WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is taking a noticeably more progressive tone on a number of issues than she used to -- especially as she works to overcome a challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist. But Clinton's domestic policy positions, which differ in many respects from those she held when she first sought the nomination in 2008, also reflect that many more Democrats now identify as liberal on both social and economic issues.
Clinton, for instance, decided last week to finally say she opposes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, after saying for months that it would be inappropriate for her to comment on the pipeline since she was secretary of state when it was being considered. And she said last month that she would support legislation to ban so-called “golden parachutes” for private sector employees taking federal government jobs. That move was interpreted as a nod to the progressive organizations that have criticized Clinton for appointing two former bankers who took accelerated payouts from their Wall Street institutions when they joined her at the State Department.
There are areas where Clinton's 2008 proposals have became standard within the Democratic Party. Seven years ago, Clinton's health reform plan included an individual mandate for every American to purchase insurance coverage. Barack Obama, then a Democratic senator from Illinois, only called for mandatory coverage for children at the time -- which means Clinton was vindicated a couple of years later when Obama, as president, oversaw the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which includes a broad individual mandate. Today, Clinton's health care proposals build upon the ACA while distancing her from areas the law hasn’t delivered on, like out-of-pocket costs and high prescription drug prices.
On a number of issues, of course, Clinton remains more moderate than many progressives would like. She still hasn't said, for example, whether she supports or opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major international trade deal that she pushed as secretary of state. She has said she is waiting to see the final text of the deal before making a decision.
On a slew of other issues, however, Clinton's campaign has registered an unmistakable shift toward progressive policies. For example:
Criminal justice reform
2007-2008: Clinton released an anti-crime agenda that focused on making communities feel “secure and safe.” She advocated for putting 100,000 new cops on the streets, taking on “the menace of meth” and halving the murder rate of certain cities in a section of the plan dedicated to “restoring order” to communities. But her plan also emphasized preventing at-risk youth from resorting to crime, reducing the size of the prison population, combating recidivism and reforming mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders.
2015: In a year when numerous police killings of unarmed black people have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and a national conversation about police militarization and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, any plan from a Democrat that included calls to “restore order” and fund more police would be seen as out of touch. Accordingly, Clinton has released a plan to “end the era of mass incarceration” and said she supports body cameras for officers. She also released a plan to combat drug addiction and the national opioid epidemic by supporting medication-assisted treatment.
2007-2008: Clinton criticized Obama’s proposal to lift the cap on the amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, which was $97,500 at the time. She characterized lifting the cap as a tax increase that would hit middle-class earners. She said she wanted to put “fiscal responsibility” first, and convene a bipartisan commission that would come up with way to ensure Social Security's solvency in the future.
2015: As Democratic members of Congress back expanding Social Security benefits, rather than just maintaining the status quo, Clinton has expressed a willingness to consider raising the cap on earnings subject to the tax, which is $118,500 this year.
“We do have to look at the cap, and we have to figure out whether we raise it or whether we raise it a little and then jump over and raise it more higher up,” she said at a campaign event, according to The Washington Post.
2007-2008: Though Clinton supported comprehensive immigration reform, she said she would not support driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and that she did not support the efforts of then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) to authorize such licenses in that state, which Clinton then represented in the Senate. (She did, however, say in a 2007 debate that Spitzer's plan "makes a lot of sense.")
"I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally," Clinton said during a debate with Obama in January 2008, according to a CNN transcript. "I believe it is a diversion from what should be the focus at creating a political coalition with the courage to stand up and change the immigration system."
2015: This cycle, Clinton has said that she supports “state policies to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.” She still backs comprehensive immigration reform, and has said that she would go further than Obama in making deportation relief available to people who are undocumented.
2007-2008: Clinton proposed increasing a tuition tax credit from $1,650 to $3,500 and giving $500 million in grants to community colleges.
2015: Clinton has put forth a plan to tax the rich to help working students attend college without incurring debt for their tuition costs. She also wants to eliminate tuition for community colleges.
2007-2008: Clinton supported equal benefits and civil unions for same-sex couples, but did not support same-sex marriage. Then again, none of her rivals for the Democratic nomination supported same-sex marriage, either, and less than half of Americans did. In a questionnaire she filled out for the Human Rights Campaign, Clinton said she supported repealing the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples in states that recognized their marriages. But she advocated a state-by-state approach to the issue, “letting states maintain their jurisdiction over marriage.”
2015: Two years after Clinton announced her support for marriage equality in a video for the HRC, she praised the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. A majority of Americans now agree with her.