McCain v. Hillary, redux

No, it’s not just the Supreme Court.

Responding to my explanation of why I would work hard to elect Hillary Clinton against John McCain, a reader writes:

You know, what’s sad is that the choice might well come down to two candidates whose only substantive difference is in who’d they’d appoint to the Supreme Court. That’s mighty thin gruel when we’re watching the unmitigated effects of a globalized economy render self-governance obsolete, isn’t it?

The problem for Democrats is that if Hillary wins the nomination she becomes the head of the party, and as with her husband the only thing she really cares about his herself. As back in the 1990s, the Democrats will become the party of doing for conservatives what they would never be able to do for themselves, under the guise of “triangulation” and all the other sops of the DLC.

I’m frankly on the fence. Is it better to have an untrustworthy ally or a clear enemy? A Hillary Clinton victory might well be a pyrrhic victory for Democrats.

Yes, I worry about the effect another Clinton Presidency could have on public support for the Democratic Party, and for liberalism. (Oh, how I wish Jerry Ford had gotten the few extra votes needed to keep Jimmy Carter out of the White House! No Carter, no Reagan.)

But surely the claim that only Supreme Court appointments would distinguish a Hillary Clinton Administration from a John McCain Administration is hyperbolic.

There would be huge differences on:


&#8212Environmental, safety, and health regulation

&#8212 Voting rights

&#8212Treatment of gays, esp. in the military

&#8212Criminal justice policy


&#8212Reproductive freedom at home and abroad

&#8212 Relationship to religious fanatics

and, of course, health care.

Cabinet and subcabinet appointments matter, too. Yes, there were some turkeys in the Clinton Administration, but there were some superb people as well. It matters whether the White House is staffed out of the Center for American Progress or the Heritage Foundation.

The Justice Department under a second Clinton Administration would be free to investigate the corruption, and perhaps the war crimes, of the second Bush Administration. Not so much under a McCain Administration. After all, McCain ran a set of Abramoff hearings that carefully avoided any wrondoing by McCain’s friends on Capitol Hill.

Most of all, electing McCain would be a vindication of the last eight years of misrule and abuse of power. That must be prevented.

So in my eyes the choice would be clear, and the stakes would be high.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: