Clinton not yet a proven progressive
Benjamin Franklin famously said that only three things were inevitable: death, taxes, and President Hillary Clinton. This Sunday, Clinton ended over 200 years of speculation when she officially announced her candidacy for President of the United States.
To many politicos, the 2016 election is already a done deal. Hillary Clinton is unstoppable. She’s going to easily win the entire presidential election, let alone the Democratic nomination.
Nearly a year before the first primary Caucus in Iowa, many ostensibly progressive organizations, media outlets, and groups have already thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton. They’re already calling on the rest of the Democratic party to fall in line, and they’re attacking true progressives like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who dared suggest that he wanted to see Clinton’s “vision” before he blindly endorse her.
Hillary Clinton has not yet proven herself as a progressive, and she needs to before she should have the unmitigated support of the Democratic party, much less its progressive wing.
The problem with the rhetoric of inevitability is that it diminishes the urgency for a competitive Democratic primary that produces a truly progressive candidate. No candidate should get the party’s nomination simply because it’s her turn. She should earn the nomination by proving that she is the best candidate to represent and lead the party in the general election.
The thing about primary elections is that nobody votes in them, except the people that really care about their party’s politics. Democratic primary voters are the most ideologically liberal voters, and they’ll vote for the most ideologically liberal candidate. With so many Democrats eager to skip the primary altogether and run Clinton unopposed, the danger is that Clinton can slip through the primaries without primary voters verifying that she is truly progressive enough to be the Democratic nominee.
Unfortunately, the damage may already have been done. Anyone hoping for a competitive Democratic primary in 2016 is probably going to be sorely disappointed. Most of the truly progressive possibilities, like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, have declined to run.
A few of the candidates still considering a run are Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is a self-identified Democratic Socialist, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who is an outspoken activist on the issue of income inequality, and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. The common ground shared by all of these candidates, other than being more progressive than Hillary Clinton, is that they are utterly unelectable. Even if any of these candidates do run, they will be hard pressed to impact the race whatsoever.
To be fair, Clinton has struck a far more populist, progressive tone than in the past. She claims that she wants to be the “champion of everyday Americans.” She has harped on how the “deck is stacked in favor of those already at the top.” She has made income inequality a major theme of her campaign. She has voiced support for a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United, a recent Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for virtually unlimited corporate spending in elections. One of Clinton’s first major campaign hires was Gary Gensler, one of Wall Street's most outspoken critics, a move that could be symbolic of an aggressive stance against the powerful corporate and financial interests that stand opposed to the interests of everyday Americans.
Still, anyone who truly considers themselves a progressive should wait before hopping on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon. We must demand of Hillary Clinton a truly progressive platform.
This includes a hefty minimum wage increase, so that anyone who works full time can have the ability to provide for their family; tax increases on the wealthy and on corporations; an end to costly tax loopholes, to finance spending on infrastructure and education; heavy regulation of Wall Street; aggressive steps to end climate change; and foreign policy that ends the era of American colonialism through military intervention, and instead recognizes negotiation and diplomacy as the only tools to bring about sustainable peace.
We can't let Hillary Clinton be the centrist candidate that she’s been in the past. In today’s political climate, centrism isn’t the same thing as bipartisanism. The more Democrats try to meet Republicans in the middle, the more the GOP will move to the right. This is why people think the Affordable Care Act, an idea first championed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, is socialism.
Hillary Clinton must establish herself as a populist, progressive candidate, whose policies stand up for the poor and middle class and demand more of the wealthy and of corporations. That is a winning strategy that will help move the country forward.