A look at the likely foreign and domestic policies of HRC

Summary: Now that Campaign 2016 has collapsed into a circus, a spectacle to maximize the news media’s profits and entertain America’s Outer Party (professionals, managers, & small businesspeople) — let’s look ahead to the Hillary Clinton administration. Our pundits predict it will be a continuation of the Bill and Obama show. As usual, they’re probably wrong.

Hillary Clinton

Forecasting the deeds of candidates if elected requires humility. The campaign — their words and position papers — mean little or nothing. FDR ran to the right of Herbert Hoover, denouncing his deficits. LBJ ran as a peace candidate in 1964, while his generals were planning to escalate the Vietnam War. Even their record gives few clues to their behavior once holding power. Here are my guesses about the broad nature of her foreign and domestic policies, guesses which I give you with strong confidence.

(1)  Domestic policy

Ezra Klein advocates sexual oppression
‘Yes Means Yes’ is a terrible law, and I completely support it“, VOX, 13 October 2014.

Bill Clinton had modest goals. Obama had modest goals, plus devoting much of his political capital to managing the recovery from the 2008 crash. I believe Clinton and her team have more ambitious goals for domestic policy. Hers will be the boldest administration in domestic action since LBJ (although probably a resulting in a train wreck instead of LBJ’s historic triumph).

While nobody would let Ezra Klein run anything more complex than a lemonade stand, his fantastic success as a pundit comes — as with most pundits — from mirroring what his audience thinks, feels, and dreams. The above quote perfectly captures what I believe will be the nature of HRC’s domestic policy: radicalism, arrogance, utopianism, and an eagerness to use of force against rebels. Childish fiddling with the complex controls of society, hoping for good results.

(2) Foreign Policy: Gamer Girls in action

Gears of War
Gears of War.

President Bush Jr. gave us a War on Terror — a strategy-free, incoherent war on fundamentalist Islam (called “terror”), fulfilling bin Laden dreams. See 9/11 was the most effective single military operation in the history of the world and Bin Laden wins by using the “Tactics of Mistake” against America. It was largely designed by armchair strategists, mostly neocons, almost all men, few of whom had ever served in the military — let alone in combat.

Now it’s the women’s turn to show that they can be as ignorant, arrogant, and mindlessly belligerent as men. Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Michèle Flournoy, and their fellow Valkyries will start or expand wars around the globe (not just against jihadists) with US military involvement cloaked in maudlin prose about our good intentions. Political polarization stops at the oceans’ edge, with our wars waged with the bipartisanship so loved by pundits (as we saw in the Libya debacle).

Conservatives wage war with indifference to our troops and veterans, as seen in their disinterest in preparing for the flood of wounded and crippled returning from Afghanistan and Iraq (despite the Veteran’s Administration’s repeated warnings that more funding would be needed).  Liberals will do this differently, as they substitute contempt for indifference. If the troops are lucky, the result will be the same — wasted valor overseas and poor support when they return home. It could be much worse, of course (sometimes I am too optimistic).

Here is an excellent analysis of Hillary and her hawks by Gareth Porter.

Walkyrien by Emil Doepler (ca. 1905)
Walkyrien by Emil Doepler (ca. 1905).

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15 thoughts on “A look at the likely foreign and domestic policies of HRC

  1. I see you’ve done a lot of work here but you are extremely premature. Trump will win in a landslide. You need to wait a bit.

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    1. restless,

      The polls tend to be quite accurate 2 months before the election. While an event might change everything, otherwise it seems unlikely that Trump will win. Most people have decided.

      A swing sufficient to create a landslide for Trump is bizarrely unlikely.

      This is even more so as the Trump campaign is more like a sideshow carnival than the organization capable of winning an election.

      Like

  2. Surely you don’t believe that HRC will be able to accomplish much of her domestic agenda. A Democratically controlled Senate might happen but is far from assured. The House is in no danger of slipping from the GOP. So it will be gridlock on the legislative side.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if she continues Obama’s tactics of aggressively using executive branch agencies to shape domestic policy even without legislative authorization. But (fortunately) bureaucracies are sufficiently unwieldy that there’s a limit to how much can be done this way. I expect plenty of economically stifling regulations from HRC’s EPA, DoJ, DOE, and other TLAs. But nothing out of the ordinary, as presidents go; a huge revitalization/expansion of the welfare state along the line’s of LBJ’s Great Society (or even Obamacare) seems extraordinarily unlikely, without a compliant Congress, a strong electoral mandate, or a charismatic orator in the White House.

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    1. sflicht,

      “I wouldn’t be surprised if she continues Obama’s tactics of aggressively using executive branch agencies to shape domestic policy even without legislative authorization.”

