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In a dystopian fantasy in The New York Times at the end of the year, the columnist Bret Stephens reminded us of the horror that might have been:
Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.
And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.
Thank God, as Stephens himself so forcefully predicted, Donald Trump was crushed in the November 2016 election and the nation was spared those and other right-wing depredations.
Instead, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the landslide that everyone who was anyone predicted, was elected the 45th president of the United States and lost no time in fulfilling her campaign promises—and even going beyond what she had promised in many areas.
Now that more than a year has passed, let’s cast our glance over some of what she has accomplished.
The Courts. A first order of business was to fill the seat left vacant by the right-wing ideologue Antonin Scalia. How appropriate it was that President Clinton filled the seat with the distinguished former Attorney General Eric Holder. But of course, that was not all. Since Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement shortly after the election, Clinton also nominated and saw confirmed Harvard Professor Laurence H. Tribe.
And how lucky for all progressives that Justice’s Kennedy’s retirement was followed quickly by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. In a move that was seen as innovative as well as brave, Clinton nominated and, after a contentious but brief hearing, saw Chelsea Manning assume the place vacated by Justice Ginsburg.
“It’s time,” she said, “that our transgender citizens enjoy the dignity of representation on the country’s highest Court.”
[UPDATE: This just in!] With a solid 6 to 3 liberal majority now in place, the Supreme Court moved quickly to implement its new judicial agenda. The Court dismissed without comment a challenge to public employee unions that had worked its way throughout the court system in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
In a pathbreaking case, the Court struck down congressional districting maps drawn in 16 Republican dominated states, paving the way for new districts that experts suggested might lead to an additional 12-15 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a related set of cases, the Court advised state governments that they would no longer be able to require photo identification or proof of citizenship as a condition of voting. Court watchers predicted that several new precedents would be established or overturned in coming terms in areas of campaign finance, immigration, voting rights, sexual harassment, class action lawsuits, and the Second Amendment.
In the meantime, activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Organization for Women were developing new lawsuits to provide the Court with future opportunities to break longstanding precedents.
Clinton’s hand was equally visible in her federal court nominations, all three-score of which have won plaudits from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood.
Taxes and the Economy. Decrying both the federal debt and the plague of growing income inequality, Clinton also managed to push through a major new tax bill. Noting how anomalous recent tax policy in the United States had been, Clinton looked back to the halcyon days of the early 1960s and re-instituted the highest tax bracket on regular income of 91 percent (“your fair share,” she said, in a televised, prime-time speech) and a corporate tax rate of 52 percent. “If it was good enough for Dwight Eisenhower,” she said, “it is good enough for me.” Clinton forthrightly made a kindred observation when the stock market, widely recognized as being overvalued, underwent a correction late in 2016, reverting to an economically more rational level of 15,000. Noting that unemployment under George W. Bush skyrocketed to 7.8 percent, Clinton touted her achievement of 6 percent unemployment and 1.5 percent growth as robust for a mature economy such as ours.
Military Spending. Noting that our ally Germany spends about 1.26 percent of GDP on its military, Clinton forcefully argued that America’s spending 3.5 percent of GDP on the military was wasteful as well as unnecessary. “The United States’s economy is so large,” she pointed out, “that we can cut our expenditures on the military to 2.5 percent and still be ahead of everyone else. The savings will be enormous.” Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping applauded Clinton’s forward-looking and peace-fostering defense policy. With the more than $100 billion dollars saved, Clinton put $10 billion toward the federal debt, $25 billion toward wind and solar technology, $5 billion towards shoring up a free-lunch programs for inner city kids, and the balance to a joint Unesco and Clinton Foundation initiative to eradicate AIDS.
The Middle East. Bringing a new sense of realism to the problems of the Middle East, Clinton helped broker a major diplomatic deal between ISIS and the failing states of Iraq and Syria. The new, independent country of The Islamic State was created out of those country’s war-torn frontiers, much as Iraq itself was created in the aftermath of World War I. Academic historians throughout the Ivy League praised Clinton for her far-seeing diplomatic initiative and welcomed the Ambassador of The Islamic State to the United Nations as a full member.
Of course, ISIS was not the only problem facing the world in the Middle East. There was also the continued open sore that is the existence of Israel. Deploring the failed policies of her predecessors—“We’ve been trying for decades to help bring a lasting and equitable peace to the Middle East,” she said—Clinton announced that the United States would be ending all military aid to Israel and would be withdrawing its ambassador until Israel met the just demands of the Palestinian people for a country of their own on the territory stolen by Israel in 1948.
