The Future Of Equality Now Rests With Hillary. Is She Up To The Task?

HillaryClinton_2326613bNow that the 2014 election is behind us (thank God), we are now faced with two years of campaigning for the 2016 presidential election.

On the Republican side, the upcoming campaign promises to replay the parade of losersradicals and crazies that we saw in 2012, with the odd bully thrown in for good measure. As long as the GOP keeps self-destructing in national races, the intra-warfare should be fun to watch.

On the Democratic side, the race seems just about over. It’s Hillary Clinton‘s to lose. (Not that she can’t manage that feat, having done so once before, in 2008.) She has the organization, the money and the name, as well as a sense of inevitability. No other candidates are anywhere near as far along. Joe Biden might throw his hat in the ring, which would complicate things, but he would have a hard time against Clinton.

As Obama enters the peak of lame duckness over the next two years, people will be pinning more and more of their hopes to Clinton. Given the Republican field, everything will be riding on her.

The question is whether she’s really up to the task.

There’s no doubt that Clinton is smart and qualified. She’s demonstrated that she cares deeply about LGBT issues and deservedly had strong community support when she ran for Senator and for President.

Yet there are half a dozen reasons to be a little cautious about what to expect from another Clinton campaign and if should she win the White House…

1. She really dragged her feet on marriage equality. If you think President Obama was slow to evolve, Clinton was even worse. She only got around to announcing her support for marriage equality ten months after Obama did, after the party had formally adopted it in its platform and after Republican Senator Rob Portman announced he supported it.

2. She’s defensive about her change in attitude over time. When Clinton was pressed about her evolution on marriage equality, she got pretty testy with the NPR interviewer. This should have been a softball question for her. Yet Clinton was unable to talk honestly and openly about how and when her views on marriage equality, and all the attendant LGBT issues, shifted. She acts as if she’s afraid her response will be used against her, which suggest she’s still struggling with the culture wars of the 1990s.

3. She’s not likely to be a pioneer. By her own admission, Clinton is not going to be pushing the envelope. In the same NPR interview, she noted, “Somebody is always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who join later, in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change, are any less committed.” That response suggests that as new issues bubble up–like transgender rights–Clinton won’t exactly be at the forefront leading the charge.

4. She’s a generation older than Obama. Age doesn’t necessarily mean much, but it’s worth noting that Clinton is actually a generation older than Obama. Her attitudes were formed in a different era, when gay and lesbian issues were career killers. People can change, but those early learnings are hard to unlearn. She also has to prove that she’s in touch with the direction of the community as it is today, and not as it was 20 or 40 years ago.

5. She’s seen what the right wing can do. As First Lady, Clinton was widely mocked for commenting about a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” but more than anyone else on the political scene, she knows first hand what the lunatic fringe can do and how it can steer the entire GOP apparatus. You can’t blame anyone who has been through Ken Starr and an impeachment for being risk averse.

6. And then there’s Bill. No one would suggest that Hillary is anything other than her own woman. But she is married to one of the most notorious political triangulators of our time. Bill Clinton had no problem using LGBT issues to our detriment and for his own political gain, even while professing his love for us. During a presidential campaign, Hillary is going to be in the unenviable position of having to respond to Bill’s record. When it comes to LGBT issues, that’s going to make for some very uncomfortable conversations. Already, Hillary is spinning Bill’s legacy in his favor, saying that DOMA actually stopped things from being even worse.

Now, as president Hillary would be far, far, far (like the-distance-from-Earth-to-another-galaxy far) better than any Republican on the horizon. In fact, the GOP’s internal divisions may actual guarantee her the White House. 

But let’s go into the 2016 presidential season with our eyes wide open. If we build Clinton up as the greatest liberator since Stonewall, we are bound to be disappointed. She’s a flawed candidate. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be a good President.