Hillary Clinton: Still a Goldwater Girl After All These Years

It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton grew up a Republican. In ninth grade, she read Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative. In 1964, at the age of 17, she was, as she wrote in Living History, a “Goldwater girl” who campaigned for the GOP candidate. But then things changed.

Or did they?

In her latest iteration as a defender of African Americans, Clinton has taken to criticizing Bernie Sanders for being a “one-issue candidate.” Because he focuses on, you know, the economy. Not unlike another presidential candidate of recent memory.

Here’s what Clinton said about Sanders over the weekend:

Not everything is about an economic theory, right?

Sanders, you see, wants to reduce all social and political issues to the economy. But there are other issues that matter to us in life, aren’t there? Breaking up the banks, raising the minimum wage, free higher ed, and universal health care: that won’t solve all our problems, will it?

Interestingly enough, there’s another candidate in Clinton’s lifetime who made a similar claim in his attempt to discredit the economic program of the liberal left—a program not unlike Sanders’s:

The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature….Liberals, on the other hand,—in the name of a concern for “human beings”—regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society.

That was Barry Goldwater, writing in The Conscience of a Conservative.

Hillary Clinton: Still Goldwatering after all these years.







  1. An American Anthropologist in Germany February 14, 2016 at 11:55 pm | #

    All good points, but you’re leaving out a critical bit of context—and one that does not make Hillary look particularly good. Her attack on “economic theory” is part and parcel of the Hillary campaign’s attempts to make it seem like Bernie treats race as epiphenomenal, that he reduces race to class. If you read Hillary surrogates in the African American community, this is a very consistent line. Of course to say that a class focus makes you ineffective on race is ridiculous. By that logic Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” would be the repudiation of his entire life’s work, rather than (as he saw it) its culmination.

  2. Arthur Reber February 15, 2016 at 1:55 am | #

    I’m struck (and disturbed) by the Hillary-bashing from Bernie’s supporters. I note that Sanders has been rather circumspect and careful in how he treats her. He has more respect for her and what she has accomplished (and put up with for a quarter century) than his fans.
    Please, just stop it. It’s unseemly, counterproductive and, in the end, will only hurt our chances in the general election.
    Anyone who’s taken a deep look at the primary process, the demographic patterns in the states that have not yet “spoken” and the stats that are readily available (Nate Silver’s people on “538” for example) understands that Sanders is unlikely to secure the nomination.
    Hillary will be a fine president. She will continue a middle-of-the-road, Obamaesque program with strongly progressive social positions and not-so-wonderful economic ones. But they will be realistic and pragmatic. We’ll all be about as annoyed with her as we are with Obama.
    Live with it. It’s so much better than the Republican alternatives that it is just crazy to undermine her now.
    Corey, I love your posts. I’ve been following you for some time now. I spent 35 years one floor up from Poli Sci. I am often in awe of your insights into the larger socio-political sphere but the Clinton-slamming isn’t helping.
    So stop it. Please, just stop it.

    • Bill Michtom February 15, 2016 at 3:25 am | #

      Hillary, following in the dark foot prints of her husband and his two successors, will be a disaster not horrible only compared to the Republicans.

      I think John Kenneth Galbraith expressed it quite well, and HRC fits the picture: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

    • foppejan2 February 15, 2016 at 3:46 am | #

      1. I do not believe Hillary is being particularly ‘respectful’ towards Sanders, as most of her statements about Sanders involve ad hominems of one type or another. She is also on the payroll of corporate America (one does not get paid $225k per speech because people care about what you want to tell them; they pay that to buy your voice. “Legal”, sure.).

      2. I appreciate that 4 more years of Obama won’t affect you overmuch either way, and that it is your opinion that the rest of the population should just “live with it”; the latter is just your opinion; the former is different for a rather sizable de facto — socioeconomically — disfranchised proportion of the people who live in the US. (The fact that you only experience “annoyance” at the thought of 4-8 more years of neoliberal policy speaks volumes.)

      3. It would help your case (such as it is) if you could actually describe what you perceive as ‘Hillary-bashing’. As is, the entirety of your post revolves around speculation (“it will hurt…”), Krugmanesque ad homs/verecundias (“deep look”, “fans”, “realistic”, “pragmatic”) and your affective responses to substantive arguments put forward (“unseemly”, “slamming”, “bashing”). If you disagree, disagree with the substance.