      Yes.

      “bureaucracies are sufficiently unwieldy”

      Perhaps. History shows “unwieldy” means “poorly wielded”. Which is the norm for US agencies, as the President casually assembles a team with low cohesion and few goals. Just because that’s is how it has been done doesn’t mean that is how it must be done.

      “there’s a limit to how much can be done this way.”

      That limit might be far more expansive than you or most expect. The administrative machinery has been built over generations. We have not yet had a president willing to aggressively use it.

      Confident predictions like yours are so often wrong because of their assumptions, unexamined and so often wrong.

      “a huge revitalization/expansion of the welfare state along the line’s of LBJ’s Great Society (or even Obamacare) seems extraordinarily unlikely”

      You are thinking like a train running on rails. Try some imagination to envision a larger set of possibilities.

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    2. Well, we shall see (probably — I still think Trump has better odds than the polling analysts and prediction markets are saying right now). I certainly agree with you that I might be blinkered in my thinking, but I just don’t see a realistic path to reification for exotic scenarios in which HRC’s government leads to sweeping changes on the domestic front. Thus I remain much more worried about her foreign policy, and in particular about whether she (or other neocons in her administration) will escalate tensions with Russia and/or Iran to the point of open warfare (as opposed to the current situation of simmering proxy/cyber/information war). But partly that’s my own life experience biasing my understanding of the presidency; since I was born, foreign policy seems to have been by far the most salient area in which the president actually makes a real difference. (Arguably SCOTUS nominees are another, but the influence on policy is indirect and sometimes unexpected, e.g. Souter and to some extent Kennedy.)

      There’s a saying on the alt-right to the effect that culture leads politics, and I think there’s some wisdom in that. HRC’s domestic policy influence will likely manifest itself via her executive branch appointments. Recent history suggests that she will nominate ideological progressives who are particularly committed to left-wing ideals like diversity, renewable energy, etc., and that these people will be illiberal (in the classical sense of the term) when it comes to the tools they use to advance these objectives. I find that somewhat distasteful, but since this approach to progressive ideology is so entrenched in the culture right now, I wouldn’t actually expect the outcome to be that different under Sanders or Jill Stein. It’s all shades of blue; HRC’s is perhaps a bit more technocratic and less populist, but the raw material — the party operatives who would staff domestic policy agencies under any Democratic administration — is what it is.

      But I’m interested in your own POV. Assuming HRC is somehow smarter than Obama in terms of shaping a domestic policy team at the upper levels of executive branch agencies with an eye to advancing a definite agenda (presumably along the lines of her campaign platform), what sort of concrete impacts might we see?

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    3. sflicht,

      “I still think Trump has better odds than the polling analysts and prediction markets are saying right now)”

      I suggest you start publishing your forecasts, if you believe your intuition gives superior results to those of experts supported by large organizations. Good luck with that.

      “Assuming HRC is somehow smarter than Obama in terms of shaping a domestic policy team at the upper levels of executive branch agencies”

      Try replying to direct quotes rather than making stuff up and attributing it to me. I said nothing about “smart”. Presidents assemble teams to accomplish their goals. People invest energy and capital into tasks to the minimum degree necessary to accomplish their goals. Obama, like most US presidents, probably had small goals — and built his team accordingly.

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    4. Addendum: “and built his team accordingly.”

      A president that has a modest agenda will choose his team for characteristics that suit his needs. Easy to recruit is the most common; building a high-powered transition team is more work than most both with. Second, personal loyalty to the president or members of his inner team — also often a top priority. Third, to reward key contributors of time and resources.

      None of these are performance-based criteria. To varying extents, modern presidents are like Robert Redford in “The Candidate”, who at the end says something like “We’ve won. Now what?”

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    5. Re: number of undecided voters

      Other than an unexpected event, the only serious hope for Trump lies in the undecided voters. Unless they break overwhelmingly for Trump, they are unlikely to decide the election.

      The other wild card is turnout. Both candidates are disliked by many in their base, so a ground game to get supporters to vote might prove decisive. Trump does not have such an organization.

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    6. “The other wild card is turnout. Both candidates are disliked by many in their base, so a ground game to get supporters to vote might prove decisive. Trump does not have such an organization.”

      I’m not here to argue with you, FM. All I want to do is to note that Hillary’s ground game has contacted me several times asking if I will support Hillary in the general election.

      Each of these contacts has ended badly with them basically ordering me to support Hillary or Trump will (fill in imaginary horrific fate). The Clinton campaign has inherited the Clinton arrogance, which I find intolerable and they’ve persuaded me to NOT vote for Hillary, regardless of the poll numbers.

