Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to succeed Barack Obama as President. Despite historically high unfavorable ratings and being the ultimate insider in the year of the outsider, the prize remains hers for the taking. The electorate dislikes Donald Trump even more and the vagaries of the electoral college in recent years bespeak a pro-Democratic bias.
But the road to the White House will not be smooth for Clinton. Trump the Insult Reality Show Politician ran roughshod over the Republican field and is now training all his fire on “Crooked Hillary.” Meanwhile, she has yet to dispatch the still-dangerous, albeit mortally wounded, Bernie Sanders.
Wednesday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell suggested to Bernie that Clinton’s approval ratings are down because she is “fighting a war on two fronts.” An unimpressed Sanders retorted “please don’t moan to me about Hillary’s problems.” Simply put, it doesn’t appear that Clinton’s ankle-biter will be going away any time soon.
So what can Clinton do? Ironically, she should employ the same weapon – a truly populist platform – to slay both dragons. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, Clinton “should emphasiz[e] her support for broad-based social programs and call for a massive jobs bill.” I added “she could argue in favor of a public option and allowing the government to negotiate directly with drug companies.” I also urged her to “eschew nuance” in favor of plain speaking and “to embrace a true progressive as a running mate.”
Moving left may seem counter-intuitive to those raised on the notion that November winners run to the base during the primaries and the center after clinching the nomination. But the prevailing sentiment among the left and right is that Wall Street and Washington have rigged the game against the little guy and gal. Clinton must demonstrate clearly and forcefully that she gets this message and will break ranks with the D.C. fixers and Wall Street insiders with whom she has been cozy.
To her credit, she appears to be listening to my advice. Over the past week Clinton has argued for three progressive initiatives and floated picking a very progressive vice-Presidential running mate.
Monday, Clinton proposed amending Obamacare to include a public option, as I recommended, allowing people to buy in to medicare when they reach the age of 50 or 55 years old. Tuesday, Clinton called for childcare costs to be capped at no more than 10% of family earnings and higher wages to childcare workers.
Thursday, Clinton endorsed a letter that Elizabeth Warren, John Conyers, and Bernie Sanders among many other Congress members sent to Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The signatories urged Yellen to seek diversity in the makeup of regional fed boards.
Through a spokesperson Clinton went even further, however, in calling for an end to the practice of appointing bankers to regional boards of directors. In this regard, Clinton adopted the position Bernie Sanders laid out late last year when he wrote for the New York Times “we should not allow big bank executives to serve on the boards of the main agency in charge of regulating financial institutions.”
Beyond these welcome moves left, the Huffington Post is reporting Clinton’s campaign team is considering asking Elizabeth Warren to join the ticket. Warren’s selection would be problematic since her resignation from the Senate would mean the Republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker would appoint her temporary replacement. But except for Bernie Sanders, no Vice Presidential choice would demonstrate as strong a commitment to populist governance.
Democrats should react with optimism to Clinton’s announced support for progressive domestic initiatives this week coupled with an indication that Elizabeth Warren may run as her Vice President. These actions signify the former Secretary’s recognition that victory in November will come if she can persuade a majority of voters that her administration will consistently fight for poor, working, and middle-class Americans.