Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton (2006): attempts to criminalize flag burning

In 2006, the Republicans tried to relive the culture wars that brought them victories in 2002 and 2004. Among the few pieces of legislation submitted during the shortest session in history, they revived the perennial attempt to criminalize destruction of the flag. Hillary Clinton sponsored legislation to make such acts illegal, but not to amend the constitution.
Senator Clinton and Liberals Split Over Flag Desecration
June 28, 2006

Perhaps even more than her stance on the war in Iraq, it is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's position on flag desecration that has drawn the scorn of the liberal Democratic base.

When Mrs. Clinton took a stand on the matter last year -- co-sponsoring legislation that would have criminalized the desecration of the American flag even as she opposed a constitutional amendment that sought to achieve the same end -- she was pilloried from the left. Editorial boards criticized her for political maneuvering, the political commentator Arianna Huffington attacked her for "stars, stripes and triangulation" and even some of her supporters quietly wondered why she had gone out on a limb on such a controversial issue.

[This] measure, brought to the floor by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, failed, 64 to 36, minutes before the proposed amendment fell short of the 67 votes it needed.

The divergent views of her position reflect a broader rift in the Democratic Party over whether the key to electoral success rests in winning over centrists or by drawing clear distinctions with Republicans by staking out unapologetically liberal positions.

"What's politically pragmatic isn't always what's pleasing to the left," said Steve McMahon, a Democratic consultant. "But pragmatism is what wins elections for Democrats."

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and a former presidential nominee, voted for the measure, which closely resembled past efforts to pre-empt an amendment to the Constitution. Democrats who voted for the measure in effect bought themselves the right to claim that they had voted against flag desecration, potentially inoculating themselves against possible charges of lacking patriotism in a general election campaign. The broader measure to amend the Constitution failed by a single vote, 66 to 34.
Most of the Senators who voted for amending the Constitution, voted against this measure. Only Russ Feingold voted against both.

No comments: