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November 12, 2007

Think Hillary 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 compromise.


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 is.”


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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