THE BLOG

Is Hillary Clinton a Liberal Reagan?

02/18/2015 09:05 am ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

It is very possible that Hillary Clinton will be elected president by a substantial margin, return the Senate to Democratic control, name Supreme Court justices who will create a liberal court for a generation and help elect enough Democrats to the House to have a working majority in Congress for history-making progressive achievements, beginning with her first 100 days in the White House.

In my last column, I warned fellow liberals that the grave danger to American liberalism is not a Democratic president liberals agree with 90 percent of the time but a one-party Republican state with every branch of government controlled by a GOP in the grip intolerance and extremism. Today we consider the mirror image of that column: the new day of progressive triumph, power and leadership that would come with a dramatic Clinton victory in 2016.

In recent national surveys from ABC/The Washington Post and Public Policy Polling, Clinton leads Republican opponents by margins greater than 10 percentage points. In summaries of polling from Real Clear Politics she leads Republicans by smaller or larger margins across the nation and would have a 50-50 chance of carrying even strong red states such as South Carolina.

It is hazardous to draw conclusions from polling this early in the campaign. But it tells a true and powerful story that Clinton currently has a dominant lead over all Republicans. She has a realistic chance of winning a landslide -- which no Republican can currently claim -- that would give liberals and Democrats a mandate to bring progressive leadership back to power in Washington.

The former secretary of State has a powerful advantage over Jeb Bush in 2016. Americans far prefer a presidency more like a third term of the highly successful, widely popular and prosperity-generating Bill Clinton presidency than a third term of the financial crash, Iraq War and Wall Street bailout of the George W. Bush presidency. Hillary Clinton will proudly build on the legacy of Clinton 42. Jeb Bush will daintily run away from the legacy of Bush 43. With Bushes and Clintons so widely known, polling that shows a substantial Clinton lead is informative.

Meanwhile, Scott Walker, the latest media darling of Republicans, recently visited Britain, where, while catering to the right wing about evolution, he demonstrated that he is not ready for prime time by bumbling about foreign policy, on a staged and poorly prepared trip intended to burnish his alleged security credentials. Can voters imagine Walker protecting America from terrorists or defending Western security from the aggression of Vladimir Putin? Advantage, decisively, to Clinton.

The great opportunity for Clinton is to become the first woman president while also becoming a liberal Ronald Reagan: a conviction politician who stands for progressivism, a competent chief executive who believes in governing and a skilled negotiator with opponents at home and leaders abroad.

Clinton in 2016 could have the same effect as Reagan in 1980 and 1984: recruiting Democratic candidates, inspiring Democratic supporters and winning an electoral landslide.

Reagan would be embarrassed by Republicans today. He dealt with Democrats such as Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy with respect, charm and even affection. Republicans today address a Democratic president with venom, invective and derision, and even endanger the country's security by threatening to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.

Reagan knew there is no contradiction between being a conviction politician who believes in core values and being a strong chief executive who governs effectively through the art of negotiation.

Clinton can seize this mantle and bring to politics a serious conversation with voters, mobilizing supporters through an unprecedented use of social media and addressing the nation on television. She would approach a Congress with more Democrats from a position of good faith and strength to enact programs of pay equity for women, higher wages for all, more jobs for Americans, voting rights for citizens and Supreme Court nominees to bring equal justice under law back to the center of American life.