Clin­ton: Democ­racy not just for bil­lion­aires

In first ma­jor speech, can­di­date vows changes to spread pros­per­ity


new york — Promis­ing a more hope­ful, in­clu­sive Amer­ica ready to take on the big chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said Satur­day that she wants to be the cham­pion the na­tion needs as well as its first fe­male pres­i­dent.

Speak­ing be­fore thou­sands, Clin­ton blended her work as an ad­vo­cate for chil­dren and fam­i­lies with pledges to give peo­ple a fairer bar­gain on a range of is­sues, in­clud­ing how taxes are levied, vot­ing con­ducted and im­mi­gra­tion man­aged. She took shots at her would-be Repub­li­can ri­vals and the very wealthy — a group of which Clin­ton is a mem­ber and on which she will count to help fund a cam­paign that aims to raise more than $1 bil­lion.

“Pros­per­ity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge-fund man­agers,” Clin­ton said in an ad­dress on Roo­sevelt Is­land, with Wall Street vis­i­ble over her shoul­der. “De­moc--

racy can’t be just for bil­lion­aires and cor­po­ra­tions. Pros­per­ity and democ­racy are part of your ba­sic bar­gain, too. You brought our coun­try back. Nowit’s time— your time — to se­cure the gains and move ahead.”

Clin­ton en­tered the2016 race in April but waited two months to frame her pop­ulist-fla­vored agenda and ex­plic­itly ask for the na­tion’s vote. On Satur­day, she sought to pro­vide a ra­tio­nale for her can­di­dacy, say­ing she is run­ning for “ev­ery­one who’s ever been knocked down but re­fused to be knocked out.”

That line served as both a ref­er­ence to the eco­nomic cir­cum­stances of many Amer­i­cans since the Great Re­ces­sion as well as to her own dis­ap­point­ing run for the White House in 2008.

Clin­ton was looser than she of­ten ap­peared dur­ing that cam­paign, smil­ing and paus­ing from time to time to ab­sorb the ap­plause from a crowd the cam­paign es­ti­mated at more than 5,000.

Clin­ton drew her loud­est ap­plause with a grin­ning ref­er­ence to the many ways she would be a dif­fer­ent kind of pres­i­dent. “I may not be the youngest can­di­date in this race. But I will be the youngest woman pres­i­dent in the his­tory of the United States,” she said. “And the first grand­mother, as well.”

She jeer­ingly re­ferred to what she called the false prom­ise of Repub­li­cans that “if we let those at the top pay lower taxes and bend the rules, their suc­cess would trickle down to ev­ery­one else.”

She did not men­tion any Repub­li­can op­po­nents by name and said noth­ing about the smaller field of Demo­cratic chal­lengers. But she may have had Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.) in mind when she said that although “there may be some new voices in the pres­i­den­tial Repub­li­can choir, they’re all singing the same old song. A song called ‘Yes­ter­day.’ ”

Ru­bio had made an ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence to Clin­ton in a speech in April an­nounc­ing his own can­di­dacy, re­fer­ring to a Demo­cratic can­di­date “of yes­ter­day.”

In a se­ries of at­tacks that drew ap­plause from the crowd, Clin­ton hit Repub­li­cans for want­ing to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, de­port im­mi­grants and take away “re­pro­duc­tive-health de­ci­sions.” Clin­ton said Repub­li­cans “turn their backs on gay peo­ple who love each other.” And on cli­mate change, she said: “Ask many of th­ese can­di­dates about cli­mate change, one of the defin­ing threats of our time, and they’ll say: ‘I’mnot a sci­en­tist.’ Well, then, why don’t they start lis­ten­ing to those who are?”

As pres­i­dent, Clin­ton said she would re­ward busi­nesses for longterm in­vest­ments. She promised to re­store Amer­ica’s po­si­tion of be­ing on the cut­ting edge of in­no­va­tion, science and re­search by in­creas­ing public as well as pri­vate in­vest­ments. And she pledged to im­prove preschool op­tions, make col­lege af­ford­able and rebuild de­cay­ing in­fra­struc­ture. Pol­icy de­tails will be rolled out in com­ing weeks, she said.

Clin­ton did not dwellon for­eign pol­icy, although she noted that over her shoul­der stood the United Na­tions head­quar­ters, where she of­ten rep­re­sented her coun­try when she was sec­re­tary of state.

