Sunday, June 22, 2008

The politics of RETIRE THE DEBT


Before I get to the substance of this post, I need to make something totally clear. I am not a personal friend of any member of the Clinton family nor of any member of Senator Clinton's campaign staff. Nor do I work for the campaign. As an active volunteer, I have been at some meetings and on some conference calls related to the campaign. I have had the opportunity to shake hands with Senator Clinton and President Clinton. We have exchanged some words. It would be my honor and privilege to encounter either of them again, but that may well never happen.

So, what I have to say here is based on my understanding of politics, politicians, and Senator Clinton, which comes primarily from years of reading newspapers and magazines, studying history and political theory, reading widely about American politics from colonial times to the present. I have also read Senator Clinton's books and President Clinton's memoirs, among books and memoirs by other politicians. I know a few politicians and a few people who have worked in politics and they have taught me general things about politics.

I am not a blogger or journalist who claims or has any particular inside information and I am not in a position to have any particular influence over any particular politician. And I have no reason to make anybody think otherwise.

The point of the post

Very good people who are staunch supporters of Senator Clinton have asked me why Senator Clinton's website does not have a "debt meter" or whether I could suggest that there be one. I would not even know to whom to make such a suggestion. But neither would I make it, and here's why.

Senator Clinton is a politician. And there's nothing wrong with that. As with any job or calling, being a politician can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are outstanding politicians, admirable ones, mediocre politicians, terrifying ones. As with all people in all jobs, there are no perfect politicians. As with all people in all jobs, politicians have to navigate tricky situations, ones where competing considerations - of principle and pragmatism - make it difficult to decide how best to solve a problem.

That's the situation Senator Clinton is in with regard to her suspended campaign, her decision to be true to her word and show support for the Democratic contender for the presidency, and to her desire to maintain the loyalty and support of her most dedicated followers. There really is no way a person in Senator Clinton's position, no matter how intelligent and accomplished (and Senator Clinton ranks very high in both those regards) can satisfy anybody who wants her to place one of these aims above the others. They pull in different directions.

Having said that she would devote effort to raising money for the D.N.C., Senator Clinton cannot really press hard to have people donate to her campaign. Similarly, although on a much, much smaller scale, since I have publicly devoted myself to raising money to retire Senator Clinton's debt, I would not feel comfortable pressing hard to raise money for anything that was not connected to this, unless and until I publicly change my primary purpose. Note that I can do that - switch purposes - much more easily than a politician in Senator Clinton's position can. She has said she is loyal to the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party needs to hold a convention; she must work toward a successful convention. I, who am not a politician, can say, when I am ready, I prefer to work toward a different cause than retiring the debt or toward no political cause at all. That is a luxury I enjoy because I am not in politics. Of course, since I am not a Senator or a presidential candidate, there are advantages I do not enjoy; advantages Senator Clinton does. I cannot sponsor bills in the Senate; I cannot aid constituents; I can neither nominate nor approve appointments to the Supreme Court, just to name a few examples. But, precisely because there some politicians who are excellent and admirable in almost all respects, I am perfectly delighted that they are there to enjoy the advantages of their position while I am here enjoying the advantages of mine.

I can keep a running tally of the donations to retire the debt that come through links to Hillary Clinton for President that are connected to me. I can insist that what is best for Americans, all Americans, right now is to empower Senator Clinton. I can explain how retiring the the debt does that.

My political part is easy to play compared to the one Senator Clinton must. That seems reasonable: Senator Clinton has decided to be a politician, I have not. She need not solve the dilemmas of a professor and I need not reconcile the claims upon a presidential candidate in Senator Clinton's position.

What is even easier is, if you are persuaded of the importance of empowering Senator Clinton, is to donate whatever you can to RETIRE THE DEBT. This is not to say that it is easy to find a spare few dollars, especially for many people in this economy. But to go to a website and donate is much easier than having to balance the concerns Senator Clinton is balancing (all while carrying on the business of being a United States Senator). So if you can spare the dollars, donate. You can take pride and satisfaction in doing something - even if the doing is not the hardest thing you've ever done. And then you, like me, can go back to navigating the tricky situations in your own life. If you are like me, an admirer of Senator Clinton's, you will feel fortified because you helped to empower her; and if like me, you have learned things about yourself and others by participating in her candidacy, you may find it easier to find the optimal solutions for those tricky situations.


Anonymous taylorgrob said...

It would be great to have a place to buy a wristband and/or a tshirt that read "One of the 18 Million". You could add 5 or 10 dollars to the cost to reduce the debt.

June 22, 2008 at 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea, taylorgrob.

June 22, 2008 at 8:56 PM  
Anonymous RoseCityfriend said...

I have admired Senator Clinton for some time, and Professor Feldman, after visiting your site a few times, I'm beginning to admire you too. You and Hillary are both very good at what you do, and I feel lucky that in some small way, I benefit from the expertise of both of you. Go Heidi Go, you have inspired me and others in donating to retire Hillary's debt.

June 22, 2008 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger KM said...

I just donated $20.08 to Hillary and I will continue to donate as much as I can afford. Thank you for all you do on Sen. Clinton's behalf.

June 23, 2008 at 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great post. I've been encouraging everyone I know to donate for Hillary.

June 24, 2008 at 12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am contributing to retiring the debt directly through the website. But than you so much for making donations possible through your website too. I hope she will announce this week or next how much was collected in June. It must have been millions!

July 1, 2008 at 9:27 AM  

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