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Published On: Tue, May 31st, 2016

President Hillary Clinton would be a lot like President Barack Obama

It’s obvious that Hillary Clinton is not the perfect presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

Too many voters judge her negatively, beginning with her reputation for exaggeration (if not outright lying) and ending with her close political, financial, and social ties with the Washington and global elites, which are none too popular with voters these days.

But no matter how imperfect she is, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee facing Republican Donald Trump in November. That is a fact. Sorry, Bernie Bros, but the political revolution will not happen this year.

Either Clinton will win in November or, disastrously, Trump will. A Trump victory could easily bring a counter-revolution from the right that would erase all the progress made over the past decades, progress that has made America — despite its evident flaws — a more just and inclusive society.

For Democrats — liberals, progressives and democratic socialists alike — this fall’s election will come down to Hillary or bust.

How should progressives feel about that? What kind of president would Clinton make?

Most likely, she’d be a lot like Barack Obama has been: An imperfect commander-in-chief who would do a lot to make America a better place. If you like the job Obama has done (and most Democrats as well as most Sanders supports do), you’d probably approve of what Clinton would do in the White House.

Although there are many differences between them on temperament, political skills and personality, Clinton and Obama are extremely similar in terms of ideology.

Poole, Rosenthal & Hare

Hillary Clinton is slightly more liberal than Barack Obama, based on their Senate records.

As much as the Sanders’s supporters would like to pretend that she’s much too conservative, Clinton was firmly in the liberal mainstream of the Democratic Party in her eight years in the Senate, ranking about as liberal as her peers Ted Kennedy, or, for that matter, Barack Obama. She aligns with the majority ideology in the party, as determined by tens of millions of voters.

If you don’t like Hillary’s politics, then you don’t like Democrats.

If you don’t like Hillary’s politics, then you don’t like Democrats. And if you think this country is ready to vote for a third party that’s more liberal than the Democrats, you haven’t paid very much attention.

On most issues, Clinton’s basic views are aligned pretty closely with Sanders’s. They both see that America’s biggest challenge politically and economically is the long decline of the middle class, the growing gap between the few who have everything and the many who have almost nothing.

They agree that our society should provide more equality of opportunity. They think our government should look out for the interests of the majority of the people, not just the interests of the elites. They both believe that the government has a big role to play in insuring that no one gets completely trampled by the forces of unfettered market capitalism.

Clinton’s new attacks against Trump

As Hillary Clinton turns her attention away from Bernie Sanders and the primary to the general election, she is questioning Donald Trump’s character and ability to lead. Here are five attack lines that she has used. Photo: AP

Sanders and Clinton do have differences, but they are mostly disagreements about how to accomplish the lofty aims they share.

Sanders believes that the existing political system is inherently corrupted by money. Any whiff of compromise only sets back the day when the people wake up to the realization that they’ve been duped and rise up as one to demand a political revolution.

Clinton, on the other hand, believes that a lot of good can be accomplished within the existing system, even as we incrementally make it more democratic and accountable.

You can see the differences on the main domestic issues that divide the two Democratic contenders, such as bank regulation, health care, making college affordable, and the minimum wage.

On these topics and many more, Sanders takes a hard line: You either agree with him 100% or you are corrupt. All the big banks must be broken up, only single-payer health insurance is acceptable, college tuition must be eliminated for all, and the minimum wage must be raised to $15 an hour and not a penny less.

Clinton’s positions, on the hand, are more fluid, nuanced and pragmatic. She considers what’s achievable, as well as what’s ideal. For instance, after her effort to enact single-payer health insurance failed in the 1990s, she lowered her sights and played a big role as first lady in the passage of the state children’s health insurance plan, which covered millions of previously uninsured kids.

Sanders is principled, but he’s achieved very little in his years in Congress.

Clinton goes beyond the sound bites and tries to figure out how we can actually solve problems. She thinks the financial crisis was more complicated than “too-big-to-fail” banks. She thinks single-payer is politically impossible right now, but that other reforms of Obamacare are doable, even with a Republican Congress. She wonders if a national $15 minimum wage might have unintended consequences in lower-cost rural areas.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. Sanders is principled, but he’s achieved very little in his years in Congress. If only he’d been a little more pragmatic, maybe he could have accomplished more good. Sanders constantly violates the Washington rule that you shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

For her part, Clinton may get things done, but maybe her pragmatism means she gives up too quickly. If only she’d stuck to her principles a little longer, she might have achieved some unexpected successes. She settles for half a loaf when maybe she could have gotten the whole thing, or at least three-fourths.

As usual, The Onion, America’s finest satirical news source, nails it about Clinton’s cautious nature in a faux op-ed supposed penned by Hillary: “If I Could Be Just Completely Honest For A Second, I Believe Exactly What You Believe.”

It’s a humorous and all-too-accurate assessment of her tendency to be a follower rather than a leader. But isn’t her way the epitome of democracy? We tell our political class what we want instead of the other way around.

Clinton’s caution and incrementalism may be a strength. At least she’s not promising us that she’ll wave her magic wand — and poof! — instantly change everything that we hate about Washington, the way Barack Obama did in 2008, and the way Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are doing today.

Hillary isn’t pretending to be a transformative leader. At least she’s honest about that.

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