The arguments against supporting Hillary Clinton (our esteemed junior Senator here in New York) to be the Democratic nominee for 2008 are manifold, various and overwhelming. There is the fact that she has been disastrously bad on the central issue of her time in the Senate, Iraq. There is the fact that she has the temperament and record of a centrist and the reputation of a liberal -- by far the worst possible combination. There is the ugly aristocratic odor of supporting a former president's spouse right after the presidency of a former president's son. And there is the central, crucial fact that however strong she may be in the Democratic primaries, she would be a terrible candidate in 2008 -- exceedingly likely to loose at a time when a Democrat ought to be able to win. All of this, frankly, ought to be decisive. (Indeed, a recent London Times report is that even some in Hillary's circle are starting to think it might be. (via))
But just in case anyone needs it, here's another argument.
There are innumerable important issues on the agenda -- from the clusterfuck that is Iraq, to actual efforts to improve rather than worsen American security; from the problem of diminishing supplies of oil to the environmental havoc that that oil which we have already used has caused, is causing and will continue to cause; from the growing cultural power of theocratic forces in this country to specific issues, such as gay rights, on which they take discriminatory and immoral positions. But in one specific domain -- namely, the domestic domain of economics, social structures, and similar affairs -- the single, overriding issue is the absolute disaster that our health care system is, and the urgent practical and moral necessity of fixing it.
I don't know if I have to make an argument for this -- there have been a lot of arguments for it (here's one from just yesterday, for example (via)). But no other single problem has so many deleterious effects on our economy and society; no other single problem would help such a broad range of people, from the poor through the middle class to even some in the upper classes; no other single problem is as easy to fix on a technical level (every other industrialized nation in the world has universal health care, so there are a wide variety of tried and tested options to study and learn from); no other single problem has, I believe, the political power that this one does -- my sense is that people are increasingly agitated over this, and the option of universal care would sell well to a broad majority of them. So this is the issue to work on (within this domain, as opposed to, say, security or foreign policy or the culture wars or the environment) the next time we have a competent, reality-based administration -- hopefully as soon as January of 2009. I hope that many, or even all, of the Democratic nominees for 2008 take strong stances on this. We need to fix this already.
But here's the problem: because of her involvement with (and the public's association of her with) the most recent failed attempt to solve this pressing issue, in 1994, Hillary is perhaps more poorly placed than any national politician -- certainly than any foreseeable candidate for the Democratic nomination -- to deal with this problem. More than any other figure, she would be scarred off from this, unable to persuade the public on this, more likely to dodge it.
There are plenty of other reasons to oppose Hillary -- plenty of other reasons which are sufficient in and of themselves, irrespective of all the others. But her basic deficit at grappling with the central (domestic, economic/social) issue of our time is, for me, yet another.
Let's find someone else. If possible, someone who will take a bold stand for universal health care. For Lord knows that we could use it.