    • Corey Robin February 15, 2016 at 8:36 am | #

      Arthur, I’m going to pull disciplinary rank on you here. You may have spent 35 years one floor up from Poli Sci, but I have spent 25 years *in* the field of poli sci. And there is nothing in this primary, absolutely nothing, that is particularly out of the ordinary in terms of acrimony and argument. It is, after all, a primary: precisely where candidates fight it out and their supporters argue it out. For years, we’ve been told not to criticize Democrats during the general election campaign or when they are in office. Save it for the primaries. Well, now we’re there, and we’re supposed to save it for…when? What you’re really saying is, forget that this is a primary. If you want to go there, by all means go there. But then let’s stop the fiction that there is any room for democracy at all in this fiction that we call the two-party system.

      • Arthur Reber February 15, 2016 at 1:15 pm | #

        I know. I love the give and take — that’s how issues get thrashed out and positions clarified. And, yes, it’s gotten testy at times. What’s bothering me is the focused, vitriolic attacks, not from from Sanders, but from his supporters. Sometimes they seem like they’re lifting material from a Trey Gowdy rant.

        There has always been a vague distrust of Hillar from those on the left. Frankly, I don’t get it but can see how it emerged and appreciate the psychological mechanisms behind it. Interestingly, she does too. Anyway, we’re going to need her. The primary road gets a lot rougher for Sanders. And the GOP is always there for tragicomic relief (see http://www.arthurreber.com).

        Anyway Corey, I like your stuff. I loved “Reactionary Mind.” Sorry we didn’t get to meet. I retired in ’05 and moved to the PNW and gradually shifted from scientist to novelist. I think Joe Wilson is the only friend from those days left. Say ‘hello’ for me.

    • Will G-R February 15, 2016 at 5:06 pm | #

      Arthur, the substance of your complaint could have been written during just about any US political primary ever, about supporters of just about any candidate ever, attacking just about any candidate ever. Specifically, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a supporter of an “establishment” candidate faced with an “insurgent” candidate would be unable to copy/paste your comments and simply swap out the names. So my question is, whatever substance you think there may or may not be to the Sanders camp’s complaints about Hillary re: Goldman Sachs, Kissinger, etc. etc., how much worse would this substance have to be for these complaints to actually be worth airing? How much more odious would a candidate like Hillary have to be for the behavior of the Sanders campaign, perceived transgressions and all, to be a relatively less odious response? If you can’t imagine such a scenario, perhaps you should examine more critically your own motivations for posting what you posted.

  3. Adam February 15, 2016 at 3:05 am | #

    Stop it? Aren’t we supposed to rigorously criticize, examine, and look honestly at candidates? If you think valid criticism is “Bashing,” you are mistaken. Please do NOT stop criticizing Clinton AND Sanders. If they can’t handle it, that is THEIR flaw.

  4. Roqeuntin February 15, 2016 at 7:43 am | #

    I was expecting you to do a post on the last debate when Bernie and Hillary got into it over Henry Kissinger. If one thing indicates how different they are as people, it was that. That tirade from Sanders might have been the best moment of the 2016 campaign so far. “I’m proud to say Henry Kissinger isn’t my friend,” he says and Clinton’s response is only “I don’t know which experts you get your advice from.” It’s as if to her, there were no dissenting opinions on foreign policy. It was Kissinger or no one. This isn’t some youthful misstep, this is her attitude today, right now, in 2016. The 60s are still with us, and you could see right in that moment plain as day which side of the counter-culture divide, the anti-war movement she was on.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the “eternal harvest” video

    , but Laos was the most heavily bombed country on Earth. To be fair, it was well underway before he got into office, but wow. This doesn’t even include Cambodia.

    I was ridiculously reactionary almost halfway through my college career. I’ve spent a very long time coming to terms with my youthful political views. I’ve said it many times before, but the Iraq War was the crack in the dam that opened up the floodgates. If they could lie so shockingly wrong about that, perhaps they were wrong about a whole lot of other things. My 20s where characterized by losing faith in Capitalism and Christianity, the two big creeds of my youth.

  5. jonnybutter February 15, 2016 at 8:22 am | #

    Anyone who’s taken a deep look at the primary process….understands that Sanders is unlikely to secure the nomination.

