Hillary's Organizing Principle

In her now famous Atlantic interview, Hillary Clinton let it be known that the president’s foreign policy lacks an “organizing principle.”  She’s right about this, but what about her own organizing principle?  What is it, and how did it evolve?

The answer to those questions lies buried deep in the past.  Long ago, when she was still a wide-eyed teenager, Hillary Rodham discovered a truth that she would cling to for the rest of her life.  Growing up in a staid conservative family in suburban Chicago, Hillary must have been struck by the awesome responsibility entrusted to her.  Here was a secret knowledge granted to only a few, and now she, Hillary Rodham of Park Ridge, Illinois, was among the enlightened.  It was knowledge that would grant purpose to her otherwise unimportant existence.  It was the knowledge that she could save the world. 

Following that revelation, Hillary’s thinking on politics evolved very quickly.  She migrated from the Republican to the Democratic Party – and from a supporter of Barry Goldwater to an admirer of the radical community organizer Saul Alinsky, on whom she wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley College.  She also fell under the spell of Don Jones, the liberal youth pastor whom she met at Park Ridge United Methodist Church.  Jones was a passionate admirer of FDR’s New Deal and a crusader for social justice.  As Hillary admitted, Jones “opened up a new world” for her.  That “new world,” liberation theology with a focus on universal equality, was hostile to the traditional American values of individualism and free-market capitalism.  Inevitably, Hillary’s newfound organizing principle set her at odds with America itself.

The remarkable fact about Hillary’s organizing principle is how soon it emerged and how little it changed over the next half-century.  Not that it was new, even in 1969, when she graduated from Wellesley.  Liberation theology is merely a hackneyed reiteration of the stale tradition of radical thought that originated in the European Enlightenment and continued through the Romantic Age down to the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century.  Anyone familiar with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” knows where Hillary is coming from, and from whence she came.  It is heady stuff when one is fourteen: “Be thou, Spirit fierce, / My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! / Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!”

Shelley was not by any means the only writer or politician to fantasize that his words would “quicken a new birth.”  There was Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley’s second wife.  There was Lord Byron, crusader for the Greek revolution.  There was Emma Goldman, the anarchist whose words inspired the assassination of William McKinley.  And then there was Robespierre, and his violent progeny, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il-sung.  And now there is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

There is little that separates Hillary Rodham Clinton’s liberation theology from the radical eschatological faith of each of these figures.  And while Hillary does not advocate violence, her naïveté can result in violence.  Much of the Middle East is now spinning out of control as a result of her impulsive cheerleading for the Arab Spring.  Hillary’s organizing principle may be liberation, but she doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what comes next.   

The scary thing is that while Obama’s policies are driven by narrow political self-interest – hardly an effective basis for policymaking – Hillary Clinton’s are based on an organizing principle that is potentially more destructive.

In the pseudo-religious language she often employs, Hillary stresses the role of “sharing and caring” – the theme of her failed 2008 presidential campaign.  “Sharing” comes up a lot in her speeches, always with the veiled assumption that she, Hillary Clinton, will be deciding who gives and who receives.  It will take a lot of sharing to arrive at Hillary’s goal of global equality, and since some, especially those who she likes to call “greedy corporations,” do not wish to share, it will be necessary to use force.  As she put it in 2007, “something has to be taken away from some people” (June 4, 2007, CNN Presidential Forum).  Or, on another occasion, “we’re going to take things away from you [the rich] on behalf of the common good” (June 2004, California fundraiser).

This is the dark, authoritarian side of Hillary’s compassion.  It reveals itself in comments like her response to Exxon-Mobil’s 2007 earnings report: “I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund.”  There is something particularly mean and callous about stealing the dividends of hardworking investors and pensioners and squandering them on projects like Solyndra, but that is exactly what Hillary spoke of doing.  What makes her think she has the right to do so?  Presumably her organizing principle: her belief that she is the world’s savior.

Hillary spends a lot of time talking about what she will seize from businesses and affluent individuals and redistribute to the less fortunate.  Like all leftists, Hillary despises the rich, who, she says, “don’t contribute to the growth of their countries.”  The problem is, Marxists have repeated that line for a hundred years now, and it has produced only misery and death.

Hillary has nothing new to bring to the table.  She is another Lenin, another Mao, and potentially another Pol Pot.  Unlike the hapless Barack Obama, who doesn’t even have a strategy, much less an organizing principle, Hillary knows who she is.  She is the savior of all who are downtrodden.  Let them approach her with votes in hand.  She will liberate them.  She will bestow salvation.  Her organizing principle is nothing more than warmed-over Marxism.

As for those obstructionists who refuse to share, she has a plan as well.  It goes by many names – taxation, appropriation, nationalization, collectivization – but all of these amount to the same thing.  “Something has to be taken away from some people.”  That is the key takeaway from her organizing principle.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is better organized than Barack Obama.  That is what makes her more dangerous.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

In her now famous Atlantic interview, Hillary Clinton let it be known that the president’s foreign policy lacks an “organizing principle.”  She’s right about this, but what about her own organizing principle?  What is it, and how did it evolve?

