We should've known better than to trust Hillary Clinton's schedule. If she'd kept to her initial plan, we'd already know whether she was running for president in 2016. But, then again, don't we kinda know that anyway? She's the clear, uncontested Democratic frontrunner at this point, with fundraising connections galore, and she's supremely motivated. A teensy bit of speculation is fair game at this point, no? So, here's the question: could any of Hillary's moderate positions hurt her in the 2016 primaries?
Even as her candidacy is hotly anticipated by countless Democrats, both for the historic nature of a woman being elected president and for her unique, almost unrivaled position to win the White House, the issue of, well, her stance on the issues is an obvious potential stumbling block. Obviously, all prospective candidates have to play to their base in the primary field a little bit — you may remember GOP candidate Mitt Romney's hardline love affair with anti-immigration politics in 2012, for example — but in Clinton's case, with few credible rivals and a deck seemingly stacked in her favor, she could start testing out her general election platform earlier than most. Here are three issue that could trip her up with the left, though she's got a good shot to survive them.
On Abortion: Safe, Legal And What?
Make no mistake, Hillary is an ardent supporter of reproductive rights, and has been upfront about this over her entire political career. She does a better job than most Democrats articulating her support in a way that cedes some respect to her ideological opposition, all while being very firm on the point — her on-the-record exchange with anti-choice GOP Rep. Christopher Smith is a great example.
However, she does employ a familiar Democratic turn of phrase when discussing the issue, one which some feminist and reproductive rights activists find problematic: that she wants abortions to be "safe, legal, and rare." It's that "rare" part that some people object to, on the grounds that it furthers the implicit message that abortion is wrong, shameful, or should be stigmatized by polite society. Jessica Valenti articulated this view well in The Guardian back in July 2014.
We can focus on keeping abortions safe and legal. We should also work harder to make sure they're affordable, accessible and judgement free. But let's not bolster anti-choice rhetoric and activism by calling for them to be "rare" – especially since there are so many working to ensure that "rare" is an enforced standard, not just a talking point.
Obviously, this isn't anything like a significant issue in the face of what the GOP is pushing for, and that'll work to Clinton's benefit. Considering her opponent will almost certainly take a hard line against abortion rights — it's basically an article of faith on the right — and considering she might be the only thing in the way of a Republican triple-crown in the House, Senate and White House, anyone who deeply cares about reproductive health should back her when the time comes.
On Energy: Hillary Loves Fracking
When it comes to energy policy, Clinton holds at least one view that clashes badly with the environmentalist left of the Democratic Party — she's a supporter of fracking, the controversial hydraulic process by which natural gas is extracted from underground shale. Fracking has been lauded by the Republicans, as well as some Democrats, in spite of its intense unpopularity among the environmentalist crowds — in addition to risks of leaks and contamination, there's also the mounting research linking fracking to earthquakes in formerly stable areas.
But, alas, Hillary has been both a supporter of fracking, and pivotal to its outsourcing around the world while Secretary of State, as detailed by Mother Jones. While she has conceded that there are issues surrounding it, citing methane gas emissions in particular, she's nonetheless said that "natural gas can play an important bridge role" between fossil fuels and pending, green technologies. Of course, when your bridge solution is also causing the earth to convulse underneath you, you have to start thinking about priorities.
On Marijuana: Will She Embrace Legalization?
This isn't something that she's contending with now, as she hasn't entirely made it clear what her 2016 position would be just yet. But I will say this much — coming out in favor of legalizing marijuana feels like a bold, dynamic choice to mobilize your base, and it also sounds like very out-of-character choice for Hillary. After all, she only officially came around to same-sex marriage in 2013, long after President Obama had dispensed with the misdirection and come out in support. To put it a different way, she's always been a pretty cautious and measured political operator.
Assuming current trends on marijuana legalization continue, I'm convinced that the issue could a big winner for the Democrats in 2016. And even further, could prove to be a primary stumbling block for those who stay mired in the stigmatizing anti-weed tropes of the past. Hillary's given some promising signs she could be open to this — whether voicing tentative support for medical marijuana before, or joking with a Colorado barista about marijuana leaf-shaped latte foam — but there's no telling just yet where she'll end up.
In short, marijuana could be a big sign of what kind of campaign she intends to run, whether she's open to embracing a newly popular policy with longtime stigmas for the Democrats, or whether she'll play her hand conservatively, so to speak. if she's willing to take the plunge, it could help salt away some left-wing primary support.
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