Letter: US needs Clinton's vision, pragmatism

US needs Clinton's vision, pragmatism

To the editor:

Michael Gerson's Sept. 20 op-ed piece on Obamacare describes Hillary Clinton as "one of the most joyless, least visionary presidential candidates of recent memory." This description, and many others expressed by newspaper commentators, seems to me to miss the salient point about her candidacy.

Gerson apparently wants a presidential candidate to have both joy and vision. A joyful U.S. president in 2016, as we face terrorism, racism, an unstable and inequitable economy among many other major social and political problems? The current leadership responsibilities in our country do not require joy as a primary characteristic.

Hope for a better future, which Secretary of State Clinton strongly articulates? Yes. Faith in the American tradition of democratic process, as Clinton's career clearly illustrates? Yes. But joy? I don't think that's relevant right now.

Gerson's assertion that Clinton lacks vision vastly underestimates and misrepresents her record and her platform. Her vision is not, and has not been, for pie-in-the-sky change. Rather, it is for incremental change: legislative, diplomatic, and economic changes that require negotiation, persistence, and bargaining. We may wish it otherwise, but those are the means by which American policy and society have changed in the most important ways possible.

The Bill of Rights was negotiated among people of radically different views, and remains a pillar of American identity. The development of the New Deal took over six years of governmental energy to get up and running, and remains a bulwark of American social values. The War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required intense bargaining among delicate alliances, and remain touchstones of American commitment to human potential and justice.

The major political and social achievements of the United States of America have required a national characteristic: pragmatism. Pragmatism isn't joyful. It isn't visionary. It needs a sharp and focused brain, a profound commitment to specific principles and values, and an ability to work steadily toward a goal. It requires a toughness of character that isn't necessarily attractive.

Hillary Clinton, like Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, is pragmatic. Her leadership at this juncture, like those men's at other fraught times of American history, is just what is needed. It isn't glamorous. It's not pretty. But it gets things done.

Elizabeth Young, Great Barrington


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