Andrew O’Hehir | Salon | Reader Supported News | May 16, 2016
Clinton is a lot closer to Richard Nixon than Trump is, but she’s really a Cold War liberal left behind by history
ou don’t have to look far on the American left to find accusations that Hillary Clinton is essentially a Republican, or almost a Republican, or simply too damn close to being a Republican. At least I don’t: I’ve done it myself, very recently, in a throwaway jibe partway through a recent article on the GOP’s spectacular implosion. I was aware, even as I wrote that, that it’s only partly true. If the joke stings, that’s because it cuts closer to the bone than Clinton supporters and Democratic Party loyalists would like. But it’s imprecise at best; even in his harshest criticisms of Clinton, Bernie Sanders has never suggested that she might, y’know, be like that.
Part of the problem is definitional and historical, and maybe even epistemological. What do we mean by “Republican”? A Republican where, and when? In broad strokes of politics and policy, Clinton is a lot closer to the worldview of Richard Nixon — the president who funded Planned Parenthood and proposed a national single-payer healthcare plan — than Donald Trump is. (Less charitably, we could mention Clinton’s recent reference to her good friend Henry Kissinger, one of the moments of 2016 she definitely wishes she could take back.) But the Richard Nixon who got elected in 1968 would not be a remotely viable presidential candidate in today’s GOP, and quite likely would not be a Republican at all.
So no, those things don’t make Hillary Clinton a Republican. Let’s say this all together: She’s a Democrat — a Democrat of a specific vintage and a particular type. At least in her 2016 incarnation, Clinton is an old-school Cold War liberal out of the Scoop Jackson Way-Back Machine, a believer in global American hegemony and engineered American prosperity. (I realize that’s a completely obscure reference to anyone under 45 or so. We’ll get back to it.) Many such Democrats became Republicans after 1980 — in several prominent cases, the Cold War liberals of the 1970s became the George W. Bush neocons of the 2000s — but Clinton didn’t exactly do that, and that’s not my point.