By CPLA Secretary Dylan Walton
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton has been a transformative, and often divisive, figure in both American and international politics for the better part of thirty years. She has accumulated a variety of political titles, including First Lady of the United States, US Senator of New York and Secretary of State under the Obama administration. Clinton is now considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton grew up in a conservative family, but became a Democrat as an undergrad at Wellesley College, rejecting Republican ideology regarding the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. After this ideological shift, she described herself as “A mind conservative and a heart liberal.” Though she is one of the most recognizable faces of the modern Democratic party, Clinton has often touted her record of negotiating compromises with Republicans as proof of her success over partisan gridlock. This attitude has often led to backlash from both the right and the left wings of the political spectrum.
Clinton has consistently been one of the most vocal proponents of women’s rights since the late 20th century. In 1995, during her time as First Lady, she spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Despite explicit warnings from her husband’s administration and the Chinese government, Clinton put a spotlight on China’s dehumanizing policies towards women and children by stating that “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights once and for all.” She continued this line of advocacy throughout her tenure in the US Senate and State Department by prioritizing the welfare and rights of women around the world.
Although Clinton was not awarded the democratic nomination for favor of then fellow Sen. Barack Obama, she did notably “put 18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling by setting a new record for the number of primaries and delegates won by a large margin by a female candidate. President Obama, whose chief focus after his election was ending the recession and passing the Affordable Care Act, entrusted Secretary of State Clinton with reviving the US’s tarnished global reputation in the aftermath the Bush administration. As Secretary of State, she negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, expanded the rights and opportunities of global LGBT advocates, and established the sanctions on Iran that lead to the beginnings of the Iran nuclear deal.
Clinton has centered her presidential campaign on some of her past passions, such as securing pay equity, improving affordable health care, and taking a strong stance on national security policies. Certain issues have become a new focus in this campaign, including opposing the NRA to prevent gun violence, strongly regulating the financial sector, and developing policy to end the drug epidemic afflicting rural communities.
Perhaps most marked on Clinton’s campaign platform are the issues on which her position has changed over her long public career. Clinton, like many citizens, previously supported only civil unions for LGBT couples, but now affirms her full support for gay marriage. She has voiced her opposition to both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Keystone Pipeline, two Obama policies that Clinton helped form her tenure as Secretary of State.
At the first democratic primary debate, all eyes were on Secretary Clinton as she stood center stage flanked by liberal and moderate colleagues alike. Leading the pack by a large margin in most national polls, Hillary had the most to lose from a poor performance. Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, the infinite pack of Republican contenders, and the absolutely non-partisan Benghazi committee all awaited the opportunity to unseat the favorite of the Democratic Party. But, Hillary Clinton allowed them no such opportunity by delivering a performance that was almost universally celebrated by political observers and the media. She silenced critics of her character, aggressively drew attention to issues on which she has a unique stance (such as gun violence, capitalism, and foreign policy), and even got a hand from Senator Sanders regarding the recent limelight on her conduct with her private email server. After the debate, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee both dropped out of the race and Vice President Joe Biden decided not to run, leaving Clinton with only two liberal opponents in the race for the democratic nomination. Clinton’s strength was apparent on that stage and has brought a new energy and momentum to her campaign, reaffirming her status as the frontrunner for the nomination.