Foreign Affairs. Even after little more than a year, it is clear that this Clinton’s administration will live up to its moniker “the peace presidency.” Clinton continued the measured realism of her husband and Barack Obama in trying to bring North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un to the bargaining table, and she brought a healthy realism to the tense relations between Ukraine and Russian. “What’s done is done,” she said in a tough-love approach to Ukraine, “and besides, what difference at this point does it make?” Clinton also continued the carefully modulated policy of the Obama administration on Iran and its nuclear program. Citing the Iranian government’s repeated insistence that their nuclear research was conducted exclusively for peaceful purposes, she helped institute a high-level exchange of technology between Iranian and American engineers in the interests of transparency and trust.
Women’s Issues. The first woman president of the United States also put women’s interests front and center. Not only in the workplace, where new legislation which Clinton signed within months of taking office made it a felony to pay any woman executive less than the most highly compensated executive of any company with more than 20 employees, but also on campus. Clinton continued and beefed up the Obama administration’s progressive use of Title IX to help make women safe on our nation’s college campuses and combat the epidemic of rape that has made American colleges a war zone where women are routinely terrorized and triggered. Going forward, a prerequisite of academic accreditation will be a Title IX office whose budget is at least equal to that of the college’s sports programs in aggregate.
The Environment. Hillary Clinton is not only the nation’s first woman president, she also has claim to be its most environmentally conscious. Not only did she make a massive investment in the sustainable, earth-friendly technologies of wind and solar power, but she also slapped a 300 percent tax on the mining or sale of coal within the United States and had her technology experts draw up plans for the total elimination of fossil fuels by the year 2024. Under the direction of Michael Mann, the Environmental Protection Agency put the battle against man-made climate change at the top of its agenda and, with its budget doubled, will be able to prosecute climate deniers for furthering an anti-science agenda that put not only our children, but also the entire planet at risk.
Immigration. Following up on her campaign promise of instituting a immigration policy that was both fair and humane, Clinton worked with Congress to promulgate an Immigration Plan for a New America. The 800,000 children in the Obama era Deferred Action for Children Program (DACA) were put on an accelerated path the citizenship while the 3.6 million DREAMers were enrolled in a 5-year “Rainbow America” citizenship initiative. In a heartbreaking speech from war-torn Syria, Clinton, standing together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, outlined a plan whereby the Untied States and Germany would take the lead in solving the humanitarian disaster that had dislocated so many millions. “Refugees are Dreamers, too,” she said, while her security detail turned away protestors brandishing copies of the racist novel The Camp of the Saints.
Civic Awareness. Noting that she had been one of the first to point out the existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy in the United States, Clinton also took daring steps to expose the prevalence of hate speech on campus and in many media outlets, especially those outside the responsible mainstream venues of New York and Washington.
“Hate speech is not free speech,” Clinton argued in a rousing Oval Office speech, which is widely credited with inaugurating the lawsuit now before the Supreme Court to update the outmoded provisions of the First Amendment for the 21st Century. “Thomas Jefferson could not have foreseen Fox News, Breitbart, or Rush Limbaugh,” Clinton said, “and it’s pretty clear that our Founding Fathers and Mothers would not have countenanced the hurtful lies masquerading as news that such divisive outlets foster.”
Finally, Clinton restored the Internal Revenue Service to its dual role of revenue collector and community watchdog, protecting the integrity of genuine American freedom by scrutinizing tax-exempt organizations for promulgating unAmerican ideas that are racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or transphobic. In an effort to neutralize “the vast right wing conspiracy,” the IRS launched audits and investigations into several conservative organizations and publications, including The Heritage Foundation, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Breitbart News, and several evangelical Christian organizations. Leaders of these groups issued statements denouncing these investigations as threats to freedom of speech, but they were ignored by liberal publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. A long-time Washington tax expert said privately that the goal of these investigations was not to turn up violations but to harass and intimidate these groups to the point where they could no longer function.
On the run-up to the 2016, CNN predicted that “should Clinton be declared the winner, look for Trump to advance the sentiment of a ‘rigged’ process, hint that his supporters should not accept the election and make media bias a central narrative to set up the next few months.” Surprisingly, that did not happen. There were rumors circulating in the alt-right press that the President’s campaign had colluded with sources inside Russia to assemble damaging opposition research about Donald Trump, but no reputable media outlet gave those scurrilous stories any credence.
In his dystopian fantasy with which I began, Bret Stephens remarked, “I still wish Hillary Clinton were president.” How grateful he and other far-seeing seers must be that Hillary Clinton made history by becoming our first woman president.
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