For Hillary


Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not endorse any presidential candidate.
I’ve been voting in presidential elections for 40 years, most of that time in cranky opposition. Rare is the time when there was a candidate I could actively support. Inevitably, I settled, casting my ballot in glum resignation for the marginally less objectionable candidate in the primary, then voting in the fall to try and throw somebody out, or keep somebody out, rather than put somebody in.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Source: Flickr (Gage Skidmore)

Democrats have controlled the White House for 28 of the past 64 years, only 16 of which also saw Democratic control of the House and the Senate. Even then, 12 of those years date back to the 1960s and 1970s, the waning era of conservative Southern dominance under the old seniority system. From a progressive standpoint, it seems quite remarkable in hindsight that we ever got anything done. That we nevertheless managed to do so is, of course, a tribute to both the tactical skill and unapologetic brute force of chief executives skilled in the ways of Washington. Bluff and bluster, threats and flattery, cajoling when possible, bullying when necessary. And always – always – bearing in mind that politics is the art of the possible.
In this highest of high-stakes games, there is no time and no room for naive sentimentality. I learned early on how well that worked out. I cut my teeth, after all, as an ardent teenage volunteer in the 1972 McGovern campaign. Fired up with youthful idealism, blind to political reality, we were absolutely convinced that the moral purity of our candidate, the undeniable righteousness of our cause, would somehow overcome the conservativism of the electorate, the skepticism of the press, the suspicions of organized labor, the power of money and the influence of interest groups.
McGovern’s defeat – an epic blowout in which he carried only the state of Massachusetts (losing even in his home state of South Dakota), and lost the electoral college vote 520-17 – was shattering, and heartbreaking. Had I been paying any real attention to the news, I would have been better emotionally prepared. But then, had I done so, I would most likely have given up and packed it in months before.
While some embittered veterans of that traumatic campaign understandably turned their back on conventional politics, I took away a different lesson: pragmatism is no sin, and compromise is nothing to be ashamed of. Losing nobly is still losing. Out of power, you’re out of the game, in no position to materially effect the changes you sought.
There are those content to jeer from the sidelines, secure in the knowledge they will never have to own a result, reveling in the luxury that comes from a complete lack of political accountability. But for anyone who truly cares about trying to solve the problems facing the country, this is as incomprehensible as it is irresponsible.
Today, despite clear progress in some policy areas – notably the economic recovery, health care expansion, protection of LGBT rights – we still face a host of challenges, from global climate change and an increasingly violent and unstable Middle East to increasing racial polarization, rising inequality and homelessness, and an unwelcome spike in crime rates at home.
As we did, in fact, back in 1972, when the Vietnam War was still raging, the Soviet Union was a major adversary, and the American economy was reeling under an unprecedented “stagflation” in which prices were rising as people were losing their jobs in a recession. Air and water quality were major concerns, coastal protections not yet in place, and endangered wildlife species not yet protected by federal legislation. In that pre-Roe v. Wade era, abortion was entirely illegal in 30 states, with only limited access in 20 others. Not to mention the gathering storm clouds of a constitutional crisis that would soon engulf the presidency. And I firmly believe the toxins released into the political bloodstream in that era continue to poison and debilitate our democratic system today.
This year, I support Hillary Clinton for president. Not as a default candidate, but as an affirmative choice with hope and enthusiasm, and without reservation. As a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, her command of foreign policy is plainly superior to the rest of the presidential field in both parties. As First Lady, she had a substantial role as a domestic policy advisor, and I believe she learned the right lessons from her visionary but unsuccessful effort in the early 1990s to expand health care coverage. We can wish she had come out earlier in support of full LGBT rights, but the same can be said of virtually the entire national leadership of both parties, and she is undeniably progressive in diversity and human-rights issues.
Personal toughness, stamina, and grace under pressure are not negligible considerations. She survived one of the most humiliating ordeals imaginable during the course of her husband’s widely publicized philandering and subsequent impeachment. She has taken more of a beating politically at the hands of political opponents and enemies for a longer sustained period than virtually any other modern political figure I can think of. Yet the fact remains that they have barely laid a glove on her; in interviews, debates, congressional testimony and public appearances, she is invariably poised, cheerful, responsive and articulate. I can’t think of a single instance where she ever lost control or suffered even a momentary meltdown.
In Hillary Clinton, we have a candidate of extensive experience and exceptional gifts. She’s not perfect, nor would anyone claim so, least of all Clinton herself. But we don’t have to fall in love with and idealize our candidates, nor should we. They are only mortal, and quite obviously vulnerable to the same foibles and weaknesses as the rest of us. Politics is, after all, nothing more than the same human interactions we all experience every day, but played out on a vastly greater stage with vastly greater stakes. Politicians are not gods, and we can’t expect them to be saints.
Who among us hasn’t indulged the fantasy of traveling back in time to offer the hard-earned wisdom of age to our impetuous youthful selves, hoping to rectify or avert a terrible mistake? But let’s turn that around: having made that mistake and experienced the dreadful consequences, what advice would that 17-year-old McGovern supporter I once was possibly want to share with me today?
I think he might caution me that revolutions, if they ever come, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be; that nobody’s got a monopoly on virtue; that adversaries deserve, if not deference, at least a measure of respect; and that political campaigns, particularly presidential ones, are no place for indulging ideological crusades. They are about responding to people’s needs with practical, workable solutions, and failure carries long-term consequences.
For all those reasons, this year, my choice of Hillary Clinton is clear. I gladly embrace it.
Joel Bellman recently retired from the County of Los Angeles after 26 years as press deputy for three Supervisors representing the Third District, which includes the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Before entering politics, he was an award-winning radio documentarian and newspaper editorial writer and columnist. He has served since 1988 as a member of the Board of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.


