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Monday, August 15, 2011

What longing for Hillary conveniently ignores

I admit that the thought has passed through my mind in recent weeks: what if Hillary had won instead of Obama? What many have been saying to themselves or friends is now being said by prominent progressives: we would have been better off if she had won. But such thinking ignores the issue of health care reform and how each of them fared in leading to its passing. Health care reform is a signature goal of progressive governance since Harry Truman, and it played a key role in the election of Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama. Given Hillary Clinton’s pivotal role in the abject failure of President Clinton to achieve significant reform, it is understandable why Clinton apologists would be ignoring this point. But any thoughtful analysis must reckon with these facts:

1.     President Clinton and President Obama attempted health care reform on a major scale.
2.     Hillary Clinton was the driving force behind health care reform in Clinton’s administration.
3.     Health care reform failed to pass under President Clinton.
4.     Health care reform passed under President Obama.
5.     The attempt to pass health care reform played a key role in creating a conservative backlash against Clinton and Obama in the midterm elections of their first term resulting in Republican majorities in the House of Representatives each time.
6.     President Clinton did a better job of outmaneuvering the conservative Republican House than President Obama has done.

Those who pine for a President Hillary Clinton focus all of their attention on fact #5 while forgetting facts #3 and #4. My question to progressives is this: would you rather have a president who achieved the most significant piece of progressive legislation since LBJ, but who is faltering against the conservative backlash against it, or a president who failed miserably to enact the same type of legislation but did a better job of dealing with the political fallout?

The answer seems obvious to me. The Clintons had their chance to lead on health care reform and they failed just miserably. It is time to stop yearning for another Clinton term and start focusing on defending the advances Obama has made.


  1. Does it change things that Obama's health care reform was passed when Democrats had control of both chambers of Congress? That was not the case with Clinton.

  2. Tim--Your comment prompted me to double check my memory bank, and it is actually not the case that Clinton operated with divided Congress during his first two years. Democrats controlled the Senate 57-43.

  3. But they didn't have control in the same way they did in Obama's first two years, because they did not have a filibuster proof majority. I'd have to check the history of Hillarycare, but I wonder if having complete control then would have made a difference.

    2008 was the first time in generations that one party had the executive, the house, and filibuster-proof control of the senate, if I recall correctly.