Perhaps Clinton Actually Believes in Her Policy Agenda

Hillary Clinton is starting to rack up some pretty big Republican endorsements. The latest came yesterday from Brent Scowcroft – an advisor to Republican Presidents from Ford to George H.W. Bush. While it is important to remember that Scowcroft warned the Bush/Cheney administration against invading Iraq, these kinds of public statements in support of the presumptive Democratic nominee tend to make liberals nervous. The conventional wisdom is that she will tack to the center in the general election in order to broaden her appeal.

As Jeff Stein notes, if Clinton’s speech on Wednesday about the economy is any indication, that is not happening.

On the face of it, this was a pretty uneventful speech: Clinton didn’t break with her previous positions or announce any bold new initiatives. In an address billed as her vision for the economy, she articulated a vision of government broadly similar to that backed by President Barack Obama and within the current mainstream of the Democratic Party.

But while Clinton’s speech didn’t itself break new ground, it was more interesting — and significant — for what she did not do.

Many commentators have speculated that after locking up the nomination, Clinton would be tempted to bolt to the center to win over moderate Republicans put off by Donald Trump. Her speech today was as clear a sign as we’ve gotten that she’s not ready to do that — at least not yet.

Honestly, this is one of those times when I get frustrated with our obsession about a linear left/right political continuum. Do people really think that Clinton’s proposals to raise the minimum wage, make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and support working families with things like paid sick leave and affordable college only appeal to those on the left end of that continuum?

But it isn’t just in her economic policies that Clinton is holding strong to the same issues that helped her win the Democratic primary. On the day after she was named the presumptive nominee, she gave a speech at Planned Parenthood that was “unapologetically feminist in rhetoric and policy focus.”

Stein ends his piece this way:

You could imagine a speech in which Clinton tried backing positions — like implementing business tax reform and promising to drive down the debt — to win over moderate Republicans…

Maybe we’ll get that message from Clinton later in the campaign. But, for now, she appears still concerned about solidifying her left flank.

I also find that kind of talk to be frustrating. Hillary Clinton has laid out a massively detailed agenda on her campaign web site. She’s already articulated how her policy initiatives will be paid for – thus addressing the issue of “the debt.” If she ever emphasizes that in the next four months, will people accuse her of tacking to the right in order to win over Republicans? I expect so. But it just might be that what she is proposing are policies she has spent years developing. In other words, perhaps she’s running on doing things she actually believes in. If Republicans want to join that bandwagon…so be it.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.