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Hillary’s Web of Promises

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Hillary’s Web of Promises

Dividing and conquering the electorate, one issue at a time Summer 2016
Politics and law

When I visited it in early June, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website featured about 30 issue-specific pages focused not on a nation with problems to be solved but on discrete victim groups with wounds to be salved. The site illustrates the Left’s descent into crass identity politics. The federal government is the heaviest of policy equipment, best used sparingly for big jobs; but for Democrats, it has become a courtesy car, always on call to drive chosen constituencies from one point to another. Put me behind the wheel, Clinton seems to promise, and I’ll put you on my route.

Based on an examination of Clinton’s website, “racial justice” is her campaign’s organizing principle. Not only is her racial-justice page the most expansive on the site—longer by half than the entry for the economy—but it also links to nine other sections, including those devoted to criminal-justice reform, LGBT equality, higher education, climate change, and energy. (“African Americans hold only 1.1 percent of energy jobs and receive only 0.01 percent of energy sector profits,” in case you were wondering.)

Wherever racial linkages weaken, gender stands ready to pick up the slack. The section devoted to “women’s rights and opportunities” equals in length those for national security and the economy. Clinton’s economic plan promises to “break down barriers to joining the workforce—especially for women.” Her Social Security plan calls for “enhancing it to meet new realities—especially for women.” Her small business plan is “committed to giving small businesses—and in particular, women- and minority-owned small businesses—access to the financing they need.”

The two core elements of Clinton’s plan to reform veterans’ affairs are to “transform the VA into an integrated health care system and care coordinator, and improve access and services for women and LGBT veterans.” For active-duty personnel, Clinton’s focus is to “ensure the health needs of military women are fully met.” And while she offers little about why, how, or with what resources she would deploy the military, she does promise “modern and inclusive personnel policies.”

Clinton further buttresses the identity-checking with a variety of weirdly intimate and specific promises. She would “alleviate the burden on families by . . . protecting loved ones [with Alzheimer’s disease] who wander from home” and “provide comprehensive support to [campus sexual assault] survivors.” No detail is too small for a President Clinton, who would “mak[e] sure facilities like animal breeders, zoos, and research institutions create plans to protect the animals in their care during disasters.” Her promise to end “the slaughter of horses for human consumption” is simply bizarre, unless it’s intended as a subtle swipe at Trump Steaks.

Framing issues as who instead of what leads to a governing model that would divide society by race, gender, sexuality, profession, and location, targeting policies to each defined demographic. A divide-and-conquer strategy may achieve electoral success, but it is toxic to good government. When politicians treat elections as exercises in log-rolling, each policy becomes tailored toward the special interest that cares about it most. Thus Clinton’s crime policy emphasizes a friendlier attitude toward criminals. Her immigration policy concerns itself primarily with helping those who have violated immigration law. Her education policy explicitly endorses the status quo for most students but promises to “listen to teachers.”

In a world of fixed resources, such a model inevitably undermines the idea of equal protection under the law, pits groups against one another, and leaves some explicitly favored by government as winners. It also normalizes subjective standards for government action. Clinton promises to extend President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to “additional persons with sympathetic cases.” Whatever one thinks of our immigration policies, tilting them toward “persons with sympathetic cases” does not suggest rigorous application of the law.

On an issue page devoted to college, Clinton invites supporters to take a three-question quiz on “How will Hillary’s plan help you?” and then e-mails them custom results titled “Hillary’s College Compact for [your name].” Someday soon, a candidate’s website might consist simply of such surveys: “Tell me about you, so I can tell you what I will do for you.” A database of dismaying information could deliver whichever statistics make someone feel most victimized.

Hidden from this prospective voter could be all the promises made to everyone else, the total cost of delivering on those promises, and their aggregate toll on a free society. And the site might crash if given the profile of a suburban white male for whom the Left’s identity politics has no agenda to offer. Or perhaps it would redirect to another survey designed for such submissions, hosted at donaldjtrump.com.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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