Monday, March 07, 2016

State of the Democratic primary, part 2: Hillary Clinton on LGBT rights

As I said in my previous post, I like Bernie Sanders, and I like Hillary Clinton, and I'd enthusiastically support either of them in their run for president against Donald Trump (the likely Republican front runner at this moment). I also think that Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the nomination, and that's fine with me.

I have heard a lot of people dismiss Hillary Clinton as "pretty good... for a Republican" or say that she's not a real liberal. I totally disagree, and in my next few posts I hope to make a convincing case that Clinton is, for liberals, a pretty good liberal ally, and vastly superior to Donald Trump. (Which, admittedly, is a low bar for me.)

I evaluate candidates based on their overall position on issues I care about. My three main methods for determining someone's positions are: What do they say about themselves in their platform? What do their public voting records indicate about what policies they favor? What kind of approval rating do they get from various partisan and nonpartisan groups who count up and evaluate those votes? If you would care to dive into those links with me, here's what I think you'll find:

  1. There will indeed be some issues you find important where Hillary Clinton is not as liberal as Bernie Sanders. Yes, regrettably, she voted for the resolution to invade Iraq in 2002, along with John Kerry and 58% of all Democratic Senators. That was a bad idea, as Clinton has acknowledged directly since then. I'm not going to whitewash it though; I disagreed with the resolution at the time, so did you, and so did Bernie Sanders. It's too bad Bernie Sanders isn't the nominee (?), but that's where we are now. It's regrettable, but we can still agree that John Kerry was pretty much a Democrat despite that dumb decision. Yes?
  2. On most other issues you care about, Hillary Clinton currently takes a solid liberal position that is plainly visible across the spectrum.
To make this case I'm going to spend a few posts going over what I think are core issues as a liberal, and demonstrate how Hillary Clinton is strong on each of them. These are my six issues:

  1. I want a candidate who supports gay rights.
  2. I want a candidate who does not deny mainstream science; who recognizes evolution and global warming as a consensus point of view, and supports policies that will bolster both of them.
  3. My candidate should be pro-choice.
  4. My candidate should acknowledge gun violence as a cause for concern, and seek active solutions.
  5. On economic issues: Recognize the negative impact that income inequality has on the economy and on the lives of middle class families. Also take seriously the need for a higher minimum wage, which has fallen significantly in purchasing power due to inflation.
  6. Take racial justice seriously. Be on board with the fact that black lives matter, and be vigilant for systemic inequalities that generally hold back minorities.

I'm a liberal, and those are my values. If you don't share them then you probably don't support either Clinton or Sanders in the first place, so this post is not for you.

I also recognize that Bernie Sanders is a good candidate who supports my values. I won't try to argue that Clinton's platform is better than that of Bernie Sanders. I'm simply going to run on the hypothetical assumption that Clinton is winning the nomination at this point regardless of your preference. Hopefully I can persuade a few Sanders supporters who dislike Clinton that she is a good candidate who is worth voting for.

I'll start with gay rights, and then I will eventually move on to the other six points in future posts.

Clinton's position and record on gay rights

The Human Rights Campaign, which is the the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States, periodically posts a score card for all Senators and Representatives on issues that they consider important. In 2013, the last year that Hillary Clinton was a Senator, she received an HRC rating of 95%.

This score was based on several legal actions which included:

  • Voting for an amendment to expand federal jurisdiction on hate crimes that include those perpetrated due to the victim's sexual orientation.
  • Cosponsoring legislation that would equalize tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners and other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries.
  • Cosponsoring legislation to permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans before they develop AIDS.

For what it's worth, on January 19 the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary. Among their reasons, they asserted:

  • "Secretary Clinton has made LGBT equality a pillar of her campaign and recently unveiled the most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out."
  • "Clinton also has a long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe. As Secretary of State, Clinton became the first in her position to robustly advocate for LGBT equality throughout the world, making a historic and forceful speech to the United Nations declaring that 'gay rights are human rights.'"

You can click here to see that speech. You can also go here to see her speak forcibly in favor of gay marriage in 2013.

I've heard Sanders supporters object that Clinton changed her position on gay marriage. That is true, and I believe she was wrong when she was against it, so now she's right. I also believe Barack Obama was wrong on this issue. But I don't presume to punish candidates who are strong advocates for my point of view based on the fact that they changed their mind. If somebody used to have a position that was wrong, and they changed to one that is right, I view that as praiseworthy.

I've got no argument with the fact that Bernie Sanders may have support gay marriage sooner and better than Hillary Clinton did. He, also, would be a fine candidate for this reason. By this time, they have both spoken in favor of gay marriage, and they both supported and cosponsored legislation that made life better for LGBT rights.

