POLITICS

Why Progressives Are Celebrating Hillary Clinton’s Populist Economic Speech

The Democratic nominee said she'd never support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

08/11/2016 09:58 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2016

Progressive groups encouraging Hillary Clinton to run on a platform of bold economic change are hailing the Democratic nominee’s economic policy speech on Thursday.

Clinton, casting herself as a champion of working people, appeared to assuage liberal concerns that her campaign’s attempt to attract moderate Republicans turned off by GOP nominee Donald Trump would weaken her attention to progressive priorities.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressive ideas,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, said in a statement.

Speaking at an advanced manufacturing facility in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan, Clinton tried to dispel the image of Trump as a so-called blue-collar billionaire looking out for working-class people.

“There’s a myth out there that he’ll stick it to the rich and powerful because, at heart, he’s really on the side of the little guy,” Clinton said. “Don’t believe it.”

Bloomberg/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton cast herself as a champion of working people during a speech in Warren, Michigan on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016.

She highlighted Trump’s proposed tax cuts to individuals and large corporations ― which would go disproportionately to wealthy people like him ― and her own plans to boost incomes and provide Americans with greater economic security. Clinton touted her proposals to invest $275 billion in infrastructure, expand Social Security benefits, and enable debt-free college.

And in explaining why many of those “common-sense solutions” had not been passed already, Clinton described a rigged system in terms familiar to followers of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― or for that matter, Trump.

“Powerful special interests and the tendency to put ideology ahead of political progress have led to gridlock in Congress,” Clinton said.

Felicia Wong, president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, and Stan Greenberg, co-founder of the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps, applauded Clinton’s remarks.

“With this economic speech, Secretary Clinton has made this election a choice about whether our economy works for all, not just the few, and that allows progressive economics to win a mandate in November,” the progressive heavyweights wrote in a joint statement.

Democracy Corps published research on behalf of the Roosevelt Institute during the Democratic National Convention showing that key constituencies were more responsive to a message that characterizes the economy and government as fundamentally broken, rather than just promising to build on existing progress.

The two organizations’ work is part of a broader effort by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to ensure that their agenda takes precedence ― both on the campaign trail and in a Clinton White House.  

It’s now more important than ever that the country and President Obama hear specifically from Secretary Clinton that a vote on the job-killing TPP during a lame duck session of Congress must not happen. Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America

Clinton’s most significant remarks, however, were on international trade, an issue on which Trump has relentlessly attacked her as an unreliable guardian of American workers’ interests. It is also an especially salient topic in manufacturing-heavy Michigan, where Clinton lost a primary fight to Sanders, in no small part due to voter opposition to trade agreements.

Clinton, who once praised the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, offered her firmest promise yet that she would not allow the accord to pass.

“I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Clinton said, drawing cheers. “I oppose it now. I’ll oppose it after the election. And I’ll oppose it as president.”

The Obama administration argues that the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade accord will open doors to economic growth and raise human-rights standards.

But labor unions, environmental groups, and many Democratic lawmakers claim it will result in massive manufacturing job losses, greater ecological destruction and higher drug prices.

Anti-TPP activists said they fear Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress will make a deal with congressional Republican leaders to pass the accord during the lame-duck session of Congress after the election.

Democracy for America, a digital progressive activism outfit that endorsed Sanders in the primary, launched a petition campaign with CREDO Action on Wednesday asking Clinton to urge the White House and Democratic congressional leaders not to pass the TPP. CREDO Action also bought digital ad space promoting a video ad with a similar message.

Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America’s executive director, praised Clinton’s remarks on Thursday, but also used them as an opportunity to ratchet up the pressure.

“It’s now more important than ever that the country and President Obama hear specifically from Secretary Clinton that a vote on the job-killing TPP during a lame duck session of Congress must not happen,” Chamberlain said in a statement.

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