After 15 years of mutual enmity, conservatives have from time to time been saying nice things about Senator Hillary Clinton. Partly this was because many of us were enjoying the spectacle (and favoring the consequences) of a protracted and bitter fight between two liberal Democrats. Partly it was because we thought she would be a steadier hand as president than Senator Barack Obama would be, with more hawkish instincts and greater political realism. Partly it was because the liberal intelligentsia had turned on the Clintons with such hysteria once they no longer advanced its interests.
It was poetic justice for the Clintons. They had spent years subordinating truth, decency, and the nation itself to their own interests — most spectacularly during the impeachment scandal of 1998, a yearlong drama that was entirely in the Clintons’ power to spare us. In 2008, liberals professed shock that the Clintons might be willing to subordinate the interests of the Democratic party to their own as well. It was poetic justice for them, as well.
In a remarkable political year one of the most remarkable developments has been the revelation that the Clintons never changed nor mastered their party’s screwy primary rules. We will not pretend to regret the resultant temporary exit of the Clintons from presidential politics, which indeed we hope will be permanent. Clintonism as a political style was mostly noxious. (Since we are in a real war, neither campaign will have a self-described “war room” this time.) But it made its bows to the Right on trade, on taxes, on foreign policy, even on social issues.
Obama pats us on the head — he understands our position, he says — and presses forward with an undiluted liberal agenda. The only thing worse than Clintonism may be what replaces it.