Want to know what Donald Trump thinks about gay marriage? Well, let's check in with the Human Rights Campaign again:

  • Trump Said He Would "Strongly Consider" Appointing Judges To Overturn Same-Sex Marriage Decision.
  • When asked about his opposition to gay marriage, Trump offered this weird rambling metaphor: "It’s like in golf. A lot of people — I don’t want this to sound trivial — but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist."
  • In February, Trump said even more definitively that he would definitely work to overturn gay marriage.

So -- leaving Bernie Sanders aside until he pulls ahead of Clinton and wins the primary -- is Clinton a better candidate than Donald Trump on gay rights? Does that make her worth voting for? I personally think so.

I'll be covering more of the listed issues later.


  1. If it so happens that Sanders makes it no further, I definitely agree. She's definitely a better choice than any of the republicans, though I guess that's not saying much! Bernie will have my support in every way I can give it until he's either out or no longer needs it, but if he drops out, it'll have to go to her.

  2. So praise people just for changing their minds on some issues? Would this include Trump if he changed his mind on the issue of gay rights? How do you know then that they aren't just trying to get votes? I'm not exactly saying that Hillary is doing this, but the fact that she has not acknowledged that she was wrong leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Especially because she sounded just like Trump, or rather Trump sounds like her, when she was a traditionalist back in her earlier career. I feel people who do not acknowledge what they did was wrong, will never truly learn from their mistakes and they can make the same mistakes again. I have a friend who does this, and she continues to make the same mistakes because she refuses to say she was wrong. They eventually fall into a state of denial where they try to justify their wrongdoing by trying to shift the blame, pretend they didn't do it, or even worse, resort to ignorance.

  3. "So wait... you praise people just for changing their minds on some issues?"

    No... I praise people for coming to support good conclusions, even if they should have understood those conclusions sooner.

    "Would this include Trump if he changed his mind on the issue of gay rights?"

    Assuming you mean that Donald Trump is currently against gay rights, and he changed his mind and became an advocate for them... then yes, absolutely. I would find that change praiseworthy. It wouldn't necessarily be enough to overcome all the other things I find objectionable and even frightening about Trump. But it would make him a little less objectionable.

    "How do you know then that they aren't just trying to get votes?"

    I don't know that. And I also don't know that they won't change their mind back. But then, I also don't know that a lifelong supporter of gay rights won't have a come to Jesus moment and become an opponent. I can't predict whether you'll change YOUR mind.

    If it turns out that someone did change their mind to get votes, it may not be as good as if they changed their mind for better reasons. But at least I can feel good about the fact that our society on the whole has advanced to the point where supporting gay rights is now a net positive for gaining votes, when it used to be a campaign loser instead. And good for the candidate for recognizing and embracing that progress.

    "Especially because she sounded just like Trump, or rather Trump sounds like her, when she was a traditionalist back in her earlier career."

    Oh? I'd be interested in you supplying that direct quote, so we can compare it to things that Trump is making now.

    1. ”No... I praise people for coming to support good conclusions, even if they should have understood those conclusions sooner.”

      I am thinking you are talking about people changing their minds in general, which I agree with you on the people for praising (to a point) when they support good conclusions as well. But it was a two part question really when I asked how do you know they are not doing it for the votes. And I don't know if Hillary did this for them or not, but she was a supporter of traditional marriage for a much longer period of time than she is supportive of gay rights now. So maybe she could have come around and thought that they deserve equal respect as well. But then again, she could have done it for the votes, or that she has seen this "war on the gay marriage" was a losing battle for people like her and so she changed her minds. Who knows, maybe it's a combination of them all and even more. Where as Sanders has been supportive of gay rights the whole time. And as you said, maybe someone like him could go against it by finding Jesus. I wouldn't change my mind with something so absurd with this idea of a Jesus figure who supposedly loves everyone, except gays (and many others). I come to my conclusions by thinking and researching what other people say on matters. So if I do change my mind on a subject, it's after long periods of thought, dialogue, and research, it won't be something as stupid as a revelation.

      "Oh? I'd be interested in you supplying that direct quote, so we can compare it to things that Trump is making now."

      Okay, so I may be over the top when I say she was as extreme as Trump when she was a traditionalist. But her long support of it because of stupid reasons was what I was mostly pointing out. Most people who support such absurd ideas normally (in my cases) do not change their minds through reason, it's only by changing their minds on what their god is actually saying because someone told them they are reading the Bible wrong or taking something out of context. So all you have to do for people like this, is try to tell them their god isn't telling them gay people are bad, they are reading the wrong passages. Or maybe that the gay people are in fact bad, but they still need loving. Which makes it sound like they must be nice to them for their "daddy" because he said so.