuts, and a raise in the minimum wage.
For this she will likely be accused of “class warfare,” which for some
reason is only in effect when tax policy is adjusted in favor of the
poor (when it’s done so for the rich, as the Bush/Cheney administration
has many times, it somehow isn’t class warfare at all.) At any rate,
enactment of that policy would only return the tax system to that circa
2000 – which was not, of course, socialism at all.
And that’s the biggest fallacy of the “Hillary at vanguard of returning
socialism” theory. The previous Clinton presidency, with its embrace of
free trade and welfare reform, was the furthest from socialism that any
Democratic administration has gotten in the past half-century, to the
point that it inspired a from-the-left third-party challenge in 2000
from Ralph Nader. Actual socialists, meanwhile, are almost uniform in
their opinion of Hillary Clinton: They can’t stand her, don’t trust her
and consider her a closet neocon.
Yes, the right wing believes as an article of faith that Hillary is
significantly to the left of her husband, just as it believes that she
has long had a "ruthless agenda" and/or a "secret plan" to take over the
White House. But in fact, Sen. Clinton is probably the least-left-wing
of the major candidates on the Democratic side.
I have no intention of carrying water for Hillary. In fact, I'm an Obama
supporter. But when outright lies about a candidate’s ideology or
intentions are repeated every single day, before the primaries have even
ended, it becomes necessary to stand up and say “No, that’s not how it
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