Can Hillary Clinton Be Pro-War and a Progressive?

by | Aug 1, 2016


Despite Hillary Clinton obtaining the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination last week, many people, including many Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) delegates who publicly dissented throughout the Democratic National Convention and even walked off the convention floor in protest, dispute the claim that Clinton is a progressive. Reasons people offer for opposing the applicability of the progressive label to Clinton are many — from Clinton’s support for international managed trade deals to her close relationship with big financial institutions to her support for “law and order” policies that trample on individual rights.

Yet, maybe the greatest ire of people who define themselves as progressives or on the left toward Clinton arises in reaction to Clinton’s pro-war beliefs and actions. Former Greece Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis well described the objection earlier this year. Varoufakis, in a short video at Business Insider, concludes that Clinton “ruled herself out of progressive politics” when she backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the war that followed, as well as when, as US Secretary of State, she participated in the US government’s war on Libya and even “celebrated” the mutilation and killing of Libyan government leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Varoufakis also mentions Clinton’s views and actions related to “Wall Street” as an additional reason she is not properly defined as a progressive or “a representative of the left.” Like Varoufakis, many Americans who identify themselves as progressives or on the left both distrust Clinton regarding financial institutions and identify Clinton’s views on US militarism as disqualifying her from claiming to be a progressive.

Former US House member Barney Frank (D-MA), who has supported Clinton’s candidacy, makes an interesting observation in a Thursday Rolling Stone interview that, without mentioning Clinton’s name, suggests Clinton is out of step with progressivism. Frank says the “next frontier in progressivism” includes repudiating the notion of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “that it’s America’s mission to govern the world.” Indeed, delegates’ protest chant of “no more war” that interrupted former US Department of Defense Secretary and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta’s address last week on the Democratic National Convention main stage is a recent indication of the importance some progressive or left individuals place on opposing the US government’s militarism.

Clinton narrowly won the Democratic Party nomination over Sanders despite Sanders initially being widely expected by pundits to offer no more than token opposition. Now, WikiLeaks revelations add weight to the contention that Sanders would have defeated Clinton but for the Democratic National Committee’s favoritism for Clinton. Sanders has not been a peace candidate. But, neither has Sanders been a consistent war promoter as has Clinton. Media pay much attention to Republican nominee Donald Trump being out of step with Republican office holders and funders. However, the more important story may be that Clinton’s advocacy for US militarism makes her out of step with a large portion of the Democratic nominee’s supposed electoral base.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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