HRC’s “Fair Shot”

Eleanor Clift thinks it could be a “brand” like FDR’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s Square Deal. I dunno about that, but in using “fair shot” for what she wants for American women, Hillary Clinton has staked out one corner of economic “populism” on which potential progressive rivals–with the obvious exception of Elizabeth Warren–might have trouble competing, viz. her performance at the Center for American Progress.

“We need a broader-based economic platform that is inclusive,” she said, a clunky way of fleshing out the fair shot she envisions for women, and indeed all Americans. She gives President Obama full credit for “stanching the bleeding” from the financial meltdown, but said, “Unless we change our politics, a lot of the benefits are not going to be broadly shared.”

This isn’t a bad way to promise to change Obama’s policies without repudiating them. It’s somewhat similar, ironically, to Howard Dean’s rap about the administration of Bill Clinton, which he damned with the faint praise of representing “damage control.”

Some of the specifics may be troubling, though:

Flanking Clinton at CAP were pioneers like herself who have been in the trenches fighting for women’s issues for decades. The indefatigable Nancy Pelosi, former House speaker, now Democratic leader; Washington State’s Patty Murray, elected as a “mom in tennis shoes,” now chair of the Senate Budget committee; Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut congresswoman, “the godmother” of what she calls “family-centered economics.”

The only newcomer among these stalwarts, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has the seat that Clinton once held, raised the issue of paid family leave—a core concern where women are shouldering the care of parents as well as children. “Afghanistan and Pakistan have more paid leave than us,” she said, “and they don’t even educate their girls.” With eight out of 10 women in the work force, and four out of 10 the sole or primary breadwinner, “I think we have a Rosie the Riveter moment for this generation,” Gillibrand declared. Recalling the iconic World War II image of a woman with her sleeves rolled up ready to contribute to the war effort, Gillibrand said 6 million women entered the work force then.

Personally, I see no reason why HRC and other Democrats should not take the plunge on paid family leave right away. It’s one place where Republicans cannot pretend to follow them, and its benefits are clear and extraordinarily general. The bigger in scope the “shot” any one proposal represents, the easier it is to argue it’s “fair.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.