Her hus­band, for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, cheered be­hind her, as did daugh­ter Chelsea. But it was a tableau ar­ranged to show­case Hil­lary Clin­ton and, in par­tic­u­lar, her re­la­tion­ship with her mother.

Framed around the story of how Clin­ton’s late mother, Dorothy Rod­ham, emerged from a child­hood of mis­treat­ment with­out los­ing her faith in hu­man­ity, the speech laid out how Clin­ton drew lessons about hope, per­se­ver­ance and kind­ness from her mother’s ex­am­ple.

“When I was a girl, she never let me back down from any bully or bar­rier,” Clin­ton said. “In her later years, Mom lived with us, and she was still teach­ing me the same lessons. I’d come home from a hard day at the Se­nate or the State Depart­ment, sit down with her at the small ta­ble in our break­fast nook and just let ev­ery­thing pour out. And she would re­mind me why we keep fight­ing, even when the odds are long and the op­po­si­tion is fierce.”

The em­pha­sis on Clin­ton’s per­sonal story is part of an ef­fort to re­shape her im­age, which has of­ten been of an ef­fi­cient and, some­times, chilly pol­icy wonk. She talks with glow­ing grand­moth­erly pride about 8-month-old Char­lotte at nearly ev­ery ap­pear­ance, though the baby has yet to make an ap­pear­ance at any of them.

The speech’s set­ting was a nod to both Clin­ton’s adopted home state, which she rep­re­sented in the Se­nate for eight years, and the le­gacy of Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s ethos that Amer­ica should be free from want and fear.

“Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt called on ev­ery Amer­i­can to do his or her part, and ev­ery Amer­i­can an­swered,” Clin­ton said. “It’s Amer­ica’s ba­sic bar­gain: If you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead. And when every­body does their part, Amer­ica gets ahead, too.”

That idea of a can-do, all-in this-so­ci­ety, with a gov­ern­ment that pro­vides and protects, is a star­tling em­brace of the kind of Roo­sevelt-fla­vored big gov­ern­ment many re­cent Democrats, in­clud­ing Bill Clin­ton, have avoided.

That sug­gests Clin­ton thinks she can win by ap­peal­ing to her own party’s most pro­gres­sive wing as well as to oth­ers who feel left be­hind in an econ­omy where the gap be­tween rich and poor has grown much wider than when her hus­band was in the White House in the 1990s. It also sug­gests that Clin­ton thinks she can over­come her own per­ceived co­zi­ness with Wall Street ti­tans, which has caused am­biva­lence among pro­gres­sives.

Clin­ton im­me­di­ately flew to Iowa, where she sought to win over a state that was cool to her can­di­dacy in 2008. Clin­ton en­joys a hefty lead there in early polling, but she faces com­pe­ti­tion, pri­mar­ily from Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), who has drawn large crowds, and Martin O’Mal­ley, Mary­land’s for­mer gover­nor.

In Sioux City, Clin­ton at­tended a house party with about 50 sup­port­ers while her re­marks were simul­cast at more than 650 watch par­ties across the coun­try.

“It’s re­ally not about me. It’s about you, about us, about all the peo­ple who de­serve a cham­pion,” Clin­ton said.

She urged watch­ers to sign up with her cam­paign on­line. “Be part of our ef­fort to take back our coun­try,” she said, an odd state­ment con­sid­er­ing the phrase has been a popular Repub­li­can ral­ly­ing cry against Pres­i­dent Obama.

Iowastate Rep. Marti An­der­son hosted a watch party in Beaverdale, a Des Moines sub­urb so ac­tive for Obama in the 2008 cam­paign that it was nick­named “Oba­madale.”

A few dozen neigh­bors gath­ered in An­der­son’s living room to watch Clin­ton speak. When the can­di­date said, “I don’t be­lieve we should ever quit on our coun­try,” An­der­son, sit­ting on her pi­ano bench, clapped her hands and cried out, “Yes!”


Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton pledged to give peo­ple a fairer bar­gain.

MELINA MARA/THE WASH­ING­TON POST To watch the event and view a photo gallery, visit clin­ton­speech.

Satur­day on New York’s Roo­sevelt Is­land, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton greets a crowd of thou­sands be­fore dis­cussing her agenda.

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