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6 thoughts on “For Hillary

  1. I’m a bit surprised at this endorsement on the Tikkun site, which normally has a disclaimer at least.
    I must also say I disagree strongly with Mr. Bellman here. We all went this route with Obama, believing again in someone who promised a lot but who really had not intention. Up until then I had given up on voting for either of the two party candidates, as this two party system is a game of control, as so well expressed by Bill Clinton’s mentor, Carrol Quigley, who said the system gives people the illusion of choice. We tire of one party, vote the other in with hopes of change, but it goes on, then our children vote in the other party, and so on. But the two parties only move in a limited amount “left and right,” as they both support one another in maintaining this illusion. With Obama I decided to believe once again. But I was wrong.
    No, Mr. Bellman, it is time we stop playing the game.
    Hillary is a Hawk. She voted for the wars, she supports the corporations. She survived this “ordeal” with Bill because her only goal, as was his, is power. She will continue the same war and domination path as all the others. There are immense shadows behind her, mysterious deaths of joint investors in Arkansas, mysterious deaths of members of Bill’s government. Hillary is not someone I want in my house for dinner. Why would I want her as my president?
    I say it is time to stop choosing the lesser of two evils, and start to vote with our consciences. Bernie Sanders, despite being a Democrat, has always stood for justice. The Tikkun community is all about justice. Tikkun opposes the constant warring, no matter where and why, the constant oppression of others in the name of oil money and capitalism.
    Please, do not listen to this plea of “your vote is wasted if you vote your conscience.” My mother said this to me when I was 18 and I listened to her. She was wrong. I am now 62. It is still wrong. Vote for the candidate who most closely represents your beliefs. This is not Hillary, or you probably would not be reading Tikkun.

  2. But what does Hillary stand for?
    What policies does she espouse?
    With whose interests does she identify?
    Who are her supporters, financial and otherwise?
    Are personal qualities the ones we ought to rely upon in choosing a president?

