Hillary can run, but she can’t hide from the issues that concern us.
On Sunday, Hillary Clinton — the former Secretary of State and First Lady — announced her candidacy for the White House.
This time around, it is reported that the idea is for voters to meet the “real Hillary,” the warm and fuzzy candidate who will meet in virtual one-on-one, small group settings and address the problems of the middle class.
In some ways, Clinton’s purported strategy of increasing opportunities for working families and boosting the middle class sounds a little like Obama’s reelection campaign. And the notion of putting more money in the hands of working families by increasing their income is so basic and simplistic that it could resonate with the voters.
A 160-page report from the Center for American Progress is being offered as a preview of a Clinton economic agenda. The report rejects the deregulation and trickle-down economics of the Republicans and the resulting inequality in the U.S. and favors an economy that benefits workers through “inclusive capitalism” and profit-sharing for employees, and more rights for labor. Further, the report calls for such policies as full employment, a national service program for the long-term unemployed, and more public investment in infrastructure, education and affordable housing.
If this agenda does provide a glimpse into a Clinton campaign platform, it is encouraging to a point. However, it is simply a report, and we have yet to hear from Clinton the candidate and these issues — or any issues, for that matter.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been all over the place promoting her book A Fighting Chance, all the while dodging much discussion about Clinton. Warren is viewed by many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as the real deal for her economic populism and aggressive critique of corruption in high places and the greed of Wall Street bankers who are profiting from student loans. While Warren is viewed as a champion of the middle class and working families, there is a concern that Clinton is not liberal enough for today’s Democratic Party. This is why people are urging Warren to run for president.
A Clinton focus on middle class problems could stand to benefit the poor. But she must directly address the concerns of the poor, in a country where 46 million are on food stamps and a nation that is increasingly mired in poverty, including the highest child poverty levels in the developed world, at about one in three American children. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately poor.
First, Clinton must acknowledge there is no middle class left, and people of color have been hardest hit as a result of the Great Recession and the meltdown of the housing market. Black people lost a great deal of wealth — 31 percent — and Hispanic families even more —44 percent. Meanwhile, white households lost 11 percent, and the inequality gap along racial lines has grown into a chasm. Clinton, who positioned herself as the champion of working-class whites during her failed primary contest against Obama in 2008, must tell African-Americans what she plans to do for them.
Second, Hillary must address the problems of racism, police brutality and the criminal justice system as much as Rand Paul has in recent days. The recent charging of a North Charleston police officer for the murder of Walter Scott is an indication that a crisis of dead black people continues to plague the country. Moreover, the presidential candidate must provide her own solutions to ending a war on drugs that was expanded during her husband’s presidency, broke families apart and decimated urban communities. And she must discuss mass incarceration in the U.S., a prison boom that has been built on black and brown bodies, not to mention an unjust death penalty that targets people of color and perpetuates the racial violence of slavery and Jim Crow lynching. While Elizabeth Warren is opposed to the death penalty, Secretary Clinton has been a longtime supporter of executions, with restrictions. Given that blacks and Latinos are more opposed to capital punishment than any other demographic, how will Clinton respond? Will she evolve in the area of criminal justice?
If Clinton wants our vote, she has to be more vocal on our issues than she has been of late. A warm, accessible candidate who gives sit-downs in small group settings sounds like an encouraging first step. But what about the substance of those talks? If Hillary does not address the issues we want to hear, then we must move on.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove