Hillary Clinton may be the only candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, but we still need to know what her positions are. Where does she stand on the Keystone XL pipeline?
Apparently, our American version of Iran's Guardian Council has issued a fatwa decreeing that Hillary Clinton shall be the only candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
I say "apparently," because our American version of the Guardian Council isn't nearly as transparent as the Iranian version. At least with the Iranian version, you can say for sure who is on the Guardian Council and who is not, and their decisions are a matter of public record. With the American version, you read in the media that Hillary is the only allowed candidate, but there is no record of the meeting where this was decided or who participated in it. All I can say for sure is that I wasn't invited.
Personally, I'll concede that at the end of the day I could live with the fatwa of the Guardian Council in this case. I agree with some of the arguments that some partisans of the Guardian Council have made. Having the first woman president would be a very big deal, as Vice President Joe Biden might say. I totally agree. At the end of the day, we saw that Hillary and Obama were not as different as they pretended to be in 2008. I agree. At the end of the day, regardless of what Obama said in 2008, we've had to slog it out issue by issue. He promised not to touch Social Security, and we've had to slog it out against chained CPI. He promised to end the mindset that leads to wars, and we had to slog it out on Syria - and we're still slogging it out on Afghanistan. He promised to talk to Iran, and he eventually did so (GObama!). But we still had to fight and bleed for it. He promised that the oceans would begin to heal, and we're slogging it out on the Keystone XL pipeline. He promised to renegotiate NAFTA, and we're slogging it out on fast track and the TPP.
So, if it's Hillary or it's Elizabeth Warren or it's somebody else, no matter what they say in 2016, we're still going to have to slog it out, issue by issue. I agree.
But here's what I certainly don't agree to: that in addition to accepting the fatwa of the Guardian Council that Hillary is the only allowed candidate, we must also accept a fatwa of the Guardian Council that we're not allowed to ask now what her positions are. This is where I draw the line. On issues, the "gate of ijtihad" must be opened. If we know that we're going to have to slog it out with Hillary issue by issue, why wouldn't we start now? Do you think that our deep-pocketed adversaries will give her a pass until 2016?
To me, the main virtue of having Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Jeffrey Sachs run for the Democratic nomination for president would be that it would guarantee that we'd get to have a public Democratic debate on issues. In 2008, when there was a primary, we got to have a public Democratic debate on issues. We had a public Democratic debate on trade policy. We had a public Democratic debate on Iraq. We had a public Democratic debate on Iran. Joe and Mary Sixpack Democrat got to weigh in. This is what democracy looks like.
Saying that there's only one candidate allowed and we'll tell you later what her positions are is not what democracy looks like.
Contrary to what some partisans of the Guardian Council claim, it is possible to smoke Hillary out on issues of the day. With the battle raging over the interim nuclear deal with Iran and a sanctions bill in the Senate that would blow up diplomacy, we launched a petition demanding that Hillary declare herself on the interim deal and the prospect of new sanctions. "Oh no!" cried some partisans of the Guardian Council. "You can't demand that Hillary speak out on that!" But we did demand it, and Hillary eventually complied, signing on to the president's Iran diplomacy with both hands and coming out foursquare against new sanctions. And this was tremendously useful in shutting down the president's opponents; AIPAC threw in the towel within days.
The precedent has been established: Hillary Clinton, the de facto sole candidate for the Democratic nomination for president according to the fatwa of the Guardian Council, can speak out on the issues of the day under progressive pressure, moving debate in a progressive direction.
Now 15,000 Democrats want to know: Where's Hillary on the Keystone XL pipeline? If Hillary comes out against the pipeline now, that's a decisive blow against the pipeline, and a bunch of people in Nebraska are going to be very happy.