The longest-running political battle of 2008,
the Democratic presidential primary fight between Senators Barack Obama
and Hillary Clinton, cemented Obama's more sweeping presidential
victory that November. But what if it had worked out differently, with
Clinton defeating Obama in the primary and, quite possibly, going on to
win the presidency? There are many ways that a President Hillary Clinton
might have governed differently, but writers are focusing on health
care reform. How would Clinton's second stab at reforming the health
care system have gone as president?
- No Health Care Reform
In a long essay arguing that conservatives should have supported
Clinton, Forbes' Bruce Bartlett thinks that,
if she had won, she "probably would be governing significantly more
conservatively than Obama. For one thing, given her disastrous
experience with health care reform in 1993-1994, it's reasonable to
assume that she would have stayed away from that issue at all costs."
- Much Less Health Care Reform The New Republic's Jonathan Chait suspects that "any significant adversity would probably have caused her to retreat. In the wake of Scott Brown's victory, her chief political strategist, Mark Penn, urged Democrats to abandon health care reform." Penn's January 2010 argument that Dems pursue only very modest and popular reforms is "probably the sort of strategy Clinton would have followed if she had won."
- Better Health Care Reform Mother Jones' Kevin Drum dissents. "I think Hillary was, if anything, more dedicated to healthcare reform than Obama, and I think she would have taken it on more vigorously than he did. What's more, my guess is that her better feel for the Senate and past failure with healthcare reform would have made her more effective at getting a package passed," he writes. "we might have gotten healthcare reform last fall instead of last month."
- Wouldn't Be That Different Columbia Journalism Review's Greg Marx explains that the debates were never really about specific policies, they were about personality and "moral character." On the one big health care policy debate, the issue of a mandate, Clinton argued for a mandate. Obama argued against a mandate. But, in 2010, the actual Obama-backed bill included that mandate. So clearly policy was never the big issue, and wouldn't have been pursued that differently.
- Whole Debate Proves Primaries 'Unprescient' Matthew Yglesias sighs. "I think the fact that we’re having this conversation at all is an illustration of how bad a job primary campaigns do of accomplishing what activists want them to do." Since winning office, the health care bill Obama pushed "was closer to Clinton’s proposal than to his own. So what was accomplished by all those Clinton-Obama debate exchanges? Not much."