The answer to those questions lies buried deep in the past.  Long ago, when she was still a wide-eyed teenager, Hillary Rodham discovered a truth that she would cling to for the rest of her life.  Growing up in a staid conservative family in suburban Chicago, Hillary must have been struck by the awesome responsibility entrusted to her.  Here was a secret knowledge granted to only a few, and now she, Hillary Rodham of Park Ridge, Illinois, was among the enlightened.  It was knowledge that would grant purpose to her otherwise unimportant existence.  It was the knowledge that she could save the world. 

Following that revelation, Hillary’s thinking on politics evolved very quickly.  She migrated from the Republican to the Democratic Party – and from a supporter of Barry Goldwater to an admirer of the radical community organizer Saul Alinsky, on whom she wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley College.  She also fell under the spell of Don Jones, the liberal youth pastor whom she met at Park Ridge United Methodist Church.  Jones was a passionate admirer of FDR’s New Deal and a crusader for social justice.  As Hillary admitted, Jones “opened up a new world” for her.  That “new world,” liberation theology with a focus on universal equality, was hostile to the traditional American values of individualism and free-market capitalism.  Inevitably, Hillary’s newfound organizing principle set her at odds with America itself.

The remarkable fact about Hillary’s organizing principle is how soon it emerged and how little it changed over the next half-century.  Not that it was new, even in 1969, when she graduated from Wellesley.  Liberation theology is merely a hackneyed reiteration of the stale tradition of radical thought that originated in the European Enlightenment and continued through the Romantic Age down to the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century.  Anyone familiar with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” knows where Hillary is coming from, and from whence she came.  It is heady stuff when one is fourteen: “Be thou, Spirit fierce, / My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! / Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!”

Shelley was not by any means the only writer or politician to fantasize that his words would “quicken a new birth.”  There was Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley’s second wife.  There was Lord Byron, crusader for the Greek revolution.  There was Emma Goldman, the anarchist whose words inspired the assassination of William McKinley.  And then there was Robespierre, and his violent progeny, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il-sung.  And now there is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

There is little that separates Hillary Rodham Clinton’s liberation theology from the radical eschatological faith of each of these figures.  And while Hillary does not advocate violence, her naïveté can result in violence.  Much of the Middle East is now spinning out of control as a result of her impulsive cheerleading for the Arab Spring.  Hillary’s organizing principle may be liberation, but she doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what comes next.   

The scary thing is that while Obama’s policies are driven by narrow political self-interest – hardly an effective basis for policymaking – Hillary Clinton’s are based on an organizing principle that is potentially more destructive.

In the pseudo-religious language she often employs, Hillary stresses the role of “sharing and caring” – the theme of her failed 2008 presidential campaign.  “Sharing” comes up a lot in her speeches, always with the veiled assumption that she, Hillary Clinton, will be deciding who gives and who receives.  It will take a lot of sharing to arrive at Hillary’s goal of global equality, and since some, especially those who she likes to call “greedy corporations,” do not wish to share, it will be necessary to use force.  As she put it in 2007, “something has to be taken away from some people” (June 4, 2007, CNN Presidential Forum).  Or, on another occasion, “we’re going to take things away from you [the rich] on behalf of the common good” (June 2004, California fundraiser).

This is the dark, authoritarian side of Hillary’s compassion.  It reveals itself in comments like her response to Exxon-Mobil’s 2007 earnings report: “I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund.”  There is something particularly mean and callous about stealing the dividends of hardworking investors and pensioners and squandering them on projects like Solyndra, but that is exactly what Hillary spoke of doing.  What makes her think she has the right to do so?  Presumably her organizing principle: her belief that she is the world’s savior.

Hillary spends a lot of time talking about what she will seize from businesses and affluent individuals and redistribute to the less fortunate.  Like all leftists, Hillary despises the rich, who, she says, “don’t contribute to the growth of their countries.”  The problem is, Marxists have repeated that line for a hundred years now, and it has produced only misery and death.

Hillary has nothing new to bring to the table.  She is another Lenin, another Mao, and potentially another Pol Pot.  Unlike the hapless Barack Obama, who doesn’t even have a strategy, much less an organizing principle, Hillary knows who she is.  She is the savior of all who are downtrodden.  Let them approach her with votes in hand.  She will liberate them.  She will bestow salvation.  Her organizing principle is nothing more than warmed-over Marxism.

As for those obstructionists who refuse to share, she has a plan as well.  It goes by many names – taxation, appropriation, nationalization, collectivization – but all of these amount to the same thing.  “Something has to be taken away from some people.”  That is the key takeaway from her organizing principle.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is better organized than Barack Obama.  That is what makes her more dangerous.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).