    He was also unlikely to have come close in IA or to have won NH. It was also unlikely that Obama would win in 2008. Yes, it is still uphill for Sanders, but the problem is pretty clear, and it’s not disrespectful posts: Clinton is a poor candidate, especially for the moment. Her most recent rhetorical tack is especially revolting: “If we break up the big banks, will that end racism?!” She just has this extra cravenness

    I would also question the assertion that she has accomplished very much for the country in the last 25 years. She has put up with a lot of abuse, that is true – much of it unwarranted. But what has she accomplished?

    • Debra Cooper February 17, 2016 at 1:16 am | #

      The answer to that question is “No” breaking up the banks does not end racism.
      Which is why it’s a really good question.

      • jonnybutter February 17, 2016 at 9:24 am | #

        OMG, Debra.

  6. Andy February 15, 2016 at 10:18 am | #

    I’m skeptical of this reading. As Rebecca Klatsch pointed out in “A Generation Divided,” many Goldwaterites broke left and ended up as New Left activists by decade’s end. Hell, my former colleague stumped for Goldwater in ’64, helped found an SDS chapter in ’67, and has remained on the political far-left ever since. Seems more likely that HRC just mouths the half-digested class-shorn intersectionalist identity-politics platitudes that have been the bread-and-butter of New Democrat progressivism for three decades, and that her Ivy-educated advisors feed her as being “hip with the kids.”

    • Andy February 15, 2016 at 10:21 am | #

      That’s Rebecca *Klatch* – my apologies.

  7. xenon2 February 15, 2016 at 11:37 am | #

    Unless Sanders admits her foreign policy is gun deals for favorite allies and automatic donations to the Clinton Foundation, I think he will lose to Hillary.It’s the MIC Eisenhower warned us about.Maybe, Sanders agrees with that.He may be part of her cabinet, or VP.I have suggested ways to get him informed, in previous posts.

    I think most of you do not listen to Republican debates.
    To be fully informed, you really should.

  8. Joshua Sellers February 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm | #

    ‘Not everything is about an economic theory, right?’

    Well, it IS a hell of a lot when you aren’t one of the beautiful people making $200,000 which you bizarrely refer to as ‘middle class’. There are more people making far less than that, so yeah, ‘economic theory’ does count for a lot.

    It would do HRC some good to mingle with some Americans who aren’t so well off as her so-called ‘middle class’ supporters.

  9. kevin February 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm | #

    The self delusion of Mr. Robin and those commenters who agree with him about Hillary is awe-inspiring. How many of you think you are rationally and righteously criticizing her positions in a reasonable, fair, and constructive way?? Well, none of you are. You all — really — sound just like the *starr*y-eyed cohort from the ’90’s making ad-hominem attacks. And for those who disagree, look back through the professor’s post and name the position Ms. Clinton has taken that makes the professor think her political inspiration was and still is Goldwater.

  10. aab February 15, 2016 at 7:19 pm | #

    Oh, for heaven’s sake.

    First, I will respect SoS Clinton here by referencing her TITLE, rather than calling her “Ms.” I’m fascinated by people commenting at this particular site, saying they appreciate Prof. Robin’s work, who are demonstrating an inability to grasp (as Archer might say) the core concept. SoS Clinton is a conservative. She believes in a top down, authoritarian model of power. She believes that people like herself deserve to benefit from the labor of others, even when it results in extreme wealth and power for herself, and extreme exploitation and suffering for those others — even when those others are supposedly equal citizens in the same country, or members of the same gender. Look at her reasoning re: welfare reform and criminal justice in the 90s. Look at her reasoning now re: why she, as a woman, should be President. She knows better what a feminist is than the millions of women voting for Sanders. She and her fellow elitist pseudo-feminists hector women whose lives have been profoundly harmed by the neoliberalism she espouses, by the policies she advocated for and helped put in place, by the institutions she benefits from and in many cases created or redirected.

    She invited Goldwater to come to the White House, you know. She wanted to entertain him. And at that point, he was to her left in some ways. Her current logo is a direct callback to his. I’m assuming that was unconscious. But who knows?

    She is a conservative in that she is a warmongering militarist, who has actively worked to destroy countries she deems “lesser” than “exceptional” America.

    She is a conservative in that she believes the government should control and punish the lower classes and people of color. Likewise, she has just told millions of women that their life experiences and judgment should be subordinated to her desire for power.