  3. When I compare Hillary and Bernie, I think of Machiavelli and St.George– Hillary, the politician skilled in negotiating the best deal obtainable, and Bernie, who insists on attempting to directly address the fundamental issues of economic and social justice, and political corruption married to plutocracy.
    The playing field has tilted so far that the overwhelming bulk of citizens are no longer represented. Money always has been coupled with power but now its pernicious influence allows an oligarchic nullification of legitimate voices. The situation has become much more extreme as described by Robert Reich, in his book “Aftershock.” Sanders and Reich propose down to earth, focused solutions, such as increased taxing of the wealthy without being confiscatory, extending free education beyond high school, taking financial corruption out of politics, universal health care access, programs to invest money and work force in improving our infrastructure, et al.
    These reforms in our democracy are worthy, but Mr. Bellman says ” …political campaigns, particularly presidential ones, are no place for indulging ideological crusades. They are about responding to people’s needs with practical, workable solutions, and failure carries long-term consequences.”
    Sanders’ proposals are practical and workable, but opposed by the powers that be. To implement reform, we need presidential leadership coupled with supportive changes in the House and Senate. Such changes may not come at one time, but over a period of years they could gradually occur. To mobilize the inchoate voices of the disenfranchised, who could vote for proper representation, we need to believe in the clear path that Sanders proffers.
    Negotiation with corrupted power will not give us “practical, workable solutions.” We have to displace the corrupted power; indeed, “failure carries long-term consequences.”
    The legend of St. George is a metaphor which Winston Churchill adopted in his WW II fight against fascism and totalitarianism; Churchill’s personal aircraft was named for St. George’s sword, “Ascalon.” When the allies finally turned the tide of war, after several years of defeat after defeat, a government official asked “is this the beginning of the end?” Churchill responded famously by saying “no, but it is the end of the beginning.”
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    • Hi. Thanks for the piece from Tikkun, especially in view of your disagreement with its conclusion. But I have to say that I disagree with your response. Bernie is an admirable idealist, but his approach leaves out exactly how he would enact any of the changes he advocates. His candidacy, even if successful is highly unlikely to bring with it the sweeping change in the makeup of Congress needed to make him effective. Republican majorities in the Housemare a given for now, at least until the next census-driven redistributing occurs.
      Therefore, extensive negotiation would be needed, involving modification or much of the core of his ideology, and perhaps abandoning parts of it. Thus, to the zealous it would likely come across as betrayal and failure. This assumes he is even electable, which I frankly doubt. He doesn’t display much in the way of flexibility or political nimbleness, which, ironically is why he is so loved by his advocates.
      As has been said, candidates run in poetry, but govern in prose.
      To be sure, Hillary will not be beloved of the right wing either, and has had her comeuppances in encounters with them. But she is a competent, extremely bright , experienced political operative, which is what I think we need now.
      You are right. She is not St. George, the knight in shining armor. But, after all, he is a mythical character, certainly with respect to the deeds attributed to him. We are not about to see the end of politics any time soon, if ever. We have to prevail in a political world. What I hope will happen, is that Bernie will ultimately encourage his partisans to support her in the general election. I think we would agree that the lectionaries of one of those clowns and outright fascists would be catastrophic.

  4. Hillary is a product of nepotism. Her tenure as Secretary of State was a disaster. Her decision to to use the US military to topple Qaddafi has brought despair, death and destruction to Libya (and ISIS and Al Qaeda). It was during her tenure that ISIS was formed. Mrs. Clinton did not stand in solidarity with the women her husband abused, rather she at all time tried to defame and destroy her husband’s many victims. She should definitely not be President of anything.

  5. Bernie is not St. George. He is a skillful politician of long duration. He comes from a very small state with a quite well-off anglo population. Vermont also has a strong tradition of political Independents and the population is quite comfortable with that notion.
    The rest of the much larger US is anarchical by comparison. A huge patchwork of sprawling mega-cities, third world level poverty pockets, hideous environmental concerns and a precarious position as a “world leader” in a tangled web of constantly shifting international alliances .. Is experience a necessary evil required to deal with this complex mess? I would argue that it certainly is and the more the better. Probably A 3 person Presidency would be a fairer situation. One for offshore, one domestic and one ceremonial. The idea that one learns this on the job is make believe and dangerous actually.
    Hillary is better suited through a variety of experience and a more even temperament. Lets not name call and delve into spousal rascality. I can do that with virtually any government figure. Can they git the job done? Can they work devilishly hard at it? Can they change? Hillary can and has left a body of work to prove it

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