Speculation over the potential 2016 presidential candidacy of former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is interesting up to a point. It certainly carries the will she/won’t she element of drama, and there’s little question that some portions of the Democratic rank-and-file would be interested in a 2016 Clinton for President campaign.
From another point of view, however, the concept of a Clinton for President campaign is rather stale. Bill Clinton was elected President in another century, and ever since then, there’s been speculation about whether Hillary Clinton would follow her husband to become President. Hillary Clinton’s politics are also a bit old – she has lagged behind progressive Democratic shifts, rather than leading them, and her support for many of George W. Bush’s policies leaves many Democrats cold.
With that in mind, I think it’s time for some new names to be added to the consideration for the 2016 presidential election – and to counter Hillary Clinton’s right-leaning vision, I offer the list of prominent liberal members of Congress. They are the six most liberal members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as measured by the That’s My Congress legislative scorecard of the 113th Congress.
John Conyers is a prominent member of Congress with extensive leadership experience, and is generally well-recognized and respected by the liberal base of the Democratic Party. Conyers represents a district in Michigan, a state that has seen a diminishment of its influence in recent years, though it remains closely linked to organized labor, which remains a vital constituency in the Democratic Party. Conyers’ age may be seen as a liability, though, as he will turn 84 years old in about a month from now.
Raul Grijalva has gained recognition as a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Before Grijalva ascended to leadership of the caucus, it was poorly organized and largely inactive. Under Grijalva, however, the Progressive Caucus has become a consistent, coherent voice for liberal principles in Congress. Grijalva represents a district in Arizona, and presents a strong liberal alternative to the failed anti-immigration policies of the Republican Party.
Mike Honda began his life as a prisoner, in one of the internment camps that Japanese Americans were forced into during World War II, so he has a particularly useful perspective on the claims that people make about setting up special prisons where constitutional rights aren’t recognized. Honda worked as a science teacher and school administrator for decades before coming to Congress, representing the area of high-tech innovation that is commonly referred to as Silicon Valley.
Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to speak out critically of the hurried invasion of Afghanistan, without any plan for political or military success. The war in Afghanistan has become our nation’s longest, at 12 years and running, and the Taliban have still not been defeated. Barbara Lee’s willingness to speak important truths, even at moments when they contradict the national mood, would bring a character not often seen in the White House.
One of the themes of the 2008 presidential campaign was that it would be great to have Barack Obama as President because Obama had been a professor of constitutional law, and so would respect Americans’ constitutional rights in a way that George W. Bush had not. The truth was that Obama taught constitutional law briefly, as a sideline, and as President he has largely continued the unconstitutional policies of George W. Bush. James McGovern, on the other hand, has worked all of his 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives as a dedicated proponent not just of constitutional rights in the United States, but as an advocate for human rights around the world. For McGovern, fundamental legal rights aren’t a sideline or a rhetorical ornament. They’re at the core of his political career.
If you want to understand where U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree stands on the issues, look at Common Cause, the organization she led before joining Congress in 2009. Pingree began her career as a political activist outside the system, working on the cause of ethics reform in government. In Congress, she continues to vote as an activist within the system, with one of the most consistently liberal voting records in the House of Representatives. Pingree promotes GLBT equality, local food networks, environmental sustainability, and progressive fiscal policy.