Hil­lary Clin­ton, cham­pion of the cen­ter-left

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - — Stephen Stromberg

Hil­lary Clin­ton ended much of the sus­pense about what she’s run­ning on, de­liv­er­ing her first full cam­paign-style stump speech on New York’s Roo­sevelt Is­land on Satur­day. The re­sult was a plat­form of work­man­like lib­eral pol­icy that nei­ther mim­ics her hus­band’s agenda nor fully dig­ni­fies the pop­ulists push­ing the Demo­cratic Party from the coun­try’s ide­o­log­i­cal gov­ern­ing space. Amer­ica’s cen­ter-left has a cham­pion.

Clothed in rhetoric con­demn­ing eco­nomic and so­cial in­equal­ity, Clin­ton’s ad­dress ac­knowl­edged the power of the Obama coali­tion of young and mi­nor­ity vot­ers, strik­ing a very dif­fer­ent note from the tri­an­gu­lated so­cial con­ser­vatism of her hus­band’s pres­i­dency. She promised to help pretty much ev­ery­one ex­cept Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and hedge-fund man­agers, ar­gu­ing that the coun­try needs an “in­clu­sive econ­omy” sup­ported by an “in­clu­sive so­ci­ety.” She pro­posed laws bar­ring dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple, backed uni­ver­sal preschool and child care, sup­ported a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for il­le­gal im­mi­grants with clean records, de­manded eas­ier ac­cess to the polls and en­dorsed a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment reim­pos­ing re­stric­tions on po­lit­i­cal spend­ing.

In one of the best lines in her speech, Clin­ton mocked the cow­ardice of Repub­li­cans who dodge re­porters’ ques­tions on cli­mate change. “They’ll say, ‘I’mnot a sci­en­tist,’ ” she said. “Well, then why don’t they start lis­ten­ing to those who are?”

In one of the worst lines in her speech, Clin­ton again punted on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, bow­ing to pro­gres­sives’ cur­rent anti-trade hys­te­ria. “Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and the rise of global trade have cre­ated whole new ar­eas of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and opened new mar­kets for our ex­ports,” she said, “but they have also dis­placed jobs and un­der­cut wages for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.”

But, thank­fully, Clin­ton also avoided some of the worst pop­ulist ex­cesses of the Bernie San­ders and El­iz­a­beth War­ren wing of the Demo­cratic Party. Cru­cially, Clin­ton em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of eco­nomic growth, in­no­va­tion and ef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment, not rigid reg­u­la­tory and tax poli­cies or un­af­ford­able ex­pan­sions of en­ti­tle­ments. “The mid­dle class needs more growth and more fair­ness,” she said. “Growth and fair­ness go to­gether. For last­ing pros­per­ity, you can’t have one with­out the other.” Clin­ton ap­pears to be align­ing her­self with Democrats who stress the im­por­tance of eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness and flex­i­bil­ity in en­abling the coun­try to keep up with global com­pe­ti­tion and ad­vance the stan­dard of living.

It re­mains to be seen whether Clin­ton can har­ness the en­ergy of pro­gres­sives with­out buy­ing more fully into their ex­trav­a­gances. But for those seek­ing care and sub­stance, her speech was a pretty good open­ing move.

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