    She is a conservative in that she actually argued that the young woman who engaged in sex with her husband — when he was decades older, the girl’s employer, and massively more powerful in the relationship — was the one to blame. She has never repudiated that stance. Instead, there is significant evidence that she worked for decades to undermine the victims of her husband’s predation.

    She is close personal friends with Henry Kissinger, for God’s sake. THEY VACATION TOGETHER REGULARLY.

    Yes, she will govern, if elected, similarly to Obama. She will probably launch more, and more incompetent wars. Otherwise, it will probably be about the same: she will sign the TPP and the other “trade” agreements designed to give global corporations complete control over the planet. She will try to cut the Grand Bargain to benefit the finance sector while pretending to seek meaningful taxation improvements. She will say things that are nominally progressive, when forced. Reproductive rights will continue to be rolled back, because if your primary concern is elite control and personal enrichment via alliance with the finance sector, you will do everything in your power to block progressive legislators — so whatever her personal beliefs may be, we will see, as we have seen since her husband obtained national power, fewer and fewer rights, opportunities and protections for the non-elite, including all women who are not elite. She is, both functionally and psychologically, a conservative.

    And as I believe a comment on an earlier thread seems to have been eaten because I included links: Yes, the Clintons and the neoliberals in charge of the Democratic establishment actively work to recruit conservative candidates for Democratic offices — some even Republicans at the time — and block progressive candidates from funding and other access they need to get elected. Google Rahm’s efforts, as discussed by Perlstein. The Miami Herald has covered Wasserman Schultz’s actions to protect Republicans in Florida from progressive Democratic challenges. There is plenty of coverage of Steve Israel doing this at the DCCC. This the system the Clintons forcefully worked to put in place. They created a situation where no progressives can get into power, and then say, “in such a broken system, there can be no meaningful change.” This too is deeply conservative.

    There can be change. Change is the actual constant. The Clintons changed the Democratic Party, and it can be changed again. Conservatives resist change not because it is new, but because it robs them of power. Many of Sanders’ policies are “old-fashioned,” in that they date back to the New Deal, or even earlier. Of course single payer can work — it works in every other developed nation. He is advocating time-tested policies. What is radical is asserting that there is no hope for justice and equality in the American system. And yet, in line with what I understand of Professor Robin’s thesis, this type of radicalism is real conservatism, in that it asserts against reason and evidence beliefs to bolster the entrenched elite.

  11. jonnybutter February 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm | #

    kevin, I wouldn’t take that that title 100% literally. But it would be wrong to write this post off as just a ‘gotcha’ or merely clever. The tone is bitterness. HRC is a mediocre – at best – politician who finds herself using intellectually repulsive arguments -ones uncannily similar to the cited one the Goldwater book.

    I would think the point is not that Goldwater is HRC’s inspiration, but instead that – her rather rigid personality aside – she’s not really inspired by anything. The Clinton liberalism is a classic, rather than a ‘left’ liberalism. Both Clintons depend(ed) on Ken Starr, Gingrich, et. al. to survive politically. They depend on it ‘being about them’. Without such over-the-top enemies, Democrats could have had the ideological reckoning we are trying to have now, much earlier. Obama’s administrations have been just a continuation of the Clinton years in that sense, and he is also a rather conservative politician. This is how duopolies work.

    But this symbiosis is breaking up now, and HRC is as absurdly out of place as are the GOPs. Young Democrats (and some old people like me) never wanted to, and certainly don’t want to now, vote for conservatives like HRC, BO, or Bill C.

  12. xenon2 February 15, 2016 at 8:33 pm | #

    Sanders: Madame Secretary, you know so much more than I do, about foreign affairs,
    but why can’t some of rich Arab nations take in a few refugees?

    Sanders: Madame Secretary, why don’t these same rich Arab countries take on ISIS?

    [maybe, it’s b/c they are on the other side?]

  13. jonnybutter February 26, 2016 at 10:57 am | #

    HRC: “My political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism I was raised with….I’m very proud that I was a Goldwater Girl…”

    audio from 1996

    • Corey Robin February 26, 2016 at 2:12 pm | #

      Wow, hadn’t seen that! Thanks.

  14. jonnybutter February 26, 2016 at 4:36 pm | #

    Remarkable how nonsensical she is here – implication is that Goldwaterism is ‘real’ conservatism (which she identifies with, and is proud of doing), opposed to current (’98 – impeachment?) Republicanism. Huh.

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