In an interview this week with New York Magazine, her first since leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton obviously flirts with the ever-present possibility of running for president in 2016. “I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other,” Clinton says. That sure ain’t a no. Meanwhile, the day the interview came out, the United Nations General Assembly opened in New York City, at a time when the need for a strong, humanitarian, multilateral global body has never been greater. I take this conflagration as a sign: Hillary Clinton should run for President of the Universe. Not even run, really. Let’s just appoint her. Who would complain?
After all, while Hillary does seem like a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination should she choose to run in 2016, those of us already disillusioned with the disappointing and self-destructive centrism of President Obama may start to remember that he’s simply regurgitating the Clintonian politics of timid triangulation with which Hillary and her husband helped poison the political water. If, following an economic crash that Bill Clinton’s policies of deregulation helped to in large part precipitate, Obama bafflingly appointed the same crowd of lackeys to clean up the mess (Summers, Geithner, etc.), do we somehow think Hillary would become the hold-Wall-Street-accountable force that Obama has failed to be? Not likely. More likely is that Hillary, arguably more deeply embedded within Wall Street and big business circles than President Obama ever was to begin with, would continue the soft policies of economic liberalism that tinker around the edges of inequality while quietly shoring up corporate power.
In his very thoughtful essay “The Rise of the New New Left,” my Daily Beast colleague Peter Beinart argues that younger Americans are moving away from politics as circumscribed by Ronald Reagan and reified, with little amendment, by Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, you’ll remember, was the guy who proudly proclaimed, “The era of big government is over.” Beinart cites a 2010 Pew poll that found that two thirds of younger Americans favor a bigger government with more services over a cheaper government with fewer services—a margin of support “25 points above the rest of the population.” And 74 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds believe that “a free market economy needs government regulation in order to best serve the public interest” compared with just 57 percent of seniors. Now who was it again who slashed government regulations of the economy?
Then there’s Hillary’s dogged support for the war in Iraq, an unpopular choice among Democratic voters and, increasingly, all Americans. Or her ambivalent-at-best support for immigrant rights in New York State. Or her mushy views on preserving entitlements like Social Security. Remember, in 2008, one of Barack Obama’s attack lines against Hillary was that she was “trying to sound or vote like Republicans.”
I’m not saying that when faced with a Republican opponent who is even more cozy with Wall Street and even less inclined to repair our frayed social safety net and prioritize yawning economic inequality, Hillary Clinton might not look like a shimmering example of social justice. But the reality that many voters, especially the rising generation, will be holding their noses and pulling the lever. And rather than a further retrenchment in Clinton-era austerity politics and anti-government cuts, we need an alternative. Fortunately, Democrats have an alternative —Elizabeth Warren—who, a recent Quinnipiac poll shows, is the third “hottest” political figure in America, just after Hillary and Chris Christie. The poll measures voter attitudes toward the nation’s major political figures. Although 51 percent of voters say they don’t know enough about Elizabeth Warren to rate her, among those who do, Warren’s temperature score comes in at 49.2 degrees compared to Hillary at 52.1. And given that the American people overwhelmingly support tough accountability for Wall Street and aggressive solutions to unemployment and inequality, once they learn more about Elizabeth Warren, her support is only likely to grow. In other words, Ms. Clinton, you are neither necessarily needed nor wanted in the White House.
But Hillary is too great a talent and voice to go unused. And she clearly has too much fight and force left in her to just follow the fading path of philanthropy laid out by her husband. Plus if Hillary showed us nothing else, it’s her extraordinary vision and impact as a global statesman. Which is precisely what we need in the world right now, a strong head of a strong global body that can collectively hold rogue nations accountable and spread opportunity and prosperity worldwide. Like the United Nations if the U.N. had even more accountability and heft and teeth. Added bonus: Taking such a position would help breathe life into the perennial vast right-wing conspiracy theory about “world government,” and we know how Hillary likes vast right-wing conspiracies!
Hillary Clinton has already visited an insane number of countries during her tenure as secretary of State, so she could ostensibly phone it in for the first few years of her global presidency. Plus let’s be honest, since most Americans probably don’t know many of those countries exist let alone where to find them on a map, Hillary’s prodigious global knowledge would be wasted on our domestic electorate. Hillary describes her own tenure at State, “I thought it was essential that as we restore America’s standing in the world and strengthen our global leadership again, we needed what I took to calling ‘smart power’ to elevate American diplomacy and development and reposition them for the 21st century.” By the same token, there is clearly a need to restore Kenya and Indonesia and Mexico’s standing in the world, too, and expand development and opportunity there and in countless other places. In particular, a global Hillary presidency would do much to empower women and girls worldwide, both in symbolic and tangible ways through investment projects, a strategic way to improve development standards for all.
And Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in the world. In fact, she has been for the last 11 years.
Time to capitalize on that global popularity, Hillary. The United States should decisively throw out the bad bathwater of the last 20 years of Reagan/Clinton economics, but in doing so, there’s no need to put baby in the corner. Hillary Clinton is a global star and a beacon for positive values and change worldwide. Here’s hoping she sets her political sight even higher!