Last night's debate in Brooklyn was utterly and completely useless. It told us nothing new, and no one stumbled bad enough or soared high enough to make a difference. The Democratic audience was as boorish and annoying as any Republican debate crowd. When the 1994 crime bill was brought up, Hillary Clinton was asked if it was a mistake that she supported it (she was First Lady and could not vote on it) while Bernie Sanders was never fully asked about the fact that he really, actually voted for it. The bill didn't become law because Hillary Clinton advocated for it. It became law because members of Congress voted for it and the president signed it. So, really, the effects of the bill are more on Sanders than on Clinton. She is not completely innocent here, but a little perspective is always necessary.
But the crime bill is an interesting case. Because, see, it is of a piece of a kind of liberal self-loathing that started under Reagan and didn't end until Barack Obama was elected. Oh, gather round, dear millennials, come over to the campfire and listen to the Rude Pundit spin a tale or two.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the worst thing a politician could be called was "liberal." Saint Ronnie Reagan made liberalism into the enemy of real America, and the people bought into it. "Liberal Democrats" became a pejorative, used any time any Democrat proposed anything that smacked of government interference in "freedom," which is defined as "shit conservatives like." It worked so well that many Democrats began running away from liberalism for fear that they might be tarred with the foul epithet. That's how we got the sight of Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis riding around in a goddamned tank in the 1988 election. You don't want to appear like a punk-ass, bleeding heart liberal? Show how tough you are. Go shoot some shit up.
For Democrats, defensiveness about liberalism became the default setting. Sure, sure, your Ted Kennedy or your Barbara Mikulski could get away with being openly left-wing. But, especially if you wanted a national profile, you had to hedge on your ideology and demonstrate that you could be as tough and mean and violent as a Republican. And that meant you had to do some things that showed that brute strength and also showed that you weren't beholden to liberal interests. Remember, too, that we were still in thrall to the Cold War mentality, so "liberal" equalled "commie" to many people.
After 12 years of Reagan and Bush, Sr., Bill Clinton was elected president. Now Clinton was always aware of the need to not seem too liberal, as his near-psychotic support for capital punishment showed. Clinton's presidency was marked by what has been praised as his "triangulation" on Republican issues, especially when he had to deal with a Republican-led Congress for most of his terms. That meant that he would take up a conservative goal, like welfare reform, and make it his own, adding in a few progressive elements here and there. You could call it "compromise," if you like, except compromise usually entails a more even split in what each side gets. Otherwise, it's just "surrender." Many of us called it "abandonment." (The Rude Pundit stood in a voting booth in a church in Indiana in 1996 for several minutes, wondering if he could pull the lever for Clinton because of welfare reform. He did, for the sake of Supreme Court nominees, always the endgame of any discussion on whether or not to vote. Of course, Clinton didn't get a chance to nominate anyone in his second term.)
What does this have to do with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders? In the first part of this series, the Rude Pundit dismissed outright the various made-up scandals that have given Clinton this undeserved aura of shadiness. That just doesn't fucking matter because it's all lies with a good publicist. And there is no reason in the world to give a frantic rodent fuck about what she did or didn't say in her speeches to Goldman Sachs. It's another fake-out that Sanders is annoyingly using to dent Clinton. And, at this point, how many fucking politicians aren't beholden to one well-funded group or another? If Hillary does Wall Street's bidding, Sanders has certainly backed off anything radical against the NRA.
The second part of this series looked at Clinton's blatant exploitation of unwarranted fears of the effects of violence and sex in video games. And that's where the rubber hits the road for this blogging voter. It's not because of video games, per se, but it's because, like her husband and like so many Democrats before and even now, she chose to demonstrate that she has conservative street-cred in the most convenient of situations.
This is where her support for the 1994 crime bill comes into play. She chose to become a strong advocate for it because she and Bill were using the threat of gangs, crack, and super-predators to show that they can be tough and right-wing, too (and were unafraid of offending African Americans). It's there in her 2002 speech supporting the Iraq war. She said, "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001." She was almost totally wrong, except for the 9/11 stuff. But it sure sounded hawkish as hell.
The Rude Pundit's discomfort with Hillary Clinton is not because she's flip-flopped on some things. It's not because she's got skeletons in her closet. Christ, Clinton's closet is must be swept clean at this point. No, it's the political expediency that bugs the shit out of him. It's the selling out of liberal goals in order to appeal to people who wouldn't vote for her anyways.
And you can argue that Clinton has done so very much for women and for the dispossessed around the world. You can do that, quite successfully. But then someone could easily counter that Clinton's vote in support of the Iraq war undid a huge amount of the good she has done. It's that inability to connect women's rights and human rights to the cataclysm of the wars and conflicts she advocates for, that great harm has been done to families because of the 1994 crime bill she supported. That balance sheet, finally, is the reason the Rude Pundit can't support her in the primary.
(Obligatory note: Yes, he will support her in the general if she's the nominee because the Rude Pundit isn't a self-righteous prick.)