Who Is More Liberal, Clinton or Obama?

There’s been a lot of ridiculous arguments as to whether Obama or Clinton is more liberal. The problem is that the simplistic left to right spectrum doesn’t encompass the real differences between the two. Andrew Sullivan sums it up:

In general, they represent different strands of liberalism, and it’s reflected in their campaign rhetoric. Obama tends to emphasize people’s ability to help themselves and their capacity to do so independently of government. Clinton tends to emphasize the neediness of people for government support and help, and she’s much more comfortable with coercive government action.

It’s “Yes, We Can,” vs “I’ll Take Care Of You.”

And that’s why a simplistic Obama-is-a-leftist critique won’t work as well as some seem to think. He’s a liberal, but a reconstructed one. He’s the kind of liberal who sees dependency as a problem not a solution. And he’s not a statist in the way previous liberal generations have been. He actually listened to and absorbed some of the conservative critique of liberalism these past two decades. And he has changed not just to protect his right flank.

If you must ask who is more liberal, I would consider Obama more liberal in terms of social issues, civil liberties, placing restrictions on the power of the Executive Branch, and on foreign policy compared to Clinton. Even this analysis is not totally clear as there are conservatives who also stress civil liberties issues. Their views on economics are different in a manner which a left versus right comparison applies even less.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    The Charters Of Dreams says:

    I think you’re way over-romantizing Obama, and if you’re wondering why on earth you have work so hard and write so much about the meaningful “differences” between Clinton, why don’t people “get it” — it’s because there really aren’t any meaningful “differences:” Obama and Clinton are way more similar than they are different.

    CLINTON vs. OBAMA….THE RECORD….Guardian’s Elana Schor reports that although Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have almost identical voting records in the Senate, they aren’t quite identical. Here’s a nickel summary:

    Cheney energy bill: Obama for, Clinton against.
    Cluster bomb ban: Obama for, Clinton against.
    Pat Leahy’s refugee amendment: Obama for, Clinton against.
    Gun confiscation during emergencies: Obama against, Clinton for.
    Confirmation of interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne: Obama for, Clinton against.
    Confirmation of Army chief of staff George Casey: Obama for, Clinton against.
    Lobbying reform: Obama for, Clinton against.

    In terms of supporting conventional liberal policies, I suppose you’d give Clinton the advantage on 1, 4, 5, and 6. Obama gets the nod on 2, 3, and 7. It’s pretty thin gruel, though. Aside from the energy bill, their other differences are fairly modest.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    As usual, you cherry pick your facts to defend your preconceptions while ignoring reality. I’ve posted many other differences between the two which are far more significant than these.

    You also have a warped view of where Obama gets the advantage. I’ve already written in the past of the gun confiscation vote as being a big plus for Obama over Clinton.

    Obama differs significantly on foreign policy. Obama’s economic policies are influenced by advisers from the University of Chicago while Clinton’s economic policies simply make no sense. Clinton, but not Obama, supports bans on flag burning and censoring video games. Obama, but not Clinton, has frequently spoken out in defense of separation of church and state. Clinton supports mandates and a more regimented health plan than Obama. Their views also differ tremendously on presidential power, executive privilege, and transparency in government. Clinton also favors the drug war while Obama is open to changes. Clinton has opposed needle exchange programs which Obama supported and Clinton has opposed Obama’s views on easing sentences on drug offenses, even retroactively.

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