      I am currently searching for an acceptable third party candidate. This also happened in 2000 when I wound up voting for a physicist with no prior political experience because he was the best choice to be President among the candidates. Bush was my second choice because I trusted Cheney in those days.

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    7. Pluto,

      (1) Volunteer systems are inherently of variable quality. I can testify to that from work on many political campaigns and 20 years as a Scout leader.

      (2) The relevant question is if Clinton’s organization — whatever its quality — produces better results than Trump’s disorganization (& lack of a ground game). My guess is yes, perhaps decisively so.

      (3) That the anyone-but-trump approach failed with you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work as a strategy. Mass marketing appeals to the lowest common denominator. It’s McDonalds, not a cordon bleu dining. Based on scores of conversations with you, I’d guess the odds of a campaign phone operator influencing your decision were astronomical. I’m skeptical you would have voted for HRC w/o those calls.

      (4) HRC is quite happy that you vote for someone guaranteed not to win. As the leader, she just doesn’t want you to vote for Trump.

      (5) More generally, our ruling elites are probably quite happy with low voter turnout and fun fringe parties. All they need are apathetic Americans to make the system work. This election is a triumph for them.

      Liked by 1 person

    8. Pluto,

      “Each of these contacts has ended badly with them basically ordering me to support Hillary or Trump will (fill in imaginary horrific fate).”

      Let’s imagine what a call to you might be like from right-wing volunteers for Trump. How would they react if you express support for mass immigration, end oppression of Islam in America, full rights for LGBT people? Might you consider that the contact ended badly, with some arrogance from the caller?

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    9. FM,

      Regarding the quality of volunteers (you use what you got, not what you wish you had): Speaking from a large amount of my own experience, I agree completely with you about the likelihood of variability. That is why I am surprised that all four encounters with Hilary supporters has been so uniform. They were sticking to a script and followed it down the same rabbit hole all four times.

      This is hardly my first encounter with political supporters for a candidate (it might not even be my 1,000th) but it is the first time I have had such a uniformly negative experience, which is why I commented on it.

      It always starts with “Are you voting for Hilary or Trump?” I always respond that I haven’t decided yet. They always give me a shocked look and ask if I am aware of [fill in Trump’s latest gaffe]. I tell them that I am aware of the statement but that I have not made up my mind.

      From that point I get an increasingly angry and desperate diatribe about how evil Trump is. There is no attempt to: find out my interests, discuss the issues, use friendly persuasion, or even mention their candidate in a positive way. When verbal bludgeoning fails they end the conversation in some variation of “you’re the reason the world is going to hell.”

      By contrast, I have had some discussions with some Republicans (many fewer than normal for a presidential cycle) that have been thoughtful and interesting. Support for Trump ranges widely and no actual member of the Republican party (as opposed to the hangers on) have told me they are completely behind their candidate. I have read that some do support him to that level but the nuances in the support interest me. Perhaps the Republican party is learning something positive from Trump after all.

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    10. Pluto,

      I’m sure you are correctly reporting your conversations with people. They differ from my experience, as both of ours differ from folks near us. That’s why they call this annec-data. The problems with it are legion. That’s why social scientists conduct surveys rather than just publishing conclusions from chatting.

      It’s like the climate extremists in the comments here who declare that there is global cooling — or that the world is burning — based on the changes in weather they remember (probably wrongly) in their town (the largest warming has been in the polar areas, with fractional warming during the Boomers’ lifetimes in the continental US).

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  3. “Hers will be the boldest administration in domestic action since LBJ … The above [Ezra Klein] quote perfectly captures what I believe will be the nature of HRC’s domestic policy: radicalism, arrogance, utopianism, and an eagerness to use of force against rebels.”

    Could the author please elaborate on this? In what ways might Hillary’s administration be bold? How does the California campus rape law relate to expectations about Hillary’s domestic policy? What sort of specific policies or actions might result from the general qualities of being radical and arrogant?

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    1. Todd,

      (1) Massive expansion of regulations to regulate speech and personal inter-relationships on campuses, perhaps also in businesses and public spaces (e.g., on social media).

      (2) Massive regulatory action to change basis of work compensation from market-based to set by bureaucrats. For example, downgrading returns to work outside vs indoor, to severe physical effort vs. only-light physical effort, and from high risk vs safe/low risk to health.

      (3) Massive regulatory action to increase government authority over energy generation, energy consumption, transportation, and land-use — to “fight climate change”, preventing the horrors of the already unlikely RCP8.5 scenario (falsely called “business as usual”).

      I could continue, but that’s a start.

      Like

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