Hillary Clinton is a strange choice to be the Democratic candidate, having spent her career pushing for economic conservatism, neoconservative interventionism, and social conservatism. These are among the reasons that an inexperienced politician such as Barack Obama beat her for the nomination in 2008, and a candidate as unlikely as Bernie Sanders kept it so close this year.
The Clintons have always been to the right of the Democratic Party, and often the nation, on social issues. Hillary Clinton spent her time in the Senate working with The Fellowship, and the influence of the religious right can be seen in many of her views. An article in The Washington Post has reviewed Clinton’s history on one issue where she has lagged behind the country–support for same-sex marriage:
During her first run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to become an undisputed leader in the gay rights movement.
As she prepared for a forum on the gay-oriented Logo network, she reached out to her friend Hilary Rosen, a political consultant who is a lesbian. Rosen expressed frustration that so many mainstream political figures opposed legalized same-sex marriage, and she challenged Clinton to speak out for a community that had strongly supported her.
“I’m struggling with how we can support this with a religious and family context,’’ Rosen recalled Clinton telling her. Clinton just wanted to know the best way to explain the position…
Clinton’s approach to same-sex marriage illustrates the caution that has come to define her political career. It also reflects a central challenge for the 68-year-old candidate, who along with her husband helped to shape an era of centrist politics designed to appeal to culturally conservative voters but has struggled to adapt to a generation of Democrats who have moved further to the left…
In 2004, the mayor of San Francisco started approving marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Courts in Massachusetts had endorsed marriage rights. President George W. Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, energizing a conservative base that would help him secure a second term.
Clinton said she opposed amending the Constitution but said in a Senate floor speech that she took “umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman.”
Clinton’s perpetual balancing act unnerved some supporters.
Of course we know that Clinton has changed her view, with many suspecting this was primarily out of political expediency before running in the Democratic primaries this year. Regardless of her motivation, Clinton’s underlying social conservatism and religious views are bound to influence how she will govern assuming she goes on to be elected.