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Hillary the Conservative

In the Los Angeles Times, Bruce Bartlett once again makes the conservative case for Hillary. I’m still skeptical. Even if Hillary, in her current guise, is the least loony-sounding of the top-tier Democratic candidates — more likely because her frontrunner status allows her to look toward the general election than due to any genuine centrist conviction — I’m not sure what conservatives gain by offering only “token resistance” to her candidacy or pretending that they can somehow meaningfully influence the Democratic nomination process.

While Hillary is taking positions to the right of Barack Obama and John Edwards, to say nothing of the also-rans, she is also to the left of Bill Clinton on some of the very issues Bartlett cites: trade, growth, and markets. A few comforting soundbites don’t make up for a generally statist platform. It’s also worth noting that Bill Clinton was most fiscally conservative and pragmatic when dealing with a Republican Congress, so even if Hillary wins a “trapped rat” approach to her candidacy — which might hold down her margin of victory and help other Republicans down ballot — could still be the best choice.

To my mind the conservative case for Hillary is this: There is no Democrat who would do more to reinvigorate small-government conservatism in the Republican Party. And the fact that she is so polarizing will be an asset in trying to keep her programs from being enacted. But that’s not because she is a conservative — it’s because of the conservatism she might inspire elsewhere.

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