Hillary Clinton Was Liberal. Hillary Clinton Is Liberal.
Credit: Hillary Clinton
May 20, 2015

From Harry Enten over at fivethirtyeight.com, an interesting look at Hillary Clinton's record:

We’ve gotten this raft of “Clinton is liberal” exposés as Clinton has revved up her 2016 campaign, speaking out in support of gay marriage, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and criminal justice reform. But what many of these articles miss is that Clinton has always been, by most measures, pretty far to the left. When she’s shifted positions, it has been in concert with the entire Democratic Party.

To see how these different issues fit together to form an overall political ideology, we usually use three metrics: one based on congressional voting record, one based on public statements and one based on fundraising.

Clinton was one of the most liberal members during her time in the Senate. According to an analysis of roll call votes by Voteview, Clinton’s record was more liberal than 70 percent of Democrats inher final term in the Senate.

She was more liberal than 85 percent of all members. Her 2008 rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama, was nearby with a record more liberal than 82 percent of all members — he was not more liberal than Clinton.

Clinton also has a history of very liberal public statements. Clinton rates as a “hard core liberal” per the OnTheIssues.org scale. She is as liberal as Elizabeth Warren and barely more moderate than Bernie Sanders. And while Obama is also a “hard core liberal,” Clinton again was rated as more liberal than Obama.

Sometimes I wonder whether people are confusing Clinton with her husband. Bill Clinton’s statements have been far more moderate. He has also had a more moderate donor base, according to Adam Bonica’s fundraising scores.

There have been a few issues on which Hillary Clinton has taken more centrist positions. She, of course, voted for the Iraq War (she now says that was a mistake). Clinton has been mostly pro free trade (although she hasn’t said much of anything on the Trans-Pacific Partnership). And she has been against marijuana legalization, and seemingly remains so.

When Clinton has shifted left, she has usually done so with her party and — on the issues she’s highlighted in the 2016 campaign so far — the country.

[...] Clinton isn’t tacking to the center; she’s simply staying on the left.

In 2008, while Clinton had trouble with her position on Iraq, Democrats didn’t view her as out of step ideologically overall. In February 2008, just 12 percent of Democrats and people who lean Democratic said Clinton was too conservative (the same as Obama). Likewise, Pew Research Center found the same percentages of Democrats, as well as the same percentages of all Americans, thought Clinton and Obama were liberal in January and April of 2008.

The fact that Clinton was seen as just as liberal as Obama is probably the reason she did as well with liberals in the 2008 primary as she did overall. According to exit polls, Clinton received, on average, 46 percent of the vote from those who identified as liberal and 45 percent from those who identified as very liberal. Overall, she received 48 percent of the vote, according to exit polls.

Clinton got beat on the left on one issue the last time she ran for president: the Iraq War. But unless your name is Jeb Bush, the Iraq War just isn’t as important to a presidential candidacy in 2016 as it was in 2008, when it was the second-most-important issue in the Democratic primary. Clinton beat Obama on the other big issues, including the longtime liberal cause of health care.

Overall, the “liberal Clinton” isn’t a new phenomenon. Given her support for liberal positions in the past and the support that liberals have given her, it shouldn’t be surprising that Clinton is staking out liberal positions to start the 2016 campaign.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.